July 2005 – Magnificent McGrathSean Fuller |
The 21st of July might well have been the most anticipated day on the cricket calendar since the World Cup final. Not only was it the beginning of the most prestigious cricket series of all, but it was the first time in decades that the two nations involved could legitimately be called the best in the world. The buildup had been endless, and events in the rest of the cricket world had only increased the hype. Australia won two series in the subcontinent, including beating India at home for the first time since Bill Lawry was captain. England struck a similarly rare blow against South Africa with a tour victory, and smashed the West Indies and New Zealand on their way to the number two ranking in the world. Andrew Flintoff confirmed his place as the best all-rounder in the world, Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne returned to international cricket in spectacular fashion, Steve Harmison grabbed the number one ranking for test bowling, Michael Clarke exploded on to the scene with 151 on debut in the hardest of circumstances, and Michael Vaughan installed in his team a winning spirit not seen in England for some time. Everything was set up for one of the great test series, and the first day delivered in spades. When all was said and done, Australia won the first test, and that first day belonged to one man.
Glenn McGrath took the ball after tea on day 1 at Lords with his world champion team in serious trouble. Steve Harmison and England had skittled Australia in half a day for an insufficient total, and Trescothick and Strauss had cruised comfortably to the break without losing a wicket. What followed will be remembered for years and go down in Ashes folklore, as the 35 year old Australian seamer destroyed England with five wickets inside an hour. Not since Curtley Ambrose demolished Australia at the WACA in 1993 that a fast-medium seam bowler exploited helpful conditions so perfectly on such a big stage. Debate may have raged after the fact about which of his deliveries was the best, how much help he took from the wicket, or how to combat him in the future, but what was never debated was that he turned the match on its head with one brilliant display and led Australia to a 1-0 series lead.
Others also had a good month… Steve Harmison and Andrew Flintoff put in excellent bowling performances for England, Ricky Ponting and Adam Gilchrist scored one day centuries to clinch the NatWest Challenge, and over in Sri Lanka it was Chaminda Vaas, Kumar Sangakkara and Muttiah Muralitharan who led Sri Lanka to whitewash the West Indies. However, none of them could displace Glenn McGrath for sheer match-turning brilliance, as Australia’s veteran outdid himself yet again, and picked up CricketWeb’s Player of the Month award for the first time in the process.
CricketWeb Player of the Month – July 2005