After years of dreaming that Wales would one day host Test Match cricket, and after many months of meticulous planning by the Glamorgan administrators, the first day of Test cricket in Cardiff finally dawned on July 8th – and what a day it was as Cardiff became the world’s 100th Test Match venue.
Following an opening ceremony full of Welsh ‘hwyl’ and passion, there was no love lost out on the field as the Australian bowlers went head-to-head against the English batsmen. The capacity crowd of 16,000, who basked under blue skies and sunshine, were treated to a great day of Test cricket, full of cut and thrust on both sides, with Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood and Matt Prior all making forthright half-centuries, before Peter Siddle claimed two wickets in the space of six balls as Australia struck back in the closing overs. After eventually polishing off England’s resistance, the next three days saw Australia’s batsmen take centre stage as they posted their fourth highest total in Tests against England as the home bowlers toiled in vain to contain the visitors who each day gave an enraptured crowd an object lesson in Test Match batting. Simon Katich duly became the first Test centurion in Wales as he shared a stand of 239 with Ricky Ponting, who himself posted a high-class 150 before dragging Monty Panesar onto his stumps.
Michael Clarke and Marcus North then added 143 during which further Test history was made as on the third afternoon the Cardiff floodlights were turned on, allowing an Ashes Test to continue for the first-ever time in the UK under artificial light. After Clarke had become the first floodlit wicket, North and Brad Haddin added a further 200 for the sixth wicket with both men scoring fine hundreds, as the Australians celebrated four centurions in an innings for the first-time against England. All five frontline bowlers for England conceded over a hundred runs – another first in an Ashes Test, and only the second time in all Tests, with the only previous instance being against the West Indies at Lord’s in August 1973. The upshot was that Australia had a lead of 239, and their bowlers soon made inroads into the English batting as Alistair Cook and Ravi Bopara departed l.b.w. in the first seven overs. Rain then washed out the final session of the fourth day, and with England on 20-2 and 98 overs on the last day, Australia looked firm favourites to go one-up in the series.
But the final day of the contest proved to be as electric as the first as in a gripping closing session, England’s final pair of Panesar and James Anderson denying Australia the victory that seemed to be theirs at the tea interval. The day had begun well for the Aussie bowlers as Pietersen and Andrew Strauss departed inside the first hour’s play. But Collingwood remained defiant, sharing stands of 57 for the sixth wicket with Andrew Flintoff, and then a decisive 62 with Graeme Swann for the eighth wicket. The game entered the final hour with England on 225-8 and Collingwood still at the crease, but in the fourth over of the last fifteen, he sparred outside the off stump and caught in the gulley. As Panesar arrived at the crease, England still trailed by six runs, but the last pair batted out the final eleven and a half overs, much to the delight of the home supporters. The end result may have been a draw, much to the chagrin of the Australians who had enjoyed by far the better of the five day’s play, but Glamorgan Cricket, Cardiff and Wales were the real winners of this thrilling contest, all of which had gone off without a major hitch.