Men’s Ashes 2019: England v Australia, first Specsavers Ashes Test
Venue: Edgbaston Dates: 1-5 August Start time: 11:00 BST
Coverage: Ball-by-ball Test Match Special commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra and BBC Sport website, plus in-play highlights and text commentary

As Ashes rivalries prepare to be rekindled this week, England captain Joe Root will be hoping his side will not be forced to repeat the Cardiff great escape of 10 years ago.

Andrew Strauss’ side appeared doomed to defeat in the opening 2009 match in Wales before unlikely batting heroes James Anderson and Monty Panesar sealed a memorable draw.

The last-wicket pair famously survived 11.3 overs to avoid defeat in front of a captivated Cardiff crowd.

“We surprised everyone, didn’t we?” recalled Panesar.

Build-up

In July 2009, Cardiff hosted the first Test match in Wales and England were favourites to regain the Ashes.

But after the hosts were bowled out for 435, Australia dominated the rest of the contest, inspired by captain and man of the match Ricky Ponting.

He was one of four Australian batsmen to pass 100 in their commanding first innings total of 674 for six declared to leave the tourists needing to bowl out England on the final day.

That appeared likely when Peter Siddle dismissed Paul Collingwood for 74 after a brilliantly belligerent six-hour rearguard innings from the England batsman.

The hosts were teetering on 233 for nine and still needed six runs to make Australia bat again.

Monty Panesar's top Test score was 26

Defeat seemed inevitable as Panesar strode to the crease. The man himself felt as much.

“I did not believe when I walked out to bat,” said Panesar.

“We were down and out and thought we were going to lose the Test.

“I just thought I would play a couple of balls and then I would get out.

“Part of me was thinking should I get out early anyway so we could miss the M4 traffic!

“The serious bit started when you got to the crease and switched on your mindset.

“We said ‘let’s take it ball by ball’ and we will probably get out at some stage. Let’s give it our best and that’s what we did.”

Panesar’s trepidation was shared by his batting partner.

“I had to try to keep Monty as calm as possible because he had the widest eyes you had ever seen when he was walking to the crease,” said Anderson.

“He was just in a bit of a daze. I was trying to keep him calm and get through to the end of the match.

“Batting can be so lonely, so you have to use the guy at the other end to make sure he knows he is not on his own.”

Cardiff's Sophia Gardens has hosted three Test matches

Rearguard resistance

The pessimism was justified. Panesar finished his 50-Test career with a batting average of under five, while Anderson, nicknamed tongue-in-cheek, “the Burnley Lara”, was normally number 11 in the order unless Monty was playing.

The rearguard resistance began and there was a remarkable roar when a streaky Anderson boundary off Siddle gave England the lead.

England’s batting pair faced mainly slow bowling with off-spinners Nathan Hauritz and Marcus North charged with taking the final wicket on a turning pitch with eight overs between them.

Seamer Siddle only bowled 3.3 overs as he steamed in at 90mph with Mitchell Johnson and Ben Hilfenhaus not used.

“We had a simple game plan and kept to that,” recalled Panesar.

“Eventually we started to believe. I remember Marcus North coming onto bowl and I hit him for a cut shot that went for four.

“That is when I thought we were going to draw the Test.”

England’s tailenders were roared on by the Cardiff crowd as every defensive stroke was cheered vociferously.

The duo repeatedly played and missed as Australia’s appealing became more extravagant and desperate. On the balcony, England’s players were left helplessly biting their nails.

“The support was amazing,” said Panesar.

“I was calm inside but could see the crowd going wild. It was an electrifying atmosphere.

“I had never seen anything like that at a cricket ground, it felt like the whole nation was behind you.”

Ricky Ponting in discussions with England 12th man Bilal Shafayat

‘Anything that winds up the Aussies is a good thing’

Cardiff’s crowd were fuelled by Australia’s growing frustrations, especially those of captain Ponting.

England antagonised the tourists when 12th man Bilal Shafayat was sent on twice to give Panesar and Anderson towels.

Ponting grew increasingly irate and eventually told Shafayat to leave the field, accusing England of time-wasting.

Test Match Special commentator Jonathan Agnew told how the face of Australia’s captain was “getting harder and harder”.

“These are the little tactics in cricket we play,” said Panesar.

“If it had been the other way around, we would have been angry at the same thing, the time-delaying tactics.

“It wound him up. Anything that winds up the Aussies is a good thing.”

There was confusion at the conclusion about whether the game was finished before Ponting finally shook hands with Panesar and Anderson at just gone twenty to seven in the Sunday evening sunshine.

“When he shook our hands it was a surprise and it dawned on us what we had achieved,” said Panesar.

“The crowd went bonkers. We could not believe we had drawn the game.”

Anderson appeared delighted, but there were mixed emotions for the Lancashire seamer.

“I would say it was enjoyable, but it wasn’t at all,” said Anderson.

“I was nervous as hell but once we got through to the end, there was a bit of relief and elation.”

A dejected Ricky Ponting

Panesar believes England surviving to claim the draw inspired them to their 2-1 series victory.

“It was the catalyst that allowed us to have the momentum at the next Test match at Lord’s that helped us win the Ashes,” said Panesar.

Monty’s reward for his batting heroics? He was dropped for that second Test, which started just four days later, and played no further part in the series as England picked an extra fast bowler and Graeme Swann continuing as the number one spinner.

“I just had a feeling,” said Panesar.

“As I was driving back on the motorway, there was no traffic, I stopped at a service station to fill up the car and have a coffee.

“I knew I would not be picked for Lord’s but had to take it on the chin. The brutal reality of international sport means you are not always rewarded and I have to accept that.”

The disappointment which followed Cardiff does not tarnish the memories of what Panesar calls his greatest moment in Test cricket.

It is Panesar’s highlight despite the fact he took 167 Test wickets, the first of which was his boyhood hero Sachin Tendulkar.

“That hour is probably the greatest time in my England career, my finest moment,” said Panesar.

“I had good bowling memories but was not known for my batting. People see me as someone who is a good spinner but can’t bat or field, so this was something nobody expected me to do.

“My small part in Ashes history makes me feel proud. It was against the odds and none of the players expected it to happen.

“That’s what makes it such a memorable event even now, as somehow Jimmy and I managed to scrape over the line.

“If you asked me whether I would be able to do that ever again, I would say no.

“But on that day, it happened.”