On this day in 2005: England win the Ashes after a historic battle

The 2005 Ashes series remains as one of the most thrilling Ashes series ever and probably most celebrated Test series of the 21st century. The series ended with a margin of 2-1 in the favor of the home team England who regained the urn. This was the first time in 18 years that England won an Ashes series. All the eight Ashes series held during those 18 years were won by the Aussies quite comfortably.

The odds were stacked against England before the series despite being on a streak of six consecutive series wins. The Aussies, in fact, were ruling the longer format topping the rankings ever since ICC introduced them. Australia won the first Test at the Lord’s by 239 runs despite getting bowled out before tea on the first day. McGrath bagged nine wickets in the Test including a 5-wicket haul in the first innings.

England’s comeback

England’s fightback began in Birmingham where they smashed 407 in only 79.2 overs on the opening day thanks to attacking fifties from Trescothick, Andrew Flintoff and Pietersen. Glenn McGrath’s absence clearly told on Australia’s bowling performance as the senior pacer got ruled out due to an ankle injury he suffered while playing rugby in the warm-up.

England managed to earn a 99-run lead and set a competitive target. Australia collapsed in the chase to 175/8 while chasing 282. On the final day morning, Brett Lee put on partnerships of 45 and 59 for the last two wickets but the hosts sneaked away a thrilling 2-run win to level the series.

In the 3rd Test at Old Trafford, an aggressive declaration from England set a target of 423 in front of the Aussies in 108 overs. The visitors escaped with a draw as they finished on 371/9 thanks to a gritty 156-run knock from Ricky Ponting. This was the first individual century of the series for Australia. Warne, with his first wicket of the match, became the first player in Test history to bag 600 wickets.

Taking the lead

The series was well poised before the 4th Test. England posted 477 in the first innings with help of Andrew Flintoff’s hundred; the highest team total of the series. A fifer for Simon Jones saw Australia bowl out for 218 in 49.1 overs. Michael Vaughan took a risk of enforcing the follow-on and tried for a win. It was the first time in 17 years that the Australian team were made to follow on in Test cricket.

Australia lost four wickets to cover the deficit of 159 runs but lost six wickets for 126 runs to be bowled out for 387 by Tea on 4th day. England showed urgency to chase down the target of 129 by the end of the stumps on day four. In this process, they lost wickets to Shane Warne (4) and Brett Lee (3). They were down to 116/7 but an unbeaten 13-run stand for the 8th wicket ensured England took an unassailable lead of 2-1.

Winning the Ashes

Though Australia’s chances of a series win drained ahead of the final Test at The Oval, a win in it would have helped them to retain the Ashes trophy for which the two sides were playing. But a draw was enough for the hosts to get it back for the first time in 18 years. England made 373 after electing to bat first but Australia gave a solid reply. Openers Matthew Hayden (138) and Justin Langer (105) struck hundreds amidst the regular rain intervals.

Australia began the 4th day on 277/2 only to be bowled out for 367 losing their last eight wickets for 86 runs. The rain kept reducing the time available for Australia but their bowlers kept the fight going on. England lost half the side for 126 by Lunch and were 199/7 about 30 minutes before the Tea. Kevin Pietersen stood tall for the home team taking on Shane Warne. Drop catches turned against Australia as Pietersen smashed his maiden Test ton surviving three chances and saved the Test with his 158-run knock.

The roller-coaster ride finally came to an end with England registering a thrilling series win and regaining the Ashes on September 12, 2005.