Australia in England / Features

The Ashes 2005

McGrath farms 500th wicket

How McGrath brought up his 500th Test wicket

Peter English

July 21, 2005

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Glenn McGrath: acknowledges Test wicket 500 © Getty Images
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As the owner of a 34,000-acre property in outback New South Wales, Glenn McGrath knows a lot about big numbers. However, in his paddock full of predictions dealing with how he would add Test wicket 500, he didn't get close to nominating the scenario, or the situation that followed.

Lord's was bulging and the sun was shining, but by tea on a sensational first day McGrath had already batted. After deciding he didn't care whether Andrew Strauss or Marcus Trescothick helped him bring up the milestone, he settled on Trescothick first ball after the break to join Warne, Muralitharan and Walsh in a club reserved for modern-day masters.

Raising the ball to an appreciative crowd, he quickly repeated the gesture ten overs later to a much more subdued reaction following his fifth wicket of an astonishing spell. In 30 balls he peppered the slip cordon and the stumps in collecting a breath-taking, momentum-changing 5 for 2. McGrath had waited since March to step off 499 and by the end of the day was enjoying the view from 504 with his 27th five-wicket haul.

While Australia's batsmen were dropped by severe pace, McGrath refused the temptation to return high-speed arrows, sticking to the method that has him on the verge of becoming the game's most prolific fast bowler. To the left-handers Strauss and Trescothick he pushed the ball away and allowed the slips to join in. When the ball stayed low he focused on a full-length and let the seam and slope angle it into the stumps of Vaughan, Bell and Flintoff.

From the desperation of 190 all out, McGrath had England 21 for 5. In a marathon spell of 13 overs he picked up the same figures and again showed his love of the game's home as he dragged Australia from the cliff edge. In 1997 Australia entered the second Test 1-0 down and left it with their health restored despite a rain-affected draw. McGrath had captured 8 for 38 and England were routed for 77. Four years later he backed up with 5 for 54 and 3 for 60 as Australia earned a 2-0 lead.

Today's under-pressure performance was easily the pick from a man who has never lost a series against the Old Enemy regained control for the outfit he has led since 1995, when he assumed the strike-bowler's tag in the Caribbean. Courtney Walsh, who watched McGrath bring down the West Indies' empire during that series, was on hand to see his closest rival crack the 500. Walsh's 519 is the next big number on McGrath's mind.

Peter English is the Australasian editor of Cricinfo

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