As a seven-year-old, my family moved across the ditch to Melbourne for work. I was gutted to begin with – it was too hot, there was too many flies and I had to watch a new game with an oval ball that was nothing like my beloved rugby.
Then it happened: I went to my first Boxing Day Test, roaring along with 73,000 other fans.
I was in love.
Cricket took up my fancy from then on out and watching the Australian Test team was one of my favourite past-times, not that I would ever admit that to my friends and family back in New Zealand.
I moved back to New Zealand in 2004, unfortunately missing the opportunity to support and watch live what I believe to be the greatest era for an international Test cricket team – the 2005-2008 Australian squad.
Most regular starting XI
1. Matthew Hayden
2. Justin Langer
3. Ricky Ponting
4. Damien Martyn
5. Michael Hussey
6. Michael Clarke
7. Adam Gilchrist
8. Shane Warne
9. Brett Lee
10. Stuart Clark
11. Glenn McGrath
Let’s go through a few categories to determine what made them so great.
Just an unbelievable batting lineup from top to bottom.
Starting as openers, two of the greatest to ever do it, Justin Langer and Matthew Hayden. The two lefties formed a formidable pair at the top of the order.
The big man, Hayden, finished his career with an average of 50.85. This is the ninth-best batting average of an opener ever, and the best post-1980s. He was a devastating player, capable of finesse and power all in the same over.
On the other hand, little Langer was the perfect accompaniment, comfortable playing the second fiddle role. He could also take over the top of the innings where required.
With 23 hundreds, a top score of 250 and an average of 45.27, Langer proved that he was one of the great openers of all time as well.
Moving down the order, what more could you want than Ricky Ponting coming in at number three? Finishing his career with an average of 51.85 and a staggering 41 hundreds to his name, it was simply unfair for teams who cracked through the openers early to have Ponting walk to the middle.
A young Michael Clarke was beginning to hit his straps as this team was taking off. Only averaging a measly 28 in 2005, he dominated 2006 and 2007, averaging 71.50 and 80.00 in those years respectively.
Adding to the list, Michael Hussey and Adam Gilchrist rounding out the batting order made this if not the best, one of the greatest batting lineups to ever play together.
When you can throw out two of the greatest wicket takers to ever play the game in Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath, you know that your team is going to be spectacular as a bowling lineup. Adding in a young, rampaging Brett Lee who came in as the scariest bowler in world cricket, this lineup was a bowling attack to be feared.
Even though McGrath was approaching the twilight zone of his career during this period, he could still put the ball exactly where he wanted. His wicket-taking slowed down after a rapid 2005 in which he took 62 wickets, but his average stayed consistent around his career average of 21.64.
Stuart Clark finished his career with a sparkling average of 23.86, putting him ahead of some of the greats of the game: D.K. Lillee and Courtney Walsh, to name a couple.
I remember watching Brett Lee’s first test match and getting so excited to see a bowler bowl that fast. He was a marvel. When Lee came on and he ran in with a head of steam it was popcorn-inducing television.
While he probably underwhelmed for what he could have been, he was so feared around the world that it was completely unfair to have McGrath and Clark start off the innings and then bring Lee and Warne on next.
There isn’t anything I can add to the Shane Warne biography that hasn’t already been said. However, he did have the most prolific bowling season of all time in 2005, taking 96 Test wickets.
He was a constant menace and wicket-taking god. What a terrible time it must have been for any batting lineup, if you escaped the murderers’ row of fast bowlers, S.K. Warne was waiting for you.
This Australian Test cricket team went on an unbelievable run of 21 games without a loss, 20 of these being wins. They started with beating the ICC World XI in October 2005 by 210 runs, and finished in January 2008 with a victory over India by 122 runs.
The highlights of the run were a dominant 5-0 victory in the Ashes series over England at home, a 3-0 slugfest against South Africa in South Africa and another 3-0 series win over the West Indies.
The only blemish on the record was a drawn match with South Africa, however, the Aussies were only five wickets away from winning this one as well.
They were simply outstanding across all of these games, winning three matches by an innings and another five by over 200 runs. The names they had in their squad were the stuff of legend – a handful of them should make anyone’s all-time Test team list.
Their depth was unquestionable, their skill level immense and simply put, they had the ‘it’ factor, being the team that everyone in world cricket loved to hate.
Overall, there have been some fantastic cricket teams over the years but this would be my pick for the most dominant ever. It was a shame for me that I never got to outwardly celebrate their greatness as I was back in New Zealand, so had to covertly watch with awe.
I’ll never forget watching this team, seeing my heroes Warne, Gilchrist and Hayden walking out to rapturous applause, knowing that we were all going to see something spectacular.
They were unbeatable for so long and are the greatest Test team to ever play the game.