* Australia defeated after spirited battle
* Flintoff gets brilliant runout in final test
* Ponting loses second series in England
By John Mehaffey
LONDON, Aug 23 (Reuters) - England completed an emotional victory over Australia in the fifth and final test on Sunday to regain the Ashes they surrendered so abjectly in 2006-7.
Australia, set a record 546 to win, fought a spirited battle on a sun-drenched day at the Oval before four wickets fell for 16 runs when Michael Hussey looked like extending the match into the final day.
Hussey was last man out, caught for 121 after 5-1/2 hours of unrelenting concentration to give off-spinner Graeme Swann his fourth and final wicket and England victory by 197 runs.
The England team celebrated without restraint and the capacity crowd cheered their heroes as they walked around the ground in a victory lap. England regained the Ashes in the corresponding test four years ago after 16 barren years but then lost 5-0 in Australia in the return series.
“You don’t know what to do with yourself, whether to cry or to cheer, jump up and down or lie on the ground, it’s one of those situations you can’t prepare yourself for,” said captain Andrew Strauss, who was named England’s man of the series.
England grabbed two early wickets but were forced to wait until halfway through the afternoon session as Hussey and Ricky Ponting fought for the improbable victory which would have enabled Australia to retain the Ashes.
The turning point was a last flash of brilliance in the test arena from England all-rounder Andrew Flintoff, who will now concentrate on one-day cricket after conceding that his battered body can no longer stand up to the demands of five-day cricket.
Ponting was run out by a direct throw to the stumps at the striker’s end after scoring 66 after Hussey had called him through for the single. Vice-captain Michael Clarke, Australia’s player of the series, was run out for a duck in the following over spelling the effective end of Australia’s resistance.
“That was the turning point,” Ponting said.
“We had started to wrestle some momentum back in our favour, we were going along really nicely at that stage. Then two runouts in two overs and then a stumping soon after and all the momentum had turned back against us. England had their tails up.”
Strauss said Flintoff, who will undergo surgery on his injured right knee on Tuesday, had shown just how valuable a player he had been in all departments of the game.
“Ponting and Hussey were playing exceptionally well and we needed a moment of inspiration and we weren’t quite sure where it was going to come from,” he said.
Ponting admitted Australia had made a mistake in omitting specialist off-spinner Nathan Hauritz on a sun-baked track which took spin from the first day but refused to blame the conditions for his team’s defeat.
“We had our opportunity on day two and needed to score more runs. We knew come day four the wicket was going to be like it is,” he said.
Defeat is a bitter pill to swallow for Ponting, who is only the second Australian captain since Billy Murdoch in the 19th century to lose two Ashes series in England. Ponting was captain in the 2005 series.
Australia were also knocked off the top of the International Cricket Council rankings for the first time since 2003.
“I don’t think you can get any more disappointed that I am right now,” Ponting said. “I‘m obviously hurting, the rest of the guys are hurting as well.”
Editing by Justin Palmer; To query or comment on this story email firstname.lastname@example.org