The Ashes, The Game, The History, The Rivalry

What Is The Ashes?

Cricket’s oldest, most anticipated and fiercely contested rivalry in the world. The prize may only be a six inch tall terracotta urn but for English and Australian cricket fans it is the most sought-after trophy in the game.

Its 5 game test series played between England and Australia. It alternates roughly every two years, with the Australain and English summers occruing at opposite times of year, the rotation isn’t exact.

The Ashes in England takes placbe in the Britsh Summer time from July-August normally, whereas the Australian Ashes takes place around December-January famously falling over Christmas and New Year.

The winners of each series, takes home one of the most famous trophies in sport, the urn. The urn is beleived to have held the ashes of a bail, which was a satirical represenation of a match played out in 1882, where England lost their first ever match to Austalia at the Oval.

How The Ashes Began

The saga began in 1882 at the Oval when England were beaten at home for the first time by Australia. The Sporting Times labelled it “The Death of English Cricket”, they went on to joke that English cricket should be burnt down and the ashes sent to Australia.

The then England captain Ivo Bligh promised that on the following tour of Australia, he would recover those Ashes.

According to folklore, during that following 3 game series in Australia, a set of bails were burnt and given to England after the tourists took the series with a 2-0 lead. In reciprocation of the original joke, Australian Florence Morphy (who married England’s captain Ivo Bligh) handed over an urn suggesting it was the ashes of Australian cricket.

A took a further 20 years to formally take off when a later England captain Pelham Warner took a team to Australia in 1903 with the promise that he would regain the ashes – the name stuck and the rivalry ensued.

The Ashes Early Years

The early years of Ashes cricket saw England dominate with eight series wins in a row until Australia finally managed to get their hands on the urn following a 2-1 series win on home soil in 1892.

The Bradman-era resulted in plenty of success for Australia with five series wins between 1934 and 1951 before his retirement enabled England to regain the Ashes in 1953.

Between 1958 and 1986 the urn changed hands six times before Australia began an era of dominance in the 1990s which saw them equal the longest Ashes winning streak of eight series’ in a row.

Such was Australia’s dominance, England only managed seven Test victories from 43 matches during that period, on two occasions, failing to take a Test victory from a series.

The Bodyline Series

Over the years, Ashes series have provided some of cricket’s most memorable moments. The Bodyline Series of 1932 and 1933 saw England devise the tactic of bowling at the body in an attempt to combat the dominant force that was Donald Bradman.

The 1948 series in England saw Bradman’s curtain call as cricketer with the legendary batsman and his team of ’invincibles’ sweeping aside all before them on English soil. For English fans, two particular series will live long in the memory.

The Don

When it comes to Ashes legends, only one man comes to mind, Sir Donald Bradman. The legendary Australian batsman, widely acknowledged as the greatest of all-time, played 37 Ashes Tests in his career and has racked up some records that are unlikely to ever be beaten. With over 5,000 Ashes runs to his name, the highest average in Ashes cricket, most runs in a series and more 100s than any other player, Bradman’s exploits will go down in Ashes history.

Botham’s Ashes

Botham’s Ashes in 1981 which saw all-rounder Ian Botham guide England to an astonishing Test victory at Headingley before he bludgeoned 118 in the fifth Test to set up a 103-run victory at Old Trafford which retained the Ashes for England.

Michael Vaughan’s 2005 Series

Perhaps the greatest series of all-time was the 2005 series in England. The dramatic 2-run victory for England at Edgbaston in the second Test before England’s three-wicket win at Trent Bridge earned them a 2-1 series win, putting an end to Australia’s 16-year Ashes dominance.

Ben Stokes 2019

The 2019 series also featured a moment that few English cricket fans will forget, as Ben Stokes scored 135 not out and put on a 73-run 10th wicket partnership to win a thrilling Test in front of a jubilant Headingley crowd.

Records

The battle to finish as the top run scorer in an Ashes series is always an intriguing contest. In the past, the likes of Alastair Cook (766 runs in 2010/11), David Gower (732 runs in 1985) and Michael Vaughan (633 runs in 2002/03) have picked up the accolade for England. For Australia, Steve Smith’s 774 runs in the 2019 Ashes has been surpassed on just four occasions in Ashes history, though Smith can point to the fact he only played in four matches.

As for the bowlers, some famous names reside at the top of the list of all-time wicket-takers in Ashes history. Legendary spin bowler Shane Warne’s 195 between 1993 and 2005 is the most any bowler has managed in the history of the Ashes, with Ian Botham top of England’s list of wicket-takers with 128. When it comes to current bowlers, England’s Stuart Broad is seventh on the all-time list with 118, while spinner Nathan Lyon’s 85 is the most of the Australian’s still playing.

Team Records

Highest Innings Total – 903/7d (England v Australia, 1938)
Lowest Innings Total – 36 (Australia v England, 1902)
Highest Match Aggregate – 1,753 runs (Adelaide, 1921)
Lowest Match Aggregate – 291 runs (Lord’s, 1888)
Largest Victory – Innings & 579 runs (England v Australia, 1938)
Smallest Victory – 2 runs (England v Australia, 2005)

Batting Records

Most Runs for Australia – 5,028 (Don Bradman)
Most Runs for England – 3,636 (Jack Hobbs)
Highest Individual Score – 364 (Len Hutton, England, 1938)
Highest Average – 89.78 (Don Bradman, Australia)
Most 100s – 19 (Don Bradman, Australia)
Most 50+ Scores – 31 (Don Bradman, Australia)
Most Ducks – 11 (Syd Gregory, Australia)
Most Runs in a Series – 974 (Don Bradman, Australia, 1930)
Highest Partnership – 451 (Don Bradman & Bill Ponsford, Australia, 1934)

Bowling Records

Most Wickets for Australia – 195 (Shane Warne)
Most Wickets for England – 128 (Ian Botham)
Best Bowling Figures in an Innings – 10/53 (Jim Laker, England, 1956)
Best Bowling Figures in a Match – 19/90 (Jim Laker, England, 1956)
Best Average – 13.01 (George Lohmann, England)
Best Economy Rate – 1.31 (William Attewell, England)
Best Strike Rate – 38.1 (Billy Bates, England)
Most 5-wicket Innings – 12 (Sydney Barnes, England)
Most 10-wicket Matches – 4 (Tom Richardson, England & Shane Warne, Australia)
Most Wickets in a Series – 46 (Jim Laker, England, 1956)

Wicket-keeping Records

Most Dismissals for Australia – 135 (Ian Healy)
Most Dismissals for England – 101 (Alan Knott)
Most Dismissals in an Innings – 6 (7 different players)
Most Dismissals in a Match – 9 (4 different players)
Most Dismissals in a Series – 29 (Brad Haddin, Australia, 2013)

Fielding Records

Most Catches for Australia – 51 (Alan Border)
Most Catches for England – 54 (Ian Botham)
Most Catches in an Innings – 4 (14 different players)
Most Catches in a Match – 7 (Greg Chappell, Australia)
Most Catches in a Series – 15 (Jack Gregory, Australia, 1920/21)

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