Cricket Expert & Columnist
The Ashes: Andrew Strauss 'lifting urn in 2009 is unforgettable'
Andrew Strauss recalls how his England side gained the upper hand in the hard-fought 2009 Ashes.
Last Updated: 10/07/13 3:06pm
Four years on from averaging 52 against the Aussies, Andrew Strauss prepared himself for his first Ashes series as England captain and his third Test series as skipper.
It was to be the start of a sustained period of success for English cricket but as Strauss - who will be part of the Sky Sports commentary team for the upcoming back-to-back Ashes series - quickly found out, it was also to be a true test of his mettle...
Just how jumpy were you as the side battled to save the first Test at Cardiff on the final day?
Straussy: I can't think of a time when I've been more nervous! For the majority of the day I thought it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that we would lose despite the best efforts of Paul Collingwood. We were five down quite early on in the day and although Andrew Flintoff and Stuart Broad dug in we still found ourselves seven down at tea; it felt like our valiant efforts would all be in vain. When Graeme Swann and Colly fell in the space of a few overs, it was down to Monty Panesar and Jimmy Anderson and, to be honest, I didn't expect them to hang on because there was still about an hour or so to bat. It was probably only in the last 20 minutes or so of the match that I thought 'they might do this' and then the nerves came - and they came like nothing else because no matter how close they got to seeing it out, I knew they were never safe until they'd seen off that last ball. The raw emotion that came out when they did safely negotiate it was definitely one of the better moments of my career!
Having defied defeat you went to Lord's and scored 161no on the first day. How important was that knock in the context of the series?
Straussy: We went into that Test with a bit of momentum after not losing in Cardiff and it was important to build on it. In truth, Australia played most of the cricket in the first Test and we came out of it feeling like we had got out of jail. I knew we had to use that as a springboard and thankfully I won an important toss before Alastair Cook and I got the innings off to a bit of a flying start. It was one of those rare times as an international batsman that I felt completely in control all day long. I was playing on my home ground in my first Ashes series as captain so I was especially motivated to lead the way for the rest of the guys and walking off at the end of the day 161no was really special. It was certainly up there with the best innings that I've ever played.
After setting Australia 522 to win you ran into a road-block in the shape of Michael Clarke and Brad Haddin before Andrew Flintoff (5-92) blew Australian hopes apart. What are your memories of that spell?
Straussy: Just before the start of that game Andrew had announced that he was going to retire at the end of that series. It was a bit of a fairytale script that he'd then come on and take five wickets to destroy Aussie hopes of an unlikely victory at Lord's. He bowled incredibly well given that he'd been struggling with his body to a certain extent but he went through the pain barrier. It was impossible for me to get the ball out of his hand. He knew what he wanted to do and knew that he was good enough to achieve it and he went out and delivered.
So you went to Edgbaston 1-0 up. Clarke again proved he's a class act with 103no. How integral was he to Australia's hopes in that series - and, as skipper, in the ones to come?
Straussy: He's a high, high quality player. Ever since Ricky Ponting retired and Mike Hussey went the same way, he has stood out like a beacon as their one really world-class player. We'd seen enough of him over the years to know just what a good player he is but also just how capable he is of taking the game away from you, especially when the spinners are bowling. While other people get tied up against them, he breaks loose and is able to displace any stranglehold you might have on Australia. Michael is a fantastic player and he's an experienced campaigner now who has played a lot of cricket and Australia will be desperate for him to have another good series.
It was frustrating to lose so much time to bad weather at Edgbaston because we wanted to build on our win at Lord's. We played well with the bat and the Aussies looked in a bit of trouble again but Clarke and Marcus North played well. Sadly the weather never allowed either side to have a realistic chance of winning the game. We didn't lose too much momentum from the Lord's win and left Edgbaston feeling that we were still the better side, knowing that a win at Headingley would secure us the series.
Was that mind-set partly responsible for the innings-and-80-run defeat?
Straussy: Absolutely. I think we took our eyes off what we had to do and we started thinking about the glory and what might happen if we played well that week. That's a very dangerous place for a team to go; once you start daring to dream you can come unstuck very quickly. You've got to stay horribly focused on what you've got to do. It doesn't sound very inspiring but if you do think too much about the future then, almost inevitably, you get distracted by it. We learnt a very painful and hard lesson at Headingley. Matt Prior went down just before the toss and nothing went right for us over the course of those three days. We knew we had to regroup fairly quickly before the last Test match.
On the plus side, Broad picked up 6-91 at Headingley - and then bagged another five-for at the Oval to dismantle Australia's first innings and earn England a 172-run lead.
Straussy: You're right to focus on Broady in the sense that he'd been struggling up to that point and then he found some rhythm at Headingley, which he took into the Oval Test. From the moment that I won the toss at the Oval - and it was a huge toss to win on quite a dry wicket - I think we all felt that maybe the stars were aligned in our favour and that if we could just earn the right to be on top of the Aussies then we'd have a great chance of winning the game.
There were some really good performances with the bat - from Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott on debut in particular - and then Broad's spell blew the game apart. From the moment that we bowled the Aussies out in their first innings for 160 it looked almost impossible that they could even think about winning the game because the wicket was likely to deteriorate further and we were already so far ahead.
Australia had scored 348 of the 546 runs you set them to win when Swann took the final wicket, that of Michael Hussey (121). As captain, how did it feel to lift the Ashes on home soil?
Straussy: You feel like you are taking your place in the pantheon of history. You stand up there on the stage and reach for the urn and you know that this is one of those moments in your life that you will never forget. More importantly from a captain's point of view it's about being there amongst the rest of your team who have been through this massive shared experience with you. That's such a special thing and it never leaves you. I can walk up to James Anderson in 20 years' time and give him a wink and we'd know that we've been through something special together. Those are the things that you play the sport for.
Coming up on skysports.com - Andrew Strauss talks us through the defining moments of the 2010/11 Ashes, gives us his verdict on Alastair Cook's captaincy and tells us where he thinks the Ashes will be won and lost.
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