In its run-up to the 2005 Ashes, Cricinfo has the "Top 10 Moments that Defined the Men", from the 128-year history of cricket’s oldest international rivalry. I was pleasantly surprised to see that they included Michael Slater’s charge late on the first day of the 2001 series; it might so easily have been overlooked, especially given that he didn’t have a good tour overall.
Slater was one of my cricketing idols, and the sort of hero you always had to be a little protective about (unlike the heroes who stand on firm ground and who you know you never have to worry about, because there’ll always be others standing up for them). It’s easy to forget his contributions - after all, his leaving the Australian team cleared the way for one of the most successful opening pairs ever, Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer -but he played a very important role in the success of Mark Taylor’s Aussies in the mid-to-late 1990s. Remember, that was a time before this new golden age of batting began in 2001 and we started seeing a glut of double-centuries and 55-plus batting averages. Back in those years, only the three greats (Tendulkar, Lara, S Waugh) consistently averaged 50-plus over a long stretch and it was more than respectable to average 42-plus as a Test opener. It was also a time before Gilchrist, before Sehwag and Herscelle Gibbs and Chris Gayle and Graeme Smith; among Test openers of the time, Slater and Jayasuriya were the only ones who were consistently aggressive while maintaining a reasonable level of success.
But I’ve fallen into the statistics trap. At his best, Slater was a classically attractive player, and better than most others at taking the game away from the opposition at first whistle. Good to see him up there on an Ashes Top 10.