Cricket has changed since the turn of the century, embracing short-over games and, of course, the excellent IPL.
Whilst the newer image has seen new fans come for excitement and engagement, the old ways of leather on willow and long test events still have die-hard followers. The IPL might catch the world’s attention with high-paid players and lots of thrills and spills, but the Ashes remains an engaging and enthralling cricketing event every couple of years.
The Ashes is a unique event in that it is only ever a contest between England and Australia. It got its name in 1882 when the Aussies, known as the tourists when playing in England, won their first-ever Test series on English soil. A feature on the Ashes history by Bwin, it outlines that a national newspaper then declared English cricket dead, saying “the body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia”. The next time the two teams met, it was billed as England’s attempts to regain those ashes. Indeed, England won that tournament and subsequently was presented with an urn holding actual ashes of a burned cricket ball.
The next edition of the Ashes takes place this winter in Australia. The world’s eyes will turn to The Gabba on December 8 for the first ball, with the fifth and final test scheduled to end on January 18, according to the BBC. Currently, Australia holds the Ashes and has won 33 of the 71 series. England is just one behind on 32, and there have been six draws, including the 2019 series, which saw Australia retain the Ashes. In that time, there have been some genuinely thrilling moments, the best three of which we’ve selected below to get you ready for this winter’s event.
Botham’s Ashes (1981)
The 1981 Ashes series looked to be over after the second test. Ian Botham had captained the side to defeat in the opening Test at Trent Bridge, and when they did the same at Lords a week or so later to lose the first series, Botham resigned. The papers were packed full of vitriol for ‘Beefy’, but the unpredictable nature of the game had fans captivated as he regained his reputation. Following on and at 135-7 in their second innings of the third test, England looked beaten, but Botham produced an inspired performance to lead a remarkable comeback. The Aussies only needed 130 to win, but Botham inspired their collapse for just 111. England went on to a 3-1 series win.
A Legend Emerges (1993)
Genuine sporting legends, the sort that writes history, are few and far between. In cricket, there are few with the standing of Shane Warne, who burst onto the scene with a stunning opening ball in the early nineties. In 1993, he was a virtual unknown and hoped to help his side retain the Ashes they won in 1989. His first ball was at accomplished former England captain Mike Gatting; it was a vicious leg break pitched outside Gatting’s leg stump. It gripped the pitch and veered off sharply to take the top of the stump. England never got back on track; they were thrashed 4-1 in the series and would not take the Askes back for more than a decade, thanks in no small part to the man from Upper Ferntree Gully.
The Greatest Series (2005)
The Aussies had dominated England for 16 years and were expected to continue to do so in 2005 from their position as the world’s number one cricket team. However, captain Ricky Ponting had declared it would be the closest since their dominance began in the late eighties, and he wasn’t wrong. Every game was close, balanced on a knife-edge. The highlight was perhaps the second test at Edgbaston, with the tourists chasing 282. They got to within two runs before Michael Kasprowicz was caught to hand England a two-run win, the closest ever in a series. England eventually won 2-1 in a truly captivating summer of cricket.