The 2005 Ashes series will be remembered for many reasons. Kevin Pietersen’s stunning entry to Test cricket; Shane Warne’s 600th Test wicket; Andrew Flintoff ensuring he became a national icon and hauling cricket out of the peripheries into focus. Often hailed as ‘the greatest series of all time’, in 2005 we were treated to sporting drama on another level – and there was no Test more dramatic than the 2nd Test in Birmingham.
The Australians had to win. A stuttering chase of 282 had finally gathered momentum on the final morning as the tailenders tucked into the bowling. Shane Warne had smashed 42 before he was out in the most unusual of circumstances – hit wicket off Flintoff. At 220-9, the game had flipped again and now surely England would not let this match slip through their fingers.
They needed to win at Edgbaston. It was as simple as that. After all the build up before the series, the defeat at Lords had served to act as pricking a balloon. The energy and enthusiasm was threatening to evade England and they would have to deal with yet another Ashes loss. After the public had been told that this was going to be England’s series, how would they react to a second defeat?
Surely they would win. Australia needed 62 to win, with 1 wicket left. Flintoff was tearing in, bowling as quick as he ever would in his career. But Australia resisted. Brett Lee and Michael Kasprowicz, who drafted in as cover for the injured McGrath were being peppered but were not backing down. Lee took blow after blow from Flintoff – one ball exploded off the pitch, hit his glove, and sent his bat flying to square leg – but he still ran. The runs kept coming – first a trickle, then a steady steam.
The partnership kept building, the pressure was ramped higher and higher. Then, at 279-9, the moment that every England fan who was either there live, or watching on television, will remember for the rest of their lives. Harmison bounded in, with 17.2 exhausted overs in him already. He sent down a bouncer at Kasprowicz who was unbeaten on 20. This was different to the previous bouncers – it climbed, then dipped, then followed him. He got in a tangle and the ball took the glove. It flew through to Geraint Jones’ left, who dived. If he caught the ball, which was dying rapidly as it approached the ground, England would win by 2 runs – but if he missed it, it would be 4 runs and Australia would win by one wicket. A matter of inches.
“Jones! Bowden! Kasprowicz the man to go and Harmison has done it! Despair on the faces of the batsmen and joy for every England player on the field.”
I can still hear Richie Benaud’s voice in my head. England had won by 2 runs.
But why am I regaling this to you, dear reader? As I’ve said, every England fan remembers it as if it were yesterday. And why is this called ‘Australia avenge Edbaston’? Surely Edgbaston were avenged in the following Test when the match was drawn by Australia?
Well yes – but today there was a more literal turn around.
In Mumbai, Australia have beaten England by 2 runs in the Super Sixes game of the Women’s World Cup. Two runs. Such a pathetic margin. Chasing 147 to win, England were bowled out for 145. England have stuttered and spluttered all through this World Cup as they look to defend the title they won in 2009 and this is another setback. The most hailed player of the tournament, though struggling with injury, has not taken the world apart as was promised, which has undoubtedly harmed England.
Sarah Taylor, who recently expressed her desire to play professional men’s cricket, has had a lean series. In three innings she has scored 35 runs, whilst her captain, the much less vaunted yet just as good Charlotte Edwards is averaging over 40 – helped mostly by a ton against India.
In the press conferences that will follow this match, the comments will be just the same – “it’s just another match”, “we’ll work hard towards the next one” – and so on and so forth. Yet for cricket fanatics, this match has a very noticeable sibling; a quirk of the game that is hard to ignore once you start looking out for them. In 2009, England lost their Super Sixes match to Australia by 8 wickets – yet they went on to win the tournament. They can do it, but are now facing an uphill struggle.