England v Australia, 2nd npower Test, Lord's, 5th day July 20, 2009

England recapture their castle

England have waited 75 years to end a hoodoo that outlasts even the search for a homegrown Wimbledon champion, and they have taken the lead in an Ashes series for the first time since 1997. History and momentum suddenly feel aligned

The cinema at the back of the MCC Museum was a cramped and sweaty venue for Ricky Ponting to reflect on the end of an era. As he took his place in front of the lights of an array of TV cameras, the Ashes urn itself could not have been more than 10 metres from where he sat. It has been a constant source of Australian irritation that the prize they value above all others in international cricket has seldom ventured beyond its glass case at the home of cricket, but for three-quarters of a century, that home itself has been a citadel where the Baggy Green reigns supreme.

Today, however, England recaptured their castle, with Andrew Flintoff battering a hole through the defences, and while the urn remains an Australian keepsake for now, their challenge of regrouping in the final three Tests feels that little bit harder with the banker fixture bulldozed out of the equation. England have waited 75 years to end a hoodoo that outlasts even the search for a homegrown Wimbledon champion, and they have taken a 1-0 lead in an Ashes series for the first time since 1997. History and momentum suddenly feel aligned.

"We knew about all those records and facts coming into the game," said Ponting. "It wasn't a motivating factor for the team to want to play well, but we had a very proud record here until now, and losing on the biggest stage that you play Test cricket on makes that a little bit more disappointing. As a group we've just been a bit off the mark right the way through the game. We've tried our hardest and things didn't fall into place for as us we would've liked."

With his grizzled features and battered Baggy Green, Ponting's gameface has a lived-in look to it, as well it might after 14 years as an elite Australian cricketer. He was present in the dressing-room back in 1997, when England were skittled for 77 in a rain-wrecked game, and he followed up that sighter with victories in 2001 and 2005. All the while that Australia have been the undisputed champions of Test cricket, success at Lord's has been taken as read. No single setback at any ground in the world could do more to underline the fact that a new and uncertain era is upon them.

Australia have played 19 Tests at Lord's since Hedley Verity spun them to defeat in 1934, and they have emerged victorious on nine separate and memorable occasions. In times of strife Lord's has been a touchstone, in times of dominance it's been Australia's jewel in the crown. In 1948, in the second Test of the Invincibles tour, for instance, their margin of victory was an agenda-setting 409 runs; in 1985, when Allan Border led arguably their weakest Ashes team in history, they still found the resolve to square the series at HQ, with Border himself making 196 in a tense four-wicket win.

No single setback at any ground in the world could do more to underline the fact that a new and uncertain era is upon them

Thirteen years before that, it was Bob Massie's turn to feel the Lord's effect, as he found inspiration beyond belief to claim 16 wickets on his Test debut - one more than he managed in the whole of the rest of his career. In 1989, it was Steve Waugh - Australia's Mr History himself - who cemented their series lead with the second and proudest century of his formative tour. At every turn, the grandest stage in the game has provided inspiration to Australia, and that was even the case in an heroic but doomed fourth innings today, when Michael Clarke rose above the disappointment of his 91 here four years ago, to lead the assault on an ultimately unattainable world record.

But sadly for Australia, the one moment when that inspiration went astray was the moment they needed it most. On the first morning of this contest, with eight Lord's debutants in their ranks, Ponting's men shrunk from history where their forebears would have risen to grasp it. In 29 overs of a stunningly one-sided session, England's openers hurtled to 126 for 0. As hard as Australia tried to regroup thereafter, the damage to their prospects had been done - as the final margin of victory clearly demonstrated.

Instead it was England who set about seizing some history for themselves. Flintoff does not profess to being a stats man, which is just as well in a career that is destined to be under-rewarded. But he nevertheless rose above himself, about his injury concerns, and most importantly of all, above his favourite foes, to carve his second entry on the Lord's honours boards, six long and eventful years after battering a futile century in an innings defeat to South Africa.

In so doing he became only the sixth man to make his mark on both the batting and bowling lists, but it was history of a very different kind that drove him on today. "Everyone was on about 75 years and not having won at Lord's," he said, "but apart from a couple of Tests that had nothing to do with us. It was a massive team effort and it was nice to get five, and go up on that board. But to go one-up in an Ashes series was the big one."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Luke on July 22, 2009, 2:02 GMT

    Some very interesting comments here. You're right on Maximum6 - Aus are certainly not broken. The sides are very evenly matched - in skill and type. Allrounders, quicks who can move the ball, keeprs that can bat very well and batsmen that can hang around for a long time. The rest of the series will hopefully follow suit where consistency will win out in the end. I don't think conditions will benefit one team more than the other overall: just who gets the better of them at the right time perhaps which is different altogether. I hope Aus bats first at Edgbaston under bright sunny skies.

  • Michael on July 21, 2009, 12:33 GMT

    It is worth looking at how the Aussies fought in their second innings and considering that to be the real measure of the team. Beaten, but certainly not broken.If we can we have to double the punishment for them at Edgbaston which is so often our redemption ground;to be 2 up after Lords and Edgbaston would be very comforting. Certainly it is not a time for England to let up.

  • David on July 21, 2009, 11:40 GMT

    I suspect the weather may be the deciding factor in the Ashes. Where the conditions are favourable to the bowler then England are likely to prevail and where not then Australia's superior batting line-up should dominate. This Lords test where England batted first in benign conditions and then rolled over Australia when the weather turned to help their attack appears to have been the good fortune that England needed.

  • vinod on July 21, 2009, 11:39 GMT

    Excellent job done by the two Andrews. Freddie killed the giant (so called) aussies with his pace while Strauss led from the front with his 161 in the first innings. Not enforcing the follow-on just rubbed salt into the Punters wounds. Well not many of the cricketing world ever gave the English an outside chance when the ashes got underway. How heroically the tail wagged in the Cardiff test to pull off an improbable draw. Now the Australians already shattered by India and South Africa tasted another humilation. Indian media had always been critical against the English and Aussies. Now the English have stood up and have revived memories of Ashes 2005. I hope earnestly with the inclusion of Sidebottom English bowling would be even lethal. He should be chosen instead of Broad in test matches where Flintoff plays. Swann has proved he is no novice. Bopara may probably be a weak link. England overall looks like a formidable team at present and especially at home. Nair Ottappalam.

  • Anosh on July 21, 2009, 11:33 GMT

    Well, Aussies were out-played in the First Innings but did show some fighting spirits in the 2nd Innings ... We can drag about Umpiring decisions but it wont change the results of the Match ...

    To me Aussies need to fix the bowling ... They should replace Johnson with Lee (if fit) or Clark ... Cant rely too much on Maverick Johnson in the upcoming test.

  • Ross on July 21, 2009, 11:32 GMT

    The first two matches have shown what many felt beforehand - two well-matched sides, with the results depending on how the better players on either side perform. At Lords Strauss, then Anderson then Flintoff put in great performances, whereas only Clarke in the fourth innings did so for Australia and by then it was too late. The series is intriguingly poised though isn't it? Can England's batting perform if the openers go cheaply? Can their bowlers take wickets (or even contain) in unfavourable conditions? Whither Bopara at 3? Will Fred and KP last the five games? On the other side, will Hughes overcome the short stuff? Will Johnson find form? Will their batting perform as at Cardiff, or as at the first innings here? Can Ponting conjure 20 wickets with good, rather than great, bowlers? Test cricket at it's fascinating best, with the series outcome still anybody's guess. Roll on Edgbaston!

  • Richard on July 21, 2009, 11:30 GMT

    Well played England. Superior bowling won the day. The Rub of the Green helped with a few decisions but Australia have enjoyed the Rub of the Green in the past. It would have been tragic for English cricket if England did not win this Test because this Australian is rebuilding and will be doing so for some time I fear. As an Aussie cricket fan, it was disappointing but reality has finally hit our team. At the moment we don't look capable of bowling England out twice.Johnson has yet to handle English conditions, Siddle is aggressive but he is no McGrath, while Hilfenhaus has been our most effective and most improved and has bowled beautifully. This side did well to lose by only 115 runs. It was an absorbing Test match. Test cricket is alive and well.

  • Dan on July 21, 2009, 10:45 GMT

    You can only assume that Australians belive the Spirit of Cricket is a distillation of sour grapes. I met some really good Aussie guys at Lords yesterday who took their defeat squarely on the chin. What a shame it's always the whiners that shout loudest.

  • Favaz on July 21, 2009, 10:17 GMT

    Well done Freddy & Co. 5 th day was exiting! I was hoping an English win & they did! Aussies r no more de world leaders! nd in battle of 2 equals Stausse nd his men r on a lead! I believe they will carry it throughout the series will regain the Ashes! Swan has improved a lot as bowler nd Cook's counter attack brought Johnson on his back foot! KP should be rested if he is injured becoz in last match he was struggling! English fast bowlers did trouble aussies in this test the one which they couldn't in 1st test! All in all English looks more positive and if they can carry this on and Punter one my fav. Player & a great fighter! Could regroup his men we r in for treat in rest of the matches!

  • Sandeep on July 21, 2009, 9:35 GMT

    In reply to popcorn (July 21 2009, 06:33 AM GMT), does the term bitter mean anything to you. First things first, I admit there were umpiring errors in the second innings which favoured England, but Hughes in the first - I'm pretty convinced he gloved it and therefore out - not an umpiring error. As for Ponting, he was out. The umpire got it wrong by thinking he was out caught, but he was plumb LBW and as an avid cricket fan you should know that when a fielding team appeals, they appeal for every possible way of a batsmen being out. If Ponting had referred it, the verdict would have been, not out caught, but out LBW.

    And as for the "sprit of the game" comment, does the phrase "pot calling kettle black" mean anything to you. Ponting admitted the Aussies were outplayed, but you're not so magnanimous.

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