This morning, every Englishman at MCC was nervous, after Australian batsmen Michael Clarke and Brad Haddin put on a huge day four partnership to take them within range of a famous victory.
Those nerves would prove ill-placed after Andrew Flintoff, in his last ever Lord’s test, had bowled for an hour and a half, taking five wickets en route to a famous and historic Ashes victory for England.
England had the match sewn up before lunch, winning the second npower Ashes 2009 test at Lord’s by 115 runs.
Flintoff’s decision to announce his retirement before Lord’s seems to have had every possible desired effect: each thing Flintoff achieved was known to be his “last at Lord’s”; he inspired England to a victory that appeared unlikely at Cardiff last week; and, he took five wickets for the first ever time at Lord’s, on the last possible occasion. Pure class.
Flintoff, with this performance, has assured himself legendary status which was being debated before this test. If England can go on to win the series, this final day and Flintoff’s performance in particular, will be marked as vital.
It wasn’t just about Flintoff, though, in this test. Andrew Strauss scored an impressive 161 in England’s first innings, during which bowler James Anderson scored a vital 29 in a record breaking last wicket stand with Onions of 49. Anderson went on to take four wickets in the Australian first innings, setting up the pressure which Onions and Flintoff helped to maintain with the ball.
Swann took four wickets in the second innings, too, accounting for the dangerous Clarke, Hussey and North before wrapping up the innings, and the test match, with an arm bowl which clean bowled Mitchell Johnson – who is looking more dangerous with willow in hand than leather.
That said, Australia will point at their opening batsmen, who failed to make a score in either innings – Hughes in particular making the Australian decision not to bring a backup opener look like an error of judgement – as well as mistakes in the field which were costly. The main contributing factor on the part of Australia, however, has to be their bowling which was, at times, abject. Mitchell Johnson looks particularly bereft of form, as his deliveries are reminiscent of Steve Harmison at Brisbane in the last Ashes series: woefully inconsistent.
But this match was won by England, not lost by Australia.
We were looking for a special moment today: Andrew Flintoff, coming off a short run-up, to bowl Siddle for his fifth wicket, and Australia’s ninth, was certainly that. The members and the whole packed house at MCC stood to applaud their hero. Hairs stood up on the backs of necks. We’d had a special moment. A special moment that’ll stay forever engraved in the Lord’s pavillion – a more fitting end to a riveting test match there could not have been.
Flintoff was named Man of the Match for his five wicket haul. Few could argue with that, though it is good to see that there were many players who could have taken the prize. A special mention must also go to Australian Michael Clarke who scored a magnificent 136 in incredible pressurised circumstances after his team mates had shown far less composure.
Andrew Strauss could have claimed the award for his batting contribution, though his decision not to enforce the follow on looked like a worrying one this morning, but has proved the right one, as the England captain said after the match finished “when you win, probably the right decision!”
Australia had not been beaten by England at Lord’s since 1934, until today.
It’s definitely series on now, after many England fans were predicting a 4-nil drubbing after the miraculous draw at Cardiff.
Tickets for the next test at Edgebaston are selling out fast.