Ashes 2006/07

England’s forgettable Ashes: From the highs of 2005 to the stooping lows of 2006/07


England and Australia played many dramatic games over the course of their history, but very few series were as closely contested as the Ashes 2005. It personified “You blink, I hit”, and had people on the edge of their seats, and to top everything for the home crowd, not for the last time, England emerged victorious “by the barest of margins”.

That series had so many talking points. A young tyro named Kevin Pietersen, someone who stood tall in stature and had an unusual stance, announced himself to the world. Andrew Flintoff had his tussles with an old rival in Ponting and perpetrated one of the greatest spells in Test cricket. It was England’s first Ashes triumph since 1989, almost an entire generation had spent their heydays without watching their side win against the arch-rivals, making 2005 even more special.

But the most eye-catching facet among all of it was the execution of reverse swing from the English speedsters.

One of the most iconic images in Cricket history, taken after England’s 2-run win at the Edgbaston

One of the most revered bowling coaches of the century, Troy Cooley, had done amazing work with Matthew Hoggard, Flintoff, Steve Harmison and Simon Jones since joining them in 2003, and the result of that was the 2005 Ashes triumph. Jones steamed in with full of energy, Hoggard and Harmison with the stupendous short stuff, and Flintoff with the scary bits.

It was picture-perfect for the English, especially having gone 1-0 down in the series. But what happened to the same side in a matter of 15 months on their visit down under still evades a lot of people. With the same fast bowling battery, the Three Lions were expected to pip the Aussies in this tour, but as it turned out, they walked out with an embarrassing result.

Ashes 2006/07: From memories of a lifetime to scars not that beautiful

Although it wasn’t the most significant of reasons behind England’s terrible defeat in the Aussie lands, it was worth noting that Cooley, after all his brilliant work, wasn’t awarded a two-year contract which he demanded from ECB. The board only wanted to give a one-year extension in December 2005, which meant that he left his position. Adding salt to the wound, he took a similar position with Australia.

The hero of the 2005 Ashes, Andrew Flintoff, was appointed captain in October 2006, just ahead of the series. Vaughan saw him as a perfect replacement, but in hindsight, the all-rounder himself regretted taking up that responsibility and felt he should’ve taken up deputy duties to Andrew Strauss. Vaughan was sidelined from the tour eventually as he was nursing an injury.

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There were many discrepancies that disturbed the first-team environment in the time between these two Ashes contests. They had two very tough battles in the sub-continent against Pakistan and India, they lost to the former and managed to edge out a draw against the latter. They were playing sub-par cricket, and despite that, they had another decent win against Pakistan in the reverse Test series in England.

Banters and verbal wars are always an integral feature of this contest.

Doesn’t sound that horrible, does it? Perhaps the turbulences in the English side or their crucial players’ form (or lack of it) were significant, but the burning fire among Aussies was too hard to put out.

Ricky Ponting, the Australian captain, was criticized severely for their first Ashes defeat in 16 years. The players were distraught to have let the momentum slide after winning the opening Test by a whopping 239-run margin at Lord’s. This was the moment to capture all lost respect, and no better venue to kick things off than Brisbane (On a lighter note, so was the case before Rishabh Pant arrived in 2021).

Ponting led from the front, scoring a magnificent 186. Glenn McGrath was breathing fire with the new ball and captured a six-fer in the first innings. Justin langer got a hundred in the second innings, and the duo of Warne-Lee completed the formalities. But even at that moment, little did the viewing world know that a historic embarrassment was on cards.

The only momentary fightback from England in the series came in the second Test, when they smashed 551 runs batting first with Paul Collingwood and Kevin Pietersen getting big-daddy scores. That was soon negated by Ponting and Clarke’s centuries, and a second-innings batting failure ensured England lost the game. Later on, the Aussies just romped through.

Shane Warne’s glittering career came to an end with the bowler reaching a landmark no man or woman had done before (700 wickets). Having always remained in the shadows of his aggressive partners, Justin Langer remained under-appreciated for the best part of his career, but not that series. And not to forget, one of the greatest pacers ever to have graced the game, Glenn McGrath finished his career with a wicket.

Ponting joined an elite list, which included just one another player in Warwick Armstrong, to have led a team to a 5-0 triumph in the Ashes. Michael Clarke went on to add his name in 2013/14. Indian fans are no strangers to such meteoric downfalls in a span of months. After winning the 2011 World Cup, things went haywire for the side and were whitewashed in Australia and England.

But this was a much bitter pill to swallow for those English men. Perhaps the highs of 2005 made the fall feel even more impactful, but 15 years later, that performance manages to haunt their fans to date. There is glaring fear among the fans that a similar result is possible in the ongoing tour, but only time can answer that inexplicable question.