September 13, 2005 3:00 am
England yesterday won back the Ashes after a 16-year gap on a day of overwhelming intensity in south London.
Michael Vaughan's team achieved the draw needed to ensure a 2-1 series victory over their old sporting adversaries Australia after batting for most of the day in front of a partisan crowd that turned the normally sedate Oval cricket ground into Wembley for the day.
The drama was followed by millions across the country, not least in the financial markets. The overall volume of shares traded on the London stock markets was down at 2.4bn from the usual 3bn as TV monitors across the City were switched to the cricket. Pubs were packed and traffic levels in London slumped.
"It's been an emotional summer of cricket, fantastic for the game. I can't praise the players and management enough," said a triumphant Vaughan. The team will parade the tiny replica Ashes trophy at a public celebration in Trafalgar Square today.
England's hero was South African-born batsman Kevin Pietersen, who plundered a maiden Test century in singularly tense conditions to round off a remarkable sequence of five matches that lifted the country after the trauma of the London bombs.
The Queen congratulated the team on its "magnificent achievement".
Tony Blair, prime minister, in a letter to Michael Vaughan last night, said: "By bringing the Ashes back after so long you have given cricket a huge boost."
It was a comfortable enough end to the day for England, but there were plenty of scares, notably before lunch when batsmen Vaughan and Ian Bell were dismissed in successive balls.
The day also brought probably the last Test appearances in England of both Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath.
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