The Ashes series from hell rolled into Sydney for its final installment – with Australia on the recieiving end of a third thrashing by an innings. Ricky Ponting missed this game with a broken finger and Michael Clarke assumed the Test captaincy for the first time. Replacing Ricky Ponting at Number 3 was Usman Khawaja who made an assured 37, possibly the greatest ever small total debut innings to be talked about as the brightest start and best thing to happen in Australian cricket circles pretty much ever. Despite this ‘dream’ debut Khawaja, the first Pakistan born and Muslim player to play for Australia, hasn’t been able to establish himself in the team as yet. The subeditors dream, left arm orthodox spinner Michael Beer also debuted for Australia in this test.
Australia could only muster 280 with Anderson and Bresnan sharing 7 wickets between them and as if to prove it wasn’t Australia’s day, the team’s best batsmen of the summer, Mike Hussey was bowled by the dibbly dobbly military mediums of Paul Collingwood. England replied in commanding fashion with Cook, Bell and Prior all scored hundreds with Priori running up 118 of just 130 balls in England’s monster total of 644. Australia replied in a similar vein to it’s first innings with plenty of 30s as batsmen got starts but then surrendered for 281. England had won by an innings and 83 runs.
The contrast between the two teams in the Ashes series was best illustrated by the batting. For Australia Ricky Ponting had made 113 runs from 8 innings at an average of 16 and Michael Clarke had made 193 runs at an average of 21 from 9 innings. Contrast that with the Sydney Test’s Man of the Match, Alistair Cook who made almost as many runs in his 1 innings in Sydney as Clarke did for the whole 5 tests. Cook made a signature ‘daddy hundred’ of 189 to finish with 766 runs from 7 innings in the series at an average of 127. Unsurprisingly Cook won Man of the Series as well.
The end of an era with Shane Warne, Glen McGrath and Juston Langer all exiting Test cricket on a high recording a 5-0 whitewashing of England as payback for losing the 2005 Ashes in England. England batted first and were held together by 89 from skipper Andrew Flintoff to record 291 all out. Australia’s trio of fast bowlers, Clark, McGrath, Lee shared nine wickets and Adam Gilchrist being the main benificairy pouching 5 catches. In reply Australia were in trouble at 5-190 until a typically brisk half centruy form Adam Gilchrist and 71 to Shane Warne helped Australia to 393. Th highlight of Warne’s final test innings was his remorseless sledging of Paul Collingwood fielding in the slips. Between deliveries and overs Warne berated Collingwood calling him an embarasment for recieving an MBE for playing a single test and managing 17 runs in the 2005 series
102 runs in arrears, England folded quicker than Superman on laundry day in their second innings to be bowled out for 147. Glenn McGrath was at his metronomic best with his final innings bowling figures reading like a summary of his career: 21 overs, 11 maiden, 3 wickets for 38 runs at a rate of 1.80 runs per over. McGrath even took a wicket with his last ball in Test cricket dismissing Jimmy Anderson. Stuart Clark was Man of the Match for 6 wickets and Ricky Ponting was Man of the Series for his series high 576 runs but most importantly Australia had regained the Ashes.
A test match remembered for one ball, the final ball of Day 2 which Steve Waugh struck for 4 to bring up his hundred, his first in quite some time and under intense pressure as rumours circulated that Waugh’s axing was eminent if he failed again. Waugh strode to the wicket shortly before tea on Day 2 and became just the third batsmen to score 10,000 test runs during his innings and the century was Waugh’s 29th test hundred drawing him level with Don Bradman for the most test hundreds by an Australian. Several other things are forgotten due t o that last ball on Day 2, the next morning Waugh was dismissed without adding to his overnight score of 102 and in the same innings Adam Gilchrist blasted 133 off just 121 balls to secure Australia a 1 run lead on the first innings. England had batted first for 362 thanks to Mark Butcher’s 124 and in their second innings managed 452 against an Australian bowling attack missing it’s spearheads Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne. McGrath was sidelined with an ankle problem and Warne had dislocated his shoulder in a pre-Christmas one dayer. In their absence Gillespie, Lee, Bichel and MacGill had no answers to Michael Vaughan as he produced a masterful 183. Brett Lee put in one of his more erratic performances claiming 3/132 at over 4 runs per over. Needing to bat for four sessions to secure a draw Australia were blown away by Andy Caddick of all people, who took 7/94 to roll Australia for just 226. England had won by 225 runs.
Who remembers that in the ‘Steve Waugh last ball of the day century’ Test, Australia was comfortably beaten by an England team that was trailing 4-0 in the series? Not many I’d guess. Michael Vaughan was named Man of the Match for his 183 and Man of the Series for his 633 runs.
Australia were keen to atone for a shock loss in Melbourne and recalled the one and only SK Warne, after a injury lay off for shoulder durgery and then a broken finger, to partner Stuart MacGill and the versatile medium pacer/off spinner Colin Miller. Australia batted first and the Waugh twins looked in command as they shared a 200 run stand with Mark making 121 and Steve dismissed in the 90’s for a record 9th time. Dean Headley, the Melbourne destroyer, picked up 4 wickets and Darren Gough blew away the tail taking a hatrick, the first at the SCG in over 100 years.
Australia had made 322 and England replied with just 220 thanks to 5/57 to Stuart MacGill, Glenn McGrath had become the 10th Australian to take 200 wickets and Mark Waugh took his 100th Test catch. In their second innings Australia relied almost exclusively on Michael Slater to score their runs after he luckily surviving a ‘benefit of the doubt’ call by the third umpire when the TV footage of a run out was inconclusive. Slater went on to compile 123 out of Australia’s 184 all out, the next highest score was Mark Waugh’s 24 and no one else made double figures. Slater had scored 66.85% of Australia’s runs – the second highest percentage of runs by a batsman in a Test innings. The record is 67.35% by Charles Bannerman, for Australia against England in the first ever Test match in 1876-77. Slater had played one of the great Test innings.
England’s target for victory was 287 but they fell 99 runs short with Stuart Macgill taking 7/50 to take Man of the Match honours. Unusually both England openers were out stumped and Mark Taylor took his 157th catch over taking Alan Border to claim the record for most test catches by a non wicket keeper. After some deliberation, Mark Taylor retired from Test cricket after this series, his 7th Ashes series victory. Steve Waugh was named Man of the Series and would become Australia’s next Test captain.
Despite being held in it’s familiar New Years time slot the Sydney test was only the third test of the 1994/95 Ashes. The test started on New Years Day, as the Melbourne Test had started on Christmas Eve.
England won the toss and batted making 309 thanks to half centuries to Atherton , Crawley and somewhat surprisingly Darren Gough. Craig McDermott continued his fine form collecting 5 wickets but in a Man of the Match winning performance Darren Gough made a mess of Australia’s innings taking 6/49 as Australia were shot out for 116 in just 43 overs and only avoided the follow on when 4 byes were conceded off Devon Malcolm.
In their second innings England were in complete control, however Michael Atherton ran out of patience and denied Greame Hick a century when he declared with the batsmen on 98. This set Australia the unlikely target of 449 for victory, but they set about the challenge and were 0/139 at the end of the fourths day play. On the fifth day all three results were possible: Australia needed 310 runs off 90 overs and England needed 10 wickets. Michael Slater and Mark Taylor continued to pile on the runs both recording centuries as they shared an opening stand of 208. Australia were looking comfortable at 3/282 but Angus Fraser had other ideas producing a fine spell of bowling taking 4/10 to rip through the Australian middle order. The spin twins, Shane Warne and Tim May steadied the ship and batted out the last 80 minutes to secure a draw. Australia lead 2-0 after 3 tests and the Ashes had been retained.