2005 Ashes – The Greatest Test

Sunday August 7, 2005, was a memorable day in several respects. It was the 70th anniversary of the invention of the metallic drinks can. It heralded the start of the football season, with Chelsea beating Arsenal in the Community Shield. In Warwickshire, a grey-tailed tattler, an extremely rare visitor to the UK, was spotted, bizarrely for a largely coast-dwelling bird, in woods near Baddesley Clinton. Twitchers came flocking.

But even the appearance of the tattler was topped for excitement by events 25 miles away at Edgbaston. On a magnificent, mesmeric Sunday morning in the Second City, England and Australia delivered the Greatest Finish to the Greatest Test.

Having been in possession of the Ashes for longer than the youngest generation of England fans had been alive, and 1-0 up again in the series after victory in the opening Test at Lord's, Australia arrived in Birmingham predictably full of swagger. But, under the captaincy of Michael Vaughan, England were reinvented. Now they had a bit of swagger themselves. "We went hard at them in the first Test, at Edgbaston we go harder," Vaughan told his team.

And then, shortly before play began on the first morning of the match, England enjoyed a big dose of that ingredient essential to any sporting success: Good luck. During the warm-up, ace fast-bowler Glenn McGrath, exchanging rugby passes with Brad Haddin, trod on a ball and tore ankle ligaments. The man who had tormented England for years was out of the match.

By the end of the first day, England had fully capitalised. Australia captain Ricky Ponting, refusing to let the Aussie swagger be tempered by the late development, chose to bowl first, even without McGrath - and England raced to 407 in 79.2 overs. Marcus Trescothick, Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff biffed half-centuries against an attack in which even the legendary Shane Warne suffered. According to one newspaper, "Warne suffered the kind of punishment that Australia suggested they would try to inflict on Ashley Giles."

Warne having been caned, Bears spinner Giles then played his full part with the wickets of Ponting, Michael Clarke and Warne as England secured a first-innings lead of 99.

Inevitably, this great Australian side, even in the last throes of its greatness, fought back hard. A blistering spell from Brett Lee reduced England's second innings to 31 for four before a brilliant counter-attack from Flintoff, roared on by the Edgbaston crowd, shored up the innings.

Still, at 131 for nine, England were in danger of losing the initiative and the match. If number 11 Simon Jones fell straight away, Australia would require just 231 for victory. But Jones stick around with Flintoff while 51 were added. Australia required a tricky 281 to win.

The rest is history. Australia closed the third day on 175 for eight, still needing 106 with just the bowlers left to bat. Game over? Not a bi of it. With more than a decade of constantly finishing second to Australia behind them, no England fan was taking anything for granted.

On the fourth morning, even though the match could have been all over in a couple of minutes, Edgbaston was packed. It wasn't all over in a couple of minutes. Lee and Warne, then Lee and Kasprowicz, inched the total upwards, abetted by a flurry of leg-byes and 13 no balls from Flintoff, so that just three more runs were needed for victory. Two to tie.

In went Steven Harmison to Kasprowicz. A poor ball down the leg-side could easily have been paddled away to fine-leg for the winning boundary. Instead it landed in the gloves of Geraint Jones to an deafening explosion of sound and suddenly England's players were cavorting in triumph and the Aussies were as stunned and disorientated as that poor, lost grey-tailed tattler.

Tickets - Ashes Sunday still available

With days 1-3 now sold out, don't miss out on your chance to see England open the Specsavers Ashes series against Australia at Edgbaston by purchasing your tickets for Ashes Sunday on Sunday 4 August.

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