Month: June 2009 (page 1 of 6)

Ashes 2005 2nd Test at Edgbaston

In the middle of the Edgbaston Test, we genuinely thought to ourself that cricket had got too good. We actually thought that cricket needed to be worse so that we could appreciate it properly. There was so much brilliant cricket to take in and not enough time to process things.

That was in the MIDDLE of this match. Now think of how it ended. That ending alone would be enough to elevate it to being the best match we’ve ever seen, but it was shaping up that way anyway.

That the third 2005 Ashes Test was scheduled for a couple of days afterwards did this match a monumental disservice. Back to back Tests should never happen, but they do happen. There’ll be two sets of back-to-back Tests in the 2009 Ashes, as if the series is something to be rushed through en route to something better. It’s bullshit. Here’s why.

Day one

There were so many crucial moments in this summer on which everything else seemed to hinge, but this was a huge one. England had been beaten at Lord’s, as usual and the batting had collapsed, as usual. Marcus Trescothick put that right on the opening morning with some searing seat-of-the-pants batting which frightened everyone, including England.

He only just about made it past the lunch break, but by that point he’d hit 90 in 102 balls. The rest of England’s batsmen thought: ‘Meh, seems to work,’ and set about the bowling with frequently rash, but effective gusto.

It was a rare occasion where Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff batted okay together. Pietersen made 71 off 76 balls. Flintoff made 68 off 62 balls, hitting no fewer than five sixes. Even Steve Harmison made 17 off 11.

Day two

Australia adopted a similar sort of batting approach, only with less risk and less success. All out for 308 before the second new ball, England were batting again by the evening. Flintoff finished the innings with two wickets in two balls.

Day three

This was when too much happened. Brett Lee and Shane Warne sent England spiralling to 31-4 then 75-6. No matter. Enter Flintoff.

It was counterattack time. We’re not entirely sure how much adrenaline is stored in a human body, but Flintoff’s body is larger than most and seems to have plenty of room for it. At the point when Australia had all their fielders on the fence and Flintoff was still aiming for sixes, you knew that this wasn’t the England of old.

And he wasn’t even finished. To crown what must rate as one of the finest days of cricket for a single individual, he then went to town on Australia’s top order in his opening over.

The first ball (a hat trick ball) brought no wicket, but that was as long as we had to wait. Justin Langer could only elbow the next delivery into his stumps, allowing Ricky Ponting to endure one of the most torrid overs imaginable. Repeatedly beaten, Ponting survived two lbw shouts and then edged the final ball to Geraint Jones in an almost inevitable climax to a stupendous over.

Australia folded to 175-8 at the close of play, needing 282 and we all retired to our beds for some rest. We didn’t know how much we would need it.

Day four

Where were you? Like all the most important moments in history, everyone knows. We were at mum and dad’s, which was just about the perfect place to be, because everyone gave a shit what happened.

We were probably starting to get nervous before Shane Warne managed to tread on his own stumps, but nervousness was about to be redefined, so that this level of nerves barely registered. We move that ‘the Edgbaston’ be the new unit of measurement for nervousness.

Brett Lee batted brilliantly. He seemed to get hit about a million times, but he just carried on making runs. Mike Kasprowicz did the same. As Australia edged ever closer to their target, you realised why cricket is the greatest sport of all. No scripted drama could ever recreate something like this.

While football might give you five minutes of anxiety and a few shots at goal in that period, cricket can give you an hour of excruciating suffering with every delivery the equivalent of a ‘chance’. We paced about, we shouted, we swore – but then there was the release. And the roar.

Sport will never top that in our lifetime. Decades of English cricketing defeat and years of Australian victory had all gone into creating that one, perfect moment when Michael Kasprowicz was caught behind with Australia one shot from victory.

Still not quite finished with this match, Flintoff immediately consoled the distraught Brett Lee. This pretty much made us cry (although we were a bit fragile by this point). Flintoff later joked that he’d whispered to him: “That’s 1-1, you Aussie bastard.”


Ashes 2005 1st Test at Lord’s

Looking back with hindsight, the most bizarre aspect of the first Test in the 2005 Ashes series was the fact that people thought Ian Bell and Graham Thorpe would keep Kevin Pietersen out of the team. In the end, England made the brave decision.

Ricky Ponting, face cut by Harmison in the AshesEngland lost this match by some distance, but they rattled the Aussie batting line-up. Harmison hit Langer on the elbow in the first over and then rattled Hayden’s helmet in the fifth. Later on, he got Ponting in the face.

This is the point about fast bowling. Getting hit in the face by a cricket ball bothers people. It really does. It affects your concentration. If you don’t believe us, sit down to do a sudoku in a batting helmet and see how you get on after a ringing blow to the temple. You could be the best damn sudokist in the world, but it’ll put you off.

The Aussies were all out for just 190, but when England batted it was all more familiar. Glenn McGrath reduced them to 21-5 and they were all out for 155. The Aussies batted better second time around and then dismissed England for 180.

England’s batting looked shot, but no batsman passed 100 in the match and Kevin Pietersen showed that English batsmen needn’t fold.

For England fans, they liked the idea that when the batting collapsed, at least they could kid themselves that the bowlers might be able to salvage things. England fans take a bit of convincing that their side isn’t incompetent, so this was pretty much boundless optimism by English standards.


Ashes 2005 Twenty20 international and one day series

People forget about the one-day series that preceded the 2005 Ashes, but they were a key part of it. They were ingeniously scheduled before the Test series, so that tension mounted. In 2009, they’re afterwards, like vegetable soup after a six-course meal.

Twenty20 match

England won the Ashes because they actually dared to attack Australia for once. They got themselves in the right frame of mind during the one-off Twenty20 match that opened the summer.

Australia might not have given it their all, which was stupid of them, because England summoned the fury. Paul Collingwood hit 46 off 26 balls, but the most important part was Darren Gough’s hat trick ball.

“I was thinking about bowling another yorker for the hat-trick, but Vaughany came over to me and said: ‘No, remember the tone we’re trying to set. Bowl it short’. I said, ‘Don’t worry, that’s what’s happening’. The passion was running through my veins and that was that. I was pumped up and it was a sight that got people right behind England.”

Gough bounced Symonds, spurning the hat trick and five further wickets fell in the next three overs. England won by 100 runs.

NatWest Series 2005

The Natwest Series also featured Bangladesh, who chased down 250 to beat Australia when those teams first met in one of the more hilarious one-day matches in recent memory.

Those who think Harmison didn’t contribute as much to England’s 2005 Ashes victory would do well to look at his contribution in this series, where he frightened the life out of the Aussie batsmen.

In the opening match between the two sides, he dismissed Gilchrist, Hayden, Ponting, Martyn and Hussey, finishing with 5-33. Kevin Pietersen hit 91 off 65 balls  in England’s succsesful run chase.

In the final, Harmison took 3-27 off ten, but England fell to 33-5 chasing. Paul Collingwood and Geraint Jones rescued the innings and a thrilling match ended in a tie.

The NatWest Challenge

The NatWest Challenge was a seemingly superfluous three match one-day series. Australia actually won this 2-1, which set the scene rather well for the Ashes proper, with England still rank underdogs.


What happened in the 2005 Ashes?

We’re going on holiday in a bit. The ECB have foolishly left a minuscule window between the end of the World Twenty20 and the start of the Ashes and we’re using it. We’ve done stuff for you though, so that you don’t miss us.

Coming up this week, we’re taking a look back at when Australia last toured, for the Ashes series in 2005. This should get everyone in the mood before the first Test of the 2009 series. We’ve tried not to bore you, but one word of warning: The Edgbaston Test post is a bit of a monster. We hope you’ll take the time to read it though as it warrants more words than the average Test.

See you next week and try and keep your name-calling to the comments of this post.


Matthew Hayden approves of Phil Hughes

Matthew Hayden has given Phil Hughes, his successor as Australia’s opener, his seal of approval.

We know what you’re all wondering: How has Hayden expressed this? The answer, of course, is ‘badly’:

“He’s got all the evidence and the skillsets he needs. His humbling personality and how respectful he is are two elements of the baggy green culture.”

Issues

  • Evidence of what?
  • ‘Skillset’ is a word that needs stamping out
  • If ‘skillset’ is a word, it refers to a set of skills. A person has a skillset, not multiple skillsets. The word Hayden is after here is ‘skills’.
  • ‘Humbling’ means ‘to make humble’, so presumably Phil Hughes swans around the place like some sort of emperor.
  • There is no ‘baggy green culture’. It’s a hat, you headgear-fetishising knobhead.

In summary: Matthew Hayden still loves to add extra bits to normal words to try and make himself sound like he knows something, blissfully unaware that in reality it marks him out as a self-important dullard.


The England and Wales Cricket Board’s business partners

Here’s one:

Looking good, Mr Stanford

No-one with a moustache could ever be evil.


Andrew Flintoff’s strengths as a bowler

Bit of pace, bit of bounce, good control and then there’s what the lazy among us refer to as ‘presence’; or worse, an ‘X-factor’.

The concept of an X-factor always pisses us off. It’s not that there’s some mystical, unknowable attribute. It’s just that you haven’t bothered to find out what it is.

In cricket, it’s usually something psychological and which is therefore hard to quantify. Adam Gilchrist spoke about Flintoff’s bowling this week:

“He creates an aura of control, even if you get a good shot away he has that look in his eye, and a demeanour, that suggests it is all part of a big plan.”

It’s the kind of thing Shane Warne did so well – only with Warne it was a more conscious thing. With Flintoff you suspect it’s less deliberate, or maybe we’re doing him a disservice by saying that.

Anyway, the point is, it’s not frigging magic.


Bring forth the Mongoose

If we wanted to build a life-size replica of the Arndale Centre made out of press releases, we could do it at the minute. We’d have to print them all off first, obviously; and then we’d have to actually find a way of building the thing, but we’ve got the raw materials.

We’re having to ignore most of these press releases, but somehow the ones for the Mongoose cricket bat keep sneaking through.

Advice for people marketing products: Always, ALWAYS name your product after a small carnivore with a funny name.

This week’s press release highlight:

Lining up an onslaught as the innings reached its climax last night, Law was about to signal to the dressing room for the Mongoose when he was run out.


Various beasts being conspicuously indifferent to cricket

SW writes:

Here are the animals of the SW household demonstrating considerable indifference to key moments of the T20 World Cup.

First up there is Jasper (aka Fatty McFat). He is technically the neighbour’s cat, but they don’t feed him and call him Nike so he has rejected this emasculating lifestyle in lieu of the endless food and Sky Sports provided chez SW and just tolerates his array of new names. Recently he was spotted being conspicuously indifferent to Gayle’s smiting of the Australian bowling at the Oval.

Chris who?

In the background, Gayle is seen leaving the pitch to rapturous applause, yet McFat is choosing to ignore the joy this spectacle brought to non-Australian hearts, instead indulging in a catnap.

The table is not normally that haphazardly covered with random items. It has been pointed out that perhaps the cat was unaware of the cricket due to the mountain of stuff in his sightline to the telly, however his ears are clearly also pointing away and I can vouch he was very much fast asleep in the style of MCC Man after too much wine at lunch – so deeply asleep you are not sure if they are actually dead.

Secondly, there is 19 year old Silka ignoring Foster’s lightning quick reactions for the timely stumping of Yuvraj Singh:

Yuvraj who?

As a Surrey supporter, she’s not shown any interest in England wicket keeping since Alec Stewart retired, so this is not a surprise. To be fair, when Geraint Jones was in the team she wouldn’t even bother being in the house at all.

Finally, a picture of The Australian showing continued indifference to all T20 matches since the demise of his team:

Why isn't it wearing a singlet?

Not only is he ignoring TMS on the radio and Sky on the telly, but he has conspicuously started to demonstrate overtly stereotypical Australian behaviour by preparing the barbie for another shrimp and sporting the Australian national dress of a stupid hat and flipflops. Some would say he was “actively attention seeking”. What is most worrying about this photo is that McFat is clearly being sucked in by this Antipodean trickery.


Are there no Australians in London?

Do you think barbecues should be gas powered, even though they really, really shouldn’t be? Does losing at sport make you want to drink to excess? Does winning at sport make you want to drink to excess? Do you own a vest?

If you answered ‘yes’ to these questions, you’re doubtless an Australian, in which case you’re needed.

Our fellow cricket nerd, Jrod, is after some players for a charity match. Don’t worry about missing Neighbours and Home and Away – we’re miles behind over here, so you already know what happens.

Come on. Dig out a pair of white baggy shorts and a corked batting helmet and represent your nation.


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