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Page last updated at 11:01 GMT, Monday, 30 October 2006

Ashes history - England's summer

By Martin Gough

Flintoff (with daughter), Pietersen and Vaughan celebrate in Trafalgar Square
England celebrated with an open-top bus parade

It is easy to say it with hindsight, but even during the 2005 Ashes it felt like one of the greatest series ever.

After 16 years with the Ashes urn in Aussie hands, there was massive expectation as England finally felt they had a team to win it back.

Australia won at Lord's, Glenn McGrath taking his 500th Test wicket, and optimism appeared to be misplaced.

England secured nail-biting wins at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge and the celebrations began after an Oval draw.

Arguably it was the first time in almost half a century that the Ashes matched the two best teams in the world - in English conditions at least.

Members of the victorious England team celebrate their Ashes win in 2005

Relive England's 2005 Ashes glory

Appropriately the Test series began at Lord's, where England's bowlers shocked Australia with their pace and hostility.

The home of cricket turned into a coliseum as Steve Harmison hit three batsmen on the head in the first morning on his way to a five-wicket haul.

Aussie skipper Ricky Ponting refused stitches after his cheek was split open, and wore the resulting scare like a badge of honour throughout the series.

Veteran McGrath hit back in the best way possible, though, with a wonderful display of accurate seam bowling.

Along with Shane Warne, he ran through the English order on the fourth morning and it looked like business as usual for the Australian juggernaut.

Andrew Flintoff
Flintoff played a massive part at Edgbaston

However, England players accused of being a "bunch of drips" by just one of the newspaper headlines that week, proved to be anything but.

The second Test at Edgbaston was described as one of the best ever, and the comparisons with the infamous "Botham's Ashes" of 1981 started here.

McGrath was ruled out after a freak training accident when he trod on a ball, and Ponting's decision to put England in to bat first was exposed mercilessly.

The home side could still have capitulated, though, were it not for Andrew Flintoff's heroic second innings batting as he hit four sixes in adding 81 for the last three wickets.

Australia were set a ground record 282 to win, but had no intention of capitulating and it took a tireless display from Flintoff and Harmison to squeak a two-run victory.

Test Match Special audio highlights from the 2005 Ashes

Flintoff's conversation with Brett Lee after the tailender's defiant and almost successful unbeaten 43 came to define the mutual respect that pervaded the series.

On to Old Trafford, where 19,000 people were turned away on the final day, denied the chance to see England come a single wicket short of victory.

Again Australia's lower order bailed them out, with Warne and Lee fighting a valiant rearguard action.

Amazingly there had not been a single century until the third Test of the series, but here there were two of the highest class, from rival captains Ponting and Michael Vaughan.

Amid the excitement, it was almost possible to miss Warne becoming the first bowler ever to pass the mark of 600 Test wickets.

Now cracks were beginning to show in the once-impregnable Australian armoury.

The plans laid by Vaughan and coach Duncan Fletcher to combat their rivals' attacking batsmen were paying bigger dividends than they could ever have expected.

Even so, England came within three wickets of losing the entire series on a surreal Sunday afternoon at Trent Bridge as Warne worked his magic.

When Geraint Jones was the seventh wicket down with 13 runs still needed, the tension was at its height.

Shane Warne
Warne almost won the series at Trent Bridge

But Ashley Giles and Matthew Hoggard, two uniquely English characters, got across the winning line and guaranteed folk hero status.

The country was at fever pitch, and England were certainly in the ascendancy going into the final match at The Oval.

Even though two days were ruined by rain and bad light, the series remained in the balance as England sought a draw and Australia pushed for a win to tie the series and retain the Ashes urn.

Kevin Pietersen had demonstrated his attacking intent on his Test debut eight weeks previously but his most high-profile contribution to the series since then had been six dropped catches.

Now was his turn to shine as he survived a crucial drop by Warne on 15 and took the attack to Australia, belting seven sixes in his 158.

Australian legend Richie Benaud's attempt to sign off from the commentary booth for the last time in England in low-key fashion was ruined as Pietersen was out off his final syllable.

By then, though, the urn was safely in England's hands, the only anti-climactic part of the series being the moment when bad light ended the game early.

Flintoff, who emerged bleary-eyed from the team hotel for an open-top bus parade to Trafalgar Square, will be remembered as England's larger-than-life hero.

But every one of the 12 players who celebrated in front of 25,000 on the streets of London played a part in a series which will live on in the memory.



ASHES HISTORY

 

CLASSIC ASHES MATCHES

 

see also
Triumphant England reclaim Ashes
12 Sep 05 |  England
Ashes series ratings
13 Sep 05 |  Ashes 2005
Ashes media watch
13 Sep 05 |  England
Ashes Legends XI
18 Sep 06 |  England


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