The Cricketer
Sam Morshead Sam Morshead


The Cricketer looks back on famous moments in Ashes history during England’s trip Down Under

The Cricketer looks back on famous moments in Ashes history during England’s trip Down Under.

Today’s it’s the story of a demoralising defeat, injury after injury and capitulation to the best team of all time...

Gone In 11 Days. No, not the geriatric sequel to the Nicholas Cage blockbuster but the strapline for a similarly disappointing early noughties spectacle.

There was little expectation of England when they travelled Down Under in the winter of 2002-03, save for the eternal optimists who somehow saw past both the 2001 thrashing and the ridiculous depth of talent in the Aussie squad to predict a brave new dawn.

Australia batted long and bowled fast, they had players who could turn games in the favour with moments of brilliance and a man in Shane Warne who could turn a ball at right angles off a glacier.

They were widely predicted to retain the Ashes with relative ease, and rightly so.

But few suggested it could be quite so easy.

Australia celebrate a wicket

Only one advent calendar door had been pulled ajar by the time the Baggy Green machine had taken an unassailable lead in the five-match series.

Victory had been completed in just the 11th day of action. Melbourne and Sydney didn’t even get to see a meaningful ball bowled, either in anger or apathy.

The margins of victory were immense - 384 runs, an innings and 51 runs, an innings and 48 runs - and England were totally, utterly ramshackled.

On December 1, 2002, Steve Harmison was bowled by Brett Lee and Australia had defended the urn having bowled just 456.5 overs and faced 439.5.

Nothing had gone right for Nasser Hussain - from his now-infamous decision to field on the first day in Brisbane to the horror injury sustained by Simon Jones and a seemingly never-ending injury list long enough to keep Casualty running for several series.

He started the campaign with a skinflint bowling line-up against one of the greatest top orders Test cricket has ever seen.

Australia managed eight centuries in the series, double England’s tally (and three of them came from the flourishing blade of Michael Vaughan). England claimed just 63 wickets compared to Australia’s 91.

At times the tourists were timid, sometimes worse, but this was an extraordinary Aussie unit. Possibly the best of all time.

Consistency in selection was a non-starter for Hussain, who arrived at the Gabba without Andrew Flintoff and Darren Gough and, at one time or another, could not call on John Crawley, Alec Stewart, Steve Harmison, Ashley Giles and Andy Caddick because of an eclectic mix of injuries.

Steve Harmison and Rob Key look dejected on the balcony

In his review of the tour, the great Scyld Berry wrote: ‘England were a rabble compared to Australia's sleek efficiency. If the eleven who took the field looked as though they had never played together before, this was usually true.’

England didn’t win a long-form game until surprise victory in the New Year Test in Sydney, and were beaten by an ACB Chairman’s XI in Perth after seeing little-known all-rounder Kade Harvey - who only played 27 first-class games in his career - smash 117 in 88 balls from number seven.

Inevitable series defeat was confirmed at the WACA in the most appropriately limp manner - with Chris Silverwood unable to bat after damaging ankle ligaments and Alex Tudor forced to retire hurt, England were effectively all out with just eight wickets down.

Battered and bruised, middle-order batsmen Rob Key came out to face the press.

"We tried to show positive intent but unfortunately it didn't come off for us,” he said.

"No matter how brave you are, if you haven't got the technique and you are getting peppered everywhere, it's not much fun against these guys."

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