The sporting world is full of exhilarating events taking place all over the globe. As far as the game of cricket is concerned, the Ashes is the biggest charm because of the intensity, history, background and culture. The two oldest cricket rivals, England and Australia, compete for the trophy famously known as ‘The Urn’ in their summers.
It all started way back in 1882 when the first Test was held at the Oval in London which the Australians won. From 1882 to 2017, a lot has been written and talked about the events which have occurred in this series.
The series is held once only two years — England visiting Australia in December-January and Australia visiting England in June-July. The team who wins it holds it and in case the series is drawn the team that currently holds it retains it.
Up till now 69 series have been played with both winning 32 times. Only five series have been drawn. Australia have whitewashed England thrice. The Aussies have won 130 Tests and England 106.
The highest run scorer is Donald Bradman with 5,028 runs and Shane Warne with 195 wickets is the most successful bowler.
In this article, we will throw some light on the famous events which have made this series the event of the highest pedigree.
The term Ashes was first used after England lost for the first time at home soil to Australia at Oval by seven runs. Sporting Times lamented the defeat as death of England team. It said “the body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia”.
Stalwarts such as Wally Hammond, Donald Bradman, Douglas Jardine, Bill Ponsford, Herbert Sutcliffe had great individual skills and smashed several records.
Australia dominated Ashes series, especially after 1920. Bradman scored 974 in the 1930 series at 139.14, which remains the world record in a Test series. It included a marathon 334 at Headingly. He scored 309 runs on the first day of the Test and a century before lunch and a 254 at Lord’s. This was a time when the Aussies had a batting power house.
For the 1932-33 Ashes series, England skipper Jardine decided to adopt fast leg strategy, also known as Bodyline. He told his bowlers to bowl straight at the bodies of Australian batsman to force them to defend their bodies with bats and thus providing catches to the leg-side field. Though England won that series 4-1 and Bradman managed only one century, it led to heated debates. The MCC had to change the laws to curtail the number of leg side fielders.
But Australia regained the Ashes in 1934, wining a closely fought series 2-1 and had the Ashes under their belt till 1954.
The 1938 series saw a world record when England scored a mammoth 903-7, with Len Hutton scoring 364 in the fifth test at the Oval.
The 1948 series saw the end of a glorious era when the great Donald Bradman said goodbye to the game of cricket with 6996 runs at an sterling average of 99.94 with 29 centuries and 12 double-centuries (record). In his last match at the Oval, he was required to score only four runs to reach the average 100 but got out on the second ball. After the game, the Oval stood up for one of the greatest sportsmen of all generations.
Who can forget the famous 1981 Headingly Test when Ian Botham showed his extraordinary skills and with Bob Willis led England to an emphatic win after being forced to follow-on! Australia enforced the follow-on having a lead of 227. England were 135 for 7 and it looked all over but Botham produced an inning of sheer genius notching 149 and Bob Willis took eight wickets, helping England thwart the Australian chase of 130.
England won the 1985 series 3-1 and 1986-87 series in Australia by 2-1 under the captaincy of Mike Gatting. But their next triumph was to come 19 years later. Australia dominated the Ashes for almost two decades.
They won eight series, four away and four homes with such stars as Allan Border, Steve Waugh, Mark Waugh, David Boon, Mark Taylor, Ricky Ponting, Justin Langer, Michael Slater, Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne, Bret Lee, and Mathew Hayden.
Who can forget Shane Warne’s magical delivery to Gatting in the 1993 series at Old Trafford!
Till 1989 series, the win-loss ratio was almost equal with 87 wins to Australia, 86 to England and 74 drawn. But Australia’s epic dominance from 1989 to 2005 took their win tally to 115 as England lingered on 87 — from 1989 to 2005, Aussies won 43 times and England only seven times.
But the 2005 Ashes series ended England’s wait when under the leadership of Michael Vaughan they defeated the best team in the world 2-1.
They won both the Tests by the closest of margins, the second by two runs and the fourth by three wickets. The star performer was Andrew Flintoff, who scored more than 400 runs and took 25 wickets. A whole generation of followers was mesmerized by his achievement.
But the Aussies took the revenge by winning 5-0 in 2006-7 series in their own backyard. In the fourth Test at Melbourne Shane Warne reached 700 wickets. This series saw the retirement of Justin Langer, Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath.
In 2009 England retained the Ashes winning by 2-1 and this series marked the end of the careers of Steve Harmison and Flintoff. England continued their dominance when they re-wrote history by winning 3-1 in Australia. Alastair Cook was the star performer with more than 700 runs.
In 2013 they won 3-0 in their own backyard and Ian Bell was the player of the series. But Australia regained the series when they hammered England 5-0 with Johnson taking 37 wickets. But England again snatched it in 2015 when they won 3-2.