The Ashes: England recover to produce stunning triumph and end years of hurt

England's Kevin Pietersen celebrates his century during the final day of the fifth npower Test match against Australia at the Brit Oval (Picture: Rui Vieira/PA)
England's Kevin Pietersen celebrates his century during the final day of the fifth npower Test match against Australia at the Brit Oval (Picture: Rui Vieira/PA)
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THE most celebrated cricketing rivalry resumes hostilities in Cardiff on Wednesday, 10 years on from arguably the greatest Test series of all time.

Mention the summer of 2005 and thoughts inevitably turn to the most thrilling Ashes contest ever, sweetened by England’s first victory over Australia in 18 years.

England's Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen celebrate as they beat Australia during the fourth day of the fourth npower Test match at Trent Bridge in 2005. Picture: Rui Vieira/PA.

England's Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen celebrate as they beat Australia during the fourth day of the fourth npower Test match at Trent Bridge in 2005. Picture: Rui Vieira/PA.

Ricky Ponting’s Australia came to these shores amid a remarkable run of 12 victories in their previous 16 Tests.

But they reckoned without the indomitable English in a stunning series which ended with the hosts ending almost two decades of hurt.

Here’s a look at what many consider to be the best series ever.

1: First Test, Lord’s – Australia won by 239 runs.

The tone was set on an incredible opening day at the home of cricket, but the overall outcome at the end of the Test was all too familiar, with Australia’s 71-year unbeaten sequence in Lord’s tests continuing.

England’s belligerence was soon displayed with a brute of a ball from Steve Harmison smashing into the arm of Justin Langer, while the Durham man also drew blood from Ponting’s cheek.

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The Aussies were on the rack at 97-5 and it didn’t get much better with Harmison blowing away the tail in 14 balls as the tourists were dismissed for 190.

But the match turned on Glenn McGrath’s 500th wicket in 110 tests and he wreaked havoc in a vintage spell with England ending the first day at 92-7 with Michael Vaughan, Ian Bell and Andrew Flintoff all bowled by the man from Dubbo.

Only Kevin Pietersen (57) showed defiance with England dismissed for 155. Australia mustered a confident 384 second time around, setting England a colossal 420 for victory.

They were bowled out for 180, the impressive Pietersen finishing unbeaten on 64, and McGrath ending with match figures of 9-83.

2: Second Test, Edgbaston, – England won by two runs.

The greatest Test match of all time? Many believe so.

With Australia resuming on the fourth morning at 175-8 chasing an improbable 282, it looked like a routine victory for England. But Brett Lee, Shane Warne and then Michael Kasprowicz showed plenty of Aussie ‘ticker’ to put them in sight of a remarkable victory against panicking hosts.

Then it happened. Harmison banged a ball into the left glove of Kasprowicz, who hunched down horrified as the ball looped down the leg side and Geraint Jones gathered, the prelude to wild scenes of celebration.

Drama arrived before the toss, with McGrath treading on a ball during practice and tearing ankle ligaments, only for Ponting to still elect to field after winning the toss.

England raced to 407 in 80 overs, compounding Ponting’s error. It was the most runs conceded by Australia on the first day of a Test since 1938.

Marcus Trescothick (90) led the way, before fun and games from Pietersen (71) and Flintoff (68) took England to 407 all out with Australia 99 runs behind in reply, Langer hitting a determined 82.

In reply, Warne got to work and England were toiling at 131-9 before Flintoff cut loose en route to 73, taking his match record to nine sixes in a game, an Ashes record. The Lancastrian put on 51 for the final wicket with Simon Jones.

In reply, Australia were in the mire at 140-7, with England claiming the extra half hour, with the last ball of the day seeing Clarke dismissed. But Australia dug in on the next morning and were on the cusp of a miracle until Harmison struck.

3: Third Test, Old Trafford – draw.

The Ashes headed north and culminated in the first draw between the two old rivals in 17 Tests, but only just.

England had their foot firmly on the throats of the Australians, with an estimated 10,000 having to be turned away from Old Trafford on the final morning.

But Lee and the fit-again McGrath negotiated the last 24 balls to save the game and keep the series level at 1-1.

Ponting showed his class to bat nearly seven hours for 156 with the Australians set 423 to win, but hanging on at 371-9.

It was a Test for captains, with Yorkshire’s Vaughan hitting an imperious 166 as England totalled 444, with the first day also notable for Warne becoming the first bowler to take 600 Test wickets.

The incomparable Warne then showed his value with the bat with a gutsy 90 to help save the follow on, though most of his colleagues wilted in comparison as Simon Jones took a Test-best 6-53 as Australia made 302.

England’s second innings belonged to Andrew Strauss, who scored his first Ashes century, helping the hosts build a lead of 422 before the declaration.

The Australians were teetering on the precipice in reply, but somehow clinched a draw.

4: Fourth Test, Trent Bridge – England won by three wickets.

Another stunning episode saw England prevail with Yorkshire’s Matthew Hoggard and Ashley Giles seeing the hosts home.

Australia were without McGrath; South Australian Shaun Tait handed a debut.

England won the toss and batted first with Trescothick and Vaughan making half-centuries before Flintoff (102) took on the baton with considerable aplomb alongside Geraint Jones (85) as the hosts opened with 477.

In reply, Australia were blown away for 218, Simon Jones taking 5-44 as the Aussies followed on for the first time since 1988-89.

But at 155-2, second time around, the tourists were back on the straight and narrow. Damien Martyn called Ponting for a single, only to see his captain beaten by a direct hit from from substitute fielder Gary Pratt – much to the Tasmanian’s anger. Ponting’s verbal outburst on leaving the pitch cost him 75 per cent of his match fee, but the bigger loss came at the end.

Australia managed to conjure a lead of 129 and an awkward total looked exactly that when England were reduced to 111-6, but Hoggard and Giles held firm.

5: Fifth Test, The Oval – draw.

In keeping with a majestic series, an exhilarating denouement followed before England brought back the Ashes after an absence of 16 years and 42 days – with Vaughan becoming the first captain to lift the urn since Mike Gatting in 1986-87.

Vaughan won the toss and batted with a fine partnership of 143 between Strauss (129) and Flintoff (72) taking England to 373, despite Warne’s 6-122.

After a tough series, Langer (105) and Matthew Hayden (138) finally came good in an opening stand of 185. But a tremendous spell from Flintoff on the fourth morning turned the tide as he took 4-30, Hoggard joining the party with 4-4 from 19 balls as Australia were dismissed for 367.

The final day beckoned England starting at 34-1. With the score on 67, McGrath struck twice in successive balls before Pietersen survived the hat-trick ball.

Crucially, Pietersen was dropped by Warne at slip in the next over, but the tension was ramped up when Warne dismissed Trescothick and Flintoff. At lunch, the Aussies were 133 behind with five wickets to claim.

But they reckoned without Pietersen (158), who produced a marvellous maiden Test hundred, extinguishing the Australians’ fire and ensuring the Ashes were coming home.