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5 Great Ashes memories

14 Jul | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
5 Great Ashes memories

There have been plenty of great Ashes moments, but which are the greatest?

1) Shane Warne’s ‘Ball of the Century’

If you’re going to start somewhere, you may as well start with the best. And make no mistake, Shane Warne is perhaps the finest bowler ever to grace the Ashes and the world stage. Certainly the greatest Australian bowler in history. A ferociously aggressive competitor to boot, he is hailed as the man who single-handedly re-invented leg-spin in the era of consistent fast bowlers.

Nowhere is this better demonstrated than in Warne’s first ever Ashes Test. Just 23 years of age remember, his very first ball against England was the textbook example of leg-spin. Drifting gently well wide of leg stump, it suddenly cut back miles and nicked the top of legendary English batsman Mike Gatting’s off-stump. Australia celebrated wildly, Gatting dazedly staring at the dislodged bails as if unable to process what had happened. Later dubbed ‘Ball of the Century’, it cannot be done justice in words, it simply has to be seen to be believed.

2) Freddie Flintoff’s Greatest Over

Ah 2005. Back when the Ashes weren’t tantalisingly out of reach for those without a Sky Sports package, the summer awakened a long-dormant passion for cricket that large parts of the United Kingdom had forgotten they had. Key to that reignited flame was Lancashire lad Freddie Flintoff, a ‘man of the people’ who became a household name thanks to his spirited and fiery performances in England’s first Ashes win since 1987.

His over in the second Test at Edgebaston has gone down in folklore, however. His first ball was blocked. But his second ball exploded like a rocket out of his hand, nicking an inside-edge past Aussie batsman Justin Langer and smashing leg-stump out of the ground. Could this be the turning point?

In to bat comes Ricky Ponting, Australian captain. Flintoff glared at him, the streak of sun-tan lotion on his nose gleaming in the Birmingham sun. Third ball – a jaffer. Sharp turn and nearly folds Ponting in half, England leaping about appealing furiously for LBW. Umpire Billy Bowden shakes his head slowly. The fourth ball caught a thin outside edge but refused to carry to Ashley Giles. The fifth nipped back in again, and again the shouts of ‘Howzat’ rang in the air. The umpire once more unmoved. Sixth – a no-ball, fortuitously as it turned out.

The seventh and final ball of the over. Crowd crescendos as Flintoff runs in, it turns – leg cutter, inside edge and CAUGHT BEHIND! “A beauty” bellows commentator Mark Nicholas, as all over the country newly inspired England fans leap about joyously in front of the television set. Flintoff stands, arms spread wide imperiously in Christ the Redeemer pose as he is swamped by teammates. England have risen from the dead, they are back in the match thanks to one magical over. Freddie had done it.

3) Steve Waugh’s Final Ball Century

There are many instances in sport where the romantics amongst us would like things to go a certain way. A striker finishing his last game with the winning goal. A boxer getting one final KO. Perhaps a batsman scoring a century on his final test, especially in the Ashes. Surely not.

With the 2003 Ashes already decided 4-0 to Australia before the final Test, the only thing on everyone’s minds was the retirement of beloved batsman Steve Waugh. On home turf at the SCG, he spoke later of ‘a million thoughts racing around in my head’ in the dressing room. He went out to bat after tea and reached that Holy Grail of batsmen everywhere, a zen sense of equilibrium. At the end of the day he needed just two runs to reach his 29th test century, but only had one ball to go. England captain Nasser Hussain made him wait what seemed like an eternity, but finally the ball came. And he promptly smashed it down to the fence for four. The roar from the crowd was unearthly, and Waugh walked off in a state of, as he put it, ‘total and utter contentment’. Sometimes, just sometimes, fairy tales can happen in sport.

4) Bob Massie’s Devastating Debut

Old but gold. It takes a bowler of some talent, and a great deal of patience, to master the outswinger – especially since it runs a greater risk of being pelted to the boundary more than getting an edge. Occasionally you reap huge rewards, though.

Step forward Ashes debutant Bob Massie. Making his first start for Australia in the second 1972 Test after an injury, he ended the first innings with figures of 8-84, a jaw-dropping number even for an experienced bowler, let alone someone in their first Ashes test. With England reeling, he went even further in the second innings, posting 8-53. Absolute pandemonium. 16/137 in all. Despite sinking like a stone shortly after and only playing five more tests in his career, the magic of that match will never be diminished.

5) Ricky Ponting Run Out

One of the most memorable, and enjoyable, memories for any cricket fan from that warm summer in 2005 will always be the moment Ricky Ponting was run out by substitute fielder Gary Pratt at Trent Bridge. Ponting went on to develop quite a habit of being run out in the Ashes over the years, but at the time looked in good nick and was digging himself in fast. A huge turning point in the match, the Australian captain’s opposite man, Damien Martyn, tapped a ball short into the off side and set off for what was, in hindsight, a risky single. Pratt snaffled up the ball and fired one in, obliterating the stumps with Ponting well short.

Contextually, it should be noted that Australia had already complained bitterly about England’s habit of using a lot of substitute fielders to rest bowlers after long spells, which ‘wasn’t quite cricket’ as the saying goes. So Ponting, realising he had been run out by a sub, completely lost his rag. He didn’t know that this time, the swap in players was totally justified since bowler Simon Jones – the man off – had injured his knee seriously and wouldn’t play again in the Series. So instead of being justifiably incensed, Ponting stormed off the field, peppering England coach Duncan Fletcher and the team on the balcony with some choice words, including the phrase “f**king cheats”. The tide turned and Ponting ended up looking like a sore loser. Win-win.

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