Ashes 2005, 2nd Test: The greatest Test match ever played
While the Australian team celebrated its smashing victory at Lord's, anticipating yet another win in the Ashes series, England's aspiration to fix the chink in the armour that tormented it since 1987, was heightened on that eventful and muggy morning at Edgbaston.
Ponting's bizarre decision to bowl first on the pitch that was perfectly suited for batting raised quite a few eyebrows, along with the sidelining of Glenn McGrath who had a twisted ankle owing to a mishap in the warm-up turned the tables for England.
England made 400-plus in a single day and for the next couple of days, the teams played high-octane cricket, most of the highlights came from Andrew Flintoff.
The best shot from Flintoff came when he hung back deep in the crease and slogged Lee straight down the ground and onto the roof for a gigantic six. "Ohh! Hello!! Massive!! Massive!!" yelled by Mark Nicholas in his electrifying voice.
Flintoff bowled pretty well in this match and, with Simon Jones, extracted deadly reverse swing. One famous over in the 2nd innings set England on their course — six deliveries of such ferocity and impact that even the crowd smelt blood. Probably, it was this over — and the final result of the match, of course — that moved the cricketing fraternity to pay closer attention.
In that over, this mountain of a man (Flintoff) dismissed Langer with the 2nd and Ponting with the last ball. In between, he beat the Australian skipper as if he were a club cricket trialist groping for a contract.
Other mind blowing events from the first four days of the match can be easily recalled: the opening onslaught by Trescothick and Strauss; Flintoff's far-out shoulder injury that did anything but hamper his batting; Warne's outrageous spinner that went past Strauss on the outside of his pads to hit leg stump — that ball changed its direction in a manner which, autorickshaws take turn without giving any indication on the road; Harmison's memorable slower ball to outfox Michael Clarke in the final over of 4th day's play; the noise, the sheer volume of noise.
On the final day of the Test match, Australia needed 107 runs and England just 2 wickets to win. Most of us thought that the game would be wrapped up within an hour, but Warne and Brett Lee were not among them. They started the battle by applying the 'blondes have more fun' principle.
Lee took a pounding while Warne gave one. He drove, pulled and cut too. Lee saw as much of the physio as of Warne, so often was he mashed on the hand and body by England's West Indian-style attack.
Then, Flintoff got the better of Warne. Now, Australia were 9 down and 62 still needed. In came Michael Kasprowicz. They both nicked and nudged and occasionally threw a punch at English hearts.
With 15 needed, Simon Jones dropped an awkward chance at third man — the moment became so tense that you could cut thin air with a knife.
With 4 needed at the end, Lee creamed a square drive directly at the sweeper posted on the cover boundary. If the fielder had not moved there, Australia would have won the Test.
After that single, and with 3 needed, Kasprowicz hesitated - whether to play or duck a short delivery from Harmison. His hands flailed at the ball and it brushed one of them on its leg-side journey through to Geraint Jones. He took a stunner by diving towards his left. His gloves wrapped around that ball to hold it as he rolled over and then sprang from the ground after the sudden knowledge that he had won England the second Test by 2 runs.
At that point the English crowd erupted with joy, so did the English players. Flintoff, however, had taken note of Lee on his haunches, head bowed and stricken by defeat. One warrior stooped to console another, offering a hand in tender support.
Marcus Trescothick said, "I have never felt physically sick at the end of a cricket match before. We came in expecting to have such a great day but when Australia needed only a handful of runs I was thinking: 'Oh my god, how are we going to get over this?'"
Channel 9's commentator Mark Nicholas wrote in his book: "Edgbaston was the best cricket match I have ever seen."
England 407 (Trescothick 90, Pietersen 71, Flintoff 68, Warne 4-116) & 182 (Flintoff 73, Warne 6-46); Australia 308 (Langer 82, Ponting 61, Flintoff 3-52) & 279 (Lee 43*, Flintoff 4-79).Published 09 Mar 2018, 13:34 IST