23rd August 2009. The date probably won’t remain etched into the minds of English cricket lovers in the same way as 12th September 2005 is. There won’t be any open top bus tours and MBEs and trips to 10 Downing Street. But England’s victory today was perhaps even more remarkable than that of four years ago.
In 2005 England went into the final Test at the Oval 2-1 up in the series with an extra batsman in the side to replace Simon Jones and once the toss was won all they had to do was not lose 20 wickets and the Ashes were theirs. It wasn’t quite as simple as that of course, these things never were when Shane Warne (12 wickets in the match) was around but the stage had been set up for victory in advance. Not so in 2009.
Outplayed at Cardiff, England held on somehow. At Lord’s they finally shook off years of Ashes underachievement at the ground and stunned the Australians with Andrew Strauss’s 161 and Jimmy Anderson’s 4 wickets setting up a big first innings lead then Swann and Flintoff taking 9 wickets between then to finish things off. Rain and two evenly matched batting sides dictated that the 3rd Test finished a draw, and then England were driven into the ground so emphatically at Headingley as Australia won by an innings and 80 runs that despite the score only being 1-1 with one to play, England were written off. And after day one at the Oval when they lost 8 wickets having won the toss and chosen to bat, they were dead and buried. So how did they manage to win? Here are the five key moments which lead to England’s reclaiming of the Ashes, starting with the spell that turned this 5th and final Test on it’s head on day two.
1. Stuart Broad’s spell after lunch on day two.
England win the toss which was job one, then set about scoring the 450 or so they would have wanted which was job two. At the end of day one they had scored 307 runs, which would have been perfect had the wickets column not had an 8 in it. They finished on 332 and unless the bowlers could take ten wickets for under 250, Australia were clear favourites for the match. The Aussie reply stared well, Watson and Katich reaching 73 before Strauss tossed the ball to Stuart Broad. 21 deliveries later he had taken 4-8 including Ponting, Hussey and Clarke and the game was on it’s head. Australia were shot out for 160 and England had somehow secured a sizeable first innings lead.
2. Two run outs on the fourth afternoon.
Chasing 546 was nigh on impossible on a dusty turning wearing pitch, but with more than two full days to do it, it wasn’t a completely impossible task. Less than an hour after lunch Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey were both set, playing well and past 50. Australia were 217-2 and still had Clarke, North, Haddin and Johnson to come before the tail. Then, from nowhere, Michael Hussey decided to tip and run to wide mid on, Ponting ball watched for a fraction of a second too long and Freddie Flintoff, dodgy knee and all, swooped, scooped and unleashed a flat armed rocket at the stumps, knocked the off stump clean out of the ground and the Australian captain was inches short. Then, next man in, vice captain Michael Clarke advanced down the pitch to Swann and leg glanced his fourth ball into short leg’s boot, it ricocheted to Strauss at leg slip who threw down the stumps with Clarke millimetres short. Captain and Vice captain, one of the World’s greatest and man of the series, gone inside a crazy 10 minutes of cricket. Australia still had a slight chance with Hussey at the crease but these guys going in such quick succession to two brilliant pieces of fielding effectively ended the game as a contest.
3. James Anderson and Monty Panesar at Cardiff.
James Anderson lasted 69 minutes and Monty Panesar 37 minutes to steal a draw from the jaws of defeat after being totally outplayed in the opening Test. England began their second innings 229 in arrears and slumped to 46-4 early on the final day having closed day four 20-2. This became 102-5 by lunch and the last rites were being read at tea with the score 169-7. As Paul Collingwood was busy compiling a 245 ball 74, he had company at the other end first from Graeme Swann and them from nightwatchman and blocker extraordinaire James Anderson, but when Collingwood fell with time still to play the game was surely over with only dear old Monty left. But the two of them played the innings of their lives to hang on and secure England the draw.
4. Andrew Strauss’s hundred at Lord’s.
After the great escape at Cardiff England moved onto to Lord’s where they traditionally lose heavily to Australia. In fact they hadn’t won since 1934 so the odds were against them. Step forward captain Strauss and 161 runs which set up England’s first inning’s total of 425. Strauss was the only English batsman to score a century and finished with almost twice as many runs than anyone else in his team, and top of the overall run scorers list just ahead of Michael Clarke. Flintoff’s 5 wickets on the final morning at Lord’s grabbed the headlines but it was Strauss’s big hundred followed up by four James Anderson wickets which gave England the platform for victory.
5. Flintoff’s Five.
Andrew Flintoff’s spell on the final morning at Lord’s was pure theatre. Forget who he got out, charging in from The Pavilion End all morning unchanged on only one leg he whipped the crowd into such a frenzy and lifted his team mates around him to such a degree that you could have been forgiven for thinking it was Edgbaston 2005. Graeme Swann took 4 wickets and left without the plaudits, Flintoff was awarded man of the match although Strauss and James Anderson would surely have been stronger candidates, but no-one would deny Freddie this moment. It was great to witness what turned out to be his last big Hurrah as although he featured in two of the remaining three matches his impact on the remainder of the series was minimal.
Well done England and well done too Australia. Either side could justifiably have won this series, Australia took more wickets and scored more runs but England won the key sessions and the crucial plays which was the difference between the two sides in the end. Roll on 2010/1011.
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