Former Australian Test captain and legendary commentator Richie Benaud called it an “astonishing game”. Australian skipper Ricky Ponting described it as “the best Test win I’ve ever been a part of”. It’s hardly surprising.
This clash delivered all that is great about Test cricket. Climaxing with a grandstand finish after five days of fluctuating fortunes, England had taken an early stranglehold on the Test only for the Aussies to snatch an unforgettable win as the sun was setting on Adelaide Oval late on the last day.
Ponting’s Aussies had scored a crushing first Test win at the Gabba as they set their sights on regaining the Ashes. But they were up against it as England powered to 3/468 on the second day of the second Test.
Paul Collingwood made a double-century and Kevin Pietersen was finally run out for 158, the famous Barmy Army in full voice at a packed Adelaide Oval. Champion Australian leg-spinner Shane Warne was reduced to mere mortal with figures of 1/167 as England finally declared at 6/551.
But the Aussies were on a roll – on their way to 16 successive Test wins – and with a battling line-up of Justin Langer, Matthew Hayden, Ponting, Damien Martyn, Michael Clarke, Mike Hussey and Adam Gilchrist and an attack featuring Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee and Warne that was hardly surprising.
Ponting and Clarke, always right at home at Adelaide Oval, where they both averaged more than 60 in Tests, plundered centuries, while Hussey made 91 and Gilchrist a cameo 64. Australia had edged within 38 runs of England’s massive tally but by now it was late on day four, so surely a draw was a mere formality.
When England had reached 1/69 on the final morning the Aussies looked out of it. But Warne was about to turn the Test on its head.
The champion leg-spinner was at his tantalising, accurate best, spinning the ball viciously as he bowled unchanged through two sessions from the scoreboard end. He picked up the key wicket of Andrew Strauss for 34 to start a collapse, his standout dismissal being Pietersen bowled around his legs by a ripping leggie for two. The Englishmen played into Warnie’s hands by going on the defensive.
He claimed 4/49 from 32 overs, England was bowled out for 129 and the Aussies – needing 168 from 36 overs – were right back in it.
Openers Langer and Hayden were dismissed with just 33 runs on the famous old Adelaide board and the Barmy Army was starting to make some noise. But Ponting (49) put the Aussies on the right track before Mike Hussey again showed why he was known as Mr Cricket.
He timed his run perfectly with an unbeaten 61 from 66 balls, stroking Jimmy Anderson through the covers to clinch an astonishing win, leaping and punching the air in jubilation, sparking scenes of celebration in the dressing room and around the ground.