12th September, 2005 was without doubt a momentous day in the history of English cricket. After scoring his maiden test century and ultimately ensuring the match was safe, Kevin Pietersen walked off the then Brit Oval knowing that England had won the Ashes for the first time in 18 years.
It is now nearly a decade since these events took place and Ian Bell is the only survivor in the England squad for the forthcoming summers Ashes. A lot has changed in the cricketing world over this period, but the 2005 Ashes saw perhaps the greatest advert that modern day test cricket has ever had. Looking at the viewing statistics, 7.4 million people tuned in to watch Pietersen's heroics, which broke several Channel 4 viewing records.
What the ECB wanted to achieve after this event was a lasting long term legacy for the sport. We have all seen the term 'legacy' branded all over the London 2012 Olympics, but achieving a long term legacy has proved very difficult for many sporting events. The ECB clearly wanted to widen the appeal of cricket to the masses and in particular, children. Based on increased participation at grass roots level, the idea is that this would filter up into a stronger pool of talent at international level.
If we think about it, a 12-year-old watching that series would now be old enough to be playing professional cricket. It is, therefore, an appropriate time to analyse the legacy of the 2005 Ashes. There certainly seems to be a crop of young English talent that would fit this age billing. The likes of Joe Root and Jos Buttler have all played test cricket for England in the past 6 months. They are often described as a 'new breed' of cricketer, but is this due to these guys being inspired by Pietserson and Co. to take up the game?
Unfortunately, there is another factor that we must consider. About the same time as the 2005 Ashes, Twenty20 cricket in this country was really starting to flourish. After its introduction in 2003, clubs and countries had truly realised its potential by 2005. When looking at the above mentioned cricketers, it is evident that they grew up with Twenty20 cricket and well as that Ashes success, and this has seen their games adapted to suit the format.
So in reality it’s very difficult to provide tangible evidence to suggest we are now seeing those inspired kids scoring hundreds for England. It is likely that the 2005 Ashes may have provided a short-term legacy, inspiring a cohort more than a generation. Twenty20 cricket will very likely be the main source of inspiration for today's 13-year-olds. The implications this could have for test cricket can long be discussed but for now, we can conclude that the likes of Root and Buttler can be considered almost 'hybrid' cricketers. In another 10 years however, we could be seeing a very different brand of cricketer breaking onto the international stage.
By Ben Warren