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2005 and all that

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Ben Dirs | 10:33 UK time, Friday, 19 June 2009

Thursday 21 July 2005 - First Test, Lord's, day one

They call him Grievous Bodily Harmison. And he makes Australian captains bleed. The seam of a rock-hard cherry scored into Ricky Ponting's cheek: to an Englishman's eyes, it's a pleasing tattoo.

Justin Langer, hopping around at the crease and swatting wildly like a man being attacked by a hornet, also wears plenty. Even Matthew Hayden, the sadistic prison guard to Ponting's waspish governor, isn't spared.

Australia all out for 190. Shame England go and lose seven wickets before stumps. Glenn McGrath wielding the stiletto, the taste of Ponting's blood receding further with every thrust.

Friday 23 July 2005 - First Test, Lord's, day two

Never commit to England. They give you hope, and then they let you down. All out before lunch for 155. Same old, same old. Still, at least this South African kid with the dopey hair looks a bit handy.

Saturday 23 July 2005 - First Test, Lord's, day three

At a wedding in Macclesfield. England five down for 115 in their second innings. "Turn that rubbish off, Dirs," says the best man as I watch forlornly in the hotel bar. "Who gives a monkey's about cricket anyway?" "Not me," I reply weakly, "I'm never watching cricket again..."

Thursday 4 August - Second Test, Edgbaston, day one

I wake up to discover McGrath's trodden on a ball and is out of the Test - perhaps the series. Maybe I'll watch for an over or two.

A few hours later, I'm pretty sure cricket's the greatest sport on earth: Marcus Trescothick's got Brett Lee by the Gladstones and he's giving him a damn good thrashing. Ponting put England in, which makes each thrash sound sweeter.

Shopping up West, and I'm crouched down in front of Dixons. This is how I imagine people watched Derek Underwood run through the Australians at Headingley back in 1972. Except, back then, it was probably Rumbelows.

Everyone now seems to accept that this South African kid called Pietersen is actually English, and he's at it again. This time Freddie Flintoff's joining in, and now it's him bending Lee over his knee.

Five maximums for Flintoff, two over cow corner off Shane Warne, Australia's Grand Inquisitor. England all out for 407, scored at more than five an over. I can feel something brewing.

Saturday 6 August - Second Test, Edgbaston, day three

England have had more New Bothams than Warne's had Silk Cuts, but today Flintoff proves he's for real. I think one of his sixes off Lee went into the confectionery stall and out again. And yes, I do mean the one at Headingley.

Having muscled the pendulum back England's way with the bat, Freddie bowls one of the great overs in Test cricket later that day. Langer castled, Ponting bamboozled by a leg-cutter. Australia 48-2.

And what about that for a slower ball by Harmison to young Michael Clarke? Actually, it was so badly disguised, it may as well been wearing a diamond-encrusted jacket with 'Slower Ball' emblazoned across the back. Still, that just made it funnier.

Sunday 7 August - Second Test, Edgbaston, day four

I'm slumped in front of my computer at work and I feel like crying. That's not an exaggeration. I'm a grown man, and I actually want to cry.

All the morning papers assured me England were on the brink of victory. So how come Australia only need four more runs to win? Of course, it's that swine Warne again, and this time with the bat. And here's Lee and Kasprowicz proving - as if it needed proving - that when the fat lady's singing, the Aussies will still be swinging.

Not the time for full-bungers outside off, Harmy... oh my days, it's a full-bunger outside off. It takes an age to reach Lee's end. It's like the anticipation of my first Holy Communion/French kiss/dive for a rubber brick all rolled into one. Lee makes a crisp connection... and finds a fielder out on the boundary. Amen.

One ball later, and I am crying. At least, I'm doing that man thing where I'm crying while pretending not to cry. Kasprowicz c G Jones b Harmison 20. Freddie knows the score - not the time to be larging it. Go over to that nice man Lee and shake his hand, he's liable to be very angry the next time you meet.

Andrew Flintoff (right) consoles Brett Lee after the climactic finish to the second Test in 2005Thursday 11 August - Third Test, Old Trafford, day one

To paraphrase The Mighty Boosh, English people don't hate Shane Warne - they fear Shane Warne. Six-hundredth Test wicket and a standing ovation. Surely he can't want any more?

McGrath's back, but the England skipper saves his best for this mob. Elegance is a Michael Vaughan cover-drive, and there are plenty of them in his regal 166.

Monday 15 August - Third Test, Old Trafford, day five

A friend tells me his dad is struggling to finish a building job because him and his gang keep stopping to listen to the cricket. His dad's from Tipperary, his gang from all over Ireland. There's not a person in the country who doesn't give a monkey's about cricket now.

To the Sports Café in Haymarket. Me, my Australian colleague, and Ricky Ponting. Only a small man (Ponting that is), but a cricketing colossus, his 156 one of the finest knocks you'll see.

My Australian colleague doesn't say much, until stumps are drawn, and Australia have somehow saved the match with a wicket to spare. Then? Let's just say Scott lets his hair down.

Tuesday 16 August

Two early phone calls: one from my Australian colleague's wife to tell me he got a kicking after I left and that he's now in hospital, another from the bank to say someone's spent £1,000 on my credit card. "Was that you Mr Dirs?" "Nope." This series is becoming more than just emotionally draining.

Friday 26 August - Fourth Test, Trent Bridge, day two

Freddie's at it again, this time thumping his first Ashes century. People call Flintoff 'rustic', but he's only 'rustic' in the way a luxury French-style kitchen might be 'rustic'. For there are plenty of polished straight lines to go with all those blacksmith heaves and hoicks.

But this is far from being Flintoff's Ashes. First it was Harmison giving the Aussies fits with the ball, then it was Simon Jones. Now it's the turn of that old dog Hoggard. Hayden cleaned up by an inswinger, the Bully Boy looks like he's batting with a length of two-by-four.

Saturday 27 August - Fourth Test, Trent Bridge, day three

Simon Jones' injury does have an upside, as it enables substitute fielder Gary Pratt to run out Ponting. Punter's face as he barges his way past the England players on the balcony is worth printing off again and again and sticking on your Christmas tree baubles. Even England coach Duncan Fletcher uses up one of his biennial laughs.

Sunday 28 August - Fourth Test, Trent Bridge, day four

There's me, my mate and our two girlfriends - both Irish, no previous interest in cricket - and we're huddled around my mobile phone in a remote cottage in Donegal as if it's about to reveal to us the meaning of life.

But all it does is vibrate every few minutes, informing us of another England wicket. First Trescothick, then Vaughan, then Strauss. "That swine Warne again," goes my phone. And again. And again. Except it doesn't actually say swine.

With Bell gone, England are 57-4 and still need 72 to win. Flintoff and Pietersen will see us home. Except they won't. Lee rips out the two of them, and England are still 18 short. What do you know, that handshake meant nothing.

Geraint's gone an over later, and they're into the bunnies. My brother's texting every run now. Hoggard, who all of a sudden fancies himself as a batsman, strokes Lee through the covers for four. Bedlam. A few minutes later, Ashley Giles clips Warne for the winning runs and a small cottage on the west coast of Ireland goes wild.

Monday 12 September - Fifth Test, The Oval, day five

Have a day off, Australia, just let us win them back. McGrath's got rid of Vaughan and Bell in successive balls... HAT-TRICK! PIETERSEN'S GONE! NO? Well done Billy Bowden, your histrionics are forgiven.

That's that then, we've gone and blown it. No way Warne's going to drop that. Chest high, looping towards him, that's a dolly. Whoops-a-daisy, how very regrettable, he's gone and dropped the Ashes...

I seriously think Pietersen's insane, not quite right in the head. It's the only way to explain his lunatic assault on Lee and Warne. Most of us shrink from the heat of battle, like paper curling in a flame. Not Pietersen. He grins maniacally, throws open his arms and dives headlong into the inferno.

Tuesday 13 September - Trafalgar Square, London

Not sure what Admiral Lord Nelson would have made of it all. After all, it's only a game. But better a Test series than a war to unite the nation. The most thrilling piece of sporting theatre I've ever witnessed. Judging by the scenes in Trafalgar Square, an awful lot of you think the same.

Can it ever be bettered? One thing's for certain, if England do manage to top it in 2009, Andrew Flintoff will be one seriously drunk man.



  • Comment number 1.

    I remember the Edgbaston test very well. I was with a group of friends in Dundee that barely paid attention to the existence of cricket up to that point. It really did capture the imagination.

  • Comment number 2.

    >>And what about that for a slower ball by Harmison to young Michael Clarke?

    To be greeted by M.C.J. Nicholas (Hants, Channel 4, and 5) proclaiming: "One of the great balls!"

  • Comment number 3.

    I love cricket, but this series has ruined it a bit for me; I know it will never get this good again.

  • Comment number 4.

    I am a fan of cricket and still play but as posted before I somehow don't think this Ashes Series is going to live up to 2005. I think England have the better squad of players available for selection but I still have the haunting feeling that the Austrailians are going to win the series. I hope I'm wrong!

  • Comment number 5.

    I'm Scottish but have followed English cricket, indeed supported them, since the 1989 Ashes, and the 2005 Tests were outstanding; everyone of them! I was watching the end of the 2nd Test in a state of adrenaline-filled fear, convinced those Aussies were going to squeak it, and when Bowden stuck up the crooked finger o' doom, well, I have never felt such relief in my life!

  • Comment number 6.

    What about the 2006/07 series?

  • Comment number 7.

    Take your hat off Ben Dirs, that was the best and funniest flashback of the Greatest ever series!!! I was in an Edinburgh hostel surrounded by Aussies on the last day of the 4th Test... and let's just say it was sweet!!!

  • Comment number 8.

    As an Aussie in London I have found it amusing how often the 2005 series has been talked about, while the following whitewash is ignored! Not to take anything away from 2005, you thoroughly deserved the win, and I actually perversely enjoyed watching a few of our arrogant boys being taken down a notch (Pontng especially).
    But perhaps you should be looking at ways to win THIS series? Australia is rebuilding and is relatively weak, and you have the chance to do it again. But you will never manage it by looking back over your shoulders ...

  • Comment number 9.

    Great article, though the reference the Rumbelows made me feel somewhat old!

  • Comment number 10.

    London Barnes - try and keep up. We don't talk about the 06 / 07 series as we got royally pasted. We much prefer to talk about the "Greatest Series of All Time" - the one we won by 2 runs at Edgbaston....
    I assume all groundstaff are under instruction to leave cricket balls lying around near the aussie warm up area again?

  • Comment number 11.

    Waldo0 Yes I noticed that. I wonder if the 2005 ashes would have been considered the greatest of all time had Australia won the Edgbaston test by 1 wicket. Thus the Aussies winning the series 2-1. I doubt it somehow.

    Im a West Indies fan myself and I must say that series was fantastic to watch. In my opinion England won it due to 2 things: (1) Their excellent bowling attack and (2) Ricky Pontings poor captaincy at the time.

    I remember Ponting putting England into bat on a flat track then watching the fast bowlers get creamed all over the park. Shane Warne didnt get a bowl until well after lunch when England had over a 100 for no wicket. That was key. Vaughan in comparison was much better tactically and England seemed to get a wicket with every bowling change.

  • Comment number 12.

    Re point 2 - >>And what about that for a slower ball by Harmison to young Michael Clarke?

    To be greeted by M.C.J. Nicholas (Hants, Channel 4, and 5) proclaiming: "One of the great balls!"

    I believe the words were "given the moment given the man....." or something like that - gives me goosebumps just thinking about it!

  • Comment number 13.

    My favourite Ashes 2005 memories:

    Edgbaston I was glued to my seat in front of the telly on Sunday lunchtime. We're due to play a match a 2pm one of the players rings to ask what time our game is due to start totally oblivious to the classic finish taking place! Call yourself a cricketer?

    Freddie working over Punter - one of the best overs you will ever see.

    That catch by Strauss.

    Time to do it all again and eradicate the nightmares of 2006!

  • Comment number 14.

    No mention of Strauss' two centuries at Old Trafford and The Oval, then? :(

  • Comment number 15.

    I think it's about time the English move on from 2005. Since the, the Aussies have whitewashed England 5-0 to regain the Ashes, and this series seems to be leading into a contest between two rather mediocre teams. The Aussies haven't replaced legends such as Warne and McGrath, while England simply lurch from one crisis to another.

    Nevertheless, though, a good article.

  • Comment number 16.

    f1manoz - To be honest, I think you're probably right, England should let that 2005 series go. But my God it was good...

    Sir Paul Varley Mk. 4 - Yeh, Sorry Straussy! For some reason I don't have any recollection of where I was when he scored those two tons!

    As for the last series, I was doing the ball-by-ball on those first two Tests... I'm still emotionally scarred... horrible...

  • Comment number 17.

    preferable to be harking back to 2005 than to 1981 as we'd been doing for 20+ years prior to that series.

    Let's hope we can pan the Aussies 5-0 and then spend the next few years harping on about the summer of 2009 !

    but i've got a feeling this series is gonna be drawn 2-2

  • Comment number 18.

    I was lucky enough not to be working during Ashes 05. After a decade and half bringing up my girls I was able to say the salads in the fridge and the washing machines the white metal box in the corner of the kitchen.

    I re discovered my love of the game. What struck me was no mater how heated the battle on the field the spirit was wonderful off the field.I doubt that another series will be as close as this one. They say fortune favours the brave and that's what England were brave they never backed off.

    I think we won because we played as a team. If somebody failed with bat or ball somebody else stepped up. Every player played their part to the full. Even Paul Collingwood who is for ever picked on for that MBE. Petersen need him to hold up and end while he was blasting from the other.

    It confirmed for me that KP could play a bit especially at cruicial moments,that MV was a great Captain and our bowling attack for that one summer was masterful.

    It was Crickets 1966 moment please lets hope we do not have to wait that long again to taste victory.

  • Comment number 19.

    Great article Ben. Even though you're right in that the England team should let it go, the fans should never forget it. For me it was the greatest summer of sport in my life-time (to-date that is I'm hoping that 2012 will challenge it).

    My favourite memory of that summer has to be the final day of the 5th test as I was lucky enough to have a ticket. Pietersen's first six of that day is a sight I'll never forget. In my mind's eye the ball was size of a football as it flew right over our heads. And it was in that very moment that I knew the Ashes had been won, utter joy.

    There's no way on earth that this year's series (or any other series for that matter) can live up to 2005, but just knowing how good it was and remembering that brilliant summer brightens my soul on days like when England lose to Holland!

  • Comment number 20.

    enland66 if you think that was sweet, you should experience winning a series 5 zip. Stop settling for a cheese sandwich man, when you should go for the all you can eat buffet. Then you`ll know satisfaction.

  • Comment number 21.

    The blood trickling down Punter's face still brings a smile whenever I think of it.

  • Comment number 22.

    there seemed to be a feeling around the 05 ashes that it was brewing into something special. i took loads of time off work and would walk down the road to buy the times each day - it invariably had a cover story relating to the ashes, great publicity!

    the terrible feeling of gloom and tension watching day 4 of the second test is something i never felt quite as powerfully in my life, and i have suffered as a lover of peterborough united and the scotland football team in my time, and the feeling of joy when ksparowicz gloved it behind was just supreme!

    i, like a lot of england fans, have felt my passion for the game drop a notch since 05 as it just felt like an unbeatable pinnacle and a long-time dream, but i expect this series to bring its own heroes, tragedies and moments of brilliance - it is the ashes after all.

  • Comment number 23.

    Hai (BBC) , how about recalling the losses after 2005 ?

  • Comment number 24.

    Allegedly the phrase 'and all that' is now a precursor to 'and what happened afterwards'. This is about the 2005 Ashes; not doubt the Aussies are remembering the 06/07 Ashes and not the 05 ones.

  • Comment number 25.

    I guess this blog is paving the way for a McNulty "1966 and all that" extravaganza this time next year!

    England to continue their streak of beating no top side since Pakistan in 2006.

  • Comment number 26.

    The one thing that never seems to get a mention from the series is the caught behind decision that won the game for us at Edgbaston. I suspect that had the same decision gone against us we would still be moaning about it today. To their immense credit the Aussies have behaved with tremendous sportsmanship both during and in the years follwoing the series.

    When we see the heated debate that continues to follow the British Lions series and practically every football match on the planet, the positive way this reflects on cricket and australian cricket in paricular should not go without mention.

  • Comment number 27.

    ravi bopara,kevin pieterson, flintoff,and ian bell, all need to do well in the batting order and then freddie will be up and drinking at trafalgar square.


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