Eight years ago, on September 12, England pulled off the biggest cricketing heist by upstaging old rivals Australia to secure the Ashes urn for the first time since 1987. Prior to the commencement of the series, there were suggestions from Down Under that the Kangaroos would win by a 5-0 margin.
In fact, seamer Glenn McGrath conceded that this was a distinct possibility, given the fact that Australia was the dominant force in world cricket at the time.
What followed would eventually become one of the closest series ever played on the field, and it was notable for the extremely high standard of cricket on display for all five matches. Australia, for once, were on the receiving end against fine swing bowling, while their bowlers also went for runs aplenty during the entire tour.
The visitors even lost the psychological battles, the mind games that they were known to play before the start of any series. The Edgbaston win by the Poms stands out as a true contest. It was about the only time the Aussies looked like they would deliver on their 5-0 vow. It was also a reflection of how neither side gave an inch to the other.
All the games were keenly fought right until the very end, despite threats from the weather gods.
Special Mentions: A bloody start, a majestic innings and a magnificent run-out
Less than an hour into the opening session of the first Test at Lord’s, Durham fast bowler Steve Harmison let loose a vicious bouncer at Australian captain Ricky Ponting.
The batsman attempted a pull shot, but the ball struck his helmet, and the metal grille jammed into his right cheek, drawing blood. The skipper was rattled, and so was his side.
Though Australia went on to win the match by over 200 runs, England had set the tone for the series with their aggressive approach – and succeeded in bringing home the sacred urn.
At Old Trafford on August 11, the inconsistent Michael Vaughan made all the critics eat their words with a sublime knock of 166, mastering the Aussie bowling attack on a pitch that offered little help in terms of movement. Primarily scoring his runs on the off-side, he put each bowler through a lot of misery, peppering the covers with powerful drives both off the front foot and the back foot. He ripped apart the hapless Jason Gillespie, for whom the entire tour turned out to be one big nightmare, and his century laid the platform for England’s eventual first-innings total of 444.
Gary Pratt became the darling of the English masses after a superb piece of fielding found Ponting well short of his crease in the fourth Test. Angry, Ponting lashed out at coach Duncan Fletcher over their use of substitute fielders in order to keep their bowlers fresh. However, Pratt was on for the injured Simon Jones, and his effort won him a place on the open-top bus parade accorded to the victorious squad.
In the following page is a list of the five best performances from that memorable series.