Such was the utter brilliance of this second Test of five, it is beyond the penmanship of a solitary writer to cover it sufficiently, so we decided a collaborative effort was required. In the baggy green corner: Matt Larnach. In the smart blue corner: James Knight. Compering, like a less well coiffured Mark Nicholas, is Matt Hard.
Matt H: The opening Test at Lord’s was a thumping defeat for England, despite their impressive start to the first day. But the first day of the second Test got off to an even better start. So guys, how much difference did Glenn McGrath’s tumble over a stray ball and resultant ankle injury make to the outcome of this match?
James K: I’d like to say it made no difference at all and that England would have gloriously steamrollered those kangaroo-botherers regardless, but in truth it was incredibly crucial. The margins in the series were so fine that had he played Australia would probably have won. It’s difficult to imagine England being 700/0 at lunch on the first day if McGrath was bowling. Ah, actually, bollocks to that, we’d have won anyway.
MH: This toss has gone down in cricketing folklore; can either of you work out what Ponting was thinking?
JK: Short answer: no. Long answer: No, not really.
In all seriousness, maybe he, er, nope, still got nothing. Completely incomprehensible.
Matt L: I thought Ponting cut quite the figure at the toss in his Australian jacket, and of course the baggy green just set the ensemble off perfectly. Sure the fashionistas would have preferred something with a little more verve, shall we say, but in this case I think the traditional option was the best one.
MH: What was the reaction down under to England’s 407 from 79.2 overs – I suspect one of disbelief?
ML: Unfortunately the country was still grieving over the passing of the beloved King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, a scant few days earlier. Sometimes you just have to put sport to one side, and sadly this was one of those occasions.
MH: After that rapid score from England, Australia were 0/1 (or 1/0 if you prefer VB to London Pride) but managed to storm through to 308ao – still on the second day. England’s second innings started badly and didn’t really improve much – their score of 182 relied mostly on Flintoff again. Would anyone care to discuss Michael Kasprowicz’s wondrous bowling figures?
ML: No thanks. And I would prefer not to talk of Brett Lee’s or Jason Gillespie’s either.
MH: That’s a shame, because three overs for 29 runs would look pretty bad in a T20 knockabout, let alone an important Test match. Anyway, Australia were faced with a target of 282. They had a decent start, reaching 47/0. But then things started to get pretty interesting. So, just how good was that Flintoff over?
JK: I’ve seen that over hundreds of times and to be honest I think it was his persona as much as anything that “changed the whole feeling of the occasion”, as I believe Mark Nicholas put it. It was an aggressive over but it was hardly the greatest over of all time, I reckon Jimmy Anderson consistently bowls overs much better than that without any reward. Fortunately Ricky Ponting starts about as well as he captains.
MH: His attitude and character certainly contributed to it, but let’s be honest – there were some fine fine deliveries there. What did you think Matt?
ML: I think the mints Marcus Trescothick had secreted in his pocket may have had a say in things.
MH: I gather there had been a particularly strong prawn dhansak on the menu, hence Trescothick’s need for mints.
MH: “Oh Steven Harmison, with a slower ball…one of the great balls.” Does commentary get better than this?
JK: Of course not. I was playing cricket that day and we finished just in time to see the last few overs, the place went absolutely mental when he took that wicket. That was pretty much the moment I really started to believe.
MH: What do you remember of that final morning? I was at my parents’ house, sitting in an armchair, my Dad on the sofa and Mum leaving the kitchen every few minutes to watch. I was scared to move but couldn’t sit still. It was agony. That afternoon I went to a barbecue with friends and we all agreed that had we lost, English cricket would never ever have recovered. Luckily, we didn’t. And moreover, the couple who hosted the barbecue are getting married in December this year! All down to Geraint Jones, I hope he’s a special guest.
JK: It’s all a bit of a blur. I remember the whole house plunging into total despair very quickly and it just being horrible to watch for most of the hour or so that morning. I remember virtually nothing of the actual cricket, I know everything that happened off by heart simply thanks to watching my DVD of that series over and over again but little of watching it live. The most vivid memory is of everybody leaping about when Papua New Guinea’s finest took the winning catch. I dread to think what would have happened had we lost, that wicket was the most incredible moment of my cricket watching life, being on the wrong side would’ve been unbearable. Eh, Matt?
ML: Australians are universally renowned for being good losers, always happy to shake the other teams hand after a game and acknowledge when they have met their match. So I imagine on this occasion if we had happened to come away with a defeat, we would have happily declared the English team a pack of cheating pricks and left things at that.