News Corp’s The Daily Telegraph is today reporting that embattled Australian opener Cameron Bancroft has been dropped from the XI ahead of the third Ashes Test at Headingley tonight.
It’s the morning of the second Test of the 2005 Ashes at Edgbaston, a game that would later go down as one of the closest and most exhilarating in history.
Glenn McGrath had come off nine scalps in the opening test at Lord’s where Australia’s seemingly unstoppable team walloped England by 239 runs.
Arriving at the Edgbaston ground 40 minutes before official warm-up commences, McGrath is mucking around by passing a footy with Australia’s back-up wicketkeeper Brad Haddin. Haddin throws what McGrath would later describe as a horrendous pass and when the tall paceman spins to collect the rugby ball, he stomps on a cricket ball that one of the assistant coaches has set up.
McGrath rolls his ankle and goes down with the injury that would cause him to sit out of Australia’s only two losses in a series that would be one of the closest in history.
“I turned and felt this pain in my ankle and went down. I did not see the [cricket] ball, I still don’t remember seeing the ball, and I remember hitting the ground and lying there and I’m thinking ‘I’m in a bad way here’,” McGrath said.
On the morning of the first Test of the 2019 Ashes, at the very same ground as Glenn McGrath’s series-changing injury, the English team confirmed that Jimmy Anderson would be playing.
The Australian batsmen would have no doubt been shaken after Anderson successfully raced against the clock to overcome a calf injury he sustained while playing for Lancashire a month ago.
Seemingly, the man who has taken McGrath’s status as the world’s most prolific seam wicket taker had recovered completely and was ready to compete.
During his first spell he bowled well, threatening the nervy David Warner and Cameron Bancroft with his trademark precision line and length. This would be his only spell for the innings.
During the 24 balls that he bowled on the first session of Day 1, Anderson re-strained his calf, leaving him unable to compete. He was visibly restricted when batting alongside Chris Woakes, supporting his team with the bat despite struggling with injury.
Anderson wasn’t sighted during Australia’s second innings, and per reports, we might not see him bowl for the rest of August. Given that his last calf strain had him resting on the sidelines for a month, there is a strong chance that Anderson will miss the bulk of the Ashes series.
There are many parallels between McGrath’s freakishly unlucky ankle roll and Anderson’s unusual calf strain.
Both bowlers, at the time of their injuries, had taken the most ever Test wickets for a fast bowler.
Both bowlers had been the spearheads of their attacks for many years.
Both bowlers were feared by the opposition because of their impeccable record and ability to do scary things with the new ball.
Both bowlers were at an age where recovery might be slower and pushing through an injury might be harder.
Both bowlers lifted their teams with the knowledge that they would be out on the ground with them.
It remains to be seen whether Anderson’s absence will be the chink in the armour that that will allow the underdog side to take advantage. McGrath missing two critical Tests in a tight series was undoubtedly a major factor that let an underdog English team claim what would later become known as the greatest Ashes series of all time.
“It all changed when Glenn McGrath stepped on that ball in the warm-up and did his ankle. That had a huge impact,” Justin Langer told The Independent ten years after the famous series.
Glenn McGrath himself thought that Jimmy Anderson was the player that would swing the Ashes one way or another, talking to Reuters before the series began.
“On home soil with the Dukes ball, he’s the best in the world bowling in. He is a big player and if he has a big series for England, Australia will find it tough,” McGrath said.
“Jimmy is on his way to 600 Test wickets, which is absolutely incredible. He has got that experience and he knows his game and his craft so well.”
Only time will tell whether McGrath’s prediction of Anderson being a game-changer is simply toeing the company line for the fast-bowlers’ fraternity or genuine prescience.
Either way, the increasing likelihood of a long-term injury to the world’s leading pace wicket-taker will have English supporters, staff and players concerned, much like the Australians were on that fateful 2005 Edgbaston morning.