Matthew Hayden's Ashes Summer: The first hour at Edgbaston could well decide who carries off the urn

From the man at the heart of Australia's most successful side ever
Click to follow
The Independent Online

It was the greatest Test match in the greatest series. Australia and England are going back to Edgbaston today after that game in 2005, the one that began minutes after Glenn McGrath stepped on a ball and turned his ankle, the one that went on an incredible, fluctuating journey, the one that ended in victory by two runs for England.

I don't know if Edgbaston can throw up a match like that again. Can any ground? But from what I have seen so far it will definitely give us a hard-fought match with both teams now aware, very aware of what they can achieve.

The Australians will not have forgotten they are 1-0 down in the series – because I'm pretty sure that the England followers won't allow them to. But they will be looking forward now and their attitude will reflect that of the country they come from. She'll be right mate. Fair go. Roll up the sleeves and get stuck in. A country of equal opportunity born out of dust and hard work.

And it is all of these values that will shape Australia's approach to this match. What a match it is, giving one side the chance to go 2-0 up, the other needing to draw level quickly. That is scoreboard pressure of the most meaningful kind. Australia will go all-out for victory in every match. We hate drawing games of cricket. After that draw in Cardiff there wouldn't have been a single drop of beer spilled in the dressing room.

England will probably know what they can expect. It was good to note them celebrating after their win at Lord's. That is an important part of victory, the bonding of the team: celebrate, enjoy, reflect. That applies to all Test match victories. Of course, there is still the series to consider, but not then, not in that moment. It was right that people did not simply get up the M1 and disperse.

As ever, the first hour will be important. Ricky Ponting was so accurate in pointing that out after Lord's. It is not that momentum can never be dragged back – it must happen in Tests – but that first hour can set the pattern. Just like a boxer will want to unload his right upper cut as soon as he can, there is a declaration of intent to be made, the chance to create doubt.

Here we will have Phillip Hughes trying to put behind him the previous two Tests, and England trying to ensure that they expose him again. Or Australia desperate this time to make sure England do not get the kind of start they had at Lord's, and expose the middle order to the new ball. Those battles – won or lost – will determine what follows.

When I was playing, whatever the perception, it was usually my opening partner Langer who sprang at the opposition. There were certain teams I would be eager to launch myself into – and I remember I deliberately tried not to give Chaminda Vaas of Sri Lanka time to settle, batting out of the crease by a foot, hitting down the ground. But by and large it was "Alfie" Langer who was first to 50 when we were around.

Of course, I was playing in that Edgbaston Test of 2005 – and if this match is half as good, it will be a cracker. As the end approached that Sunday morning, I had Ricky Ponting on my right and Justin Langer on my left. I was getting ready to cry tears of joy for one of the most unforgettable Test victories.

And so it was an unforgettable Test victory – but it was a victory for England. Steve Harmison bowled, Mike Kasprowicz gloved, Geraint Jones caught. I don't know how I felt at that moment, it's difficult to tell after four years – numbed, shocked, disbelieving, all the usual emotions after you've just lost a Test match by two runs – but I do know that it prompted one of the most iconic of all images in sporting history.

In that moment of great joy, Andrew Flintoff bowed down to offer consolation to Brett Lee who was unbeaten at the crease. It is a photograph that has come to define the dignity of reacting to winning and losing, of how to try and try and give no quarter during the contest and then when it is over to make sure that you respect the moment and the opponent.

Sausage & mash, fish & chips... I'm in foodie heaven

It is magnificent to be in England. The sausages and mash, the fish and chips with tartar sauce, the beer. As I get further north I might get off the lager and have a bitter.

And the Ashes series, everybody is talking about the Ashe series.

In London the other morning it was one of those great to be alive moments. I was walking not far from the hotel and then just set off at a canter around St James's Park.

I was wondering whether to stop off at Buckingham Palace and try to bag an invitation for tea and scones. I'd like to offer the Queen a copy of one my cook books because it contains a pretty mean recipe for lemonade scones.

An awful lot is riding on the toss of a coin

I suppose there will be a bit of fuss made about the Edgbaston pitch and Australia's decision to bowl first in 2005 will be mentioned. My guess is that whoever wins the toss will bat first on a pitch full of runs. Stories of what it can offer seamers will be ignored. But we've got a real series on our hands and after this Test it might be better still.

Even in Chennai, Ashes are the talk of the town

For the last week I have been in India and everybody, believe it or not, is talking about the Ashes there as well. It is a series that captures the attention of the world and it bestows continuing hope that Test cricket will be all right after all.

But my visit to Chennai showed me that it will have to live alongside Twenty20. This is a game that is going places and the day will come when a player will look forward to playing, in fact will relish playing, for both his country and his franchise team. Down Chennai way it is discernible that there is a will to make the Super Kings the Manchester United or Real Madrid of its sport. And I am convinced now that this is what will happen. Call it a mission statement.

It will be good for the whole of cricket because it will take the whole of cricket with it. I want to be part of it, on the field and off, and this is an incredibly exciting time for the game of cricket.

Comments