James Anderson secured victory for England by 14 runs in the first Investec Ashes Test in a gripping encounter against Australia at Trent Bridge.
Tireless Anderson (five for 73) bowled 13 successive overs on an agonising final morning, his burst of three wickets for six runs helping to give him ten in the match.
But in the end it needed yet another DRS (Decision Review System) referral, in this epic contest dominated by them, to ensure the return of England’s pace lynchpin after lunch ended the heroics of Brad Haddin (71) in a 10th-wicket stand of 65 with James Pattinson as Australia were bowled out for 296.
There were unmistakable echoes of Edgbaston 2005 – when England famously prevailed by just two runs in similar circumstances -– as Haddin took the outcome ever closer to the wire.
But more recent and raw memories were stirred when Anderson eventually had the Australia wicketkeeper caught behind off an inside edge after Aleem Dar had first given him not out.
The dismissals, or otherwise, of No 11 Ashton Agar in Australia’s first-innings fightback and Jonathan Trott’s lbw for a golden duck – both on Thursday – and then Stuart Broad’s decision not to walk when he had edged a ball to slip were all caught up in the embattled theme of contentious decisions this week.
It would be a dis-service, however, to a wonderful match to allow DRS etc to overshadow this first of five Tests this summer. Anderson’s accomplice yesterday morning after almost an hour had elapsed with no joy – and plenty of concern for any Englishmen in a sold-out crowd – was Alastair Cook, with three catches at first slip.
It was only right that captain should properly reward his highly-skilled workhorse, after asking near superhuman efforts of him from the Radcliffe Road end.
“We know all about Jimmy’s skill but his heart to keep running in on a hot day on a flat wicket was outstanding,” said Cook.
“He swings it both ways on an immaculate length and makes it very hard to score.
“When a bowler hits a rhythm you just keep asking him if he’s feeling alright.
“That’s why you do the training in the gym, that’s the bottom line, so when your captain needs you to do it you are physically fit to do it.”
With the third ball of his eighth over, Anderson struck for the first time yesterday when he had Agar flashing the first catch to slip, ending a stubborn and increasingly threatening seventh-wicket stand of 43 with Haddin.
Then, in a second consecutive wicket maiden, Mitchell Starc went for only a single when Cook again provided the safe hands for a similar dismissal off another expansive outside edge.
Cook needed two opportunities to see off Peter Siddle the same way, dropping the Australia number ten on ten but taking an even better catch diving two-handed away to his right.
That, however, was a mere preface to what was to follow when Pattinson joined Haddin with a highly-improbable 80 runs still needed and England, by contrast, banking on just one more mistake from the last pair.
Instead, errors from the home side kept the tension climbing into the afternoon, as Haddin’s wicket might twice have ended the match in England’s favour before lunch.
First, a Jonny Bairstow direct hit from cover would have run him out for 61, with 39 still needed; then three runs later Steven Finn, whose two overs cost 24 yesterday, was unable to hold a tough diving chance on the deep square-leg boundary from a Haddin sweep at Graeme Swann.
Survival had been the only obvious intent from Agar and Haddin when play began on an initially cloudy morning which required the use of floodlights.
They duly came through more than half an hour against the old ball, before England decided – two overs after it was available – it was time to take the new one.
The tourists had mustered only 17 runs in 11 overs to add to their overnight 174 for six, and England were still strong favourites.
But as the skies brightened, Haddin judged the hardness of the ball could work to his advantage as well as England’s on a slow, worn pitch.
Cook deployed Anderson in unaccustomed mode with wicketkeeper Matt Prior standing up.
The seamer still had enough energy to continue with the new ball but had Haddin coming at him by then – lofted shots over cover bringing him a two and then a boundary in the same over.
Even as partners seemed surely to be running out at the other end, when Anderson eventually had to have a breather, Haddin cashed in to pass a defiant 115-ball 50 with a rush of boundaries off Finn.
Pattinson joined in, and kept this remarkable battle of wills and skills uncertain until the last.
When the end did come, it was in the most fitting, if slightly awkward, circumstances that Haddin had to go via DRS, after a series of contentious decisions – principally involving Dar and third umpire Marais Erasmus – underpinned so much of what has happened here over the past five days.
“I’m just delighted with the way things went,” said Anderson.
“When you’re actually out there in the middle you feel less nervous because you’re in control.
“As soon as I got the ball I felt in control and I wasn’t nervous because I knew what I was doing and I knew I could get that final wicket.
“We knew it was going to be difficult this morning, their tail is very strong so we knew we had to bowl well. But I found some rhythm this morning which the captain cottoned on to and gave me 13 overs so I’m just delighted.
“It did get tight and as Cooky said we stayed calm even when they were getting closer and closer, so that was the key to us winning the game I think.”
The upshot of it all is merely a 1-0 home lead in a series which has instantly endorsed all the hype and now heads to Lord’s on Thursday, presumably for more of the same.
Echoes of Edgbaston
ENGLAND’S 14-run win over Australia in the first Ashes Test at Trent Bridge has inevitably drawn comparison with the second Test of the 2005 series at Edgbaston, where the tourists fought a strong rearguard action before England just managed to prevail.
Here, we provide a short summary of that match from eight years ago:
The second Test at Edgbaston was almost immediately branded ‘the greatest Test’ and even found an audience on the straight-to-DVD market. England were boosted early by Glenn McGrath stepping on a ball in the pre-match warm-up and being ruled out. Australia’s captain Ricky Ponting bravely, or foolishly, bowled first anyway and England established a first-innings lead of 99 after making 407 in just 79 overs.
Australia were left with a winning target of 282 after Andrew Flintoff salvaged 73 runs in a troubled second dig and when Steve Harmison’s superb slower ball reduced them to 175 for eight on the third evening, the tourists looked done. But the following morning brought untold drama, Shane Warne and Brett Lee putting on 45 before the former inexplicably trod on his stumps. Lee and Michael Kasprowicz then made an agonising 59 before Harmison had the number 11 caught by a scrambling Geraint Jones.