I had to be part of it. The 2005 Ashes series was the first of my life as an adult (legally, anyway) so over I flew from Australia with one thing in mind.
I had to be at Lord’s; whatever it took. Knowing well the history of the baggy greens at that venue – having never lost since 1934 – how could I miss it? Thanks to a surreptitious purchase on a dodgy website via dad’s poor credit card (300 quid!) I was in, sitting beneath the media centre where I’d end up working a decade later.
We all know what happens next: Harmison’s clunk, Ponting’s blood, Warne’s rally, McGrath’s 500th. Brett Lee getting Ashley Giles to stand on his stumps. Beautiful chaos.
Of course, after the frazzled start, Ricky Ponting’s men went on to win the opening Test of the Greatest Series That Ever Was in a canter – last week the first time since that they have been able to achieve a first-up win in an away Ashes since. They now move to Lord’s, where only in 2009 and 2013 they have lost since Bradman’s second tour.
Of course, Australia’s dominance at the ground will be well remarked upon as we wait for that first ball on Wednesday. But what were the wins that stand out as the most famous or interesting? Here are four to whet the appetite for the week we have ahead of us at the grand old ground.
The 1945 Victory Tests did not have official status but they were still serious games of cricket as the Australian Services side toured the country against a Wally Hammond-led England. Putting the timing into perspective, when this Test was held at headquarters in mid-July, the Nazi’s had surrendered but Japan were still a month away from following suit.
Sure enough, Len Hutton did as Len Hutton did with a first-innings ton, captain Lindsay Hassett top-scoring with 68 in the visitors’ reply, their deficit 60. Enter Bob Christofani. The Sydney legbreaker, who would never play an official Test, took 5-49 to make nine for the match. Later in the series, he made a ton as well.
With Australia left 225 to chase, Keith Miller did the business with an unbeaten 71 on the fourth afternoon. As he was making the winning runs, Winston Churchill was visiting the King to formally dissolve the wartime unity government, sending England to the polls for the first time in a decade. Business as usual was starting to return at the end of the bloody conflict, both on the field and off.
When Alan Davidson ran wild with a Lord’s pitch with more a ridge than a slope, a young bloke named Bill Lawry – playing just his second Test – would have every right to be daunted. Anything but.
The 130 he made in reply to England’s 206, against the might of Fred Trueman and Brian Statham, was the only innings above 66 in the match. “An indomitable effort of sheer graft under severe pressure with the ball flying about,” said Wisden.
Like Steve Waugh at Old Trafford some 36 years later, the 24-year-old newcomer had played the defining hand of an Ashes defence – later in the made certain by Richie Benaud with his six final-day wickets at Manchester. It also gave an early sign as to why he would go on to later succeed Benaud as captain, an opener forever made of the sternest stuff.
Yes, Dennis Lillee bowled beautifully as well. Sure, both Greg and Ian Chappell have described their first-innings contributions in the match as their most enjoyable in Test cricket.
But this will forever be the Test of Bob Massie, who routed England with his around-the-wicket hooping gems to the tune of 8-84 and 8-53 on debut. There surely will never be another introduction to Test cricket quite like it.
What can be forgotten is that the older Chappell’s side had lost the first Test at Manchester by 89 runs, the skipper out hooking in the first innings for a first-ball duck, to the dismay of even his mother who suggested he should put the shot away. Sure enough, he didn’t.
Despite Massie’s first innings haul, England had still tallied 272 and when the brothers came together it was 7-2. The skipper was hole out again but was 56 and had set the example for the cricket he wanted his side to play, his sibling’s 131 the century he’s still most proud of. Squaring the series, England retained the Ashes but the blueprint for 1974-75 was sketched.
An indulgent one to finish, when as a kid I stayed up all night listening and watching against strict parental instructions. Of all the series where England never stood a chance in this era, 1993 stands out and Lord’s in particular.
Mark Taylor’s second ton on the bounce got their rhythm going alongside Michael Slater, who announced himself to the world with 152. By the time the pair had put on 260 for the first wicket of the match, it was all-but game over.
David Boon let the good times roll on day two with an unbeaten 162, Mark Waugh denied the chance to make it four-from-four to salute at the top, bowled by Phil Tufnell on 99. Wanting to drive England truly into the dirt, Allan Border decided to bat into the third day for 632-4 declared.
The twist in Craig McDermott’s bowel, which denied him a chance to bowl in the game, might have otherwise given the hosts to reply in kind.
But it wasn’t to be, Merv Hughes (partnered by Waugh with the new ball) bowling out England the first time around with the spin twins Shane Warne and Tim May taking eight between them when following on.
Taylor side had won by an innings, one further victory away from retaining the urn in straight sets. Childhood memories that never fade.