The anticipation is almost over. The start of the Ashes series is almost here with recently-crowned ICC World Cup champions England ready to lock horns with Australia as sport's greatest rivalry resumes. Edgbaston will be the perfect stage - the ground where England most love to play and where their record is best. From first day to last, Birmingham has so often inspired England's team in Ashes combat. Brian Halford reflects on five days of wonders from the annals of Edgbaston Test history.
Day One 2015
Close of play: Australia 136, England 133 for 3.
Any team wants to put its stamp on a Test match on the opening day. Alastair Cook’s team did so in scintillating fashion in perhaps the most spectacular first day of a Test in history.
Australia won the toss, chose to bat and were regretting the decision 36.4 overs later when they were all out for 136. Jimmy Anderson tore into them with six for 47, supported by Stuart Broad and Steve Finn, who took two wickets apiece.
England then eased to the brink of a lead by the close with just three men out. To the delight of the home crowd, the Bears’ own Ian Bell led the way with a sparkling half-century – 53 from 56 balls with ten fours.
Day Two 1902
England resume on 351/9.
Close of play: England 376/9 dec, Australia 36 and 9/0.
The inaugural day of Test cricket at Edgbaston was one of steady accumulation for England’s batsmen. Led by Johnny Tyldesley’s 138 they reached 351 for nine with ninth-wicket pair Bill Lockwood (41 not out) and Wilfred Rhodes (24 not out) having added a useful 56. On the second morning, Lockwood completed his half-century before captain Archie MacLaren declared.
Australia, fielding one of the most powerful sides they ever selected in Test cricket, then went in for their first Test match bat at Edgbaston – and were bowled out in 23 overs. They reached eight without loss, then MacLaren switched Rhodes from City to Pavilion End and he became unplayable. Rhodes delivered 11-3-17-7 while his Yorkshire colleague George Hirst supported him with 11-4-15-3. Australia had just begun to follow on when rain arrived.
Day Three 1985
Australia resume on 335/8.
Close of play: Australia 335, England 355/1.
The big Saturday crowd was in place nice and early hoping to see the Aussies’ innings polished off quickly and then England’s batsmen prosper. The script could not unfolded more perfectly.
From the first ball off the day, Geoff Lawson attempted an unwise single and was run out by David Gower. Number 11 Bob Holland then failed to see out the first over from Richard Ellison and England were batting by 11.15am.
When Graham Gooch fell for 19, becoming Jeff Thomson’s 200th and last Test wicket, England were 38 for one – but from that point onwards it was plunder in the sunshine. Tim Robinson (140 not out) and Gower (169 not out) gorged themselves against an impotent attack. Thomson was ageing, Holland obtained no turn and Lawson, Craig McDermott and Simon O’Donnell found the middle of the bat all day as many to leave the Hollies Stand revelling in the runfest.
Day Four 2005
Australia resume on 175 for 8, needing 282 to win.
Close of play: Australia 279 all out.
The match could have been all over in three minutes yet Edgbaston was packed and cacophonous to see how an amazing, fluctuating., brilliant plot would conclude.
It was not over in three minutes. It was far from over.
Shane Warne and Brett Lee left English nerves well and truly frayed as they took Australia to 220 before the former trod on his stumps. Last man Michael Kasprowicz went in to join Lee with 62 still to find. Amid scenes of incredible tension, the Aussies batted superbly to inch the total upward. Thirty needed. Twenty. Ten. Three!
Australia were one boundary away from an amazing win. Then, one more time, in goes Steve Harmison to Kasprowicz. It’s a moderate delivery down the leg side and could easily have been flicked for the match-winning four but the batsman gloves it and wicketkeeper Geraint Jones takes a tumbling catch. Edgbaston erupts and The Greatest Test has The Greatest Climax.
Day Five 1961
England resume on 106/1 needing 321 to avoid an innings defeat.
Close of play: England 401/4.
Having dominated the game, bowling England out for 195 then amassing 516 for nine, Australia were confident of closing out victory on the final day. They were denied by one of the great Edgbaston Test innings, from Ted Dexter.
Dexter resumed overnight on five with opener Raman Subba Row on 68 and the pair knuckled down to deny the Aussies crucial early wickets. When Subba Row fell for 112 and Colin Cowdrey quickly followed, England were 239 for three, still 82 behind and in serious jeopardy.
In went Kenny Barrington to dig deep (and few men could dig deeper than he) and while Barrington retrenched, Dexter’s innings evolved from watchful defiance to glorious counter-attack. The Sussex player steered England to safety in the most stylish manner, only falling, with the game safe, in the closing minutes for a brilliant 180 including 124 in dazzling boundaries.