Vaughan: 'I really didn't think it was going to get that close'
Not surprisingly, after the nerve-jangling end to an utterly astonishing Test match, Michael Vaughan still looked a bit pale when he faced the press afterwards. "It was a fitting end to a great game of cricket," he said. "But I really didn't think it was going to get that close ..."
Two runs were all that separated the two teams at the end, the closest margin in Ashes history. But Vaughan said he was always confident, at least once the first stumbling-block was removed: "I always felt once we got Shane Warne out we were only one ball away from victory. It was obviously tight, and the pressure was there. The fielding team was under pressure, but as the target gets closer the batsmen are under more pressure too."
The result leaves the series - which, incredibly, has so far matched the unprecedented hype which preceded it - all square at one-all, going into next Thursday's third Test at Old Trafford. Vaughan admitted that England just had to win today: "If we'd have lost the game and gone 2-0 down I don't think we'd have come back from there - not against a team like this. We've had two great matches now, and the next three will be no different. There are some outstanding individuals on show, and you're going to see good cricket."
Vaughan paid tribute to Andrew Flintoff, the Man of the Match. "He's had some great performances before, but to do it against Australia, that certainly is an outstanding achievement. I thought the last-wicket stand between Fred and Simon Jones was the real momentum swing in the game, and then his first spell last night was a turning point too."
England will now take a couple of days off. Vaughan explained: "You've got to unwind. We'll relive the moment today, but Monday and Tuesday are important days to relax before we meet up for practice on Wednesday. You can't think cricket all the time, or you're going to get dazed." Especially in this series, he might have added.
Flintoff himself wasn't exactly dazed, but he had to admit that things had been a bit close for comfort out in the middle. "There were a lot of nerves, we were getting a bit anxious, and I started to think about that ICC [Champions Trophy] final against West Indies last year. But we knew it only takes one ball - we were just hoping it was going to come quicker than it did though."
He bowled a lot this morning, but reckoned he still had something in the tank. "I had a few overs left - but the runs were ticking down, weren't they! Adrenalin was getting me there." And the shoulder injury he picked up yesterday didn't seem to be a factor: "I was worried yesterday when I was batting, but I pulled up fine. It was a bit stiff this morning, but I'll see how I feel tomorrow - I might have to give the physio a call. But if there were any real problems I don't think I'd have been able to bowl 22 overs."
Ricky Ponting, Australia's captain, said it was probably the best match he had ever been involved with. "It was the most nerve-wracking end to a Test that I've seen. Actually it's up there with any game of cricket I've ever played in - Tests, tight World Cup semi-finals, everything."
And while Ponting was generous in defeat, he said his side would take as much out of the match as England would. "I don't feel shattered at the moment. I'm actually very proud of the way we played. I thought it was outstanding - we were very close to pulling off what would have been an unbelievable victory."
Asked whether he preferred tight, testing matches like this, or flattening the opposition the way the Aussies so often do, Ponting laughed. "I'd rather be flattening 'em - at least I'd have some fingernails left!"
Finally Ponting admitted that bowling first after winning the toss might have been a mistake. "Yeah, I will admit that the wicket did less than I expected on the first day, I guess I was wrong there. I expected a little bit of moisture under the pitch, and the overhead conditions came into it too - if it had been a bright sunny morning it might have been different."
Steven Lynch is deputy editor of the Wisden Group