Glenn McGrath has been one of the greatest fast bowlers to have played for Australia with 500 plus test wickets. Nicknamed as “pigeon” by one of his state teammates for his long and thin legs, McGrath was always at his best whenever he played against England in the Ashes contests. His first brief taste of Ashes contests was in 1994/95 series in Australia with limited success. His first full ashes series was in 1997 version in England where he made his first huge impact in the rain hit Lords test with unplayable spells of fast bowling on a pitch assisting seam movement . He was brilliant on the 1st morning ripping through a quality English batting order with 8/38 to skittle out England for 77 runs !! McGrath’s virtues of accuracy in line and length, moving the ball just enough off the seam, extracting uncomfortable bounce due to his height and constantly able to pepper the line outside off to both rightlanders and left handers alike while not giving any boundary balls at all made him a very difficult bowler to face by the greatest of batsmen even on batting tracks. He kept his pace around high 130s and still able to pierce the defences with his subtle movements off the seam. His ability to adapt to various pitches made him special. It was exactly the above virtues which made him unplayable at Lords in that Ashes test of 1997 but rains ensured a draw. However 7 wickets in the match in the next test at Manchester enabled Australia to square the series from which McGrath and Australia never looked back for remainder of the series. McGrath took 36 wickets in 6 tests to help Australia win the 1997 Ashes series and thus started his domination over the poms. 24 wickets in 5 tests in the next Ashes series at home was followed by another rich haul of 31 wickets in the 2001 ashes series in 5 tests which Australia won by 4-1. With McGrath in the bowling lineup , his impeccable line and length invariably created wicket taking opportunities for bowlers at the other end too and as such the other fast bowlers and even Warne benefitted from McGrath’s reliable presence in the team. McGrath’s last Ashes series in England was in 2005 in which frequent injuries enabled him to play only 3 tests in which he took 19 wickets which included a hostile spell of bowling at Lords where he took 5/53 getting the top order with off stump line and rattling the stumps of captain Micheal Vaughan and Andrew Flintoff. Lords had always been one of his all time successful venues where he took 26 wickets in 3 tests with 3 fifers. In that 2005 series ,Australia lost by 2-1 but did not lose in any tests in which McGrath played, which again shows his huge impact on the Australian bowling attack during those times.
McGrath’s last Ashes series was in 2006-07 in Australia where he took 21 wickets in 5 tests including an impact bowling performance at Gabba taking 6/50. On Australian pitches his bounce and height was always a factor in addition to his other obvious skills. Australia won the 2006-07 Ashes series 5-0 and McGrath retired along with Warne after that series win.
In 30 Ashes tests , McGrath took 157 wickets at 21 average and 52 strike rate with 11 five wicket hauls. In England he took 87 wickets in 14 tests. A top quality fast bowler and a great Ashes legend.