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Best of the Tests at Edgbaston

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Edgbaston_England_Cricket_GroundEdgbaston in Birmingham will have the honour of hosting England’s 1000th Test from August 1, as India, the world’s top-ranked Test side, aim to topple the hosts in their bid to win the Pataudi Trophy after 11 years. Since its Test debut in 1902, Edgbaston has hosted 50 Tests so far, of which England have won 27 and lost only eight. As the series opener draws near, here is a trip down memory lane to revisit five memorable Tests played at Warwickshire’s home ground.

England v Australia, Fourth Test, 1981

Two weeks after his epic 149* brought England back from the dead at Headingley, Ian Botham provided another punch to the Australians, this time with the ball. Terry Alderman swung his way to 5/42 on the first day, as England were skittled out for 189. Australia slid from 203/5 to 258 in reply, thanks to off-spinner John Emburey’s 4/43. When Botham fell cheaply to Dennis Lillee in the second innings, England were struggling at 115/6, and were ahead by only 46 runs.

Emburey chipped in with the bat as well, scoring 37*, and along with Mike Gatting (39), oversaw England’s recovery to 219. Chasing 151, Australia reached 87/3 before Emburey removed the well-set pair of Graham Yallop and Allan Border. This paved the way for a ‘Beefy’ special - Botham (5/11) left Australia shell-shocked with his second spell, reading 5-4-1-5, as the score crumbled from 114/5 to 121 all out. This result ensured England kept the Ashes.

England v Australia, First Test, 1997

England’s quest to wrest back the Ashes began in stunning fashion, as their pace trio of Darren Gough, Devon Malcolm and Andy Caddick (5/50) reduced Australia to an eye-popping 54/8 before lunch on the first day. Shane Warne scored a counter-attacking 47 to ¬improve the total to 118, but was then tamed by a fourth-wicket partnership of 288 between Nasser Hussain (207) and Graham Thorpe (138), as England were lifted from 50/3 to an eventual declaration at 478/9.

Trailing by 360, Australia staged an admirable fightback in the second innings. Served by an opening stand of 133 between Matthew Elliott (66) and captain Mark Taylor (129), and another worth 194 for the second wicket between Taylor and Greg Blewett (125), the Baggy Greens posted 477. This was not enough though, as captain Michael Atherton (57*) steered England to a nine-wicket win on the fourth day. Australia bounced back in style to win the six-Test series 3-2.

England v New Zealand, First Test, 1999

Few would have expected an English win when the hosts were tottering at 45/7 early on the second day, after a resolute 73 from wicketkeeper Adam Parore had taken New Zealand from 104/6 to a respectable 226. The revival came from the New Zealand-born Caddick, who first top-scored with 33, sharing in a 70-run eighth-wicket stand with Alex Tudor to carry England to 126, and then wrought havoc with the red cherry to dent New Zealand’s hopes of building the lead.

Caddick (5/32) set the tone by getting rid of Roger Twose off the first ball, and later, following Alan Mullally’s three-wicket burst, twice took two wickets in an over to reduce New Zealand to 52/8. Simon Doull (46) doubled the total, thereby leaving England with more than three days to score 208. The fourth innings belonged to Tudor, who adeptly anchored the chase with 99* after coming in as a nightwatchman at 3/1, guiding his team to a come-from-behind seven-wicket win.  

England v Australia, Second Test, 2005

Australia came into this series on the back of eight successive Ashes series wins dating back to 1989, and it was business as usual for them as they whipped the hosts by 239 runs in the opening Test at Lord’s. Then, in a massive stroke of luck, England’s tormentor Glenn McGrath (who took 9/82 at Lord’s) twisted his ankle after treading on a ball in a nets session just before the second Test. England seemed to have got a psychological boost, and it showed in this classic contest.

Ricky Ponting decided to put England in, despite lacking his strike bowler, and watched as openers Marcus Trescothick (90) and Andrew Strauss raced to a stand of 112 in just over 25 overs. Australia fought back to reduce England to 187/4, but Kevin Pietersen (71) and Andrew Flintoff (68) added to the visitors’ misery, putting on 103 for the fifth wicket. Useful tail-end runs meant that England ended their innings at 407 on the first day itself - at a run rate of 5.17.

Australia’s reply revolved around Justin Langer (82) and Ponting (61), but the last five wickets fell for 46, handing a 99-run lead to England. On the third day, England crashed to 31/4 against the potent spin-pace duo of Warne (6/46) and Brett Lee (4/82), and further to 131/9. However, the dependable Flintoff was still there, and he found a willing ally in Simon Jones, with whom he added a crucial 51 for the tenth wicket. Flintoff hit a belligerent 73 before being the last man out.

Australia began their chase of 282 with a 47-run opening stand, but Flintoff played game-changer again. ‘Freddie’ removed Langer and Ponting (for a duck) in the same over, and from thereon, England were buoyed and Australia kept losing wickets, soon sliding to 137/7. Australia ended the fourth day at 175/8, still needing 107 to win. On the final day, Warne and Lee added 45 for the ninth wicket before an unfortunate Warne was out hit wicket to Flintoff (4/79) for 42.

At 220/9, Michael Kasprowicz joined Lee. They steadily whittled down the target, and England were fast feeling the heat. The tension had reached tipping point, when, with Australia just three runs away, Steve Harmison banged one into the left glove of Kasprowicz, who played it down the leg side. Within the next second, stumper Geraint Jones completed the winning catch to send the crowd into a frenzy. England had won by two runs – the narrowest margin in an Ashes Test.

England v South Africa, Third Test, 2008

South African skipper Graeme Smith constructed one of the finest fourth-innings hundreds to power his team to a memorable series win. Leading the four-match series 1-0, the Proteas limited England to a modest 231 in the first innings. Except for Alastair Cook (76) and Ian Bell (50), the English batsmen came a cropper. Neil McKenzie (72) and Jacques Kallis (64) led the South African response, ensuring a handy 83-run lead. Flintoff bowled with purpose to capture 4/89.

England were 104/4 in the second dig when Pietersen (94) and Paul Collingwood (135) came together to add 115 for the fifth wicket. Collingwood was last out at 363, helping set South Africa 281 to win. At 93/4, England held the aces. However, Smith gutsily rose to the challenge, and went on to strike 154*, sharing in stands of 78 with AB de Villiers and 112* with Mark Boucher on the way. Fittingly, Smith hit the four to seal a five-wicket win late on the fourth day.

 

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Rustom Deboo is a cricket aficionado and freelance writer from Mumbai. He is an ardent devotee of T...

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