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By Nishad Pai Vaidya
The Ashes Down Under was ruled by Australia as they romped to a 5-0 victory over the beleaguered Englishmen. Not many would have imagined this result as the tourists were the favourites against a side that was still finding its feet post-transition. However, it was a contest that saw the emergence of a new Australian order under the able leadership of Michael Clarke. Throughout the series, we had various moments that left a mark on our memories and those that stood out.
Here are some of the most memorable moments in the Ashes 2013-14:
1. David Warner’s celebration after scoring a ton, 1st Test, Brisbane
The supposed ‘bad boy’ of Australian cricket had a forgettable 2013 with his antics off the field. There was a tirade on Twitter directed at a few journalists followed by the infamous punch on Joe Root during the ICC Champions Trophy. It looked like he was heading the wrong way as his consistency levels had dropped too. However, being a confidence player, he was one hit away from that big score and the Aussies backed him for the home leg of the Ashes. And once Australia had England on the mat at Brisbane, he grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck and made merry. When he got to his ton on Day Three, the helmet came off and there was a short lull before the leap to celebrate. It was a look of genuine happiness after all the struggle.
2. Mitchell Johnson sends James Anderson off, 2nd Test, Adelaide
With the moustache, a new action and extra pace, Mitchell Johnson was the man England dreaded during the Ashes. During the devastating spell of seven for 40 in the first innings at Adelaide, Johnson was a man possessed and only got better after that destruction at Brisbane. When he sent the top order packing in a burst, he had a go at his counterpart James Anderson. The ball came in at a searing pace and crashed into the stumps before Anderson could get his bat down. Johnson ran towards the slips to celebrate, but just as he passed Anderson, he waited, squatted for a brief moment with his arms spread. The moustached look gave that moment a more menacing feel.
3. Steven Smith’s ton, 3rd Test, Perth
As Australia batted first at Perth, they were 106 for three when Steven Smith walked in. Having failed in the first two Tests, the pressure was on him and before he could settle, Australia were 143 for five. From that point, he hooked and pulled his way to a ton. Anything short was dispatched for four through mid-wicket and he also charged to the spinners. On 96, he pulled a short one in front of square and ran across to celebrate his ton. He pumped the air and ran to enjoy his moment. Considering the pressure on him, it was a good innings and setup a base for Australia’s victory at Perth.
4. George Bailey’s assault on James Anderson, 3rd Test, Perth
Personally, George Bailey had a forgettable debut series as the runs were hard to come by and he struggled to maintain consistency. He did get a fifty at Adelaide, but the moment he would remember is his assault on Anderson during the second innings at Perth. As Australia were eyeing declaration, Bailey got into his one-day mode and smashed Anderon for 28 runs in an over. The first ball was an edge which flew over the slips for four. He followed it up with a typical one-day slog over long-on for a maximum. The next ball saw a brace and then he pulled one for four. The last two balls disappeared over Anderson’s head for sixes and Clarke called his men in. That pretty much summed up England’s woes as their attack’s leader was humiliated.
5. Shane Watson stands tall in pressure, 3rd Test, Perth
Watson was under considerable pressure going into the third Test as he had failed in the first two. To make matters worse, he scored 10 in the first innings, but had a shot at redemption in the second. And he responded with a magnificent ton. Having got to the mark with a boundary, he roared in victory and then hoisted his helmet and bat; standing as if he had vanquished his demons.
6. Alastair Cook bowled off the first ball by Ryan Harris, 3rd Test, Perth
Alastair Cook has been a thorn in the opposition’s flesh for a few years now, but Australia have clearly rattled him. Once they were set 504 to win at Perth, Cook would have thought of braving it out and regaining form. Instead, he got a beauty first up from Ryan Harris as it pitched on a good length, squared up Cook and hit the top of the off-stump. It all happened in a flash as Harris was celebrating even as Cook held his shape after he was beaten. This moment stands out for its symbolic value — wherein Australia had conquered Cook in order to get the better of England.
7. Ben Stokes scores maiden Test ton, 3rd Test, Perth
If there is one positive England can take from the series, it is Ben Stokes. The all-rounder gave a good account of his abilities and the ton at Perth was one to savour. Chasing 504 to win, he kept England in the hunt with a stroke-filled ton and made the Australian bowlers nervous. On 98, he tried to pull a short one from Johnson, but got a top-edge and it flew to the fine-leg boundary. Stokes punched the air and acknowledged the applause. From being a lad who was sent home from a performance tour due to disciplinary issues, to the man who scored a brave ton on a crack infested pitch at Perth, Stokes had really come a long way.
8. Australia reclaim the urn, 3rd Test, Perth
The urn was in the bag after a long time of hurt and disappointment. The ignominy suffered in England in 2013 was washed away in that one moment. Chasing 504, England were 353 for nine when Anderson faced Johnson. A ball surprised him off a length and he merely fended at it. The fielder at short-leg dived forward to take the catch and threw it in the air. The Aussies had achieved their mission. They all came together in the centre as one group to share a moment that had rarely come in the recent past. All the blood, sweat and tears resulted in victory. The unassailable 3-0 lead ensured Australia had their hands on the urn.
9. Johnson works out Michael Carberry, 5th Test, Sydney
No one wanted to face Johnson. Period! Even Cook’s move to look for singles was interpreted by a few to get off strike and let Michael Carberry face the music. Johnson pitched a few outside the off-stump and they left Carberry at some pace. He inside edged two and was caught, but stayed on as Australia didn’t review it once and didn’t appeal the second time. However, Johnson and Clarke had intelligently placed a man at short fine-leg. After bowling a few outside off, he delivered one a little straighter. Carberry thought it was his chance and tucked it round the corner. Instead, Lyon took a sharp chance to send the England batsman back. It was all about Johnson’s pace and thought in that one moment — something that summed up his whole campaign.
10. A 5-0 wrap-up, 5th Test, Sydney
When Boyd Rankin edged Harris to Clarke in the slips, a nation celebrated. A 5-0 victory isn’t only about domination, but it is about a sustained effort and ruthlessness. Australia did just that and it all led to that historic moment. Clarke is the only man in the current setup who was a part of the side that won the Ashes 5-0 in 2006-07. For him, this was bigger for it had come under his leadership and with a team that wasn’t supposed to do the job. The Aussies formed a huddle and sang their victory songs. The urn was presented by Shane Warne and in many ways, it symbolised the passing of the baton to a new generation.
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