As the Museum prepares to launch its 25 Memorable Ashes Moments exhibit later this year, three esteemed members of the Museum’s reference panel; Richie Benaud, Mike Coward and Gideon Haigh share their thoughts on the Memorable Moments from the recent Ashes series. We would like to thank them for sharing their insights into the current series.
First Test, Trent Bridge, 10th July – 14th July 2013
Mr Richie Benaud OBE
In a nutshell: Anderson bowling Clarke in the Australian first innings.
In a nutshell: Agar the incredible and another 10 wickets for the guileful James Anderson.
Down the years players and pundits have spoken often of the “glorious uncertainty” of the game. But rarely since 1877 have events been as consistently uncertain as this. From the moment unheralded teenager Ashton Agar extricated the Australians from a first innings mire, the twists and turns defied belief. They were convulsions, really, and players and spectators were mentally and emotionally exhausted at the end of a match that immediately became a part of Ashes lore. While Agar and the indefatigable Peter Siddle deservedly earned plaudits it was consummate paceman James Anderson and revitalised middle-order batsman Ian Bell who gave command performances on cue to ensure England opened its Ashes defence with a heady 14-run victory.
In a nutshell: Agar is what people will remember. Anderson is who won the match.
No Ashes Test in memory has fluctuated so markedly – on an almost hourly basis. No sooner had one team edged ahead than the other set to overhauling it. It will be recalled primarily for the debut of Ashton Agar, a willowy West Australian of Sri Lankan extraction, who from number 11 turned the Test on its head in 90 minutes with a free-swinging 98, joining Phil Hughes in a record last-wicket partnership that conferred on Australia an unexpected lead. Australia’s last-wicket partnerships provided the team with a total of 40 per cent of their runs, Brad Haddin and James Pattinson taking Australia to within ace of victory on a palpitating final morning with a partnership of 65. In the end, however, the difference between the teams was England’s James Anderson, who harried Australia again and again, wresting 10 wickets from one of the driest pitches seen outside the Indian sub-continent.’
Ashton Agar gets out on 98 – Image Courtesy of Phillip Brown
Second Test, Lord’s, 18th July to 21st July 2013
In a nutshell: Fred Spofforth was the first to underline that bowlers win matches. That’s why the subtle difference at Lord’s was 347 runs.
In a nutshell: Joe Root prospers and Australia is rooted.
Once upon a time Australia didn’t lose at Lord’s. Indeed, they faltered only once in the 20th century – in 1934. This 347-run humiliation represents Australia’s second defeat at the game’s sacred site at the start of the 21st century and follows the 115-run loss by Ricky Ponting’s Australians in July 2009. For the second consecutive match the ineptitude of the Australian top-order batsmen beggared belief and rightly brought a sharp rebuke from coach Darren Lehmann. Not since the tumultuous days of the 1980s when Australia last lost six consecutive Tests – to the indomitable West Indians of the time – has such uneducated cricket been played under a baggy green cap. So much for Cricket Australia’s claim about the primacy of Test match cricket. Utter nonsense. Australia’s pace bowlers had every right to again feel affronted. Thrilling young Joe Root, Ian Bell along with crafty Graeme Swann pooled their resources to acutely embarrass Australian cricket. Cruelly, Ryan Harris’ splendid bowling was lost in the wash-up and recriminations.
The outstanding moment of the Lord’s Test was the huge cheer in the media centre when Pattinson was dismissed in the last over of the fourth day, meaning that the farce did not extend into a fifth. The quality of the cricket was modest at best.
Last wicket falls at Lord’s – Image Courtesy of Philip Brown
Third Test, Old Trafford, 1st August to 5th August 2013
In A Nutshell: Wonderful to watch an Australian team which believed it would win, rather than one hoping it might avoid defeat . . .
In A Nutshell: The urn stays at Lord’s – not that it ever leaves! – but Cook and company are not quite so cocksure.
History tells us that if a balmy, indeed a warm to unusually hot English summer is to end abruptly it will be at Old Trafford, Manchester. And so it came to pass and the Ashes series as a live contest suddenly, disappointingly was over. But while the English rather cheekily looked three months ahead to their defence of the trophy in Australia, Michael Clarke and his men saw some silver lining as they headed for Durham. It is still a series that can be drawn. And after the abject disaster of Lord’s they were entitled to have a greater spring in their step. Most pundits felt that if the cursed rain had stayed away Australia could have claimed the seven last English wickets for a significant victory. Certainly Australia had the better of England and the gap between the two teams narrowed appreciably. Regrettably the dreaded DRS again monopolised the conversation of the game which was regrettable as Michael Clarke spectacularly led a greatly improved Australian batting performance and Peter Siddle and Ryan Harris again bowled with courage and class. For all the individual brilliance of Kevin Pietersen England suddenly didn’t seem quite so cocksure.
In A Nutshell: Steve Smith’s impunity from dismissal in the first innings – a low point in the onward march of technology in cricket decision making.
A High point for the Aussies as they celebrate after a DRS decision is upheld
Image Courtesy Philip Brown
Fourth Test, Durham, 9th August to 12th August 2013
The key to winning Ashes matches is to play good cricket and know how to win; when that knowledge is absent….disaster looms.
However, in case readers and viewers think it is only happening to this current team, I will underline that, starting at Trent Bridge in 1953, the first 15 Ashes matches in which I played resulted in only two victories for Australia.
In A Nutshell: Australia Broadsided despite the heroics of Rogers and Harris.
Inevitably there were further calls for an inquisition after the Australians squandered priceless opportunities to keep alive their modest hopes of squaring the Ashes series. Two abysmal middle and late-order batting performances cost the Australians dearly against an England team that despite its successes throughout the series has had moments of uncertainty even frailty. Unquestionably the fourth-day capitulation – the last eight wickets falling to Stuart Broad and his colleagues for a mere 56 runs – was galling. It was, however, the inability of the Australians to build a first innings lead of substance that proved so telling. At 4-205 and with admirable veteran Chris Rogers heading for a richly deserved maiden century, England’s score of 238 looked inadequate. But Broad, destined for the Man of the Match award for his 11 wickets, struck on cue and in the end England trailed by just 32. Ian Bell then continued his Bradmanesque series with another hundred and suddenly the Australians needed 299 for victory – a formidable ask in the fourth innings of any match. Broad and Bell richly rightly received the plaudits but Australia’s third defeat was an insult to the lion-hearted efforts of Ryan Harris who finished with nine wickets and deserved the highest commendation.
In A Nutshell: The last session of day 4 was one of mounting drama and disbelief – fast bowling at its intimidating best.
Ian Bell celebrates again – Image Courtesy Philip Brown
Fifth Test, The Oval, 21st to 25th August 2013
Mr Richie Benaud OBE
In a nutshell: : A hotch-potch of a cricket match underlining that day-night Test matches remain light years away in the dim distant future of cricket..
In a nutshell: At the end, the admirable maiden century by Steve Smith and belated awakening of Shane Watson, along with much else, was obscured by much silliness and immaturity on and off the field. Given another five bouts are nigh the portents are discouraging. There may be no love lost between these protagonists but hopefully there is still some respect. We’ll soon know.
In a nutshell: Two spirited and willing cricket teams confounded by their administrators. Still, at least by the end we were complaining about something other than the DRS.
England are Victorious – Image Courtesy Philip Brown