The Ashes - The Greatest Series (Box Set) (DVD)
The England Team is victorious and finally brings home the Ashes after sixteen years. Includes highlights from all five test matches featuring Shane W...
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Review of "The Ashes - The Greatest Series (Box Set) (DVD)"
Cricket is my greatest passion in life. I have been a fan for years, and have lived through the highs and lows of each test series with the England squad. Every time the Ashes came around I always looked forward to a master class by one of the greatest cricketing forces the world has known….and England played too. That was until the spectacularly gripping series of 2005, commemorated on this DVD, when England regained the little brown urn for the first time in 18 years.
The set comprises of three DVDs encapsulated in an ungainly blue and white box, featuring the victorious England captain holding the urn on the front. Each DVD box has a cover relevant to its content - DVD 1 features Freddie Flintoff in classic starfish celebration pose; DVD 2 shows a radiant Matthew Hoggard; DVD 3 features the whole England team on the cover, fronted by Vaughan holding the Ashes urn aloft. The back of each case shows flaming stumps in front of the faces of the two captains, Michael Vaughan of England and Ricky Ponting of Australia.
The DVDs open straight on to the Menu which is a collage of great series moments accompanied by inspirational music. The tests are addressed day by day, and are accessible as a straight watch through, or starting from a specific opening of play. There is an average of about 90 minutes of footage per test. Each begins with a pitch report and the toss, followed by interviews with the captains, and highlights of the days play. Interviews with the day's stars are included at the close of play, and the presentations are shown at the end of the match, which is a welcome addition to the DVD as it is so often omitted from the live broadcast.
Disk 1 - Introduction, 1st test, 2nd test
Classic moments from the series are played in front of burning stumps, set to rousing music. Quotations, such as "England expects that every man will do his duty" - Lord Nelson, appear to inspire and excite the viewer. Then the presenter, Channel 4 commentator Mark Nicholas, discusses the build up to the series with England's victory over, and Australia's shock defeat to, the lowly Bangladesh, and England's 20/20 victory over Australia at the Rosebowl. He also mentions the massive media hype, and team selection, including the exclusion of Graeme Thorpe.
The First Test - Lords, July 21-24th 2005This opens with the pitch report, and Nicholas talks first to Mike Gatting, the last England captain to win the Ashes in 1986/7, then after the toss, to the current captains. Ricky Ponting describing the atmosphere, "like the countdown to a space shuttle taking off." Highlights from the coverage include the brutal onslaught of England's bowlers cracking into Langer's arm, Hayden's head, and Ponting's face; the start of Kevin Pieterson's series-long display of appalling catching and debut test 50; Freddie Flintoff's first Ashes wicket; the metronomic Glenn McGrath's celebrated 500th test wicket and 9/82 in the match. Stalwart commentator Richie Benaud declares, "I don't know if I have ever seen him bowl a better spell!" Despite some excellent stroke play from Andrew Strauss, who is caught and bowled in an unforgettable show of athleticism by Lee, and another 50 by the dynamite Pieterson, Australia win by 239 runs.
In between tests there is a montage of scenes from the test set to music, then Mark Nicholas talks about public reaction to the defeat and negative press headlines. He also reflects on the between test county games, and the "King of Spain" Ashley Giles' mauling by the tabloids.The Second Test, Edgbaston, August 4th-7th 2005
The coverage opens with the unfortunate McGrath forfeiting his place in the side after tripping over a cricket ball, England breathing a collective sigh of relief, and then the stunning Ponting decision to bowl. We see top notch batting from Trescothick (90); an explosive 68 from Flintoff; another half century from KP, whose ginormous strikes extract a "Crikey O'Reilly" from the disbelieving Nicholas; Vaughan's genius run out of Martyn which draws out Billy Bowden's 'crooked finger of doom'; the ever stupendous Warne's 6-46, turning the ball a ridiculously long way to dismiss Strauss, and the gut-wrenching moment when Flintoff pops his shoulder out then battles on in a national-pride-saving innings to score 73 off 86 balls.
The DVD relays the electric atmosphere in the crowd well. Watching this match the first time I chewed a hole through my T-shirt, and even seeing it again, months later gives me heart palpitations. You can hear the glee in Aussie commentator Michael Slater's voice until Kasprowicz is caught behind with only three runs needed. This prompted one of the most famous pieces of commentary from the series, the oft repeated, "Jones….Bowden" by Richie Benaud, and one of the great moments of sportsmanship when Flintoff comforts a distraught Brett Lee. An absolute nail biter, described by Benaud as, "One of the most thrilling games of cricket there's ever been".
This disk begins with Mark Nicholas talking about the "Ashes fever" sweeping the country and the injury problems of the Australian side.
Disk 2 - 3rd test, 4th test
The Third Test, Old Trafford, August 11th-15th 2005Highlights shown here include the best strokes of Vaughan's sterling 166; Warne's mammoth 600th test wicket and his battling 90 to preventing Australia being asked to follow on, after Simon Jones' superb swing bowling cuts through the order with 6-53.
The footage then focuses on Strauss' ripping century, and England declaring to leave Australia needing 423 for victory, a feat never accomplished in cricketing history. Ponting's brilliant captain's innings of 156 saves the day, and Australia hold their last wicket, drawing the match, and the series is still tied 1-1. At the post-match presentation ceremonies, Atherton accurately sums up the situation with, "You're giving the nation collective heart failure."
There is then another inter-test montage, and Mark Nicholas reflects on the nation's growing support, county games and a new elbow injury to McGrath.
The Forth Test, Trent Bridge, August 25th-28th 2005
Highlights here includes the debut of Aussie pace man Shaun Tate; Geoff Boycott's maniacal cackling at the plethora of Australian no balls and fumbling misfields; Flintoff's thumping maiden Ashes ton; and Simon Jones' (5-44) fantastic attacking bowling. The DVD brings across the buzzing atmosphere in the crowd well. The boundary walloping Gilchrist is caught by a air-hanging slip catch by Strauss - surely the catch of the series. The Aussies are reduced to a humiliating 218, and asked to follow on for the first time in nearly 200 test matches. Their second innings will be remembered for Ricky Ponting's tantrum over England's excessive use of subs, after being fantastically run out by Gary Pratt. This is talked over in an interview with England coach Duncan Fletcher at the end of the day's play.
In accordance with the heart rendering nature of this series, this match also came down to the wire after a demolition act by Lee and Warne, but we see Gilo strike the winning runs, and England win by three wickets.
In a post match interview, the wonderfully sardonic Atherton interviews Ponting, saying, "Defeat is hard to take…"
There is a prelude to the final test reflecting on the already celebratory press headlines, the repercussions of Ponting's tantrum, and Australia's first day humiliation at Essex, when the county side put on 502-4. Mark Nicholas discusses team selection, McGrath's return and the injury to Simon Jones.
Disk 3 - 5th test, Finale, Extras
The Fifth Test, Oval, September 8th-12th 2005Atherton describes this test as, "The biggest sporting occasion since England won the football world cup." England are 2-1 up in the series, but need a draw or win in this game to regain the Ashes. High points include Warne's magic 6-122; an elegant century by Strauss and an authoritative 72 by Flintoff; Warnie dropping a sitter from Kevin Pieterson in the slips, leading to everyone to question if the great man has just dropped the Ashes; KP's subsequent pounding maiden test century, and the passionate bowling by Andy Flintoff that cemented his place as England Man of the Series. Then the match is plagued by bad light and rain, resulting in a draw. This may not have been the dramatic ending to the series everyone hoped for, but the DVD still includes some wonderful cricketing moments, and picks up on the determination of both teams and the great support from the crowd. Also featured briefly is the parade by the victorious England Ladies team, Richie Benaud's last stint of commentary on British television, and the great duo of McGrath's and Warne's goodbye to the British public - their performance worth the price of this DVD alone.
The closing presentations led by Mike Atherton include interviews with most of the players and coach Duncan Fletcher. Then the England team gather and Michael Vaughan raises the much coveted urn. The footage ends sweeping along the line of celebrating England players.
Yet another five minute montage to music with series highs and lows, another look at the headlines, "They think it's all Oval….It is now" from the Mirror etc. and scenes from the bus parade through London and the celebrations in Trafalgar square.
Opinion On The Main Feature
After weeks anticipating the release of this DVD so I could relive one of the greatest sporting events I had ever witnessed, I expected far too much from this DVD. How could anything compare to the nail biting live broadcasts. The highlights DVD is good, but literally that - the evening highlight shows shown on Channel 4 strung together. There's nothing really new here, and the length of the coverage is difficult. At eight and a half hours the DVD is too long to watch in one go, but the coverage of each test is far to superficial and lacks too much detail to stand up well individually. It seems the DVD has been rushed out, with no thought to improve on what viewers had already experienced at the time.
Also during their tenure, Channel 4 revolutionised televised broadcasting with their inventive graphics - the snickometer, the batting cartwheel etc. - and analysis by Simon Hughes. Only Hawkeye is present here, and Hughes has been relegated to the Extras. It is a great shame that these features were not included on the DVD, as they would have sewn the clips together perfectly.
The Analyst - 15 minutesThis section is disappointing. Instead of his usual interesting facts, graphics and points of law, Hughes just gives a shortened rehash of the highlights of each test, then finishes up with several obvious reasons why the result turned out the way it did, all of which have already been covered elsewhere. What could have been an excellent Extra is pointless and just seems to be there as a filler. His normally fascinating analysis would have been easily integrated to the main highlights, but sadly it is missing from the whole DVD.
This short section gives no indication of whether the first or fifth is the greatest, or if they are in no particular order. Just under one minute of footage is shown for each candidate. The selection is:
5 Great Performances With The Bat - 4 minutes
1. Michael Vaughan's 166 at Old Trafford
2. Ricky Ponting's 156 at Old Trafford
3. Andy Flintoff's 102 at Trent Bridge
4. Andrew Strauss' 129 at the Oval
5. Kevin Pieterson's 158 at the Oval
As above, but from a bowling perspective, and with even shorter snippets of supporting footage. The selection is:
5 Great Performances With The Ball - 3.5 minutes
1. Glenn McGrath's 5-53 at Lord's
2. Shane Warne's 6-46 at Edgbaston
3. Simon Jones' 6-53 at Old Trafford
4. Shane Warne's 6-122 at the Oval
5. Andy Flintoff's 5-78 at the Oval
This interesting discussion between the commentators was shown one lunchtime during the Oval test. The seven pick out their definitive moments of the series, and support their claims with the relevant footage.
Commentator's Moments Of The Summer - 20 minutes
Full scorecards are listed separately for each test, along personal milestones, historic test records and averages, all set to soothing music. This is a useful and valuable extra.
Scorecards, Stats & Facts - 32 minutes
After 42 years of commentating in England, Richie wishes viewers goodbye. This section starts with the crowd acknowledging his great service to the game, and then we hear his final words. This is one of the best parts of the DVD, as it is in real time, with normal full commentary, and is intensely exciting.
Richie Benaud's Goodbye - 8 minutes
A excellent Extra featuring the super slow-mo camera. Set in time to Mendelssohn's Lied Ohne Worte, this features the unforgettable footage of a menacing Warne staring down the wicket spinning a ball from one hand to the other, and the quivering bat, hit on the handle, which bent and shook like a hair in the breeze. A great finish to the DVD.
The Best Of 4sight - 5.5 minutes
This DVD has been a great opportunity to relive the great moments of this series - the last England will see the brilliant Warne and McGrath; the lovely moments of sportsmanship between Flintoff and Lee; tiny Justin Langer and Ricky 'Scarface' Ponting being assaulted by England's bowling; the wonderful Richie Benaud's UK goodbye; and best of all the magical moment when Vaughny lifted the Ashes. It could have been better, but I'll treasure this DVD for the rest of my days as a record of one of the greatest series in cricketing history. Not being a Sky subscriber, I'll also have to watch it every summer and winter for the next five years just to get my fix. With an ageing Aussie side, this DVD may serve as a memento to the start of England's reign of domination as the best team in the world.
RRP is £24.99, but I bought my DVD from Tesco Jersey for £14.97. On Amazon it is £14.99.
Mark 'By Jiminy' Nicholas
Tony 'Telecast' Grieg
Mike 'wonderfully sardonic' Atherton
Michael 'in no way impartial' Slater
Geoff 'It's all about me' Boycott
Richie 'The godfather' Benaud
Simon 'The Analyst' Hughes
Rating: ExemptTotal running time: 8 hours, 33 minutes.
© 2005, V.L.Collyer
Product Information : The Ashes - The Greatest Series (Box Set) (DVD)
Manufacturer's product descriptionThe England Team is victorious and finally brings home the Ashes after sixteen years. Includes highlights from all five test matches featuring Shane Warne and Freddie Flintoff. Also previously unseen footage from the 2005 Ashes.
Listed on Ciao since: 25/10/2005