… Fifteen years on, Australia’s former skipper reflects on his decision to bowl first in the memorable 2005 Ashes Test at Edgbaston
FIFTEEN years on from one of the most memorable Tests in Ashes history, former captain Ricky Ponting stands by the logic that led Australia to bowl first in the 2005 Edgbaston Test, although he concedes England’s scoring rate in their first innings makes his call “hard to justify”.
Ponting controversially sent England in to bat in the second Test of the famous 2005 campaign, and the hosts responded by clubbing 407 runs on an exhilarating first day, including 132 in the opening session against the new ball.
In a recent interview with cricket.com.au, Ponting said his decision at the coin toss came after days of discussion with senior members of his squad, adding his side’s nail-biting two-run defeat decided the outcome of the series.
Asked if he stands by the decision to bowl first, Ponting said, “Yeah, I do.”
“It was one run, wasn’t it? I’d love to find another run there somewhere through the course of that Test match!
“I stand by the reasoning behind it but when you look at the overall result and what actually happened on the first day, it’s probably hard to justify it.
“But it’s not like I just turned up, had a look and said, ‘we’re bowling’. We’d talked about it for a while, what we were going to do and what we thought was the best way to win the game. And we got close.
“And people will make whatever (judgement) they want, and they can. That’s a part of life and a part of history that people will talk about for a very long time.”
The dramatic morning on August 4, 2005 paved the way for one of the tightest Test matches in the game’s history.
Having weathered a strong start by England in the opening Test at Lord’s, Australia grabbed a 1-0 series lead and Ponting wanted to heap more pressure on the home side’s batsmen by sending them in on a pitch that had been under heavy covers for much of the week due to cyclonic weather in Birmingham.
Even when Ponting’s spearhead Glenn McGrath trod on a stray cricket ball and rolled his ankle in the warm-up, ruling him out of the Test, the skipper believed his bowlers – including McGrath’s replacement, Michael Kasprowicz – could further expose England’s batting frailties.
But it wasn’t the case; England raced along at better than five runs an over on a pitch Ponting admits he misjudged as Australia were left to rue dropped catches and taking wickets off no-balls.
“The weather had been shocking in the lead-up,” Ponting recalled. “Cyclones had gone through the place and the wicket had been under covers for a few days.
“We also knew that our bowlers had a real edge on the England batters after that first Test match at Lord’s. So I made my mind up with all of that taken into account that we were going to bowl.
“The wicket, we expected it to do quite a bit on the first day … (but) it didn’t do much. We bowled no-balls, we got wickets off no-balls, they were 0-120 (1-132) at lunch on day one and I thought, ‘This is getting away a bit, here’.
“As history will tell you, it was an unbelievable game of cricket where one run decided that Test match and probably ended up deciding the series, to be fair. That was how close it turned out at the end.”