England will hope to follow up their new-found World Cup success with glory against old rivals Australia as the Ashes kick off in just a matter of days.
England broke their World Cup jinx, having ended as runners-up on three different occasions before, as they pipped New Zealand in the final of the 2019 World Cup at the Lord’s.
Following the conclusion of ICC’s showpiece event, it’s time for followers of the sport, at least the ones in England and Australia, to increase their attention spans as their teams switch over to white clothing — which will bear names and numbers on jerseys for the first time in the history of Test cricket — and the red Dukes ball.
It’s the oldest rivalry of all in this sport, with England hoping to continue along the path of glory by regaining the coveted urn from Tim Paine’s men later this summer.
In our build-up to the highly-anticipated series, we take a look at some of the most memorable Ashes meetings of this millennium:
“I read the wicket wrong on the first day and the buck stops with me on that one” — Nasser Hussain.
Hussain’s decision to field on what turned out to be a batting paradise will go down as one of the decisions that will forever haunt the former England captain.
Queenslander Matthew Hayden was especially ruthless on the insipid English attack with Ricky Ponting giving him ideal support from the other end as Australia piled on 364 runs for the loss of just two wickets at stumps on Day 1 to set the tone for the rest of the opening Test at the Gabba, and indeed for the rest of the 2002-03 series.
The strong start helped the Aussies maintain an upper hand throughout the Test, grabbing a 167-run first-innings lead. Hayden followed his first innings score of 197 up with 103 in the second innings. Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne then sealed the deal for the Aussies, collecting seven wickets between themselves as England were bowled out for 79, chasing 464 to win.
A match that will go down in history as the turning point in what is one of the most fiercely-contested Test series of all time. After a hammering at the hands of the Aussies at Lord’s, the valiant Englishmen made a comeback at Edgbaston and how.
The dice started falling in England’s favour even before a ball was bowled. Pacer Glenn McGrath, who had dismantled the English batsmen in the previous game, was ruled out due to an ankle injury after stepping on a stray cricket ball during a warm-up session on the morning of the opening day.
Ponting put England in to bat, much to everyone’s surprise, and was followed by an aggressive response from the English batsmen — who collected 407 runs at a quick pace of nearly 5.13 an over. The bowlers then rallied to give England a morale-boosting lead worth 99.
A topsy-turvy Day 3 saw 332 runs being collected by batsmen from either camp for the loss of 17 wickets, although the English players and fans wore a relaxed look on their faces with Australia on the brink of a defeat at 175/8, chasing 282 to win.
Day 4 however, saw a resilient Australian tail — comprising Brett Lee, Warne and Michael Kasprowicz — wag and give the English an almighty scare, getting them within three runs of the target. That was before a short ball from Steve Harmison directed at Kasprowicz resulted in the latter getting caught-behind and England pulling off a heart-stopping two-run victory to level the series.
As the English players broke into delirious celebrations, Andrew Flintoff walked over to a distraught Lee to console him, the two then becoming part of one of the most iconic sporting photos ever.
England reached Manchester in an upbeat state of mind after the nerve-wracking win at Birmingham, while Ricky Ponting’s men were suddenly on the back foot, a position the then-world champions did not often find themselves in that era. The good news for the visitors, though, was McGrath’s return to fitness, and they were still hopeful of swinging things back in their favour.
England opted to bat first, rode on a captain’s innings from Michael Vaughan (166) to post a commanding 444 on the board. The Aussies were staring at the prospect of a follow-on when Warne came to their rescue with a heroic 90, reducing the first innings deficit to 142.
England suffered a middle-order wobble in their second innings on the fourth day after a century from Andrew Strauss, but managed to set a daunting 423-run target with more than day to bowl their opposition out.
Australia, in reply, kept losing wickets at regular intervals, losing half their batting order with just 182 on board. Ricky Ponting, however, stood firm at one end even as wickets tumbled from the other, facing 275 balls in an innings that spanned nearly seven hours to take them within touching distance of a draw.
By the time he was dismissed for 156, the ninth Australian wicket to fall, the visitors needed another 24 deliveries to secure a draw. The next four overs witnessed several close shaves, met with groans from the crowd, as Lee and McGrath successfully managed to block out the deliveries and secure a draw — one that was something of a victory for Ponting and his side.
The third and final entry from 2005 in this list, such is the legacy of that legendary series. The series returned to London after the heart-stopping results at Edgbaston, Old Trafford and Trent Bridge. England were 2-1 up in the series, and on the cusp of ending Australia’s 16-year domination of the Ashes.
Strauss slammed his second ton of the series as England posted 373 on the board. Hayden and Justin Langer, in reply, slammed centuries to guide the Aussies to a dream start, stitching together a 185-run opening stand. The Australians however, couldn’t build on the strong start as Flintoff (5/78) and Hoggard (4/97) made inroads into their batting order to restrict them to 367, collecting a slender six-run lead.
The job, however, wasn’t done. Flintoff and Hoggard had given them a chance, and the English batsmen had to capitalise on that to take the game away from the visitors. They lost opener Strauss for just 1, and were five down with just 126 on the board.
Enter Kevin Pietersen, who dished out the innings of a lifetime, hitting seven 6s and fifteen 4s en route to a memorable 158 — a turning point in his career. KP battled throughout the fifth day, and had secured a memorable draw for the Englishmen by the time he was dismissed in the final session. The Aussie openers faced just four deliveries before the umpire flicked the bails off the stumps for the final time in the series, launching an entire nation into a state of frenzied celebrations.
The mighty Australians had been halted on their tracks in 2005, and Ponting and his men were determined to silence the growing voices of criticism against them and prove a point when the Englishmen travelled Down Under for the 2006-07 edition.
After getting hammered by 277 runs at the Gabba at the start of the series, England made a strong response in their first innings in the second Test at Adelaide, riding on double-century from Paul Collingwood (206) and a 158 from Kevin Pietersen, the two sharing a 310-run stand for the fourth wicket as the visitors declared on 551/6. Ponting and Michael Clarke too slammed tons in response, but the Aussies were 38 short by the time they were bowled out.
The match appeared to be heading towards a high-scoring draw, and England would have taken that result while keeping their chances of retaining the Ashes alive. Few would’ve anticipated them collapsing like a pack of cards in their second innings — from 69/1 to 129 all out. A disaster of monumental proportions that was masterminded by the genius of Warne (4/49), one that knocked whatever little fight was left in the English side.
Michael Hussey slammed an unbeaten 61 to anchor the chase of the 168-run target inside 33 overs, leading to exalted celebrations in the Aussie camp. England could hardly believe their luck, losing the match by six wickets after posting 550 on the board in the first innings — an instance as rare as it can get — and they only kept sliding further as they went on to suffer the humiliation of a 5-0 whitewash.
England’s quest to regain the Ashes after the humiliation Down Under two-and-a-half years prior began with a doughty draw at Cardiff’s Sophia Gardens, which was hosting its first-ever Test.
England began on a strong note after opting to bat, posting 435 on the board thanks to contributions from a majority of the batting order. Australia, in reply, had four batsmen slamming tons, with skipper Ponting top-scoring with 150 as the tourists declared at 674/6 on Day 4, collecting a huge lead of 239. England were left with the task of batting out seven overs in the final session, and ended up losing both Alastair Cook and Ravi Bopara in a space of a few deliveries. At stumps on Day 4, a decisive Australian victory seemed imminent.
The final day of the Test saw England lose another three wickets in the first session, leaving the task of securing a draw in the hands of Collingwood, Flintoff and the rest of the lower order. Collingwood, doing a Ponting from Old Trafford, remained steady at one end while scoring a fighting half-century. He was the ninth batsman to be dismissed, falling for 74, leaving James Anderson (21 not out off 53 balls) and Monty Panesar (7 not out off 35 balls) the responsibility of staving off the Australian attacking for a little under 12 overs and secure a famous draw.
A result other than an Australian victory at Fortress Gabba is considered an anomaly these days, such has been their dominance at this venue, which traditionally hosts the first match of a series, especially in the Ashes. There have been only four draws out of the 19 Tests that have taken place at the Gabba this millennium, one of which was the opening Test of the 2010-11 Ashes.
Peter Siddle, who was in prime form and was a key member of the Aussie attack around that time, ran through the English batting order to walk away with a haul of 6/54, and restrict the visitors to 260. Australia, in reply, took a first innings lead worth 221 runs, thanks to centuries from Mike Hussey (195) and Brad Haddin (136). England batted out the remaining overs of Day 3 without losing a wicket, finishing with 19 runs on the board and an improbable task of avoiding a defeat ahead of them.
The next two days saw the England top three slams tons, for the first time in 86 years, on a docile Gabba track that had eased out and turned into a batting paradise. England piled on a mammoth 517/1 over the next five sessions, with Strauss (110) being the only wicket to fall on Day 4. Cook went on to notch up his then-highest score, remaining unbeaten on 235 and sharing a 329-run unbeaten stand with Jonathan Trott.
Australia were set a target of 297 with a little over a session left to bat on the final day, and didn’t face too many hurdles themselves barring the early loss of Simon Katich with just five runs on the board.
Trent Bridge, 2013:
A match that’s best-remembered for the heroic partnership between the late Phil Hughes and No 11 Ashton Agar, the duo adding 163 for the final wicket to rescue Australia from the doldrums, before the latter fell just two short of his maiden Test century.
Siddle (5/50) once again proved to be the bane for the English batsmen, who failed to capitalise on a strong start and were bundled out for 215. Australia, in reply, were reeling at 117/9, thanks to Anderson’s five-wicket haul, but walked away with a 65-run lead in the end, thanks to the Hughes-Agar stand.
England’s troubles extended to the remaining overs of the second session on Day 2, with Mitchell Starc removing both Joe Root and Trott off successive deliveries. Cook then rallied with Petersen to forge a 110-run third wicket stand to rescue the Englishmen. Ian Bell carried on the good work, slamming 109 to anchor the next two sessions, and Stuart Broad chipped in with a vital 65 to guide England to 375.
Australia began positively after being set 311 to win, with Shane Watson and Chris Rogers adding 84 for the opening partnership. That was, however, followed by a procession of sorts, as the Aussies were reduced to 231/9. Haddin kept their chances alive with a brave knock of 71, guiding them within touching distance of the target before becoming the last Australian wicket to fall 15 short of the target, off the bowling of Anderson who completed his second five-for of the match as a result.
Trent Bridge, 2015:
What is it with Trent Bridge and Ashes classics! This one’s remembered for all the wrong reasons, at least from the Australian perspective.
After the joy of winning the World Cup on home soil earlier in the year, the Aussies had hoped to end their losing run in England, where they hadn’t won an Ashes series since 2001, while giving a fitting farewell to the outgoing group of Michael Clarke, Brad Haddin, Chris Rogers (and later Shane Watson).
Instead, they were 1-2 behind heading into the fourth Test at Trent Bridge. And after being asked to bat by the hosts, it took one vicious spell from Stuart Broad to snuff out any hopes they had of retaining the urn.
The spell, one of the greatest ever in the sport without a shred of doubt, saw Broad destroy the Australian batting order with figures of 8/15 from 9.3 overs. Three of the Australian top four were dismissed for a duck in the carnage that ensued on the morning of Day 1. Australia were bowled out for a lowly 60 as a result. England finished the opening day on a score of 274/4, with Joe Root unbeaten on 124.
The match was as good as over by then, and the Aussies needed a Headingley or an Eden Gardens-like turnaround if they were to level the series, which unfortunately was not to happen as they went on to lose by an innings and 78 runs.
Both England and Australia have become lions in their own backyard and struggled in away conditions, as has been the pattern in the Ashes over the last decade. Barring England’s comprehensive 3-1 victory in the 2010-11 edition, the rivalry hasn’t witnessed the visiting side lift the urn for nearly two decades now.
The pre-Ashes banter had begun well before the series had begun, with Australian off-spinner Nathan Lyon talking about ending careers in the build-up to the highly anticipated series. The hosts then backed up their banter with performance, walking away with a 10-wicket win at Brisbane, further solidifying their fearsome reputation at that venue.
The second Test at Adelaide, the first-ever day-night Ashes Test saw Australia stare at another comprehensive victory after collecting a 215-run first-innings lead. The twist in the tale came in the second Australian innings, as Anderson (5/43) and Chris Woakes (4/36) bowled out vicious spells to bowl the Aussies out for a lowly 138, giving the Englishmen real hope of engineering a turnaround in the match as well as in the series.
The target of 354 was still daunting though, and while England gained some confidence after the inspired bowling display, they still needed to bat out of their skins if they were to avoid a defeat. England reached 176/4 at stumps on the penultimate day, with Root unbeaten on 67. The collapse, however, began just two deliveries into the final day though, as Josh Hazlewood removed Woakes, before dismissing Root in his next over to turn the tide in favour of the hosts, who ended up going 2-0 up in the series with a 120-run win.