Australia in 2005

Australia’s year, so nearly as perfect as previous seasons, shattered on Michael Kasprowicz’s glove and the forefinger of Billy Bowden at Edgbaston, where the Ashes hopes began to fade and their season crumbled over the course of the English summer. No matter how many hundreds Michael Hussey or Ricky Ponting plundered, or how many batsmen Shane Warne teased out, the Australians were overcome by a great sense of loss due the dethronement associated with Ashes defeat.

For the first half of the year, the bandwagon steamed on remorselessly. Pakistan and the West Indies were despatched in the VB Series, while New Zealand succumbed to the prowess of the ruthless Australian batting, whitewashed 5-0 in the ODI series, and soundly thumped 2-0 in the Test series. But on arrival in England, for the most-anticipated series in recent memory, the juggernaut ground to a sudden and unexpected halt. After losing seven wickets in 19 balls in the Twenty20 International at the Rose Bowl, and failing to defend 342 against Somerset, the warning signs were all too clear. Enter Bangladesh in Cardiff, and one of the most humiliating losses in ODI history.

It took the overcooked NatWest Challenge, which followed the tied triangular series, for the Aussies to regain any real face. The Ashes itself is another matter; England outplayed the Australians in all but the First Test at Lord’s, and the tourists, bar Warne, who mesmerised the cricketing world once more, were immortal no longer. The Australians played some good cricket and there was certainly no disgrace in losing to the better team. Yet the Australian press sought a scapegoat, resulting in the unceremonious sacking of Damien Martyn from the Test squad.

The resounding victories against a patchwork World XI in the farcical ‘Super Series’, were perhaps the perfect antidote following the post-Ashes sickness. The West Indies provided little opposition either, as the Australians rebuilt.

A much sterner tour of New Zealand gave more competition, with the tourists being run close in one epic run chase before being beaten in another. But with an inexperienced bowling attack, a 2-1 victory was classed as satisfactory.

The 2006-07 Ashes is the pinnacle of the coming year, and the Australians have the framework to mount a sizable challenge against England’s defence. With the regeneration process now in full swing, the forthcoming Ashes should give the chance for the likes of Michael Hussey and Brad Hodge to prove themselves on the biggest of stages.

Ricky Ponting is quite possibly the best batsman in the world at this time, while Brett Lee is finally fulfilling his potential. With a last hurrah from the old guard of McGrath and Shane Warne, the urn may yet return to the southern shores.

Test Player of the Year 2005: Shane Warne
ODI Player of the Year 2005: Brett Lee
One to Watch in 2006: Michael Hussey

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