187 DELIVERIES, 15 FOURS, 7 SIXES
ENGLAND V AUSTRALIA, 5TH TEST, THE OVAL, 2005
England 373 (Strauss 129; Warne 6-122) & 335 (Pietersen 158; Warne 6-124) drew with Australia 367 (Hayden 138, Langer 105; Flintoff 5-78, Hoggard 4-97) & 4-0
OPPOSITON ATTACK: Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee, Shane Warne, Shaun Tait
What if Shane Warne hadn’t dropped Kevin Pietersen when he had made only 15 in his final innings of this unforgettable series? No shackles-breaking Ashes win for England, no MBEs, no career ever after for Michael Vaughan. History would have looked very different. But he did and Pietersen, in his debut Test series, made Warne and his Australian teammates pay heavily for the lapse at first slip.
England, needing a draw to win an Ashes series for the first time since 1986/87, began their second innings six runs adrift. They lunched on day five at 127-5, the game very much in the balance. At the interval, Pietersen, who had made three fifties in his first three innings of the series, asked Vaughan for instruction. Play your natural game was the gambler’s response from the skipper. So he did. He hooked his eighth ball after lunch from Brett Lee into the crowd and carried on in much the same vein until he had cleared the ropes seven times in making 158, his maiden Test hundred, and an innings that created a legacy for a whole generation of England players.
‘ENGLAND NEED ONE HERO TODAY’
I remember waking up on the final day and at breakfast reading ‘England need one hero today’ in the paper. I just thought to myself, ‘Jeez, how amazing would that be if that was me’. Nothing in my innings was premeditated – it was all instinct. People say you’ve got to practise that and do this… I can tell you something right now, that’s a load of nonsense. When someone’s bowling 95mph, it’s all instinct. And it could all have gone wrong. I was just lucky enough to take Brett Lee on and a couple of top edges went into the stand. I’ve had a couple of instances in my career when the pull shot has gone wrong, I’ve been caught at square-leg or fine-leg and been hammered. It went in my favour that day, and I’m not going to stand here and say it was premeditated. Nonsense. Instinct won it for me that day.
Kevin Pietersen, AOC 131