When tornado-struck Birmingham hosted the second Ashes test of the 2005 series, England were 1-0 down. Little did we know that one of the greatest test matches of all time would unfold.
“Jones! Bowden!” Richie Benaud’s words after a dramatic finale to the second Ashes test in 2005 were just one memorable moment from this remarkable game. This test had everything: from injuries, bad decisions and good batting through to good bowling and a brilliant run chase that took Australia so close to pulling off an unlikely win. Eight years later, I can honestly say that I have never watched a better test match. Now, relative to land area, the United Kingdom has the second highest amount of tornadoes in the world yet very few of them are severe. One of the worst hit a Birmingham suburb on the 28th July 2005, causing more financial damage than any tornado previous in Britain. Just a few days later, the Ashes test in Edgbaston, not far away from the tornadoes impact, was scheduled to be held. England were 1-0 down in the series having been blown away by Glenn McGrath at Lords. There wasn’t much optimism around the country that they would turn it around either, given that England hadn’t won a series since 1986-87, as well as the fact that Australia’s team was packed full of world class cricketers. The likes of Hayden, Langer, Ponting, Martyn, Gilchrist, Warne, Gillespie and Lee lined up alongside McGrath, and the superstars were well supported by the young, promising players such as Clarke and Katich. Australia were the dominating force in world cricket, England hadn’t been anywhere near that level for a very long time. That being said, England didn’t have a bad team – far from it! Led by the excellent Michael Vaughan, he had a batting line up that included Trescothick, Strauss and the young stars Bell and Pietersen. Andrew Flintoff was a game-changing all rounder and Hoggard, Harmison, Jones and Giles completed a very competent bowling unit. Being 1-0 down in the series, the worry for England was not the talent; it was the mental aspect of the game. They had become well known for collapsing to Australia and many feared the same fate.
On the 4th August, the Australians were warming up on the Edgbaston outfield when Glen McGrath stepped on a cricket ball and rolled his ankle, ruling him out of the test match. The tornado had meant that experts didn’t expect the pitch to turn, and expected it to be a bat first wicket – breaking the usual Edgbaston rules. For that reason, England had, also amid criticism of Ashley Giles, added the all round option of Paul Collingwood into the squad. The toss took place on time and, due to the overcast conditions, Ricky Ponting chose to bowl first; a decision that was questioned by almost everyone straight away. England had decided to name an unchanged eleven, sticking with Giles whereas Australia had replaced McGrath with Michael Kasprowicz.
England’s first innings: The morning session belonged wholeheartedly to England, with Strauss and Trescothick going at over four an over. Lee conceded 9 boundaries to Trescothick whereas Gillespie and Kasprowicz were expensive to Strauss. Shane Warne got the breakthrough, bowling Strauss with a beauty. The score was 132-1 at lunch, which included dropping Strauss and getting Trescothick caught off a no ball. Marcus Trescothick is a wonderful cricket and an inspirational man, while in 2005 he was a brilliant test match opener. I was 12 years old, almost a total newcomer to Test cricket and I knew nothing of Bradman’s, Gooch’s, Lara’s or Sobers’ so thought Trescothick was one of the all time greats. He isn’t but he will always be one of my favourite players. When I watched Trescothick cover drive the Australian attack into submission on that day, I had a new hero – he was a very graceful batter with an aggressive yet controlled style. Those 90 runs were as beautiful as they were important and while many a batter has scored more runs than that, few have made a greater impression on me. A century was there for the taking, until he flashed at a wide delivery from Kasprowicz. Ian Bell only lasted 3 balls, scoring a boundary and making 6 before he too was caught behind by Gilchrist. Michael Vaughan pulled a short ball from Gillespie to Brett Lee at fine-leg for 24, to leave England in a spot of bother at 187-4. In usual situations, you would expect the scoring rate to decrease at this point however it actually went the other way as Pietersen and Flintoff launched some of the most attacking batting I’ve seen in test matches. Flintoff’s 68 off 62 balls included 6 fours and 5 sixes whereas Pietersen’s 71 off 76 had 10 fours and 1 six in it. Flintoff played one of the most remarkable shots I have ever seen when he pulled Brett Lee for six, while his eyes were closed! Despite Geraint Jones only making 1 run off 15 balls, the rest of the tail wagged. Each of Giles, Hoggard, Harmison and Simon Jones scored boundaries, which included 2 sixes and Harmison had a strike rate of over 100. Shane Warne, however, was eventually too good for them and England were bowled out for 407 on the first day. The batting display seemed even more impressive when you consider the fact it was the first time since 1938 that a team had scored 400 runs against an Australian attack on the first day of a Test match. Warne had picked up 4 wickets; Kasprowicz had got 3, Gillespie 2 and Lee 1, that of Pietersen. None of the bowlers had conceded less than 80 runs, with Lee and Warne completing unwanted centuries. Unfortunately, it then rained, meaning that Australia didn’t have a chance to bat on a remarkable day.
Australia’s first innings: The second day continued where the first left of when Hoggard got Mathew Hayden out first ball, slashing one straight to Andrew Strauss. All good test matches ebb and flow and there was no exception here, with Langer and Ponting forming a good partnership before Ponting was caught by Vaughan, sweeping off Giles, for a well made 61. England then got a third wicket before lunch when Martyn, who was looking dangerous and going at more than a run a ball, was run out thanks to a superb bit of fielding by Vaughan. Langer and Clarke started another partnership, adding 76 runs before Clarke was caught behind off Ashley Giles, who was answering his critics by letting his bowling do the talking! Flintoff then got Katich caught behind and at 208-5, England were on top. Australia were still 199 runs behind and only had 5 wickets left however Langer was providing adequate resistance. Langer and Gilchrist steadied the ship and their partnership was unbroken before tea, Langer was on 72 and had batted for four hours without looking like getting out. This seems like an appropriate time to talk about Simon Jones, as he is about to start playing his part in this match. I hope that people still talk about Jones in the years to come, as he was a wonderful bowler and would have been one of the very best if it wasn’t for constant injuries. He is one of the people that you will look back at DVDs of this 2005 series and ask the question, what if? Simon Jones was a master of swing bowling, especially reverse swing – which he managed to both exploit and control. He also bowled with a fair bit of pace. Pace and swing were a deadly combination for even the best batters in the world. However none of that was what struck me while I watched Jones. What impressed me the most; was his action. I’ve always thought that Harmison and Flintoff had rather ugly actions, whereas Jones’ action was so fluid that to call it beautiful would not be doing it justice. He ran in and, as he reached the crease, his left arm would gracefully float up to his face as his right arm would release the ball. It was, and still is, an action that I wanted to have myself. For years, I would run up and down the kitchen, practicing raising my left arm and bowling with my right. It’s fair to say that I never mastered it! If I wanted to bat like Trescothick, I most definitely wanted to bowl like Jones. I am relieved that Jones was born in an age where he can be immortalised by DVDs and YouTube videos, as well as the fact that he bowled so well in a series which will be remembered for generations. Anyway, back to Edgbaston and Jones produced an absolute pearler (apologies for the Australian slang!) of a yorker to dismiss Langer for 82. Whereas the English tail scored runs, the Aussie one couldn’t. Warne tried advancing to Giles but missed it and was bowled for 8; Lee was caught at slip off Jones for 6, before Flintoff got Gillespie and Kasprowicz LBW for 7 and 0 respectively, which meant Flintoff was on a hat-trick. This left Gilchrist stranded on 49 and meant Australia were bowled out for 308, a lead of 99 for England. Australia bowlers all conceded more than 80 runs; all the English bowlers went for less. Giles and Flintoff picked up 3 wickets while Jones got 2 and Hoggard 1, Harmison was wicket-less.
England’s second innings: There was still time left in the day for England to start their second innings and Warne produced a magic ball to get rid of Andrew Strauss. Pitching outside off, Strauss looks to pad it away when it turned sharply and bowled him. Strauss looked a bit foolish but in truth, it was a piece of genius from the spin king. Trescothick and night-watchmen Hoggard saw England to the close at 25-1, a lead of 124.
Wickets tumbled on the third day, but that isn’t to say that ball completely dominated bat, as the wickets were punctuated by an incredible innings and a wonderful last wicket partnership. Two days in and Flintoff has only been mentioned in bits. Flintoff would go on to define the series and, despite it already being a good test for him, he had saved his best for the third day. Australia had the best of the morning session when Lee produced a spell of bowling which yielded 3 wickets in 12 minutes. He removed both Trescothick and Hoggard, sandwiched in between the dismissal of the captain, Vaughan. Bell finally got some runs and put together a small partnership with Pietersen, before both were given out, caught behind, to Warne. Pietersen’s dismissal looked to be a bad decision as there was no evidence that he hit it, in fact it has always looked to me like he didn’t. In the days before DRS, there was no way of checking whether he did or didn’t. The partnership took England from 31-4 to 72-5, which then became 75-6 and 101-7 when Geraint Jones fell just after lunch. I’m not sure I can do any sort of justice to what happened next but I’ll give it a go – just before lunch Andrew Flintoff complained about a shoulder problem and clearly wasn’t comfortable while batting. He took some painkillers after lunch and started blasting the ball to all corners of the park. It was 131-9 when Harmison was out second ball, and England needed a partnership from Flintoff and Jones – boy did they get one! The 51 runs they put on together included multiple boundaries and massive sixes from Flintoff, with my favourite being one that landed on the roofs where the cameramen were. Flintoff finished on 73 before he was bowled by Warne, his 6th wicket of the innings and 10th of the match. To put the Flintoff innings into perspective, no other English batsman got past 21. Warne and Lee were the only Australian bowlers to get wickets and England had made 182 – meaning that Australia needed 282 runs to win with plenty of time to do it.
Australia’s second innings: Hayden and Langer got Australia off to a good start, surviving the first 12 overs of the new ball and getting 47 until Michael Vaughan blew the game wide open by introducing Flintoff into the attack. He missed out on the hat-trick, but with his second ball he bowled Langer. 3 balls at Ponting, and 3 close shaves for the batter. Two LBW calls turned down and an edge that failed to carry to slip. His fourth ball at Ponting, and sixth of the over, was a no-ball however all that did was give him an extra delivery which Ponting nicked through to Geraint Jones. 47-0 had become 48-2 in one over. Hayden kept going and was taking a liking to Simon Jones’ bowling until Jones got him caught at slip by Trescothick. Thus followed another little partnership, this time between Martyn and Clarke before Martyn, again making a score in the twenties but failing to go on, hit Hoggard straight to Ian Bell. Giles then picked up two wickets – the first one being Katich, completing a miserable test match for the Western Australian, and the second being the key wicket of Gilchrist, who mistimed a lofted shot straight to mid-on. Flintoff then picked up another wicket, trapping the night-watchman Gillespie with an in-swinging yorker. At 137-7, England were well and truly on top and appealed for the extra half hour to finish the Aussies off. During the extra half hour, Clarke and Warne frustrated England, adding almost 40 runs and not losing a wicket. That was, until the last over of the day – bowled by the so far wicket-less Steve Harmison. Mark Nicholas is known for getting carried away while commentating and so when he described Harmison bowling Clarke as “one of the great balls”, many thought he was at it again! However, I think he called it perfectly. It was a slower ball which completely deceived Australia’s last remaining batter while England were chasing a way back into an Ashes series. This was one of the most important wickets in English history.
The score was 175-8, Australia were chasing 282 and while Warne and Lee could bat – no-one expected them to do it. This is a day that would go down in cricket history. In many ways it was an incredibly cruel day, for it was the only day in which Australia truly dominated yet it was the day on which they lost. After it all, I don’t think that even the staunched English fan could have wished it to go any other way! At the start of the day, Warne and Lee’s partnership was little more than an annoyance for the English bowlers and value for money for the fans. In many ways it didn’t matter if they got a few runs – Kasprowicz wasn’t meant to score any runs and it was nice for people to see Australia putting up a fight. However, when they had put on 45 runs together, there were a lot of people around the ground who were getting nervous! It was a massive relief, therefore, when Shane Warne was seemingly bowled by Flintoff – upon replays it was shown that he treaded upon his own wicket for 42. That was it, surely!
The next period of play was one which is hard to forget, and must have been unbearable to play in! Lee and Kasprowicz kept chipping away at the runs with singles, twos and the occasional boundary. Both were playing well and none of the English bowlers looked threatening. It got to 30 runs to win and Vaughan started placing fields with 6 slips in it and bowled Flintoff and Harmison continuously. The numerous amount of slips meant that boundaries were easier to come by and the target came fairly rapidly down to underneath twenty. There was clear tension in the crowd, although the Aussies loved it – they were now favourites. They were still favourites when Kasprowicz top edged Harmison down to third man, Simon Jones came underneath it and England seemed to have won. A 14 run victory! That was, until he dropped it and the torture went on. The score went below ten as Flintoff hit Lee with yet another bouncer, this time making Lee drop his bat onto the pitch. The Australian batters were now taking singles to win, and that win seemed inevitable now. 3 runs to win, Harmison bowling, Edgbaston silent. This was test cricket at its very best. It is easier to win when you are underdogs than when you are favourites and cricket is a wonderful sport because you can be both within the same day. This is precisely what happened here and may go some way to explaining what happened next. Kasprowicz was on strike and Harmison bowled a bouncer which the batter gloved straight to Geraint Jones. Cue Richie Benaud’s famous words, the crooked finger of death and celebrations of pure joy in the English camp. England had won by two runs, the second closest victory in terms of runs in Test history!
It’s a well known fact that cricket is my favourite sport and if you want a reason why then look no further than Edgbaston 2005. I had started watching cricket the year before yet this match, and series, showed me just how exciting a game it could be! A tight contest for four days, so many runs scored by both sides and it only came down to a total of 2 runs. Cricket is a sport like no other. The match is made even more incredible when you consider where the series was and the balance of power in the past 20 years. There is a genuine argument that if England had lost Edgbaston, a result that was nowhere near being improbable as you’ve read, they wouldn’t have become the best team in the world. The rise to the 2011 whitewash against India started with holding their nerve in 2005, and getting the belief that they could beat Australia in a tight match. Edgbaston 2005 was not only a great test match, it shaped cricket for years to come. Deserving of a place of my list? Most definitely!
The Image of the Match: There were so many memories captured from this test, some of which I’ve included in here. Glen McGrath in agony, the infamous toss call from Ricky Ponting, Flintoff’s closed eye six, Brett Lee breathing a sigh of relief when he took a wicket, Hoggard’s first ball, Warne bowling Strauss, Flintoff’s six hitting, the crowd feeling the tension, the final delivery and Vaughan pulling on Flintoff’s ears are ones that spring to mind. But none of those win this award; this one is going to Flintoff and Lee. The series was well fought, but in the spirit of good sportsmanship and respect for one another. An incident such as Simon Jones being fined for giving Hayden too much of a send of was a rare occurrence and instead, the image of the match was more usual. This picture of Flintoff consoling Brett Lee after the match needs no introduction, it has become an iconic piece of sportsmanship and shows perfectly how sport is simply a game.
Over of the Match: There is really only one candidate for this. Yet again, Freddy Flintoff is the winner!
- Dot ball
- Wicket (Langer bowled)
- LBW call
- Edge dropping short
- LBW call
- No ball
- Wicket (Ponting caught behind)
It was made even more remarkable by the fact that Flintoff had had a shoulder injury and just rescued England with the bat. He was an incredible all rounder, who had a sensational test match and he was from my home county!