CAN it really be 10 years since the 2005 Ashes?
Why, it seems like only yesterday.
I was fortunate enough to cover that series.
We will surely never see its like again.
The details remain so fresh in the mind as to make recourse to reference books superfluous.
England lost the first Test by 239 runs, prompting everyone in the country to think: “Here we go again”.
But then came Edgbaston....
On an extraordinary August Sunday, England almost snatched defeat from the jaws of victory before somehow prevailing by two runs. They called it the greatest Test match ever played.
They called it the greatest Test series ever played, too.
On to Old Trafford...
With the country behind them, and with a rising belief that the mighty Australia could be toppled, England came within a hair’s breadth of going 2-1 up in the series.
On a final day when thousands were locked outside the ground, unable to gain access due to the clamour for tickets, Brett Lee and Glenn McGrath survived the final 24 balls amid unbearable tension to secure the draw.
As England consoled themselves on a valiant effort, Michael Vaughan, the England captain, drew his players’ attention to the scenes on the Australian balcony, where the tourists were animatedly celebrating the draw.
The mighty Australians celebrating a draw?
Vaughan cleverly used it as a motivational tool. In the fourth Test at Trent Bridge, there was further evidence that the tourists were rattled.
Ricky Ponting, the Australia captain, reacted angrily to being run-out by substitute fielder Gary Pratt in the Australia second innings.
Ponting felt that England were constantly using substitutes to rest their bowlers, and he vented his feelings towards the England balcony as he left the field.
The outburst cost him 75 per cent of his match fee, but that was small fry compared to the subsequent hit of a three-wicket defeat.
Amid suffocating tension, England slipped to 116-7 in pursuit of 129 for victory.
Enter Matthew Hoggard...
The Yorkshire pace bowler kept his cool to add 13 runs with Ashley Giles, the most significant 13-run stand in Ashes history.
England had won a compelling match to go 2-1 up with one Test to play.
Surely they couldn’t do it, could they?
The game at The Oval seemed to pass in something of a blur. A victory would have been good enough for Australia to retain the urn as the current holders, and one would not have put it past them to rise from the dead.
Only six runs separated the teams on first innings, and England went into the last day of the series on 34-1 in their second innings, knowing they would need to bat for long enough to prevent Australia throwing the kitchen sink at a small target.
England slipped to 67-3 and should have gone to 68-4 only for Shane Warne – of all people – to drop Kevin Pietersen at first slip off Lee. It pretty much cost Australia the series.
Pietersen hammered a hair-raising 158, and Warne, who captured 40 wickets in the rubber at 19.92, and who did more than anyone to keep Australia in the hunt, cruelly finished on the losing side.