On this day: Flintoff-Lee handshake and an iconic Ashes Test

The world witnessed a special Test match unfold at Edgbaston exactly 13 years ago, with a huge crowd packing the stands and the players rising to the occasion.

Andrew Flintoff shook hands with Brett Lee, whose heroic effort with the bat nearly dragged Australia to victory.   -  AFP

The first Test between England and India at Edgbaston last week was strikingly similar to an Ashes Test 13 years ago, at the same venue. The India-England rivalry of today is perhaps at par with the Ashes... and the four days of cricket were genuinely riveting.

Throwback to August 2005 and Australia had been playing catch-up throughout the second Ashes Test after conceding a 99-run lead to England in the first innings. Thanks to the wizardry of Shane Warne, though, it kept itself in the Test match by bowling England out for 182 in its second innings and leaving itself with 282 to chase in the fourth innings of the Test.

Such was the equation that both teams had little room for error: the English had to bowl Australia out for a win (more than two days of the Test were left when Australia began its run chase) and for the visitor too, merely occupying the crease was out of the question.

Australia got off to a solid start through Justin Langer and Matthew Hayden, before Andrew Flintoff drew first blood (Langer). Flintoff with his ability to hit the deck and generate movement off the pitch, was undoubtedly the biggest threat for Australia.

Captain Ricky Ponting came and went for a duck and, much like the Australia of today, the middle order (of Michael Clarke, Damien Martyn and co.) lacked the firepower to complement the top order. The failure of Martyn and Katich to capitalise on their starts and a failure from Adam Gilchrist reduced Australia to seven for 137. Clarke was the only specialist batsman left and Australia's fate was seemingly sealed.

Australia's lower order had Warne and Brett Lee, bowlers who were not mugs with the bat, and who counter-attacked with nothing to lose. Clarke was the eighth wicket to fall with the score on 175. The stumps were drawn with Clarke's dismissal, leaving England in complete command with only two wickets to take and Australia needing 107 runs.

Warne and Lee mixed caution with aggression perfectly on the fourth morning and made England work hard for the wickets.

Warne, who had been the aggressor, fell for a 58-ball 42. It was Flintoff who snapped the partnership that had threatened England.

Brett Lee and Michael Kasprowicz display disappointment at the agonising margin of defeat (2 runs).   -  AFP

 

Michael Kasprowicz was the last man in and Australia needed 62 more runs to win. Australia rode its luck, but collected the boundaries that came via edges and through the ring of fielders stationed at close-in.

Australia got to within three runs of a win and then, with Kasprowicz on strike, Steve Harmison produced a well-directed short ball that was played at awkwardly. The wicketkeeper Geraint Jones took a diving catch down the legside. England pulled off a stunning two-run win to draw level in the series.

A crestfallen Brett Lee was on his haunches after the last wicket fell and Flintoff went up to shake his hands in a brilliant display of sportsmanship at the end of an epic Test match in cricket history.