The Ashes in 2013/14, before it started, had the Australian contingent on a spike. Memories of a detestable defeat from England’s previous visit to Australia spinning in heads, to add to it a 3-0 defeat which made it 3 Ashes triumphs in a row for the English – to say there was pressure was an understatement.
The gloried rivalry took center stage yet again, with both sides divided by distance and recent history, and united by sheer contempt for one another. A classic case of cannot live together, cannot remain apart – Here they were to get things underway at the Gabba, perhaps no better a venue for Australia to kick-start their vengeance.
To reiterate, Australia lost 8 of their 15 Tests before the opening game of this tour, winning just 2 of them. Having lost the Urn in 2009, they failed to recapture it on home soil a few months later and lost once again in the next combat in 2013.
The visitors had some treacherous tours Down Under in the Ashes, but the 5-0 result perhaps doesn’t offer a true picture of the damage caused, it only understates it. Little did anyone know, what Mitchell Johnson and Ryan Harris had in their store to offer the English.
Johnson played just one test in 2013 before Gabba, going wicketless in Delhi against India. He went old-school with his looks, growing a classic “David Boon beard” with a significantly thick mustache. His first major contribution was a half-century when Australia batted first and when he picked up the new ball with that fearsome new look, he meant carnage.
Brisbane is known for its pace and bounce, and Johnson said “Thank you very much”. He engineered England’s extermination; one they will remember for a long time. He must’ve spent a lot of time in the nets practicing those short deliveries, as they were darted straight into the bodies of the batters with metronomic accuracy, perhaps the most uncomfortable of lines to face.
At his pace, it wasn’t just uncomfortable, it was duck-to-save-yourself scary. He seemed quicker than ever before, incredibly smart in using that fear factor work his way, and provided a mental challenge that the English were not prepped to face.
Ryan Harris – the perfect wingman
Whilst the left-arm seamer voyaged on a brutal path, his birthday twin Ryan Harris kept things nice and tidy. A masterful exponent of late swing, Harris found himself at the peak of his powers, and despite his mate not leaving him a lot of wickets to be picked, he was as challenging to face.
Harris proved to be the ideal wingman. Not to forget Peter Siddle, who had his own, far-and-few glory moments.
Ryan Harris struck first with one of his classic late bloomers that got an edge from Sir Alastair Cook. Mitchell Johnson followed it up soon by making Jonathan Trott make wayward feet movement and found an edge down the led side, gobbled by Brad Haddin. Harris snuck another big fish in Pietersen, and Johnson removed Michael Carberry.
Both of them worked in tandem like a dream. Harris got 3, Johnson with 4 – Australia with a 159-run first-innings lead, and post that, until the last innings of the series, both of them were all over the English.
Johnson finished with 9 wickets in the game, winning the player of the match award. He did it again Adelaide, only more vengeful. He knocked over the English skipper with a full delivery and romped through their middle order and lower order with sheer disdain. The sight of the match was his stare towards Anderson after dismantling his stumps.
He returned with 7 wickets (1 more wicket in the second innings), and once again, was named player of the match. Peter Siddle and Ryan Harris took care of things in the second innings, picking 7 wickets among each other to deliver 218 runs for Australia.
Ball of the century, Bailey’s 28 runs, The Ashes recaptured – Story of Perth Test
With Australia delivering a 2-0 lead, the stage was set brilliantly for Australia to finally take the little Urn back. As it turned out, this game at the WACA was the most dramatic of all the games.
Steve Smith’s century, and Brad Haddin’s half-century, backed by brilliant cameos from Johnson and Siddle got them 385 runs batting first. Cook and Carberry seemed to have fought back for a while, adding 85 runs for the first wicket, but once they fell, the story was back to normal.
It was Harris who provided the initial breakthrough and dominated the proceedings in this innings. He returned with 3, Johnson with 2 as England were buried for 251 runs despite a wonderful start. Warner scored his third century alongside Shane Watson’s breathtaking 108-ball 103, as Australia were soaring close to a 500-run lead.
George Bailey ensured they got there a couple of overs earlier with a record-equalling 28-run hammering of James Anderson. But following it up on the 4th day morning was Ryan Harris, who took the shining new ball on a perfect Monday morning. The first ball he ran in to bowl, he bowled, what has been called, “the ball of the century” by many.
His length delivery to Cook seemed to be tailing back into the left-hander before it viciously turned away and took his off-stump. After thousands of replays, it is still difficult to understand what happened there, but he provided a moment of magic that became a thumbnail for his career.
Australia finished the game a little late, but in style. Perth, for that day, was the city of celebrations, alongside the entire nation. The domination continued for another 2 Tests, the Ashes was won 5-0 by the hosts.
Records tumbled, smiles rekindled, folklores carved for eternity
Mitchell Johnson delivered three “Player of the match” performances, whilst Ryan Harris got one for himself in the final Test with his 8/61 (cumulative figures). They took 59 wickets among each other, accounting for nearly 60% of England’s misery.
Unsurprisingly, Johnson was named player of the series for his 37 wickets, which went down as one of the greatest individual Ashes performances. Harris was right up there, with 22 wickets in 5 Tests at an average of 19.31.
Two individuals who shared common birthdays, with Harris being two years elder to his companion, had different paths leading up to the same destination. Eventually, the striking image was them sharing a beer with their flags wrapped across their shoulders. Winning the Ashes is special for their nation, and very few of them were won as brilliantly and ferociously as this one.
Mitchell Guy Johnson, and Ryan James Harris, turned 40 and 42 respectively on 2 November 2021.