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Edgbaston, as everyone in the cricket-playing world now knows, is England's lucky ground
August 4, 2005
Edgbaston, as everyone in the cricket-playing world knows, is England's lucky ground, a reputation largely based on their one glimmer of glory in two decades of Ashes misery - in 1997, when Australia were squashed by nine wickets after slipping to 54 for 8 on the first morning of the series.
Four years on from that match, however, in 2001, Australia gained their vengeance in no uncertain terms, rampaging to victory by an innings and 118 runs, to set up a 4-1 series win. And, until Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen turned England's fortunes around with today's century stand, the 2005 Test seemed to be following an ominously familiar pattern.
Admittedly, Marcus Trescothick did rather better on this occasion than the first-ball duck that he managed against Jason Gillespie back then, but his failure in 2001 was amply glossed over by Michael Atherton and Mark Butcher, who responded with a partnership of 104 in 23 overs for the second wicket. In fact, they batted with the same ease and poise that England's openers, 112 in 25.3 overs, managed today. But, on the stroke of lunch, both then and now, Shane Warne struck.
Admittedly, Warne's impact was more seismic then than now - he needed just two balls to remove Butcher, brilliantly caught by Ricky Ponting at silly point (although that was twice as many deliveries than he had needed on his first Ashes tour in 1993). But the impact was similar on both occasions, as England continued to lose wickets in the second session (136 for 4 then, 187 for 4 now).
The big difference, however, was the absence of Warne's partner-in-crime. Glenn McGrath would doubtless have scented blood today, as he did with his three middle-order breakthroughs back in 2001. But this time he was holed up in the dressing-room with an ice-pack on his ankle, and England managed to wriggle off the hook. For the moment, at least.
A look back at five high-profile exhibition matches