Cricket's oldest rivals are all set to engage in what a certain cricketer recently described as "war". The latest edition of the Ashes is all set to commence in less than two weeks, and both cricketers and fans are gearing up for what promises to be riveting action for a little over a month.
England travel Down Under with the intention of defending the urn, having wrested it back from the Aussies with a 3-2 series win in the 2015 edition. The journeys that the two teams have undergone in the months leading up to the tournament have been somewhat contrasting.
While the Australian side, led in all formats by charismatic batsman Steve Smith, have been going through a period of struggle, with injuries to their pacers being a major headache, England travel to the southern hemisphere on the back of a successful summer, having beaten both South Africa as well as the Windies rather convincingly.
However, things have evened out a lot more in the recent weeks. The suspension handed to charismatic all-rounder and vice-captain Ben Stokes after the bar brawl controversy in September has left the Joe Root-led England squad without an established match-winner.
Australia, on the other hand, are a formidable side in their backyard, more so with their pace battery comprising Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins, and many an Australian believes that the current attack can cause destruction similar to that by Mitchell Johnson in the 2013-14 edition.
In our build up to the big event that kicks off on 23 November at the Gabba in Brisbane, we take a look at five of the most memorable spells of bowling in the history of the rivalry, starting with the most recent:
Stuart Broad, Trent Bridge, 2015
One of the most defining moments of the 2015 Ashes was when Stokes took a one-handed stunner at fifth slip off a Broad delivery, with the latter cupping his mouth and wearing an expression of disbelief on his face. In one of the most lethal spells of fast bowling ever, Broad single-handedly decimated the Australian batting order in the swinging conditions at Trent Bridge, walking away with figures of 8/15. It resulted in the visitors getting shot out for a meagre 60 in the morning session of the first day, and going on to lose both the Test as well as the series in the process.
Mitchell Johnson, Adelaide, 2013-14
Johnson was enjoying a purple patch around in the 2013-14 season, and produced what can be termed as a career-defining performance during Australia’s 5-0 annihilation of England in that edition. The mustachioed pacer topped the bowling charts with 37 scalps at an average of 13.97, 15 wickets more than the next best, Ryan Harris.
While he terrorised batsmen throughout the series, especially during his run-ins with Kevin Pietersen, it was his spell in England’s first innings in the Adelaide Test that stood out. From rattling Alastair Cook’s off-stump, beating the star batsman for pace, to dishing out a slew of bouncers to Michael Carberry, he managed to cause a mental dent on the opposition that they perhaps could not recover from for the rest of the tour. He finished with figures of 7/40, the best by any bowler in that series, dismissing England for a lowly 172, and giving the hosts a lead of nearly 400.
Glenn McGrath, Lord's, 1997
‘Pigeon’ as he was famously known throughout his career, had debuted four years before Australia’s tour of England in 1997, and was starting to make his mark in international cricket. However, it was in the Lord’s Test that he truly announced himself on the international stage, from where he would go on to establish himself as the bowling spearhead of one of the greatest teams ever assembled in the history of the game.
While the first day of the second Test of that series at the ‘Home of Cricket’ had been wiped out due to incessant rains, Australia captain Mark Taylor decided to make the most of the overcast conditions on the following day by opting to field first and handing the brand new cherry to McGrath. It was raining English wickets thereafter as McGrath produced one of the finest displays of attacking line and length as he tore through the ranks to finish with figures of 8/38, with England getting bowled out for 77.
Ian Botham, Edgbaston, 1981
The 1981 edition not only goes down as one of the most keenly fought in the history of the rivalry, but as one that came to define legendary all-rounder Botham. After doing his bit with the bat at Headingley, where he scored a memorable 149 not out as the hosts went on to register a fairytale victory after being made to follow-on, he displayed his his abilities with the ball rather extravagantly in the following Test at Edgbaston.
Australia were on top after grabbing a 69-run first innings lead, and were set a relatively easy target of 151 after dismissing England for a modest 219 in their second essay. As the visitors were moving towards a comfortable win, Botham decided to gatecrash their party with a spell from hell: sending as many as five Australian batsmen back while conceding just one run, helping England pull off another miraculous victory.
Jim Laker, Old Trafford, 1956
Most cricket followers would be familiar with this name — with the English off-spinner being the only bowler other than Anil Kumble to collect all 10 wickets in a Test innings. England had only managed to level the five-match series in the third Test at Headingley, and were off to a strong start at Manchester after piling 459 in the first innings.
Laker, however, stole the show from thereon as his legendary spell in the Australian reply – in which he collected seven wickets for just eight runs in a space of 22 deliveries – dismantled Australia for a meagre 84, giving the hosts a mammoth 375-run lead. Had it not been for Tony Lock's dismissal of Jim Burke in the first innings, Laker could have had the near-impossible record of collecting all 20 wickets etched against his name. His figures of 19/90 however, remains the greatest match haul by a bowler in Test history.