Born on 22nd December at Bishop Auckland, Durham, England was he. The day saw a hero take birth, a man for whom just a moment for enough to let him gasconade, a man who will always remain in those pages of Ashes history, the man is Gary Pratt.
Remember him? If you are a true cricket fan, you certainly know him but if you are not, then let me tell you one thing, you have got to know him.
One thing is clear, he never really got going in his cricketing career. It was just that one year 2003 in which he scored 1,055 runs with a best first-class score of 150 against Northamptonshire and one-day score of 101* against Somerset.
Before that, he was just a jejune name. While his first-class career was at its sunset time, his emergence as a hero was yet to be seen. The Ashes series 2005 had already begun. Ricky Ponting already had been obstreperous with his anger on the fact that England had been using too many substitutes.
Now came the fourth Test at Trent Bridge. Every English fan was sanguine that England would win it but didn’t even have a clue that how would a substitute named Gary Pratt to win it for them. The day was 27th August, another ordinary day for Pratt until that magical moment.
Ponting was looking in excellent touch and looking really well indeed to go for a big one. England captain Michael Vaughan was already disappointed that he had lost Simon Jones due to an ankle injury. Pratt was called in.
here really was nothing special with it. English fans were almost dead with Ponting growing in confidence. They were losing their hopes. Even those powerful Greek gods couldn’t stop the Aussie captain, such a touch was he in.
Yet another shot did he play to take just a single, the ball went towards Pratt, he threw it at the non-striker’s end, it took merely 1-2 microseconds for the ball to travel and everyone shouted ”Throw Gary!”, the very next moment, the stumps were down and Ponting was run out.
The moment when Pratt realised what he had just done, he found himself in the arms of his English teammates. They lifted him like the Ashes urn and all he could see was whole England saying to him - ’Hats off, Gary’.
Such a quick throw was that one by Pratt, which you won’t expect from any substitute. Ponting wasn’t amused at all and passed derogatory words to Duncan Fletcher, the then England coach. The reason being usage of substitutes by England.
Although England had early on used substitutes to rest their bowlers, this time they brought Pratt as Jones was taken out of the field due to a genuine ankle injury. But Punter still thought that they had rested Jones and hence his anger.
But, that very substitute was a real hero now. What he did eventually turned out to be match winning as England chased down 128 but for the loss of seven wickets. Now, think for a moment that had Pratt not made that effort, Ponting would have gone big and England would have lost the match as well as the Ashes.
His heroics were enough to earn him a place on the open top bus parade. He had got fans, he had got respect, he now was ubiquitous, but what he didn’t get was a sponsor to fly him to Australia for the Ashes series 2006-07 as a good luck charm.
How shameful was this act considering what he did for England. Solecism was what termed this. But, leaving aside all this, he is a name that will continue to exist, he is sui generis, he is redoubtable, he is a legend....
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