FORMER Yorkshire swing bowler Matthew Hoggard was one of England’s heroes in the famous Ashes series of 2005 but he admits he has never watched replays of that glorious campaign.
“Sometimes it feels a million years ago and others it seems like yesterday. I’ve relived it a few times but I’ve never watched the DVDs back,” says Hoggard, who enjoyed 13 years at Headingley from 1996 before ending his career with Leicestershire two years ago.
“It’s all still up fresh in my mind, everything. The biggest thing that sticks out is day one, first Test at Lord’s and the roar from the Long Room.
“Usually, the MCC members give you a nice polite ripple. In 2005 it was like being in a football stand.
“We all looked at each other and said ‘what’s going on here?’.
“The rugby wasn’t on, the football wasn’t on and the back pages were ours. Even at the Open they had the cricket scores up on the leaderboard.
“A lot of it was about terrestrial TV, so everyone had access to it. and, of course, it was that mighty Australian side, the legends – a frightening team. It was Australia, the team of the decade.”
Hoggard, who captured 248 wickets in 67 Tests for England, believes it was the best Ashes series of all time.
“People who know a lot more about cricket and have watched a lot more Test cricket than I have have also told me it’s up there with the best series there’s ever been.”
Even though England lost the opener, even then Pudsey-born Hoggard believed England could rattle the Australians.
“We lost the opener at Lord’s, obviously, but I remember when Harmy (Steve Harmison) hit Ricky Ponting in the helmet and nobody went to see him. Justin Langer went ape at the other end, called us all the names under sun asking if we were at war.
“We bowled them out for under 200 and there was a feeling of ‘we can do this’.”
Hoggard was an unlikely hero with the bat, scoring eight not out in a match-winning eighth-wicket stand with Ashley Giles in the fourth Test at Trent Bridge, which effectively clinched the series.
Hoggard recalls: “We were chasing 129 and I just knew there was going to be a twist. True to form, we still needed 12 when I went out.
“Watching Brett Lee doing his thing, Shane Warne bowling like a dream... I was so nervous.
“I was in the physio room shaking like a leaf, because in the dressing room there’s nothing you can do. When I got down the stairs and through the crowd I was still shaking but as soon as I got on the grass I was okay.
“The destiny was in my hands and I wasn’t just watching.”
Despite it being a war out on the pitch, both sets of players socialised after each Test and Hoggard said: “We enjoyed ourselves, let’s put it that way. We were maybe the last lot before it became really, really professional all the way up.
“We shared the changing rooms, the Aussies came in after Edgbaston and shared a beer, which set the trend for the rest of the series. We weren’t out getting sozzled every night but we did go out and enjoy the wins, rather famously after the series was settled!”
Like Hoggard, another member of England’s attack, Giles, is also best remembered for that famous stand in Nottingham. Giles’s seven not out included the winning runs in the nail-biting victory.
“That’s the one people talk about. I think my 59 at The Oval was a more important innings but Trent Bridge was the winning runs in the Ashes, which feels pretty good. I still have that bat on the wall at home,” said Giles.
“I was 13 when we’d last beaten Australia in 1986-87 and I was the oldest player in the team in 2005, so it was a long period of pain for English cricket.
“For that reason, I think it will always be the pinnacle for me. It was also the last chance to take down that particular team. We were told they were immortal but we had a feeling we could do it.
“We’ve won a couple of Ashes series since then but I think we’ll struggle to have a series as good and as competitive as that one.”
As a player, Giles was the definitive solid citizen – a left-arm spinner without a mystery delivery who relied on nagging consistency rather than exotic turn.
Giles may not have had the cross-over star power of Andrew Flintoff or the bar-emptying brilliance of Kevin Pietersen, but he soon found that being an Ashes-winning Englishman carried significant kudos.
“After that series something changed... you could walk down the street and see kids wearing our shirts rather than football shirts, cricket was front-page news. I don’t think I ever felt like a celebrity but something definitely changed and, from that point on, every one of us has been more recognised.
“Even when I was coaching England for so many people I was still the ‘King of Spain’ from 2005. Wherever you go, if you give it time it always comes back to that.
“Back in the days before that we were quite free to go out for a pint and not get noticed. It’s never quite been the same since.”
When England’s bowling attack from 2005 is mentioned, it is easy to start and end with the four-man pace arsenal of Flintoff, Steve Harmison, Hoggard and Simon Jones – as effective a unit as this country has ever fielded.
But one man who never undersells Giles’s role is his captain, Yorkshire’s Michael Vaughan. His bald statistics might not tell a great tale, 10 wickets at 57.80 and 155 runs at 19.37, but Giles was unflinchingly reliable for Vaughan, plugging an end when required and chipping in with important breakthroughs.
Giles accounted for each of the tourists’ much-vaunted top seven on at least one occasion – Justin Langer, Matthew Hayden, Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke, Damien Martyn, Simon Katich and Adam Gilchrist making for a neat set of scalps.