‘The greatest Test match’ – as it came to be known – experienced its fair share of twists and, quite literally, turns, in August 2005 at Edgbaston, Birmingham.
Australia had won the first Ashes Test easily but England famously attacked from the beginning in this Test, scoring 407 in just 80 overs, an unthinkable scoring rate for Test cricket (partly buoyed no doubt by the absence of Glenn McGrath, felled by a freak injury just before the match started). The intensity was kept up by Australia but the hosts got a 99-run lead. However, they frittered it away by collapsing for 182, even though Andrew Flintoff’s 73 off 86 balls with the score at 75 for 6 was cause for some cheer. A target of 282 was not an easy one, though certainly gettable for this Australian batting line-up.
However, from 47 for no loss, Australia collapsed to 175 for 8, with an inspired Flintoff leading the way, despite an injured shoulder, with 3 wickets. Brett Lee (who had taken 4-82 when England collapsed in the second innings) and Shane Warne (who had taken 10 wickets in the match) took the score to 220, when Flintoff got Warne. Michael Kasprowicz joined a set Lee, and the two began to knock off the runs. They added 59 runs in an hour, and at 279 for 9, with three runs to win, Steve Harmison got Kasprowicz to glove a bouncer to the wicketkeeper Geraint Jones.
England won by their closest margin in Test history. They drew level 1-1 in a series they went on to famously win. At 0-2, the series might well have ended here.
This moment of a gutted Brett Lee being consoled by Andrew Flintoff immediately after Kasprowicz’s dismissal remains one of the iconic moments in the sport.
It was 7.17 being consoled by 6.73.
Brett Lee’s impact was 7% higher than Andrew Flintoff’s. This, despite Lee taking 5 wickets in the match and scoring 49 runs whereas Flintoff took 7 wickets and scored 141 runs. Lee’s innings under enormous pressure, which is what made it the match, and indeed the series, it ultimately became, gave his unbeaten 43 runs in the fourth innings, very ‘tough runs’, a very high impact.
It is curious to see what impact this match had on both their careers.
It was 2.82 and 4.46 from hereon.
Lee played at the same level for the rest of his career (37 more Tests) and remains till now Australia’s eighth-highest impact bowler ever (min. 60 Tests). His
Flintoff, on the other hand, transformed into the second-highest impact player in the world (minimum 20 Tests) after Muttiah Muralitharan from here till the end of his career (he played 29 more Tests). He remains till now England’s sixth-highest impact player ever (min. 60 Tests).
It is safe to say that this Test match, and this series, was a turning point in Flintoff’s career.
Karthik Swaminathan/ Jaideep Varma
Art- Gokul Chakravarthy
NOTE: Impact Index has undergone an upgradation in November 2015, and though 95% of its findings remain the same, there have been some minor shifts. This piece was updated post that, and is up-to-date as of August 2016.