England moved into an ominous 2-0 lead in the Investec Ashes after Graeme Swann wrapped up a crushing 347-run win over Australia in the final over of the fourth day at Lord’s.
The monstrous size of the winning margin did not flatter the hosts, who dismissed their opponents for 235 yesterday, having already bundled them over for a woeful 128 in the first innings.
While Australia’s top order once again took leave of their responsibilities, it seemed as though their gutsy tail-end would drag the game into a final day.
James Pattinson (35) and Ryan Harris (16 not out) put on a manful last-wicket stand worth 43, occupying 131 balls between them and batting out for almost all of the extra half-hour’s play England had called for in a bid to finish off their opponents.
But Swann ensured there would be no need to return to the home of cricket in the morning, trapping Pattinson leg before with just three balls left in the last session.
Swann finished with 4-78 to add to his first-innings five-for, while centurion Joe Root added two important scalps of his own on a track that provided devilish turn at times.
Root, having made 180 for a maiden Ashes century, finished his memorable outing at HQ by seeing off Australia’s top-scorers Usman Khawaja and Michael Clarke.
Alastair Cook’s side now have one hand on the urn, needing to win just one of the next three matches to take the series outright, while even a draw at Old Trafford in the next Test would see them retain the Ashes.
England declared as soon as Root fell, adding two to his overnight score, closing a colossal 582 ahead on 349-7.
With the most successful chase in Test history standing at 414 it was always a question of hanging on rather than making any attempt to get close to that figure.
But they were unable to do even that.
England captain Alastair Cook hailed his side’s ability to scrap while under pressure after seeing them claim a 2-0 Ashes series lead over Australia.
Although England eventually won the second Investec Test at Lord’s by an emphatic runs total, they found themselves in serious trouble at the start of both of their innings after losing three quick wickets on each occasion.
Cook said after seeing England snatch victory in the final over of the fourth day: “It was obviously a bit of hard work and we just about got there in the end.
“We’ve played some pretty good cricket over these two weeks.
“We’ve also had to scrap very hard in this game being 30 for three in both innings – people have had to stand up with the bat and deliver.
“Belly’s hundred in the first innings and Rooty’s hundred in the second innings when they were under pressure at the start was fantastic.
“And obviously the bowlers have done a great job in both of these matches.”
Cook added of man-of-the-match Root’s performance: “It was a great knock.
“He was under pressure in that second innings.
“Obviously he’s had a bit of success at number five and it’s slightly different at the top of the order, but we all know what a great player he is.
“He’s still got a huge amount of work to do.
“But he’s the right character at the top of the order and it was a fantastic knock.”
Don Bradman’s 1936-37 Australians are the only team in the 136-year history of Test cricket to have come back from 2-0 down to win a series.
Should Australia manage to fight back to draw the Test series 2-2 – something neither team has ever managed – England would still retain the urn, having won the last two series between the sides.