AUSTRALIA VS ENGLAND | BIRMINGHAM 2005
In the closest Ashes result of Australia England cricketing adventures, following their 239 run defeat at Lord’s Cricket Ground, it was England’s turn to swing the series' pendulum with a heart-stopping 2 runs win over Australia at Edgbaston, Birmingham. Australia had only two wickets in hand when starting Day 4, needing 107 more runs to win; momentum and vibe easily with England.
For one of the few times through my years of spectating, the ground was full at the start of play; not surprising as play may only have lasted 2 balls. For the sake of the game, it lasted much longer than that and the capacity crowd was dealt absolute 100% cricketing value.
Australia fought it out for 90mins, only to fall short of a miracle win by 3 runs. The cover drive by Brett Lee to the boundary had mate Lewis jumping in exhilaration, believing the ball had gone for four. Alas, an England player appeared from the camouflage to keep the shot to a single. Lewis remarked, "Who put him there?"
As Australia edged ever-closer, the ever-boisterous England crowd became silent as Brett Lee and Michael Kasprowicz added 59runs to make England’s inevitable day 4 victory seem unlikely.
It was an incredible session of play; truly nail-biting. Admittedly, Australia should never have got as close as they did. After Steve Harmison bowled Michael Clarke on the last ball of Day 3, leaving Australia 8-174, a quick mop up should have been the order of play for England on Day 4.
Brett Lee and Shane Warne started the day, and took to the bowlers hitting 46runs with a series of classic text book shots and some not so, but effective, to reach 9-220 when Warne was out 'hit wicket'. Of all the dismissals. He never looked like getting out, so to fall in such a way was unjust.
England’s bowlers were all over the shop. Short-shit, wides, and an excessive amount of no balls kept Australia creeping closer and closer, deserving Australia the win. England didn't bowl like winners, so they shouldn't have.
Michael Kasprowicz was out first ball in the first innings and if England bowled the same ball to Kasper when he replaced Warney, they’d have won the game in a flash, but they didn’t. They let Kasper and Bing smashed up 59runs, and gee it was great to watch.
The crowd that were riotously vocal for most of the morning, joined the England team’s desperation, suddenly believing (if silence was a gauge) they would hand Australia another victory from the jaws of defeat. But when Kasper flayed at a rising ball and gloved one down the leg side to Jones, who finally held a catch, the crowd went bat-shit as Billy Bowden raised his bent digit in defiance.
Replays would show that Kasper's hand was off the bat when the ball struck and therefore would not have been out, but you can't blame the umpire for not seeing that.
I’ve seen many close finishes in both forms of the game, with Australia more often than not prevailing, but this was a new emotion. I threw my cap onto the ground, and dropped my head into my hands. I couldn’t believe it. If there was consolation, it was a 2 run defeat, and not a one run defeat. Defeat nonetheless.
From the predicament Australia was, needing 107runs from the last 3 batsmen, getting that close would warrant a silver platter victory, and with the quality of the bowling, England didn’t deserve to win.
At the presentations, Michael Vaughan summed up England’s mindset at the game's end saying, “We didn’t think we would win it”. It would great if England brings that attitude to the 3rd Test in Manchester!
England won the 2nd test. Deserved or not, they were helped when Ricky Ponting won the toss and bowled, after losing Glenn McGrath in a pre-match warm-up.
England went into bat and pummeled 407runs in the day. Without McGrath, Australia’s bowlers were exposed. Most of England’s batsmen performed professional suicide, except Freddie Flintoff 68, and Kevin Pietersen 71, but Australia did bowl them out. If you open the batting on Day 1, you still want to be batting Day 2 surely, even with 400 runs on the board?
Australia walked into bat Day 2, and one ball later Matthew Hayden was walking back, and the Barmy Army was singing early! Punter made a blistering 61, Clarkey a confident 40, and Justin Langer looked as if he wanted to bat for 2 days but alas, all three were out, all too early. The tail came and went and Australia handed England a 99 run first innings lead, 7overs before stumps.
Shane Warne gave England a taste of what was to come, mesmerizing Andrew Strauss with a ‘ball of this century’ that took out middle peg, leaving Strauss to wonder if the ball was legit as both teams walked to the showers to ponder an extraordinary Day 3 that started with a bang.
At 1-25, England crashed to 9-131. What became the decisive inning was Flintoff’s 73. With Simon Jones they added 51 runs for the 10th wicket and set Australia 282 runs to win with 2.5 days to play. Even with loads of time to get the runs, history was not on Australia’s side as the highest 4th innings winning total at Edgbaston was only 211.
At 0-47 Australia was looking set to play long into Day 4. Australia was OK at 4-134 but in a blink were 7-137 and England were offered the extra 8 overs to wrap up the win. England was well placed to take the game and the crowd knew it too.
The atmosphere was outstanding, and there are times when the crowd does get a wicket rather the players, with the umpires perhaps influenced by the intensity of the audience; a decision rightly or wrongly made because 15,000 people want it!
Amidst the euphoria, Clarkey and Warney survived 7.5 overs until the last ball when Clarke was bamboozled by Harmison. We went home 8-174 to come back tomorrow for one of the most enthralling test match ends of the modern game. This game is now history and win or lose you can never begrudge the value and spectacle of a test match at Edgbaston.