There are many different things you can do to pass the time during this unprecedented period of self isolation, social distancing and lockdown. Some run. Some eat. Some watch six hours worth of 2005 Ashes highlights. I’ve chosen to do all three, and with no end in site there’s a very real possibility I’ll watch re-runs of old ODI series between England and Bangladesh before this thing is over. Back to the task at hand – here are five thoughts that crossed my barren mind while consuming the fantastic 2005 Ashes highlights in their beautiful entirety, plus a look at what happened in the aftermath of that glorious summer 15 years ago.
Even Shane Warne bowled the occasional pie
Leg spinners have it rough. Theirs is the hardest skill in cricket to master, and seldom are they given the opportunity to master an art that takes years to learn, hone and perfect. Shane Warne is beyond comparison, the best leg spinner the world has ever seen. He’s possibly the best bowler the game has produced, full stop. But watching the highlights from 2005 showed that even Warne had a few full bungers in his locker. The Victorian took an unfathomable 40 wickets at 19.92 in the series, fantastic figures, yet clips of the action demonstrated that yes, even the best leggie of them all will struggle to land all of his deliveries. Maybe that’s something to consider next time a young up and coming wrist spinner is being torn to pieces by the media, and given short shrift by their county selectors.
Brett Lee didn’t have the series you remember
Think back to that 2005 series. You’ll remember Brett Lee castling more than a few batsman, sending off stumps flying towards the slip cordon, Binger pinging batsmen in the helmet, raw aggression and searing pace on show. He had a brilliant series, right? Wrong. Lee averaged 41.10 with the ball – only one run better off than the green Shaun Tait, who appeared in the final two tests of the tour. What’s more, Lee was taken at 4.29 runs per over. Warne and Glenn McGrath were superb throughout the series, but if they’d had just a little more support the eventual 2-1 scoreline may not have come to fruition for their hosts.
Geraint Jones wasn’t long for the test arena
Re-watching these highlights, Jones’ batting was passable. He contributed a valuable 85 at Trent Bridge, and produced a valiant first innings knock at Lords. It was widely accepted that his batting was the reason he was in the team to begin with, as his wicket keeping was not quite up to test standard. However, his average of 25.44 certainly did not make up for some quite lacklustre work behind the stumps. By my count in the highlights he missed two simple stumpings and dropped at least six catches – one or two were difficult but none of which you wouldn’t expect a test keeper to snaffle. By contrast, Adam Gilchrist, whose ‘keeping tended to fly under the radar due to his destructive batting, made a couple of fantastic grabs off Warne’s beguiling spin, although he did spill a couple of chances standing back to the seamers. Back to Jones – all told, he averaged 23.91 by the end of his 34 match test career, with his final England appearance coming at Perth against the Australians in the consequent Ashes tour of 2006/7. The less said about that one, the better. However, it would be remiss to discuss Jones’ role in the 2005 without his history altering leg-side take of Michael Kasprowicz at Edgbaston – perhaps the most famous grab in Ashes folklore.
Damien Martyn copped some horrific umpiring
Martyn didn’t have a great series in 2005. It flew under the radar at the time, with a lot more focus placed on the struggles of Matthew Hayden, Gilchrist and Michael Clarke, but Martyn scored just 178 runs at 19.77. However, that should come with a caveat. He was absolutely triggered on numerous occasions, twice smashing the ball before it struck his pad. Regardless, up the umpire’s finger went and ‘Damo’ was on his way. It was interesting watching the series again to observe how it was umpired by messrs Bucknor, Boweden, Dar and Koertzen. Bowden was superb and made a crucial call at The Oval not to give Kevin Pietersen out caught behind when Glenn McGrath had a loud appeal during KP’s historic second innings knock of 158, while Bucknor made numerous howlers and unfortunately struggled to match the standards set by his peers. Martyn certainly fell foul of those incorrect calls, while some loud appeals saw Warne and Steve Harmison, among others, claim scalps that wouldn’t have stood had DRS been in place back in 2005.
Andrew Flintoff really was that good
Everyone remembers the 2005 series as the pinnacle of ‘Freddie’ Flintoff’s career, and rightly so. But it was astounding just how good he was, not just throughout the series but at the crucial junctures which ultimately decided where the famous urn would reside for the next 18 months. 402 runs at 40.20 was a higher total than any Australian managed, and with the exception of Harmison came at a higher strike rate than any of the players who participated across the five test matches. Flintoff bent the game to his will, with match winning innings at both Edgbaston and Trent Bridge. His bowling was also exceptional, we all remember ‘that over’ he bowled at Edgbaston to Justin Langer and Ricky Ponting, but the overall numbers were just as astounding. His 24 wickets were more than anyone but Warne, and it’s also worth noting that he bowled more overs than anyone but the blonde Victorian. That’s right, the famously brittle Flintoff chucked down more overs than Harmison, Matthew Hoggard, Simon Jones and even spinner Ashley Giles.
What happened next: England
As previously mentioned, Geraint Jones was in and out of the side for a year or so before being cast aside altogether as England went through an underwhelming rebuild that never truly bore fruit until 2009 when Andy Flower took charge. Simon Jones, captain Michael Vaughan and Flintoff all struggled with injury. Jones sadly played his last test at Trent Bridge during the 2005 Ashes despite being just 26 years old, while Flintoff, who was 27 at the end of the series, played 27 more tests as a reduced version of the prolific all-rounder who shaped the series. Vaughan played 20 more tests and scored just three centuries as his international career also reached an injury induced conclusion – the legendary skipper retied at 33.
Marcus Trescothick suffered through well documented mental health issues and was also never the same player after 2005, while Matthew Hoggard was really the only frontline bowler to continue playing at a high level post-Ashes. Both Harmison and Giles were largely ineffective, although it’s worth noting that Paul Collingwood, who played at The Oval, went on to enjoy a fine run in the side as a middle order batsman until his retirement in 2011. Of course, Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Strauss went on to reach 100 test matches and score a plethora of international runs, although Strauss struggled with poor form between 2006 and 2008 and was nearly out of the side himself before a career saving century in New Zealand. Similarly, Ian Bell never fully cemented his place in the England side until 2010, when he began to string substantial scores together as part of a top six featuring KP and Strauss.
In terms of results, following the 2005 Ashes England would lose 2-0 in Pakistan later that winter, draw 1-1 in India before returning home and drawing 1-1 against Sri Lanka. Later during the 2006 summer they defeated Pakistan 3-0 before losing 5-0 in Australia and handing the urn straight back. It was a massively anti-climatic period after the previous two or three years of domination, with the aforementioned injuries and a lack of form for previous stand out performers a key reason. However, Collingwood and Alistair Cook came to the fore during that lean spell, helping to lay some of the foundations of the all conquering 2009-2012 team.
What happened next: Australia
Post-2005, Australia were hell bent on avenging their Ashes defeat and were, quite frankly imperious. They defeated the West Indies 3-0 at home. They subsequently beat South Africa 2-0 in a three test series. Next, they visited South Africa and vanquished their hosts, winning all three tests. Bangladesh were beaten 2-0, and of course England were whitewashed 5-0 that winter. While the majority of the 2005 touring party remained, there were a couple of notable additions during that period who complimented Ponting, Warne, Hayden, McGrath et all such as Michael Hussey, who by the end of the 2006/7 Ashes averaged an astonishing 79.85 from 16 test matches, and Stuart Clarke, who took 26 wickets (most on either side) and averaged 17.03 during that 5-0 battering of the poms. Gillespie was out by then, while Damien Martyn retired after the first two tests of the 2006/7 series. Of course, McGrath, Warne and Langer all sailed off into the sunset once the urn had returned, but that period of transition can wait for another blog post..