The Ashes
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What are the Ashes? A look at the history between England and Australia

| 06.12.2021

In 1882 the Australian cricket team recovered from a poor opening innings to record their first Test series win in England – a shock result which stunned their hosts.

In the aftermath, the Sporting Times newspaper published a mock obituary declaring that English cricket was dead and “the body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia”.

When the England team travelled to Australia at the end of that year, the Test series they played was described as a quest to “regain the ashes of English cricket”.

England won and were presented with a small terracotta urn, which is believed to contain the burned remains of one of the wooden bails.

This urn went on to become the symbol of the Ashes and a crystal replica is awarded to the winners of every series. The original urn still exists but is kept in a museum at Lord’s Cricket Ground.

When is the next Ashes series?

The Ashes have been contested on a roughly biannual basis over the last 139 years, with 71 series completed to date.

The 72nd Ashes series will begin with the first Test on December 8 2021 and conclude with the end of the fifth Test, which is scheduled for January 18 2022.

Who holds the Ashes?

Australia are the current holders of the Ashes, having won by a convincing 4-0 margin in 2017-18 and retaining them when the 2019 series ended in a 2-2 draw.

England had won four of the previous five series in a rare spell of dominance. If they were to reclaim the Ashes this time that would make it five wins out of a possible eight.

What are the Ashes?

When did England last win the Ashes?

England most recently won the Ashes in 2015 when they defeated Australia 3-2 on home soil.

The last time England won the Ashes in Australia – the task ahead of them in 2021-22 – was a decade ago in 2010-11.

This was their 14th overseas Ashes triumph and saw them defeat Australia 3-1 with Alastair Cook scoring a total of 766 runs – the second-highest by any English player in Ashes history.

However there have only been five occasions when England have actually “won” the Ashes from Australia – rather than just successfully defending them – without home advantage.

This last happened in the “momentous series” of 1970-71 when they regained the urn for the first time since 1956 and made history by preventing their hosts from winning a single Test in an Australia-based Ashes series.

Who has held the Ashes the longest?

The Australian cricket team has held onto the Ashes the longest overall: they have been the defending champions for more than 79 of the 139 years that the series has been in existence.

Both nations have enjoyed a sequence of eight consecutive Ashes series as holders: England from its inception until 1890 and Australia more recently from 1989 to 2003.

However, England have never since held onto the urn for more than three successive series while Australia have twice retained the Ashes for six series in a row.

What are the Ashes?

How many times have England won the Ashes?

Both countries have won a similar number of Ashes series: England have 32 to Australia’s 33, with the other six ending in a draw.

However Australia have a larger lead when it comes to individual Tests won, having triumphed 28 more times than England – 136 to 108.

What are the Ashes?

Who has scored the most runs in Ashes history?

Both England and Australia have five of the 10 highest-scoring batsmen in Ashes history.

However, Donald Bradman of Australia – often cited as the greatest of all-time – is the most prolific by far with over 5,000 runs scored between 1928 and 1948.

What are the Ashes?

Australia’s Steve Smith is the highest-scoring active player with 2,800 runs but at the age of 32 he is unlikely to threaten Bradman’s record.

Joe Root is the highest-scoring active English player with 1,694 runs from his 46 Ashes innings to date. England’s captain will turn 31 during the next Ashes series so is also unlikely to move much further up the all-time rankings.

Who has taken the most wickets in Ashes history?

Australia has provided the four most successful wicket-takers in the history of the Ashes.

Shane Warne’s final Ashes series in 2007 saw him set a record total of 195 wickets, which is 38 more than any other player has managed to date.

What are the Ashes?

The most prolific wicket-taker set to take part in the next Ashes series is England’s Stuart Broad with 118 but at 35 years old he is unlikely to reach Warne’s heights.

However Broad would only need 11 more wickets to surpass Ian Botham as the English player with the most wickets in Ashes history.

Who will win the Ashes?

Australia are the favourites to win the 2021-22 Ashes series and recent history is on their side.

Eight of the last 10 series to have been held in Australia have seen the host nation prevail, winning a total of 31 Tests to England’s 10. Therefore, a 3-1 series win is the baseline expectation for this encounter.

What are the Ashes?

Concerningly for England, three of their last four visits to Australia for an Ashes series ended without them winning a single Test.

Who will score the most runs in the Ashes?

By comparing the record of the players in each squad in Test matches against the other nation, we can get a feel for the strength of the respective batting orders.

All English eyes will be on Root and Ben Stokes, who have each registered three centuries in Test matches against Australia.

However, Dawid Malan has a higher batting average in these encounters – albeit across just nine innings – so could be a surprise package.

What are the Ashes?

Australia could have a surprise package of their own in Marnus Labuschagne, who has averaged just over 50 runs in his seven Test innings against England to date.

Only star batsman Smith, who will be expected to lead the Australian charge this winter, has a better average record.

Smith’s 11 centuries across 48 innings in which he has averaged 65.1 runs make him a force to be reckoned with.



Stuart Walker