Michael Vaughan & Simon Hoggard: The remarkable summer that we will never forget
From England's nerve-jangling win at Edgbaston through to their dramatic triumph at Trent Bridge and the final day rearguard action at The Oval, it was the series that had it all. Here, two of the key men relive those heady days
Saturday 01 August 2009
Every game in this amazing Ashes series was remarkable in its own right and put together they formed one of the greatest rubbers of all time between England and Australia.
The scenes which followed on from regaining the Ashes at The Oval will remain imprinted in the minds of all the England players who took part for the rest of our lives but it is worth recalling that we actually lost the first Test at Lord's by the wide margin of 239 runs.
Despite the heavy defeat, I still took a lot of positives from the game. I was encouraged by the fact that none of the Aussie batsmen had managed a century while Stephen Harmison, Freddie Flintoff, Simon Jones and Matthew Hoggard had looked like they had the makings of getting 20 wickets consistently. I always think if you get 20 wickets you have a great chance of winning a Test match.
The big thing was how we went about coping with going 1-0 down when the media and the public obviously thought that was the end of the road and had written us off. I thought we just needed to get to Edgbaston and try to play positively and aggressively and do everything we had talked about. The first day at Edgbaston was a crucial day in the context of the whole series. We were 1-0 down; McGrath got injured in the warm-ups and was out of the match; we lost the toss and were put in but we still managed to smash 407 in 80 overs in the day and so set up a thrilling game of cricket that had everything.
You can't really dream up a fabulous Test match like this one, which we went on to win by two runs, but for it to occur against Australia in a series which had been built up so big was very, very special. We produced entertaining, attacking, ballsy cricket and had a real go at the Aussies in their own style of things. It was a brilliant game. On the second day we bowled them out for 182 and got a decent lead. Then magician Warne produced two or three gems and Brett Lee bowled fast.
We looked like we were only going to set them 190-200 but Simon Jones and Freddie then produced this great last wicket partnership which put on 51. That stand swayed the momentum towards England.
Justin Langer and Matthew Hayden put on a few for the first wicket but Freddie then produced what must be one of the best overs you will see in Test cricket in a long, long time. He gets Langer out with one which nips back and bowls him and then he produces three gems to Ricky Ponting ... in, in and then he does him with an away-swinger to have him caught behind. Everything from that point seemed to go our way and every move we made was a good one. The ball was reverse-swinging and we took the extra half hour and for a time we probably thought we were going to win the game on the Saturday evening.
In the event, Harmy captured the eighth wicket in the last over with a slower ball which deceived Michael Clarke and that was a huge bonus. The ball was still reverse-swinging and I must admit I went to bed on Saturday night thinking, "Crikey, surely on Sunday morning 10 or 15 minutes are all we'll need to be 1-1 in the series". But I never envisaged Warnie slashing it and Lee showing all that fight and determination and Kasprowicz also playing well, so it became a real nipper.
It was funny because the nearer they got to winning the more I could sense they were starting to think about the situation whereas before that they had just been swinging and having a really good dash. This gave me a little bit of optimism because when you get tail-enders thinking like that you have more of a chance. We got a great opportunity to end it when Kasprowicz steered Freddie to third man but Simon didn't hold on to it. We just tried to make the game go on as long as we could and I put men on the edge to try to stop Lee and Kasprowicz getting boundaries and ending it quickly. Then came that over when Harmie bowled a full bunger to Lee who smashed it straight to deep cover and probably four or five yards either side would have been the end of the game. The next ball he bounces Kasprowicz, it takes the glove and Geraint Jones holds a fantastic catch behind the stumps. We had just won one of the greatest Test matches ever played and there was a real feel among the side from that moment on that we could regain the Ashes.
The drawn Test at Old Trafford was the one in which I felt we played our most consistent cricket of the whole series. There was only one period on the Saturday – when Warne got hold of us a bit with the bat – that we weren't in control of the game. For the most part, we were very much in charge and we played very aggressively. We set a hard target on that fourth evening and on the Monday there were 20-odd thousand locked out of the ground and the roads clogged with traffic. It really hit home to us that this Ashes series was capturing a lot of imaginations and that we had all the country right behind us.
We were left one wicket shy of what would have been an incredible victory. We saw the Aussies actually celebrating a draw which was something we had not seen for many, many years. So I took great heart from seeing so many legends in their team celebrating on the balcony for drawing a game with us!
Although my own contribution to the match was pretty special – 166 in the first innings – I have to say that I had felt in good nick before that. I played poorly at Lord's but even though I only got 24 first dig at Edgbaston I sensed that a big score was just around the corner. I had a little bit of luck, bowled off a no-ball and dropped, but you warrant that luck when you do a lot of hard work.
Trent Bridge was another good win but it was a lot closer than we all wanted. The most important thing was that we held some terrific catches. I particularly remember Andrew Strauss in the first innings getting Gilchrist out. Freddie produced a great delivery and Gilchrist "snook" it and Strauss stuck his hand out flying through the air at second slip. Those are the sort of moments which help to win a series.
Finally, The Oval and the last part of our epic adventure. Our 373 in the first innings was still probably 60 or 70 runs short of where we should have been. Langer and Hayden had a first-wicket partnership of 185, then there was a lot of weather around and a lot of bad light. We were off for light on a few occasions and we seemed to hang around for a long time until Sunday and then Freddie and Hoggy produced two splendid spells. We bowled them out about level and we knew then that we had to bat for near on a day to win the Ashes. Sometimes it is difficult to bat in that situation because you have everything to lose if you fail but we were saved by Kevin Pietersen's extraordinary innings. The crowds throughout the series were incredible but on that last day there was an eeriness about the whole arena and the whole of The Oval.
It was a very special atmosphere and something that I will always remember.
Matthew Hoggard: I walked out to an eerie silence as if the crowd dared not draw breath
I've always taken my batting seriously, and I try to enjoy it too. It's just as well. For goodness knows what might have happened otherwise when I came out to partner Ashley Giles at the end of the Fourth Test at Trent Bridge in that unforgettable heady summer of 2005.
We were seven wickets down, but only 13 runs from beating Australia and taking a 2-1 lead before the final Test at The Oval. I remember walking out to an almost eerie silence, as though no one in the crowd wanted to breathe in case it damaged our chances.
In the dressing room beforehand, I didn't quite know where to put myself. Every so often one of our top order would come in swearing and throw down his bat after getting out.
Even though I didn't need one, I got our physio to give me a massage. It meant I didn't have to watch any more. I don't mind admitting that I was terrified. The Ashes had become so important – not only to us but also to the country as a whole – that I didn't want to let anyone down. I knew that Ashley was terrified too. But, like it or not, the onus was on the two of us to steer England home as best we could. But I'm getting a little ahead of myself...
We went into it firmly believing that the Ashes could be ours. We'd come so close to taking a 2-1 lead in the series in the previous Test at Old Trafford but somehow Brett Lee and Glenn McGrath held out for the final four overs. Some people might have thought that our chance had gone.
But what struck me afterwards was the way in which the Aussies celebrated with a mixture of exuberance and relief. They were grateful to have escaped with a draw. We'd genuinely shaken their confidence. The Aussies suddenly looked vulnerable, as if the prospect of losing had obviously crossed their mind more than once.
That's why we went into the Trent Bridge Test with so much self-belief. And Michael Vaughan promptly won the toss, we piled up nearly 500 and then removed them for just 218. It was the first time Australia had followed on since 1988. We had one problem, however. Simon Jones wasn't completely fit, which made bowling them out again more difficult than I'd imagined. After four overs, he broke down with an ankle injury, and his workload was shared between only four of us.
We did get a helping hand from an unexpected source. Our 12th man Gary Pratt ran out Ponting for 48 with a direct hit from cover. He lost his cool and gave me a stare on the way back to the pavilion. I asked him what he was looking at. Before he'd regained his composure, he'd ranted at Duncan Fletcher, who was sitting on the balcony. He was moaning about the use of substitute fielders because he thought our bowlers were trotting off the field for a rub down and a rest to compensate for the fact we'd lost Jones.
We were actually going off for a pee because we'd taken on so much liquid to retain our levels of hydration. His reaction proved one thing to me. We'd really got them rattled.
When the last wicket went down, Australia were on 387. We needed 129 to win, which looked straightforward to me. I should have known better.
Whatever score we're chasing I always think that I might have to bat at some stage, and so I prepare for it. If I don't, and I'm suddenly caught rushing around for my pads, I won't be mentally ready to go out into the middle. At Test level, there's always the chance you'll have to go in. Players have more time to prepare for a Test than a County Championship match. You have a proper net, which means you can bowl a lot of overs as well as face them too. I think it has helped my batting over the years.
The Aussies had lost McGrath before the Test began with a damaged elbow. Shaun Tait came in for his Test debut. But we still had to contend with Brett Lee and Shane Warne. One of them was hurtling the ball down at 95mph-plus, and the other was turning it a yard. Apart from that, we didn't have much to worry about!
We lost second innings wickets through some superb bowling and a few indiscreet shots (Geraint Jones holed out after trying to lift Warne over the pavilion). The longer things went on, the more tense things became. I wasn't surprised. I'd always had the suspicion that the match would have more twists and turns before it ended. I think this pragmatic approach helped me.
When Lee bowled Andrew Flintoff, my moment had almost come. Once I was out in the middle, my nerves vanished and I felt fairly confident. I just focussed on the job. But then I much prefer being out there to going through sitting in the dressing room watching someone else. Your destiny is in your own hands.
Even at his extreme pace, the good thing about Lee is that he gives you a sight of the ball. You can follow his arm, which is high and stylish and doesn't particularly alter from one delivery to the next. It can be difficult to sight Fidel Edwards or Shoaib Akhtar – and especially Lasith Malinga – because their action can change.
I suppose I got lucky too. It isn't every day that Lee bowls you a full toss wide on off stump. When it left his hand, I knew I'd got to go for it. The ball hit the middle of the bat and flew through extra cover – I think the crowd's intake of breath actually sucked it to the boundary.
Our win meant that we went to The Oval as favourites. It is usually easy for me to switch off. I don't read newspapers very often, and I don't necessarily follow the news either. To relax, I just go home and close the door behind me. When I opened it again, it was usually to take my dogs across the moors for a walk. There's no better way to put things into perspective. But this Ashes series followed me and the rest of the team everywhere. It was impossible to ignore all the coverage. I remember the last day of the Test at Old Trafford, where the crowds were so huge that it took us almost an hour to go from the hotel to the ground, which was normally just a 15 minute ride. It was the proof – if we needed it – of how much the public cared about the series.
I'm not one of those bowlers who sits down and goes through a painstaking analysis of everything. We watched videos as a team and people came up with various ideas and I'm sure that Duncan Fletcher knew before the start of that series where he wanted us to bowl to every Australian batsman. My view remains simply this: if you get it on the good length and make it go away or jag in, it's going to cause problems.
It got my first wicket of the series. I clean bowled Matthew Hayden through the gate at Lord's, and shouted my lungs out in a release of tension that had been building for weeks. I say this to emphasise that I think I'm a practical, down to earth guy who doesn't get carried away. But I have to say that I was unbelievably nervous on the first morning at The Oval. It was far worse than preparing to bat at Trent Bridge. And on the last morning – when Kevin Pietersen was spraying shots to all parts of the ground – I was even worse. I dragged Ashley Giles off to play cards. I couldn't watch. We sat in the coach's room at the back of the dressing room.
To win the Ashes fulfilled a lifetime ambition for me. I took 16 wickets in the series and felt I'd played my part. Most of all, I'll never forget the day after we won at The Oval. To say the least, we'd enjoyed ourselves the night before. It was one heck of a party. But when someone mentioned that we'd be going on an open top bus tour, I thought two men and a dog would turn up. I suppose I'd forgotten that cricket, however briefly, had caught hold of the national imagination. To be on the top deck and stare around at the crowds will stay with me forever.
The real significance of the Ashes came to me a week or so later. I'd called at a drive-in Burger King. As I went to pay, the staff said: "You won the Ashes – the least we can do is give you a free meal." Now that's sporting success for you!
Extracted from Fire and Ashes: How Yorkshire's Finest Took on the Australians, a new book featuring Ashes memories of 18 of the county's finest players and published by Great Northern Books. To purchase a copy for the special price of £13.49, call Independent Books Direct on 0843060 0030
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