Advertisement

MAGELLAN ASHES 2017-18

Australia's 'karma' after Lord's faux pas

22 November 2017
Our voices

New documentary reveals Australia's bold singing of team song at Lord's in famous 2005 Ashes series

About the Writer:
 @ARamseyCricket

Andrew Ramsey is the senior writer for cricket.com.au. He previously wrote for the Guardian, The Australian, The Times, The Telegraph, The Hindu and Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack and the author of The Wrong Line.

After more than a decade of conspiratorial silence broken only by whispered rumours and oblique references, details have emerged of one of the most brazen forays into the heart of enemy territory launched during the heat of Ashes battle.

The revelations are contained in the three-part documentary series 'Forged in Fire' that will screen on the Nine Network during next month’s third Magellan Ashes Test in Perth, which traces the history of cricket's founding rivalry through the recollections of many of the contests' greats from the past 50 years.

Forged in Fire: Episode 3 trailer

 

The third episode of the series focuses heavily on Australia’s defeat at the hands of England in 2005, and contains details of an incident at Lord’s which – to this day – many of those directly involved prefer not to discuss having kept it secret for so long.

It is the audacious storming of England’s dressing room by the entire Australia team, to belt out their victory anthem 'Under the Southern Cross I Stand' in the historic (if empty) heartland of England cricket, which clearly still causes some unease among those who have been quizzed about it.

A retrospective ruefulness partly sustained by ongoing suspicions that the bad karma brought to bear on a succession of Australia touring teams who have not tasted Ashes series success since that moment have been cursed by that high-spirited lapse in etiquette.

It was a typically dank and damp summer Sunday in London, and equally predictable was the result of the opening Test match of what was to unfold as perhaps the most famous, certainly the most fabled, Ashes series of the modern era.

Forged in Fire: Episode 2 trailer

Australia, holders of the urn for the past eight campaigns and fielding a team that could have passed muster as many a fan's 'best-ever XI' - even if its stars were tending towards a similar shade of grey as the skies above Lord’s - had knocked over England in three days.

Give or take a mizzle break.

Under their new Ashes captain, Michael Vaughan, England had been refreshingly combative on the opening day and, for the first time in a generation, the Australians found themselves in the most intense scrap since the glory days of long-since ineffectual West Indies.

Opener Justin Langer wore a stinging blow to his right forearm from the morning's second delivery, fired down by the frustratingly fickle Steve Harmison who announced at the outset that he was having one of his 'on' days.

A wounded Langer copped a nasty blow on the first morning // Getty
A wounded Langer copped a nasty blow on the first morning // Getty

"Steve Harmison runs in, bowls the first ball, it flies past but what happens next was unbelievable," Langer recounts in 'Forged in Fire'.

"The (England) slips start walking at me, the point starts walking at me, bat-pad’s walking at me.

"And like these guys are all over us.

"Haydos (fellow opener Matthew Hayden) walks down to me and says 'these boys are serious, be sharp'.

"And then Haydos got hit for the first time that I can ever remember, hit in the helmet."

Later in that bruising first hour, Harmison struck blood for England when a bouncer flew at Australia's skipper Ricky Ponting who – misjudging both speed and trajectory – wore the ball flush on the protective grille of his helmet and was gashed beneath his right eye, but continued his innings after the bleeding was stemmed.

A bloodied Ponting removes his helmet on day one at Lord's // Getty
A bloodied Ponting removes his helmet on day one at Lord's // Getty

The crowd that had packed Lord's expecting a fresh spirit from an England team that had pushed Ponting's men in the limited-overs outings that preceded the Tests was buzzing by mid-afternoon when the tourists were rolled over for 190.

By stumps, that hum of hope was inaudible against the familiar English hiss of deflated optimism with Vaughan’s men in disarray at 7-92.

From there, the Test unfolded in line with so many of the previous 16 years as Australia’s batting rallied and their bowlers rattled though England’s insipid resistance like a prize-fighter roused by a flurry of sharp punches from a challenger before regaining composure to flatten the upstart with a combination of hammer blows.

The feeling within the visitor's rooms at cricket's home – a place that came to be seen almost as sovereign ground for Australia teams who had lost but a solitary Test at Lord’s over 100 years - was pretty much that.

Having weathered England’s best effort and then steamrolled them by 239 runs before the famous lunch at Lord's was plated up on the fourth day, Ponting’s men sensed the path had been cleared for a ninth consecutive Ashes victory against a foe that had historically shown little stomach for regrouping after similar setbacks.

But as 'Forged in Fire' reveals, not everyone in the winner's circle was quite so gung-ho.

Forged in Fire: Episode 1 trailer

As England's long summer gloaming gave way to dusk, and even the fastidious cleaning contractors had slipped beyond the ground's heavy iron gates and high brick walls, Langer hatched a plan in which the less lubricated and more fatalistic could detect a whiff of hubris.

As custodian and leader of the team song, a responsibility that carries with it the right to dictate when and where it is recited by the entire touring party in the aftermath of a win, Langer announced he had a novel idea as to the site of the unofficial ceremony.

The man who had led his teammates to the grassed ramparts of Galle’s imposing Dutch fort to bellow the verse after success in the Sri Lankan seaside city, and who had intimate knowledge of the home team’s rooms at Lord's having represented county team Middlesex years earlier, led his rowdy troupe past the glowering portraits of cricket’s luminaries and into England’s inner sanctum.

The victorious Australians celebrate their win at Lord's // Getty
The victorious Australians celebrate their win at Lord's // Getty

Where, according to one celebrated teammate, he directed the ditty at each individual spectre of their vanquished (and long vanished) England rivals who had been sat in that space barely six hours earlier, contemplating how they might bounce back from yet another beating at the whip hand of Australia.

"I think a lot of the guys were thinking 'it's the same old England'," champion leg spinner Shane Warne confirms.

"And I probably shouldn't be saying this, but Justin Langer (said) 'let's go into the England dressing room' and he pointed out to all the England players and said 'you're ... whatever'.

"I just thought 'we're a bit too cocky'."

Australia's players celebrate on the Lord's balcony // Getty
Australia's players celebrate on the Lord's balcony // Getty

Warne’s reservations, given sharper clarity by the reversal in fortunes that saw Australia stumble repeatedly on their self-ordained perch from that moment and ultimately fall to a dramatic series loss, were echoed by wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist who remembers the 2005 Ashes as a personal nadir.

"We went into their changeroom to sing our team song at Lord's,” Gilchrist admits.

"Late in the evening, they'd all cleared out.

"'(Shouting) eeeh, the easybeats' and throwing beer everywhere.

"I remember walking out thinking 'hmm, might have been better doing that when we'd retained the Ashes'."

Ponting, who would become a central figure in several other controversies during that campaign (including the infamous Edgbaston coin toss and the angry clash with England coach Duncan Fletcher at Trent Bridge) which are canvassed in detail during 'Forged in Fire', believes that secret remains so tightly held he’s not sure even now if England’s players are aware.

"Looking back now, I wish we hadn't had as many beers as we had before we went down there,” Ponting says.

 

A bruised but triumphant Ponting after the win at Lord's // Getty
A bruised but triumphant Ponting after the win at Lord's // Getty

 

"I'm not sure that the English know that we actually did that, they might not, to this day."

While it has been referred to in passing and hinted at in published stories over the years, the sheer audacity and disdain of the act has been buried ever deeper, especially after Australia’s next two visits to a venue they had come to view as their own (in 2009 and 2013) ended in hefty, humiliating defeats.

Interviewed for the documentary, Vaughan gave no indication that he knew the full details of what unfolded in his team’s dressing room – a sanctuary into which anyone other than accredited players and officials must be formally invited – on that night before England's fortunes shifted.

But bearing a knowing smirk and with the irrefutable endorsement of history behind him, he claims simply "there's a karma in sport, isn't there".

"They probably look back and think that ‘karma has bitten us on the arse here'."

'Forged in Fire' screens on the Nine Network immediately following the end of each day’s telecast of the Third Magellan Ashes Test in Perth on December 14, 15 and 16.

2017-18 International Fixtures

Magellan Ashes Series

Australia Test squad: Steve Smith (c), David Warner (vc), Cameron Bancroft, Usman Khawaja, Peter Handscomb, Shaun Marsh, Tim Paine (wk), Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood, Jackson Bird, Chadd Sayers.

England Test squad: Joe Root (c), James Anderson (vc), Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Jake Ball, Gary Ballance, Stuart Broad, Alastair Cook, Mason Crane, Tom Curran, Ben Foakes, Dawid Malan, Craig Overton, Ben Stokes, Mark Stoneman, James Vince, Chris Woakes.

First Test Gabba, November 23-27. Buy tickets

Second Test Adelaide Oval, December 2-6 (Day-Night). Buy tickets

Third Test WACA Ground, December 14-18. Buy tickets

Fourth Test MCG, December 26-30. Buy tickets

Fifth Test SCG, January 4-8 (Pink Test). Buy tickets

ODI Series v England

First ODI MCG, January 14. Buy tickets

Second ODI Gabba, January 19. Buy tickets

Third ODI SCG, January 21. Buy tickets

Fourth ODI Adelaide Oval, January 26. Buy tickets

Fifth ODI Perth Stadium, January 28. Join the ACF

Prime Minister's XI

PM's XI v England Manuka Oval, February 2. Buy tickets

T20 trans-Tasman Tri-Series

First T20I Australia v NZ, SCG, February 3. Buy tickets

Second T20I – Australia v England, Blundstone Arena, February 7. Buy tickets

Third T20I – Australia v England, MCG, February 10. Buy tickets

Fourth T20I – NZ v England, Wellington, February 14

Fifth T20I – NZ v Australia, Eden Park, February 16

Sixth T20I – NZ v England, Seddon Park, February 18

Final – TBC, Eden Park, February 21