For many people, this was the moment when England won the 2005 Ashes, but we didn’t see it like that. We actually found the whole Test – and the last day in particular – a slightly maudlin experience.
It was the last Test, a great Ashes series was nearly over and it was September, meaning no more cricket and no more daylight. We had mixed feelings. Plus it was a draw. The series was won with wins, not draws.
But England did need a draw and they got it amid the drama that characterised the series. Matthew Hayden seemed to be batting for the draw (or himself) in Australia’s first innings, but he gave them a good start. Even so, 264-1 became 367 all out after Flintoff’s final act of the series (5-78).
Ironically, this collapse gave the Australians their best chance of a win and with England falling to 126-5 and 199-7, things looked shaky – but Kevin Pietersen sorted it out.
Being as more and more people got interested in the 2005 Ashes as it progressed, Pietersen’s innings seems to have taken on massive significance, but this was largely down to the increased level of attention and the media frenzy at this point. Its series-defining reputation is hugely unfair on the events that preceded it, but that’s not to say it wasn’t a blinding innings.
The defining moment came early. England were collapsing and put simply, Brett Lee was going to get Pietersen out. It seemed inevitable. Rather than adopt the classic English tactic of attempting to ride it out, Pietersen recognised that the status quo would lead to his dismissal, so he set out to change the situation. How should he do this? By hooking sixes, of course.
It seemed risky, but to Pietersen it made sense. It was the best way of changing what was happening and if it came off, he was free. It was very brave and very effective. He ended up with 158.
The final moment was a title-taking anti-climax. The match ended because of bad light with a weird stump-withdrawing ceremony being carried out by the umpires.
The MBEs that followed were English self-congratulation at its worst. It was only such a significant victory because the Aussies had been so superior for so long, yet they didn’t seem to need such overt acknowledgement of their years of dominance. The victories were reward in themselves.
We didn’t watch any of the open-topped bus thing or pay any attention to it on the news either, because the actual cricket was over and the Ashes is a cricket series. It was good to know that people were affected though. It was good to see the England cricket team not the butt of dated, mindless jokes any more.