Ashes and verbal volleys

As cricket's oldest battle resumes, we take a look at a few instances when emotions boiled over on the cricket pitch.

Steve Smith the Australian captain and his English counterpart Joe Root. The first Test of the 2017/18 Ashes series starts at The Gabba on November 23 in Brisbane, Australia.   -  Getty Images

Last month, Australia vice-captain and opener David Warner fired the first opening salvo in the lead up to this year's Ashes when he said, "You've got to find that spark in yourself to really take it to the opposition. You have to delve and dig deep into yourself to get some sort of hatred about them."

In cricket, like any walk of life, words and actions leave a lasting impression and while teams may use bat and ball to settle scores on the field, the verbal volleys add flavour to the contest.

As cricket's oldest battle resumes, we take a look at a few instances when emotions boiled over on the cricket pitch.

It's August 2005

At Edgbaston, an Australian supporter is peeping through his glares even as an England fan rubs her hands in sheer excitement.

The tension is palpable, and the Ashes is on the line!

England needs one last scalp to end Australia's 16-year hold on the urn. This stuff is not for the faint-hearted.

On strike is Michael Kasprowicz. Fast bowler Brett Lee is standing his ground at the non-striker's end.

"It (Australia) has a very realistic chance of winning the game," says Mark Nicholas on air.

Steve Harmison has the ball. He has two men stationed in the slips — their only job — don't grass the nick.

Harmison drops it short. Kasprowicz gets into an awkward position. The ball ... well, the ball brushes the glove and flies towards the left of wicket-keeper Geraint Jones.

Hanging in the air are England's hopes and Australia's fate.  As the ball descends in its trajectory, it's gobbled up by a diving Jones.

The urn returns to England!

Kasprowicz is shellshocked.

Lee, at the other end, is on his haunches. Three runs short, only three. Andrew Flintoff, who has had a brilliant series with bat and ball, walks up to Lee to console him. The duo shakes hands.

And the shutterbugs, who're perhaps watching the moment unravel through their sepia tainted glasses, have captured it in a frame — one for the archives.

England wins the Ashes 2-1.

It's November 2013

At the Gabba, a strip of sunlight is receding — much like England's hopes — amid the shadows of the twilight. Australia is one wicket away from drawing first blood in the five-Test Ashes when a few words are exchanged between George Bailey at forward short-leg and England No. 10 Jimmy Anderson.

Anderson is unsettled. And Mitchell Johnson, who, five Tests later, would go on to carve an indelible impact on the series, hasn't even bowled a ball to him yet!

Meanwhile, England's pace spearhead morphed into a southpaw now, must feel like a morsel of sweet lying on the ground — waiting to be devoured by crawling ants — even as Bailey chirps away and home skipper Michael Clarke converges on him.

The prospect of preying on the lone survivor is tantalising, at best.

"Get ready for a broken f***ing arm,"  the stump microphone picks up Clarke telling Anderson.

As the battle for the urn gets underway, the hyena-like cackle of the fielders, the bellowing batters and the rapturous crowd lend a potpourri of emotions — to an encounter which appears to hinge only on the threaded seam of the red cherry and a willow which starts off as an inconsequential piece of wood.

Australia pulverises England en route to a 5-0 whitewash.

It's December 2013

A world record crowd of 91,092 at the MCG watches on as Mitchell Johnson — like a raging bull — tears in with the ball in his hand when Kevin Pietersen, at the non-striker's end, points at a plastic bag flying across the pitch!

But Johnson is unmoved by the distraction and makes it a point to swap words and angry stares with Pietersen who appears to be getting a good kick out of this duel — never one to shy away from a challenge.

Meanwhile, Jonny Bairstow — batting on 21 — may have to bear Johnson's brunt. A short-leg comes in. This could be the fastest delivery of the match.

A 144.9 kmph — reads the speedometer on the big screen — as Bairstow keeps out a back-of-a-length delivery.

Johnson walks back to his mark. Pietersen is still mumbling under his visor.

The series is alive. The series is breathing.

Both teams have gone through a sea of change since that remarkable series, but the spark of these vignettes continues to invigorate the memories of cricket fans.

Matches are won and lost on the 22-yards but are resigned to cold numbers soon. That said, the spontaneous feelings and the visceral reactions they spur is where the magic lurks, and come November 23, the hallowed urn, like a magic potion, will once again captivate an elated audience.