There is something unique and special about The Ashes – widely reckoned as one of the most intense cricketing battles. When Australia arrived at Trent Bridge for the 2013 series opener, the anticipation for the same was high. An Ashes victory is special and solid start to the series is pivotal. The inaugural match of the 2013 Ashes at Trent Bridge saw a nerve-wracking end with Australia losing the game by a whisker.
Brad Haddin along with James Pattinson put up a solid battle for the tenth-wicket against the pumped English bowlers but missed out on a scintillating victory by 14 runs. There was a dramatic end to the game and certainly one of the most memorable ones. Australia were so close, yet to so far. Earlier, a debutant also scripted history by recording the highest score for a No. 11 batsman in Test cricket.
England got it right at the toss and elected to bat first. Peter Siddle led the Australian pace attack with immense confidence and ripped through the English line-up with some serious pace and skills. He claimed a crucial fifer and was well supported by James Pattinson and Mitchell Starc, who picked three and two wickets respectively. England were bundled out for 215 in the first innings and Jonathan Trott was the highest run-getter with 48 runs to his name. Australian bowlers did a commendable job in restricting the star-studded English line-up to such a modest total.
English bowlers fought fire with fire and came out all guns blazing. Steven Finn and James Anderson chipped three early wickets and put Australia on the back foot. At the end of day 1, Australia were precariously placed at 75 for 4 with Steven Smith and Phil Hughes at the crease and were need of a big partnership.
When play resumed on Day 2, English bowlers had to work hard for their first wicket of the session. Smith was caught behind on 53, which was the start of a massive batting collapse. From being 108 for 4, Australia were reduced to 117 for nine in no time. Things were almost done and dusted for Australia as they were still trailing by 98 runs. Debutant Ashton Agar took guard and at the other end was Phil Hughes. The duo had a mountain to climb and not many would have expected them to do what they did next.
The Agar special
Agar played attacking cricket and weathered the storm along with Hughes at the other end. The duo recorded the second highest tenth-wicket stand in Test cricket with their awe-inspiring partnership of 163 runs. Agar went on to score 98 runs on his debut, which is also the highest by a No. 11 batsman in Test cricket. He smashed 12 boundaries and two sixes for his 98 but missed out on a record-breaking ton by a whisker. Hughes, on the other end, was equally supportive and remained unbeaten on 81 with the help of nine boundaries.
The partnership between Agar and Hughes not only brought Australia back into the game but also helped them to gain a healthy 65-run lead. At one stage, it looked like Australia would end up trailing by 60-70 odd runs but it wasn’t to be as Agar and Hughes stitched a fruitful partnership to put the side in command.
England put up a fight in the second innings and riding on Ian Bell’s century, they posted 375 runs on the board. Alastair Cook, Kevin Pietersen and Stuart Broad got fifties and helped England set a huge target of 311. Siddle and Starc were the pick of the bowlers with three wickets apiece.
The Australian chase
Chasing a target as huge as 311 in the fourth innings is always a challenge in Test cricket. The conditions deteriorate and batting becomes challenging in the fourth innings. Australia started off on a brisk note as their openers accounted for 82 runs to lay a solid foundation. At 161 for 3, a close battle looked on the cards but another batting collapse saw Australia being delicately placed at 211 for 8. And when the ninth wicket fell on 231, Australia were still 80 runs away from the target. Agar’s brilliance in the first innings saw him being promoted in the batting order and this time he played quite a contrasting innings (in terms of strike-rate), scoring 14 off 71 deliveries.
Brad Haddin was batting on 36 when Pattinson walked out to bat. Australia needed 80 runs while England were in search of a wicket for a win. Haddin took on Steven Finn and smashed three consecutive boundaries in the 99th over and also brought up his half-century. Pattinson, at the other end, played with intent and provided a much-needed support to Haddin. When Pattinson hit Graeme Swann for a maximum in the 102nd over, an improbable Australian win started finding hopes.
Prior to the Lunch, Haddin gave England a half-chance, when he slog swept Graeme Swann to deep square leg. Finn charged to his left and dived for it but was a tough one. At Lunch, Australia were on the brink of a victory with just 20 runs needed while England were still looking for that one wicket.
Cook brought his best bowler into the attack right after Lunch and Anderson didn’t disappoint in producing a maiden over right away. Cook continued with Swann from the other end and the next oversaw five precious runs being scored, which brought down the equation to 15.
The turning point
Anderson steamed in to bowl the next over. Haddin played the first four balls without milking a run. There was pressure on both the teams; this is the kind of intensity Ashes is known for. It was still anybody’s game as both the teams were evenly poised. Haddin tried to drive the fifth ball but managed a thin inside edge, which was cupped by Prior behind the stumps. Although it wasn’t a convincing appeal but Prior looked confident and the on-field umpire ruled it not out. England had two reviews in the bank and Cook decided to use one.
The replays suggested Haddin had nicked this one and so did the hotspot. Umpire Marais Erasmus overturned Aleem Dar’s call and the last wicket was fallen for Australia. Anderson picked his tenth wicket of the match as England won the series opener by 14 runs and took a healthy lead in the five-match series.