In 2005 one of the greatest Ashes Test matches, possibly one of the Greatest Test Matches, took place down in a place called Birmingham, on the grounds of Edgebaston.
The final day approaches with England needing just 2 wickets for victory, Australia still needing a few more than a hundred runs for victory.
As the battle commenced, and the fans both at the game and at home sat glued to the action and the likely prospect of a quick English victory, the game took a surprising turn.
Slowly English fans slipped further to edge of their seats, biting their nails, feet nervously tapping about and putting the flow of bitter beer on hold as Australia stalked upon what was looking like an incredible victory, scripted by the Australian cricket Gods.
Brett Lee and Michael Kasprowicz (who was stepping in for an injured Glen McGrath after rolling his ankle over a cricket ball at practice, as he attempted to catch a Rugby League ball after a 'poor pass' by Brad Haddin while tossing it on the field) started to build overwhelming momentum, and a surreal stage for Australian supporters as victory came closer, and closer. 2 runs needed and the short-ball became the moment killer, as Kasprowicz took one on the glove, flying up and caught.
So close, but what a game, what a Test match!
Now we stand 1-0 down in the Ashes series of 2009, with three Tests left, the third resuming tomorrow at the grounds of that 2005 match!
With the excitement of that Historical game in the minds of many supporters, it would have been an even better occassion for Brett Lee to rejoin the playing team, after he was left at the non-striker's end to witness the final wicket in 2005, which now indicates as a defining chance for England's Ashes heroics. Sadly, the script is once again not in the Australian cricketer's favour!
It has been an interesting period of time on and away from the field since the 2nd Test at Lord's,
The Baggy Green had a tour match against the Northants, which many may say don't read into too much, but how important was it that Stuart Clark, Shane Watson and even current stugglers Phillip Hughes,Mitchell Johnson and even Marcus North (with the all-rounder battles), were all given a chance? It was essential as the team and supporters regroup and ponder through the options and possible ways to rip back momentum and take the win.
Mitchell Johnson and Phillip Hughes are experiencing Cricket's ugly head, and have been far from their best and most convincing, however the call's for these guys to be dropped is far from a logical thought process.
Dropped would mean that these two players must fall away from any immediate and possible future plans for Australia. However being given a break, as Allan Border suggested for Mitchell Johnson's scenario, is a wiser choice, as it just gives the player/s a chance to refocus, get mentally in tact and be ready to once again take the ball in hand, or the bat and set their game alive once again. I have little doubts regarding the selected Australian's and am very confident in both of these two young cricketer's stamping their authority on the game.
But, it may be a wait for Mitchell Johnson, with the pending decision to play Shane Watson and Stuart Clark, with Andrew McDonald well in-line too.
Stuart Clark is an important figure for this team, as the bowling attack need the experience and composure he brings into the bowling squad. Ben Hilfenhaus and Peter Siddle, look towards Mitch as their strike bowler and leader of the pack after his performances in Australia and South Africa in recent times, but when the leaders isn't firing, the inexperienced can often be left on their own. Which is not a bad thing as this can lead to a natural game development, or a chance to discover the true Test of International cricket, but in a series like the Ashes, the leadership, experience and mentorship is essential.
Shane Watson, far off from Johnson's pace, cuts his way in line as an all-rounder. He can bowl economically and can bat with patience or turn on the after-burner and blaze his way through all bowlers on the cricketing circuit. His Test record offer's little credibility, but any cricketer will see it as an opportunity too boost their cause.
What I like about Watto and Clark is that they are their to win, they have experienced the high's and low's in big series' to impose their authority and get stuck in the game, the Australian way.
It will be an interesting call for the Selectors to make, and one both Australian and English supporters will be watching eagerly.
The fact James Anderson and Ravi Bopara have mentioned their opinions on Mitchell's case makes an interesting point regarding his achievements. Then again would playing Mitch again, and England making him an easy target be apart of these statements?
Would leaving Mitch out of the next game affect his confidence too, or would it be even more destructive if he were to play and things continued as they are now?
On this note, the major area Mitchell needs to improve on is quite simply his accuracy. If he can stop spraying the ball too all areas of the wicket, and prevent Brad Haddin's overly animated (yet needed) acrobatics behind the stumps, it will boost his cause.
That dismissal of Matt Priors, where he cut the ball back beautifully into the right hander would indicate that if Mitch can find his form, and control his delivery options, all this hype and drama will be quickly ironed out.
We have been very generous in donating extra's to England too.
Ricky Ponting has given possible indication for the inclusion of Nathan Hauritz. Nathan's bowling has been alot more aggressive and at times 'teasing', which is a positive step away from his usual defensive tactics. Maybe Nathan feels like he belongs in the squad. And any guy whose finger gets dislocated, and returns to the field to continue bowling (and pick up 2 wickets) deserves the respect and acknowledgement from the supporters. While the media makes nothing of this, I think it was showing Nathan's toughness to be out their representing the Baggy Green!
The positive indication by Ricky Ponting at Nathan's inclusion, makes the standings for spots in the starting XI even more daunting for all the players concerned!
The conditions will be playing a big role in thinning out the potentials into the chosen, and suggestions are that it will not favour Nathan.
It is just another contributing factor to the mystery regarding tomorrow's game, and what changes we may or may not see will be revealed soon enough.
It is an exciting time for Ricky too, as he is only 25 runs short of becoming Australian cricket's leading Test run scorer, as he currently sits behind Allan Border's 11,174.
Michael Hussey's batting has started to show better sign's of the Huss the cricket world knows and respects, and a possible reason for this change in Huss' game has been the correction of a technical error, which was causing a 'blind spot' when facing up to the bowlers. The middle order strength, boosted by a century by Michael Clarke at Lord's (a flashy one at that!), looks better than England's stocks, but the partnership of Cook and Strauss is overwhelming Simon Katich and Phillip Hughes' efforts in the Ashes thus far. So some good rivalry and matching up going on too!
England have Ian Bell coming into the side in place of Kevin Pietersen. Now Bell hasn't had the greatest track record recently, but around this time last year he plowed out 199 runs against the Proteas, and he is a potential batsmen to keep England's middle order together. Shane Warne's taunts at Bell could only do so much, right?
Michael Clarke has been doing alot correct lately, and himself and Simon Katich have some very dissapointing memories of that 2nd innings at Edgebaston in 2005, and I think Pup stated it to the point, what it means to wear that Baggy Green and why each guy is in this team; We play this game for one reason: to win. We love the game we play, we'll be out there on Thursday backing ourselves 100% to win this game."
The Flintoff factor was massive back in 2005, and will the Freddy Factor follow us from Lord's too Edgebaston?
Very interesting and exciting times for the Ashes, but whether the weather gives us enough action to see, it is seeming a bit of a gloomy situation at the moment!