The Ashes is one of the oldest and most intense rivalries in cricket. Since 1882, England and Australia have battled for cricketing supremacy in Test match cricket. Over a years, there have been several memorable moments that have gone down in the Ashes folklore. Here are a top 10 moments of the ashes cricket of the era:
Botham’s Ashes – 1981
The 1981 Ashes series was pivotal for English cricket. After losing the first Test, England needed to win at Headingley to keep the series alive. Batting first, Australia scored 401. England responded weakly making 174 and were forced to follow-on, still 227 runs behind Australia’s first innings total. At 135/7 in their second innings, still 92 runs behind, England looked doomed.
It was at this precarious position that Ian Botham strode to the crease. What followed was one of the greatest fightbacks in Test history. Botham played with controlled aggression, hitting boundaries all around the ground. He added 117 runs with Graham Dilley and 67 with Chris Old. Botham finished on a magnificent 149 not out, hitting 27 fours and a six. He had led England to a total of 356, setting Australia 130 to win. With new belief, England’s bowlers then turned the match on its head. Bob Willis produced a devastating spell of fast bowling, taking 8 wickets for just 43 runs. Australians lost, going through 56/1 to 111 out. England had incredibly won by 18 runs after following-on.
Edgbaston 2005 – Warne vs Flintoff
The second Test of the 2005 Ashes at Edgbaston is regarded as one of the greatest ever. Set 282 runs to win, Australia were coasting at 220/8 thanks to a counter-attacking innings of 64 from Shane Warne. But Andrew Flintoff turned the match on its head with a magnificent hostile over to dismiss Warne.
Flintoff’s blistering over to Warne was a defining moment. He bowled fast and straight, beating Warne’s bat and rattling his stumps to break the dangerous partnership. This gave England renewed belief as the pendulum swung their way. In his next over, Flintoff produced another ripping delivery to bowl Lee and leave Australia 9 down. Finally, he trapped Kasprowicz lbw to sensationally win the Test for England by just 2 runs. Flintoff’s inspired spell of fast bowling under pressure was crucial to levelling the series.
Headingley 1981 – Lillee vs Botham
The Headingley Test of 1981 also featured a famous showdown between Ian Botham and Dennis Lillee. Chasing 130, Australia were 56/1 when Lillee walked in. He targeted Botham who was bowling brisk outswingers. Lillee launched into a fierce counterattack, scoring 23 off 10 balls. But Botham had the last laugh, bowling Lillee through the gate to turn the game. It was a spellbinding passage of play between two cricketing heavyweights.
The Oval 1953 – Hutton’s undefeated ton
The 1953 Ashes marked the coronation of a new Queen and the rise of Len Hutton. In the fifth and final Test at The Oval, England needed a draw to regain the Ashes. Hutton batted for 13 hours scoring an epic undefeated 162 to deny Australia as the match ended in a draw. His marathon effort saw England seal a 1-0 series win, regaining the Ashes after a 19 year wait.
Adelaide 2006 – Warne’s ball of the century
The 2006 Adelaide Test saw Shane Warne’s magical 700th Test wicket and his Ashes encore. Chasing 606, England had avoided Warne till he got Andrew Strauss with the perfect leg break. It pitched outside leg stump, ripped past Strauss’ bat and clipped the top of off stump. It was the perfect delivery from Warne and a recap of the ‘ball of the century’. Australia went on to win the series 5-0.
Headingley 2019 – Ben Stokes’ heroics
In one of the greatest Test innings ever, Ben Stokes played a heroic knock to guide England to an improbable 1 wicket win at Headingley in 2019. Chasing 359, England were 286/9 when last man Jack Leach came in. Stokes farmed the strike and smashed an unbeaten 135, including 8 sixes to pull off a miracle. It was redemption for Stokes who had a poor World Cup final. His incredible knock leveled the Ashes 1-1.
Trent Bridge 2015 – Broad’s 8/15
Stuart Broad decimated Australia with a sensational spell of fast bowling at Trent Bridge in 2015. After making 60, he ripped apart the Aussies with his lethal outswingers. Broad took 8/15 as Australia collapsed to 60 all out – their lowest Ashes total ever. It was the 4th best Test bowling analysis and a decisive match-winning performance that helped England regain the Ashes 3-2.
Edgbaston 2005 – Ponting’s century
Australia may have lost the thrilling 2005 Edgbaston Test but Ricky Ponting played one of the all-time great Ashes innings. Chasing 282, Australia were struggling at 137/7 when Ponting unleashed a counterattacking 158 not out from just 123 balls. He farmed the strike and took on the English bowlers in an aggressive masterclass of Test batting. Although in a losing cause, it was one of the finest Ashes tons ever.
The Oval 1882 – Birth of the Ashes
The original Ashes Test match took place at The Oval in 1882. England needed 85 runs to win but collapsed to 77 all out. Their humiliating defeat prompted the famous mock obituary published in the Sporting Times stating that English cricket had died and its ashes would be taken to Australia. This gave birth to the term ‘The Ashes’ which came to embody the England vs Australia cricket rivalry.
Old Trafford 1956 – Laker’s 19 wickets
Jim Laker produced the bowling performance of a lifetime at Old Trafford in 1956, taking 19 wickets in the match – a record that still stands today. After taking 9 wickets in the first innings, Laker incredibly took all 10 Aussie wickets in the second innings. His monumental effort of leg spin bowling saw England seal victory and regain the Ashes. It is considered the pinnacle of Test match bowling and the ultimate Ashes performance.
The Ashes has seen some epic contests between England and Australia full of drama, intensity and amazing skill. As per ashes news, these 10 moments over the years have gained mythical status in Ashes history and folklore due to their significance, impact and the sheer brilliance on display. From Botham’s miracle at Headingley to Warne’s ball of the century, these magical moments have contributed to the legend of the Ashes.