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Justin Langer column

Justin Langer
By Justin Langer
Former Australia batsman and Somerset captain

Glenn McGrath has his ankle tended to by physio Erol Alcott in 2005
The demise of an in-form McGrath was the single most crucial part of the 2005 series

Who will ever forget Edgbaston 2005?

My memories are mixed, of course, but I will never forget it.

Despite losing, the impact of that Test match is enduring. The image of Andrew Flintoff and Brett Lee has become an iconic symbol of that series and to a degree epitomises the spirit in which the game of cricket should be played.

Leading up to that moment between two cricket warriors, the feeling in the Australian changing room was as tense as I can remember.

Had we have won, we would have respected that the triumph was close to miraculous, but we also knew that a 2-0 lead would surely have been the end of that resurgent England.

Just three more runs.

In a sense, that moment when Michael Kasprowicz gloved the ball to Geraint Jones was the instant when history was made.

England were still in the hunt and from there the momentum started to turn. From the time we left the Edgbaston changing room, the impetus had not only turned but started to gather into a tidal wave which eventually wore us into the ground.

Apart from the result, there are three memories that are tattooed on my mind. The first is the batting of Marcus Trescothick in the first session.

Some will say we gifted him that morning session by asking England to bat first, but everything leading up to the toss suggested a bowl first was the best option.

Hindsight is, of course, a wonderful thing, but the way Marcus played on the first morning was breathtaking. His aggression and poise against Lee, in particular, helped England wrestle back the initiative after they had lost the first Test at Lord's.

The Edgbaston Test was also the first time we were subjected to the reverse-swinging ball which became famous; or at least made Simon Jones famous, during that series.

The thing I remember clearly was Jones' ability to reverse swing the ball both ways. Most bowlers who have the capability tend to swing it into the right hander and away from the left.

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In his case Jones swung it both ways, making batting against the older ball something of a headache.

My third memory of that second Test is perhaps the most significant. During our pre-game warm-up, Glenn McGrath stepped on a cricket ball and injured his ankle. The scene was like one out of a cartoon.

Out of the corner of my eye, I watched as our fast bowling spearhead stepped towards and then on to the errant ball. The moment seemed to happen in slow motion and yet, as it is with most accidents, that split second was perhaps the catalyst behind England winning back the Ashes.

Of course we will never know that to be a fact, but from my point of view, the demise of an in-form McGrath was the single most crucial part of that series.

He was brilliant at Lord's a few days before and was ready to uphold his grip on England's batsmen.

Sadly for him and us, but joyous for most English fans, it was the most significant contributing factor to England's capacity to turn the series around.

The reason I have written all of this is to arrive at a significant point which may prove to be as noteworthy as Glenn McGrath's 2005 ankle disaster.

Kevin Pietersen in action for England at Lord's
Pietersen's absence will give Australia a boost at Edgbaston

Although Kevin Pietersen hasn't been a match winner in the first two Tests of this series, my gut feeling is that his injured Achilles and subsequent absence for the rest of the series could prove to be considerable.

The thing about great players is they turn it on when it really counts and while Pietersen may have been simmering at Cardiff and Lord's, it was just a matter of time before he exploded into the limelight.

England will undoubtedly put on a brave face and shrug his absence off as we did in 2005, but deep down they will be bitterly disappointed by their loss.

They will also be praying that their other great player in Andrew Flintoff can keep his knee together - one way or another.

In the other camp, Australia will be quietly happy to see the back of Pietersen but they also know that they will have to be at their best at Edgbaston.

Over the years, Australia have prided themselves on backing their players and not panicking in a crisis and I am hoping they will stick with this philosophy leading into this third Test.

Mitchell Johnson is an X-factor player and while he might not have been at his best in rounds one and two, he is a player who is due to come good.

Left-handed thunderbolts are a rare commodity and as soon as he gets his radar right he could easily turn out to be the Marcus Trescothick of England's first innings at Edgbaston four years ago.

Time will tell.

From Lancashire,

JL



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see also
England toil after weather delay
30 Jul 09 |  England
Bell to bat at four for England
28 Jul 09 |  England
Edgbaston Test pitch like 'jelly'
23 Jul 09 |  England
Pietersen to miss rest of Ashes
22 Jul 09 |  England
Flintoff inspires England victory
20 Jul 09 |  England
Ashes memories: Edgbaston
27 Jul 09 |  Cricket
Justin Langer column
13 Jul 09 |  Cricket
Defiant England cling on for draw
12 Jul 09 |  England
Australia in England 2009
20 Sep 09 |  England


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