Eng poised for final blow
Relentless England were only three wickets away from their first series victory Down Under in 24 years after humbling Australia on the fourth day in the final Sydney Ashes Test on Thursday.
Needing either a win or a draw to take the series, England posted their highest-ever score in Australia of 644 and then ripped through the host's batting order, taking seven wickets by the close.
England, who lead the series 2-1, have already retained the Ashes and are now three wickets away from securing an innings victory, with it a richly deserved series win, on Friday's final day.
At the close, Australia were all but down for the count at 213 for seven with Steven Smith on 24 and Peter Siddle on 17 and still 151 runs in arrears.
"That's pretty hard to beat. At the SCG in an Ashes Test, a 100 and then a few catches and we've got them seven down and we're in a pretty good position to win tomorrow," said wicketkeeper Matt Prior, who cracked a blistering century.
"It was a great moment in England winning the Ashes (last year), but to come over here knowing the history, knowing that it's been 24 years since it was last done and there's obviously a reason for that."
Prior's 197-minute blitz which yielded 118 was the fastest England Ashes century since Ian Botham in 1981.
The pace trio of James Anderson, Tim Bresnan and Chris Tremlett bowled England to the verge of victory with irresistible displays of swing bowling.
Anderson, getting late reverse swing, snared the wickets of debutant Usman Khawaja and acting captain Michael Clarke to take his series haul to 23.
It ended a wretched batting series for Clarke who has scored just 193 runs at 21.44.
Bresnan chipped in with the crucial wicket of Australia's leading series scorer Mike Hussey, caught head-high by Kevin Pietersen for 12.
Australia then suffered a tumble of wickets with Brad Haddin (30) and Mitchell Johnson (0) falling to consecutive Tremlett deliveries only for Siddle to see off the hat-trick attempt.
Strauss sought an extra half-hour's play from the umpires in a bid to press a result inside four days but Smith and Siddle held them out.
Australia's second innings foundered early with the chaotic run out of Watson for 38 in a dreadful breakdown in communication with Phillip Hughes, who left seven overs later for 13, fishing at a slanting Bresnan delivery.
Earlier, Prior became England's third centurion of the innings as the tourists posted their highest total of 644 in Australia and eclipsed the previous highest score of 636 at the SCG, set back in 1928-29.
SCORES IN BRIEF
AUSTRALIA: First innings 280 (M. Johnson 53, S. Watson 45; J. Anderson 4-66)
ENGLAND: First innings 644 (Cook 189, Prior 118, Bell 115, Strauss 60; Johnson 4-168, Hilfenhaus 3-121, Watson 1-49)
AUSTRALIA: Second innings 213 for 7 (Clarke 41, Watson 38, Haddin 30, Siddle 17 not out; Bresnan 2-32, Anderson 2-50, Tremlett 2-53)