Greatest Ashes series: 3 of the best in England
The 2023 Ashes is the latest instalment in the memorable tussle between the old rivals and perhaps one of the most unpredictable in recent times.
The tourists arrive as World Test Championship finalists and in possession of the urn following the thumping 4-0 success Down Under in 2021-22.
England look refreshingly free from the scars of that trip, having made a clean break under the progressive leadership of Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum. With 11 wins from their last 13 Tests, there will be no sense of inferiority in the home dressing room.
Here we look at three of the greatest Ashes series on English soil that stand as the bar to clear.
1948: England 0 Australia 4
It may not have been a close contest but it is still regarded as one of the greatest Ashes series due to the irrepressible performance of an Australia side captained by the great Donald Bradman.
‘The Don’ led an unprecedented unbeaten tour, comprising 31 first-class matches as they travelled up and down the country taking on allcomers.
They won four of the five Test matches by heavy margins but narrowly missed out on a whitewash as England fought out a draw at Old Trafford. The series cemented their status as one of the greatest ever teams.
The rollercoaster of ‘Botham’s Ashes’
1981: England 3 Australia 1
Chaos theory writ large, as England and their mercurial leading man went from the depths of despair to the toast of the nation in a few short weeks.
As skipper Botham arrived at the first Test under pressure, lost it by four wickets and was then dismissed for a pair of ducks in a drawn second Test. A bitter resignation followed, but an SOS for the veteran strategist Mike Brearley proved the pitch perfect decision.
Freed from the shackles of captaincy, Botham produced his masterpiece in Leeds as his bloody-minded 149 not out following on dragged England back from odds of 500/1.
Bob Willis steamed in to deliver victory with the ball but Botham hogged the narrative with a sequence of five for one to settle the Edgbaston Test, another century in a winning cause at Old Trafford and a 10-wicket match at The Oval.
Vaughan’s men end the drought
2005: England 2 Australia 1
After many false dawns and eight consecutive series defeats, England finally reclaimed the urn for the first time since 1987.
Victory was made sweeter because of the calibre of the opposition, an all-conquering Australia studded with star names from one to 11. The likes of Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath were in harness, Ricky Ponting, Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist were in their prime years but England thrilled the nation by coming out on top.
Edgbaston 2005. What a Test match! pic.twitter.com/iIWahImjow
— England Cricket (@englandcricket) July 31, 2018
Despite a stinging defeat first up at Lord’s, the hosts would not be tamed. Andrew Flintoff levelled up to go from all-rounder to action hero, newcomer Kevin Pietersen arrived as a fully-formed world beater and a perfectly balanced pace attack hunted like a perfect pack.
Add in McGrath tripping on a ball and a nail-biting two-run win at Edgbaston and the so-called ‘greatest series’ was born.
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