It started with David Warner unceremoniously punching Joe Root in the face and ended with the final test halted with four overs to go because of bad light. The 2013 Ashes series courted controversy from start to finish. From DRS scandals and refusals to walk, to foolish comments from coaches and allegations of bat tampering; no stone of controversy was left unturned.
But for the English fans, it was heaven. For the first time in a very long time Australia went home without winning a test match. It may not have been the perfect series as far as England’s performance was concerned. The batting was tenuous, save for the irrepressible Ian Bell, and the tactics were questionable at times. Nevertheless for fans who have endured years of pain and torture at the hands of the mighty Australians, it was as close to perfect as a home series can get. If it wasn’t for the much maligned light meter, England would have been revelling in a 4-0 victory.
There were several key moments over the course of the five tests that all but sealed England the Ashes. The first occurred at Trent Bridge in the series opener, where momentum swung between the two sides like a pendulum and two English players stepped up to produce something quite astonishing. It was a horrendously disappointing showing from England to be bowled out for 215 in the first innings, and after Ashton Agar’s miraculous heroics they were in trouble. But Ian Bell decided that his run of poor form was done and he calmly, delicately and classily accumulated a spectacular 109 that once again shifted the momentum of the match.
Then came one of the most contentious moments of the series – Stuart Broad’s refusal to walk. He was on 37 with England’s lead hovering at a precarious 232 runs. Australia were out of reviews and the finger did not go up. Broad held his ground. It prompted a national outcry down under but predictably there were few in the Aussie camp that could not see the hypocrisy in their moral outrage. Australians do not walk, it’s not in their nature nor is it in their DNA, they’re terriers on the pitch and every player has the right to wait for the umpire. Regardless of what Darren Lehmann thinks. Of all people, Lehmann would have been the last person to walk and as such, his comments were rather ill-advised and in poor taste. It is not the coach’s job to invoke hostility. As it so happened, England set Australia a target of 311 as Stuart Broad went on to make 65.
England won the Ashes because of three heroic bowling performances. The first took place at Trent Bridge. Jimmy Anderson looked out on his feet as he stepped up to bowl what would be his last over in the test with Australia needing 15 runs to win and England needing one wicket. But Anderson’s magic was weaved one last time as he had Brad Haddin caught behind off the faintest of edges. DRS waded into the hysterics to provide England a 14 run victory in a tumultuous test match.
Perhaps England’s greatest moment of the series came at Chester-le-Street. They thoroughly outplayed Australia at Lords due to the brilliance of Graeme Swann and were then lucky to be reprieved by rain at Old Trafford. Durham proved to fans and pundits alike that England are true fighters and that Stuart Broad in particular would not let a little criticism jade him. His match winning spell was utterly phenomenal. He took 6 for 50 on his way to an 11 wicket haul. When Broad gets on a roll, there’s simply no stopping him. England were absolutely on the ropes before Broad started his magical spell and, as I frantically scrolled through the BBC updates from my spot in the middle of the Croatian countryside, I was convinced we had thrown it all away. Thankfully, I didn’t need to burn through my phone’s battery or use up my entire month of wi-fi allowance – England got the job done. They had won three Ashes series in a row.
By the time the fifth test rolled around the Australian attitude was starting to leave a bitter taste in the mouth. England had been accused of cheating, time wasting, ball tampering and bat tampering by media and players alike during the course of the series. All were false and all smacked of sour grapes. Michael Clarke’s pathetic attempts at ‘sledging’ were embarrassing and only showed that England had not only won the Ashes, but had eaten away at the Australian psyche. Thankfully, Kevin Pietersen was more than up for the challenge and as Clarke continuously informed him that no one on his team liked him, Pietersen replied in kind telling Clarke ‘you’re captain and no one likes you’. Marvellous, KP.
So it started with bang and ended with a fizzle, from a punch-up to handbags on the field of play, England seemed to retain the moral high ground from the word go. They refused to get drawn in by the bad mouthing and ultimately came out on top. For whatever drivel Shane Warne came out with about Clarke’s captaincy being ‘aggressive’ and ‘innovative’, his team ended up 3 nil down. Alastair Cook may have been defensive at times, but he’s a winner and he proved that this series.
There’s one image that stands out for me from this Ashes series. It is the look on Jimmy Anderson’s face when he gained that last DRS assisted wicket at Trent Bridge. It was sheer, unadulterated joy, pure emotion and hysteria. It was the magic of the Ashes.
The Australians had better watch out next winter, because if the players forget about the cheating and bat tampering jibes then the fans certainly won’t. I, for one, just hope that Mitchell Johnson is recalled to the starting 11.
‘He bowls to the left, he bowls to the right, that Mitchell Johnson, his bowling is’…well, feel free to finish that yourself.