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Old Trafford 2005 was epic: Michael Vaughan

Sunday, 28 July 2013 - 4:00pm IST | Agency: Daily Telegraph
After seeing Australia's joy at drawing the best Test I've played in, I knew we would win the Ashes writes Michael Vaughan in a column for The Sunday Telegraph.
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When I look back at the Old Trafford Test of 2005, I realise it is when cricket captured the nation that summer and is the best match we played in my time as England captain. After Edgbaston, the build-up was bigger than anything we had experienced before.

Andrew Flintoff had become a superhero and every question seemed to be about him. It freed the others to concentrate on playing. The challenge was making sure that Freddie continued to play in the same fashion as he did at Edgbaston.

But it felt as though Freddie knew this was his time. It was his home ground and he was going to give it to Australia again. It gave us a massive confidence boost to know he was in that frame of mind.

It relaxed the dressing room. I was out of form. I had made 3, 4, 21 and 1 in the first four innings of the series. After the euphoria of Edgbaston died down, I realised I needed runs.

At 1-1 you are desperate to help the team with an individual performance. I was very nervous at the toss but our mascot was a five-year-old lad called Connor Shaw, who had undergone three heart operations.

He said to me: "Are you enjoying it?" At that point it hit home. That little lad had given some perspective to a game of cricket. It is amazing how something can free you up to play. Connor did that. I relaxed, trusted my ability and thought this could be the day.

Old Trafford suited my game because you could time the ball, and touch it around the park. I walked out to bat past Andrew Strauss, who came off with blood pouring from his ear. It is never easy to face the next ball when that happens.

But we really attacked. We went for it with our scoring rate - something that happened throughout the series. I was dropped by Adam Gilchrist on 41 and bowled off a no-ball next delivery by Glenn McGrath.

You know as an individual that you have to make the most of those strokes of luck to press the team forward. That was my moment in the Ashes to stamp my authority on the series to put us in a strong position. I really attacked.

I was on a pitch I knew suited my game and I was at my best when I could take the game to the opposition. I targeted bowlers. I wanted to take Jason Gillespie out of the attack and I hit him for 71 runs off 61 balls.

The roar of the crowd was like a noise you hear at a football ground. Freddie was the talisman. Chants would ring around the ground when I threw him the ball and I used it as a motivational tool.

He was our own Barmy Army in the middle. I knew I could lift the crowd and, in turn, the team, by just throwing Freddie the ball. It was an important weapon to have up my sleeve. Freddie loved it.

He was in form and Edgbaston had triggered the belief in his mind that he could do it against the best. He had performed against South Africa and West Indies, but until you have done it against the best you never quite believe it yourself. Once that happened there was no stopping him.

He knew that he had the measure of Matthew Hayden, Justin Langer and Gilchrist. They all felt they were in a huge battle when he had the ball in his hands. He thrived on the respect they gave him.

The reason I believe that was our best game during my captaincy is because we dominated every single session of the match, apart from a short period on the Saturday morning when it rained, and Shane Warne smashed us around for a while.

But over the course of five days, to dominate every session bar one hour and 10 minutes is very unusual. As the game went on I felt we all grew as a unit and a team. We could also sense their desperation.

They rushed McGrath back when he was clearly not fit and that sent a message to us that we had Australia. We also had Simon Jones in the attack. Old Trafford was the first time the ball really reversed in the series and Jones arrived on the scene.

I always think he could have been one of the greats. He had everything from the way he held his position in terms of release of the ball at 90mph and the simplicity of what he did off a short run-up, which culminated in an explosion of energy at the crease.

On this summer's dry pitches he would have a huge say. I am always asked about the last day when 10,000 were locked out of the ground. I arrived at 9am and saw the fans queuing up. I looked out the dressing-room window and the ground was full for our warm-ups.

I had never seen that before. It was a very surreal atmosphere. We did everything we could on the last day. Ricky Ponting played an innings as good as any I have ever seen.

He made 156, the next highest score was 39. Ponting faced a reverse-swinging ball at 90mph but every single one hit the middle of the bat. It was an exhibition of how to face reverse swing: play it late, allow it to swing and then play shots but always with a straight bat.

I was at short-leg when he was out gloving a ball down the leg side. I thought it was over, 2-1 to England because even Ricky would not have trusted McGrath to last five overs in those conditions.

But we were too tense and nervous. In those situations you try too hard with yorkers and bouncers instead of realising you just have to hit the top of off- stump like you would in any other situation. We panicked. At the end we were down because we had missed a chance.

But I remember Brett Lee and McGrath hugging each other in the middle as if they won the World Cup. I looked behind me and saw them jumping up and down on the balcony.

I told the lads to look at them celebrating. I never thought I would see an Australia team celebrate a draw. I said: "If we play like this, and I know we will be better at Trent Bridge, then the Ashes will be ours, no question. We have got them mentally."

The hardest thing against that Australian side was believing you could beat them and make them think they could lose. That happened at Old Trafford. We were that dominant team in that game but not that era.

Eight years later and England are dominating this era of Ashes cricket. They have to grab the opportunity to win the Ashes this week at Old Traford to make the series it 3-0. That is not being arrogant or belittling Australia. It is the cycle of life. Australia will have their time again, but now this is England's time.


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