Sorry, I'm not buying this. McGrath was clearly recovering from injury for the 3rd and 5th test.This is the kind of reply I was waiting to get, but thought I'd wait for someone to make it before I spend any time with a response to flatten that notion. The above is just an interesting aside but lacks any context for discussing the actual tests involved. Only someone who didn't watch the series or is just interested in a snide response would even bring it up.
No one who watched that series came out with the notion of "whew, nevermind Warne who just had one of the greatest series of all time and almost carried the team to a win; McGrath just proved how much of a match-winner he is!"
McGrath played 3 tests, 1 win, 2 draws. But let's look closely.
1st innings: England skittle Australia out for 190. McGrath has an imperious opening, decimating the first 5 wickets for 21 runs. Lee and Warne get the rest - of particular importance Warne getting Pietersen who had started to get on top as England were getting close to our total. Australia limit England to 155 and go in 35 runs ahead.
2nd innings: Australia bat very well for the 3rd innings, adding 384 to the lead to give England 420 to chase with about 2 and a half days remaining. McGrath takes 4 in the second, but none in the top or middle order (GJ @ 7). Instead, as England build an 80 run opening partnership without a loss, Warne and Lee come in to take care of any glimmer of hope England were looking to have.
This is a Test where I'd agree that McGrath showed his match-winning capability with his 1st inning blitz, although, it's probably overstated as people tend to point to this innings and ignore much of the rest of the series.
1st innings: England build a big 1st innings total of 444. McGrath goes 0/88, Warne and Lee 4 each. Australian batsmen, however, only manage a disappointing 302. That too in large part because Warne top-scored for the Australians with 90 runs.
2nd innings: England go in to bat already 142 runs ahead and looking to add quick runs to get Australia in with a decent enough total and enough time to win the match. McGrath takes 5/115, however going for over 5 runs an over. Warne goes wicketless as England declare with 4 wickets in hand and another 280 runs added to the total.
Australia have to go bat the last innings chasing 423. This inning was notable for Ponting's incredble 156, almost batting out the day to save the match. Warne again helps with the bat with an important 34. Ultimately, England run out of time needing only 1 wicket to win.
McGrath was not close to Warne in terms of importance in this game. McGrath took 5/201, Warne 4/173, yet Warne was also the 2nd highest run scorer for Australia with 124 runs with the bat (Ponting 163 runs). Without Warne and Ponting Australia had no chance to draw.
1st innings: England open the batting, putting up 373. McGrath takes 2/72; Warne takes 6/122. That doesn't show that of the top and middle order batsmen, McGrath only took Flintoff. English batsmen 1-5 were taken by Warne as McGrath struggled to break through. Australia put on 367 and aim to bowl England out cheaply for any hope to win the Test and retain the Ashes.
2nd innings: No mystery here, we didn't manage to win and hence lost the ashes. This innings though, McGrath helps out, and both he and Warne take out the top 7; and for a moment it look like we might be able to pull it off. McGrath finishes for 3/85 for the inning and Warne again takes 6 wickets for 120 odd.
Again, how could you even possibly argue that McGrath shared near the importance Warne did in such a match? The rain effectively guaranteed a draw but if not for that we may have even had a chance to win it because of Warne.
Now, these were just the matches that McGrath played. There were two other matches where without him Australia almost won, because of Warne. In the 2nd Test Warne took 10 wickets. Possibly just as important, he scored 50 runs; 42 of them in the 2nd innings stand with Lee and Clarke. We fall just 2 runs short of winning the game when Harmison takes Kasperwicz as Australia looked to win, without McGrath.
In the other Test McGrath didn't play (the 4th Test); Warne takes 8/133. England ended up winning by 3 wickets, even though they only needed to chase 129 runs. Warne and Lee were working miracles in that last inning and if the Aussie batsmen weren't so pathetic and had given England more than 129 to chase, we may have done it as the English top 7 were gone; only GJ and the tailenders remained.
Watching this series was amazing. It was incredible drama in almost every session. And the one guy that kept popping up and giving us a shot and performing miracles was Warne. To even suggest that McGrath came out that series on even equal footing - even considering the matches he played - with Warne is ridiculous. If Lee had the same series in terms of injury and correspondence with the results (let's say McGrath and Warne were fit instead) and in the Tests he played we didn't lose...anyone suggesting Lee was a bigger match-winner because we didn't lose in those Tests would be laughed out the room.
Warne was in the best form of his life, yet without a fit McGrath, yet England were still able to score 400+ on the first day for the 2nd, 3rd and 4th tests, giving them the momentum to win the series. That would have been inconceivable if McGrath were fit and available, especially after he wrecked England in the first test.