IT is fair to say Ashes fever is hitting England again.
Ben Stokes’s team will need to win the next test match at Old Trafford (starting today) and then the finale at The Oval to reclaim the Ashes from their bitter rivals.
Back in the 1990s… England’s chances of winning were scarce against arguably one of the strongest Australian XIs of all time.
But that did not mean we could not land a bloody nose or two and who better to do it than a Barnsley lad?
Monk Bretton’s Darren Gough claimed a famous hat-trick at the SCG in January 1999.
The series, of course, was all over by then and even though Australia went on to win the match by 98 runs, it was a rare moment of joy for the travelling Barmy Army and one they lapped up.
First off, he removed Ian Healy with a caught behind to Warren Hegg.
Then came the real magic as back-to-back balls beat Stuart MacGill and Colin Miller with stunning yorkers.
And who had the best seat in the house to watch the wickets? The one and only Shane Warne was at the non-striker’s end.
Dazzler then wrote about the momentous occasion in the following week’s Chronicle.
It was a great scrap
I always believed I was on for the hat-trick. I’ve had quite a few in one-day cricket, plis a couple in the country championship. Anybody who can bowl yorkers at a decent pace has a chance.
They tell me I’m the only Englishman to do it in an Ashes Test in the 20th Century, but it really hasn;t sunk in yet. And I don’t think it will until I get home. It’s always nice to get Test wickets, but a hat-trick is unforgettable.
I threw everything into the delivery which bowled Colin Miller to complete the hat-trick. It was probably the best ball I’ve bowled in the series. I saw the stump go and then John Crawley hit me. Then Alex Tudor. And suddenly everyone was congratulating me.
I’ve got 21 wickets, including a hat-trick in an Ashes Series in Australia. So I can’t complain, can I?
It would have been nice to have squared the series, but to have a chance we needed Mark Ramprakash and Nasser Hussain to take us to 200 in the second innings, but the turn on the Sydney Crack was quite extraordinary. It is probably the biggest turning pitch I have ever played on.
Although Stuart MacGill got the wickets, I thought Shane Warne bowled just as well for the Aussies on his return to Test cricket, and spin won the day for them - with the help of a large slice of good fortune.
It was Michael Slater who rode his luck this time. Of the 123 runs he scored, 88 came after we thought we had run him out. It was a strange decision. The umpires called for the third official who said he could not be certain because Peter Such was blocking his view on the video replay.
Even Slater thought he was out, tet he went on to produce a match-winning innings.
Without his extra runs we would have been chasing 200 at the most - and that really would have been interesting.
Still, we can take satisfaction from the fact that we fought back well in the series. We played some great cricket in the last two Tests. It is just a pity that we did not play like that at the start of the series.
It has still been on great scrap though, and played in the right spirit, which is what the Ashes is all about. Mark Taylor said that it has been one of the best Ashes series he has played in.
England v Australia is always something special, and I hope we keep the five-test format.