The Ashes come to Wales

Andrew Strauss and Alistair Cook walk out from the new pavilion at the Sophia Gardens ground as England bat first against Australia in the opening Test of the 2009 Ashes series. Photo Credit – Glamorgan Cricket Archives.

8 July 2009 was the date when The Ashes – one of the world’s most famous sporting contests – came to Wales with Glamorgan Cricket’s redeveloped headquarters at Sophia Gardens hosting a gripping five-day Test Match between England and Australia, with the contest going right down to the wire on the fifth and final afternoon as England’s tailenders hung on for a draw.The eyes of the sporting world were on the SWALEC Stadium as England’s last pair – James Anderson and Monty Panesar – survived the last 59 balls of a match to deny Australia a victory which for most of the day, if not the previous ones as well, had been there for the taking.

England’s batting heroes at Cardiff in 2009 – James Anderson (left) and Monty Panesar. Photo Credit – Glamorgan Cricket Archives.

An estimated television audience of 50 million were gripped by events taking place in the Welsh capital city which, over the years, has witnessed many titanic sporting struggles in its impressive sporting stadia, not least just a mile or so down river at Cardiff Arms Park and the Millennium Stadium. But few of these previous international contests can have been as dramatic as the Ashes Test which saw, in nail-biting circumstances, two of England’s unsung heroes with the bat steadfastly defy for almost an hour the might of Australia and crucially prevent the men in the baggy green caps from going 1-0 up in the five-match series. Indeed, if Roald Dahl – Cardiff’s most famous author – had still been alive and watching amongst the 16,000 spellbound crowd at the SWALEC Stadium then surely he would have been able to add an extra chapter to his “Tales of the Unexpected”.

Deafening cheers echoed around the Stadium as England’s two unexpected heroes walked off to receive the congratulations of their team-mates in the Pavilion, but the enormity of their feat only became apparent a couple of months later as England eventually won the series, and The Ashes, 2-1. For the capacity crowd on each day, the Test Match was an amazing experience, and for the many thousands of youngsters, it was an awe-inspiring experience. Indeed, whilst Glamorgan Cricket were delighted to entertain thousands of corporate guests and prominent personalities from every walk of life in Wales, the Club also had an eye on the future, knowing how watching the match or taking part in some of the Ashes-themed events in the lead-up to the match would act as a source of inspiration, raising even higher the number of Welsh boys and girls playing the game.

Local schoolchildren join with the England and Australia players at the opening ceremony ahead of the opening Ashes Test at Sophia Gardens in July 2009. Photo Credit – Glamorgan Cricket Archives.