On August 28, 2005, England clinched a thrilling victory in the fourth Test at Trent Bridge to take a 2-1 lead with one game to go. The Ashes 2005 witnessed a few heart-stoppers as Test cricket came alive during the oldest rivalry. The formidable Australians were up against an inspired England side. Nishad Pai Vaidya recounts those exciting moments on the final day at Trent Bridge.
Australia had dominated Ashes cricket for 18 long years and England’s wait to get their hands on the urn continued. However, during the Ashes 2005, Michael Vaughan led a different England side — ready to take it to their old rivals. Up until the fourth Test at Trent Bridge, the series had seen two heart-stoppers. While England managed to steal a two-run victory at Edgbaston, Australia managed to hold on for a draw at Old Trafford. With the series tied on 1-1, the caravan moved to Trent Bridge, with both sides desperate to win.
England were unchanged for the Trent Bridge Test, even as Australia handed a Test debut to the young Shaun Tait. Michael Kasprowicz also came into the side, replacing Jason Gillespie. The in-form Glenn McGrath sustained an injury and had to sit out. Both sides knew this was the decisive game and didn’t want to leave it for the final Test at The Oval. On Day One (August 25), Vaughan won the toss and elected to bat first.
Led by Andrew Flintoff’s ton and other crucial contributions, England scored 477 in their first innings. It had been Flintoff’s series all along and this it was his bat that did the talking. Shane Warne was the top wicket-taker with four for 102. Debutant Tait also chipped in with three for 97.
In reply, the Australians crumbled under the pressure exerted by the English fast-bowlers. Having found swing as a lethal weapon to dumbfound the Aussies, Simon Jones showed the way with a spell of five for 44. Matthew Hoggard picked three, with one each to Steve Harmison and Andrew Flintoff. Ashley Giles wasn’t summoned to the bowling crease as the pace quartet took total charge to bowl Australia out for 218. Knowing that he had the tourists by the scruff of the neck, Vaughan imposed the follow-on without second thoughts.
Australia had more fight in their second innings. Openers Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer provided a fifty-run stand and then Ricky Ponting came in to carry that forward. Ponting’s presence at the wicket was dangerous; England knew it. In the previous Test, his fighting 156 had helped Australia keep England at bay and steal a draw. On this occasion, he calmly motored towards his fifty, but his innings ended against the run of play. Damien Martyn pushed the ball towards the off-side and the two batsmen ran through for a quick single. An unknown Gary Pratt, the twelfth man, ran across, picked up the ball and threw it to the striker’s end. Timber! Ponting was short of his crease and the leg-umpire did not even refer it.
The England team surrounded Pratt and lifted him off the ground. He had come in place of the hero of the first innings, Simon Jones, and had done his bit by running out the Australian captain. A furious Ponting marched towards the pavilion, venting his frustration at the England balcony as he entered the stands. That was a clear sign that England had got under the skin of the mighty Australians.
Simon Katich and Michael Clarke fought on and finished Day Three (August 27) on 222 for four. Australia were only 37 behind. On Sunday, August 28, Australia returned to continue their charge. For England, it was a matter of a few wickets.
Katich and Clarke continued to fight and passed their respective fifties. However, two runs after they had taken the lead, Clarke nibbled at one outside the off-stump and handed a catch to Geraint Jones. Adam Gilchrist was then leg-before to Hoggard. Katich held on and was rallying Australia along with Warne. But, then Steve Harmison hit him on the pads and the umpire raised his finger. It was a shocking decision as the ball had pitched outside the leg-stump. Australia were now 314 for seven.
Brett Lee and Warne threw their bats at anything. A few edges flew over the slips, mistimed shots fell in no-man’s land and one was dropped. Warne smashed 45 off 42 balls with five fours and two sixes, until he was stumped off Ashley Giles with the score on 342. Lee extended that with Kasprowicz and Tait. The innings came to a close at 387 with Harmison shattering Tait’s woodwork. The Australian No 11 was too ambitious as he walked across his stumps and missed a full delivery. England had a small matter of 129 to win with plenty of time on their hands. Victory was in sight, but this rivalry had witnessed the improbable.
Marcus Trescothick and Andrew Strauss started the run-chase in confident fashion. Trescothick worked one off his hips to the boundary and then punched Lee down the ground for four. Then, Ponting summoned his trump-card, Warne, with England on 32. Trescothick had sped away to 27. The masterful Warne set his field and had a tricky plot in his mind. Trescothick strode forward to defend, but couldn’t quite keep it down. Ponting took a good low catch at short-leg. Two overs later, he pitched one outside Vaughan’s leg-stump and invited him to play across the line. The ball zipped past him, took the outside edge and went to Hayden at first-slip. Warne had two in no time.
Strauss then started to score a few runs along with Ian Bell, who had a nightmarish time. The duo took England past 50 and when it looked like he had settled in, Warne returned with his bag of tricks. With a leg-slip in place, he came around the wicket to the left-handed Strauss. The ball turned into Strauss’s pads and he tried to flick it across. However, the ball landed in the hands of leg-slip as Australia saw a glimmer of hope. There was a bit of doubt and Strauss persuaded the umpires to check whether Clarke had taken the ball cleanly. Replays confirmed that he got his hands under the ball and Strauss was on his way.
Two balls later, Bell pulled a short-pitched delivery to Kasprowicz at fine-leg. England were now precariously placed at 57 for four. Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen, the two most flamboyant characters in the England dressing room, had the task of taking them through. The stage was set for their heroics albeit in a small run-chase. England had a few nervous moments with Lee steaming in. Flintoff edged one through the slip cordon to collect four. A top edge from Pietersen’s bat flew over Gilchrist’s head.
After those early scares, they essayed a few confident strokes. Pietersen flicked Tait with all his pace through mid-wicket. Flintoff lofted Warne over mid-off to collect more runs. The nerves eased significantly as England moved past 100. Soon after, Pietersen tried to drive Lee through the covers, but edged it. Gilchrist dived across to his right to pouch the catch. Was there a twist in the offing?
Two overs after Pietersen’s fall, Lee pegged back Flintoff’s off-stump. Caught on the crease, Flintoff wasn’t able to stop the thunderbolt from bowling him. The tension was evident. Each run was worth its weight in gold. A boundary would have been a bonanza. Tempted to clear the ropes, Geraint Jones charged down the wicket and tried to loft Warne. Instead, he hit it high in the air and was caught at mid-off. At 116 for seven, Australia felt they could spring a surprise. It was England’s game to lose. The whole Australian team ran towards Kasprowicz at mid-off. The crowd was stunned. They had come to watch their side win the game, but it was gradually slipping from their grasp.
The countdown was highlighted in big numbers on the big screen — 13. Giles and Hoggard were in the centre of all the attention with Britain watching with keen interest. Each ball was an event. Hoggard pushed one past covers and the two ran for a brace. As the throw came in, Giles sped into his crease and the crowd applauded, more in relief. Hoggard had to survive Lee’s spell. He bowled a scorching Yorker, which Hoggard managed to dig out in the nick of time. The Australians appealed vociferously, but Steve Bucknor turned it down.
Warne returned to bowl his 13th over. Giles calmly worked one across the line to take two. England were absorbing the pressure with each passing run. Lee returned to bowl to Hoggard with England needing only eight. Hoggard played Lee sensibly. But, Lee bowled a full-toss outside the off-stump and Hoggard threw his bat at it and smashed it for four. England now needed only four as Trent Bridge welcomed that boundary. Off the last ball of the over, Hoggard worked him past square-leg and took two more.
Giles now took strike to face the wily Warne with only two runs required. Giles calmly played the first few balls. The third-one was a full toss, but he hit it straight into forward short-leg. Vaughan’s expression said it all. There was a slight gleam of happiness, but it changed into astonishment when the ball was stopped by the short-leg fielder. Players from both sides smiled, knowing that could have been the game.
Then came the fateful fifth ball. Warne pitched it outside Giles’s leg-stump and it did not turn. Giles worked it to mid-wicket and ran across for two with his bat in the air. The whole Stadium rejoiced. The rivalry may have been intense, but there was a sense of sportsmanship. Earlier, it was Flintoff going to a shattered Lee after a close finish at Edgbaston. Now Gilchrist handed Hoggard a stump as a souvenir. England had taken a lead in the Ashes and Australia were under pressure with the fifth and final Test coming up.
England had one hand on the urn!
What happened next?
England drew the fifth Test at The Oval thanks to Pietersen’s maiden Test century.
The victorious team were given an open-top bus ride at Trafalgar square in London.
Vaughan’s team had worked hard in the months leading up to the Ashes. However, injuries marred their progress thereafter and many players struggled to maintain their high standards. Vaughan himself missed the whole of 2006.
Trescothick battled depression issues and gave up international cricket in late 2006. Simon Jones never player Test cricket after this game.
Australia whitewashed England Down Under in 2006-07 to regain the urn. McGrath, Langer and Warne signed off in style.
England 477 (Andrew Flintoff 102, Geraint Jones 85; Shane Warne 4 for 102, Shaun Tait 3 for 97) and 129 for 7 (Andrew Filntoff 26; Shane Warne 4 for 31) beat Australia 218 (Brett Lee 47; Simon Jones 5 for 44) and following on 387 (Justin Langer 61, Simon Katich 59, Michael Clarke 56; Steve Harmison 3 for 93) by 3 wickets.