Sophia Gardens, where the first Test of Ashes is to start on July 8, Wednesday, is the Home to English country side Glamorgan. The Wales stadium was never given the right to host Test match before the 2009 Ashes Test.
In March 2006, Glamorgan announced plans for further developments to build a 15,000 capacity stadium with modern facilities, including a new pavilion, media centre, grandstand and more covered seating. Behind these improvements, scheduled to be finished by 2008, has been Glamorgan’s campaign for the ground to be upgraded to category “A” status, enabling Sophia Gardens to stage Tests.
Glamorgan’s campaign was backed by the Welsh Assembly, was rubber stamped by the England Cricket Board, and they awarded the ground first Ashes Test in 2009.
Now for the second time, Sophia Gardens will host the inaugural 2015 Ashes Test. Before we go to an exciting series ahead, let’s go to recollect the memory of the first Ashes Test, which yielded one of the exciting matches in the history of Ashes.
England escaped the defeat at the hands of Australia in the first Ashes Test of 2009, at Sophia Gardens. The Test was a drawn affair, but it told the story of the entire series that was going to happen ahead. Australia was playing England with new blood in their bowling attack. But, England were no match for Australia in the first Test.
England captain Paul Collingwood winning the toss opted to bat first; with valuable contribution from Kevin Pietersen (69), captain Paul Collingwood (64) and Matt Prior’s (56) they put up a fighting total of 435 on board.
But, Australia gave strong reply to England’s first innings total, declared their innings score at mammoth 674 for 6. Four Australian batsmen – Simon Katich (122), Ricky Ponting (150), Brad Haddin (121) and Marcus North, who scored unbeaten 125 – scored centuries.
Australia held the control of the match with 239 runs. Only one day left, what one expect from this kind of situation, draw. But, Australian bowlers launched a full throttled attack on Engalnd; particularly Ben Hilfenhaus came hard on English batsmen, picked three wickets. He was complemented by express pace and bounce from Mitchell Johnson and Peter Siddle. Jhonson’s victim were Alastair Cook and Andrew Flintoff while Siddle undone the hard fought 74 run innings of captain Collingwood.
Offspiner Nathan Haurtiz justified Ricky Ponting decision by rattling the English batsmen. When Ponting was cherishing a strategy to bowl maximum over in lesser time then Haurtuz emerged as his ideal weapon. Australia were aiming for a victory to start their series campaign. Andrew Strauss, Matt Prior and Stuart Broad were Haurtiz victim when Australia all set choked the England innings.
11.3 overs were left when Peter Siddle dashed the England’s last hope, grabbing the most important wicket of Paul Collingwood, who was fighting to prevent the defeat with his monumental 245 ball 74 run innings. Before Siddle’s Collingwood exploit, Hilfenhaus broke the 62 run partnership between Collingwood and Swann by trapping Graeme Swann lbw.
England were still trailing by six runs when Monty Panesar, the last man, joined James Anderson. Defeat was imminent for England, either by innings and a few runs or by wickets, only one wicket was needed.
English dressing and their supporters were going through a nervous time.
But James Anderson (21 off 69) ball and Monty Panesar (7 off 37 ball) played their best batting innings of their life with only hour was left. Australia were nosing the smell of victory, but finally their hope did not materialise as Anderson and Panesar crawled their innings to 6.40 pm, the stipulated time for finishing day’s play, literally the end of first Test.
The unlikely heroes of the match Anderson and Panesar received standing ovation from the capacity 15,000 crowed.
However, the match indicated what was going to happen in the entire series, as England, riding on an unlikely draw, won the series 2-1.