It was the final of the Natwest Series, the end of a batch of One Day matches – but for most Englishmen and Australians, it was the start of the summer; and what a start it was!
That old clichÃ© “no one could have predicted the outcome” is perfectly suited to what was one of the most thrilling one-day matches in recent times. The game see-sawed between both sides so dramatically, so often, that each country’s supporters kept convincing themselves their side were on top. It was a great day for cricket; on a day where Live 8 and God knows what else was going on in London and around the world, no better advertisement for the game could have been made. The number one and two teams in the world battling for supremacy at a picturesque (if cloudy) Lord’s was a sight to see – both sides desperate for a win to take forward any psychological point-scoring into The Ashes.
Almost 100 overs later, minus 7 balls of Australia’s innings, neither side won. A tie. A draw. Such is the game’s perculiar nature, fans and opponents can be proud of a tie. Avinash (many thanks) and I were doing updates in this post, and before long there was near-constant chatter going on between several Aussies…and one lone Englishman! After England had bowled Australia out for 196, many – me included, to a certain extent – thought the game was theirs for the taking. The weather wasn’t crash-hot – muggy, cloudy and very Glenn McGrathy – and Lee and Him ripped through the English. They were helped by batting of the calibre of a 1990s England side – a collapse so dramatic that I was instantly whisked back to the dark, heinous days when English batting collapses were the norm. 33-5 they were – 33-5…”might not even need the kettle if they keep falling at this rate” said Harry…
“Goodnight, England” I reckoned at that point, as did nearly everyone apart from the redoubtable Paul Collingwood. He and Geraint Jones staged a recovery more akin to the 2005 English vintage – although this one was particularly special. The clouds had lingered all day, and although McGrath and Lee were being held back until the end, runs weren’t easily made. Their 116 gave England a sniff of victory – but wickets kept falling and run-rates kept increasing until the final ball, where England needed 3 for victory. They’d been helped in these latter overs by Australia’s initial destroyers, Lee & McGrath. Lee had stupidly assumed a bouncer might be a good ploy against a tail-ender – Giles spooned him, somehow, over Gilchrist’s head for four. If you combined McGrath’s brain with Lee’s pace, you’d probably have an unplayable bowler.
Then, in the final over, McGrath no-balled. McGrath no-balled. McGrath no-balled. It’s worth repeating (McGrath no-balled). When does he ever no-ball?! It was a tasty morsel for us English – everyone loves to see a champion opponent dethroned & humbled, even if it is only for one ball. Giles, facing the final ball of the match with 3 needed, squirted it to 3rd man who was deep – and suddenly he and Harmison were scampering through for a second and the scores were level! Ponting stood there, motionless and speechless. On the radio, some were even suggesting he didn’t realise it could have been a tie (why was 3rd man so deep?). Crazy stuff.
Jonathan Agnew thinks Vaughan should/could be replaced (agreed)
Jenny Thompson rounds things up at Cricinfo and thinks we’re in for a scorcher (oh yes we are)