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Alternative Universe

England don't win the 2005 Ashes

The Test of all ages goes Australia's way and life becomes insufferable

Andrew Miller
Andrew Miller
"Congratulations Binga. Now, can I get a hug?"  •  Getty Images

"Congratulations Binga. Now, can I get a hug?"  •  Getty Images

In our Alternative Universe series, where our writers let their imagination change the game: the 2005 Edgbaston Test gets a different ending
The moment
"Jones! Bowden! Kasprowicz the man to go!"
Scenes so scenic, we thought we'd never see them again. Except, of course, we saw not-dissimilar drama in each of the next three Tests of the unforgettable 2005 Ashes, not to mention last summer's spiritual heir to that precipice-dangler - Ben Stokes' series-on-the-line awesomeness at Headingley, when England once again clawed their way level from the point of no return.
But my god, do you recall the sweaty palms, the existential angst, the mounting dread as Australia's tenth-wicket pair ground their way towards what promised to be the most shattering Ashes defeat of them all? Getting trounced by Australia when only the players' mums had any belief in England's ability to compete on even terms was one thing, but to lose in 2005 - having assembled the best and brightest team in a generation - would have been a cruelty beyond compare. Happily, we've never had to contemplate the alternative universe. Until now.
The twist
What if the DRS had been mandatory in that summer of summers? The technology was in its infancy back then, but only as a broadcaster's tool. Had it been available, however, England's agony would have been beyond compare.
With three runs left to defend, Steve Harmison forces the doughty Michael Kasprowicz to glove a lifter down the leg side, where Geraint Jones stoops to scoop the most iconic catch of his career. But at the moment of impact, Kasprowicz's hand has already come off the bat handle, a point that Channel 4's coverage makes abundantly clear.
With nothing left to lose, Australia call for their final review, and the sight of daylight between glove and bat is all that's needed to suck the air out of a crestfallen stadium. Harmison, so jubilant only moments earlier, flings a wild, despairing leg-side wide way out of Jones' reach, and Australia romp to an extraordinary one-wicket win.
What happened next
It simply doesn't bear thinking about.
Within hours of Australia securing a 2-0 series lead, the FA Community Shield kicks off at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium to herald the start of the new English football season. Chelsea's 2-1 victory over Arsenal is duly plastered across every back page in the land, with the cricket relegated to an embarrassed afterthought.
And with that, the death of English cricket is finally confirmed. Michael Vaughan's team, unbeaten for 18 months, slumps to a 5-0 whitewash as Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne depart arm in arm at The Oval, with 1141 Test wickets between them and no more worlds to conquer.
And that same Oval Test brings down the curtain on the free-to-air era, with Sky Sports stepping up as English cricket's exclusive broadcasting partner.
"Let's not go through all this again because it really is too awful," writes Matthew Engel in the following year's Wisden Cricketers' Almanack. "Live cricket has now disappeared from the screens of more than half the homes in the country... the damage will be incalculable
For more such flights of fancy, click here.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. He tweets at @miller_cricket