This month, the most anticipated cricketing event of the year finally gets underway as England host Australia to contest the 2023 Ashes Series. One of the oldest rivalries in all of sport begins at Edgbaston on June 16th and further test matches will be held at Lord’s, Headingley, Old Trafford, and finally The Oval with each side aiming to claim the tiny urn and the international bragging rights that come with it. This year’s tourists are the current holders of the trophy and they have been ever since they reclaimed it back in 2018.
The last half a decade hasn’t been the happiest time for the English. Between 2005 and 2013, it was England who dominated the competition, winning four of the five series contested, including their first series win on Australian soil in 24 years back in 2011. However, in the last five years, it has been one-way traffic.
The Baggy Greens managed to successfully reclaim the urn with a 4-0 drubbing of their oldest rivals in 2018, and they then managed to retain the trophy on foreign soil the following summer following a 2-2 draw. They then handed England another 4-0 thumping last winter and this summer, online betting sites in Canada have made them the 11/8 favorites to retain their crown once again. But if there’s one thing that the Ashes have taught us, it is to expect the unexpected.
While the recent series contested in the southern hemisphere have been more one-sided than any Englishman would care to admit, when the contest takes place on their turf, fans are always treated to an epic spectacle. And with that being said, let’s take a look at two of the greatest Ashes Test Matches of all time.
Australia’s Herculean Effort Repelled at Edgbaston
Back in 2005, Australia were undoubtedly the greatest cricketing nation on the face of the planet. They headed to England as the reigning world champions and if that wasn’t enough, they had picked up victories in each of the last eight Ashes Series, winning by a cumulative score of 28-7. However, the hosts that year were quietly confident of a successful summer.
England had given a great account of themselves in the One Day series which took place shortly before the Ashes got underway and in Kevin Pietersen, they had unearthed a hidden gem. Despite that however, the tourists still romped to victory in the opening test match at Lord’s, with the devastating combination of Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne causing absolute havoc in the English top order. In the second test at Edgbaston however, the hosts had a stroke of luck.
Just hours before the test got underway, the menacing McGrath suffered a freak injury when he stumbled over a stray ball and was deemed unfit to play. England took full advantage, smashing 407 runs in their first innings and taking a 99-run lead. In the second innings, they would extend that lead to 281 runs and when Australia were whittled down to 137/7, it seemed that a series-levelling victory was just around the corner.
Then, however, Australia’s spirited tail-enders took them to the brink of victory. The aforementioned Warne added 42 runs before being dismissed and leaving his side 220/9, 62 short of the 282 needed for victory. Brett Lee then took over the mantle and put his side on the brink.
However, with the tourists needing just two for the most famous of victories, fast bowler Steve Harmison found a ball that exploded off the pitch. All Michael Kasprowicz, McGrath’s replacement in the Aussie lineup, could do was cover up and as he did, the ball clipped his glove and fell gratefully into the hands of English wicket-keeper Geraint Jones. England had done it, and they wouldn’t lose the momentum, eventually winning the series 2-1 and reclaiming the Ashes for the first time since 1987.
Ben Stokes Bludgeons the Tourists
In 2005, Australia almost pulled off the most improbable of victories. 14 years later, Ben Stokes ensured that England completed the impossible.
The Aussies headed to England full of confidence in the summer of 2019. They had routed their rivals 4-0 barely 18 months prior and headed into the lion’s den deadset on winning the Ashes on enemy territory. The English however had just secured the World Cup for the first time in their history barely a month earlier, and they too were full of confidence.
It was the tourists however that took the initiative early. They stormed to victory in the first test at Edgbaston courtesy of the blistering form of Steve Smith, who racked up a mighty 286 runs in his two innings. As such, his side secured a 251-run victory, and following a draw in the second test at Lord’s, the Aussies knew that victory at Headingley in the third test would ensure that they retained the urn.
That victory looked assured on day one after the hosts were bowled out for a measly 67 in barely 27 overs. The tourists then batted themselves into a commanding 358-run lead. And after England collapsed from 245/4 to 286/9 in barely an hour after the lunch interval, the hosts were still a whopping 72 runs away from victory with just one wicket in hand.
Ben Stokes was still at the crease and he was joined by last man Jack Leach. But nobody could have anticipated what was about to follow. In one of the greatest hours in the history of sports, England’s ginger-haired maestro slapped the Australian attack all over Yorkshire.
Boundaries came in abundance and the tourists simply couldn’t contain England’s main man. He racked up the required runs in just 65 balls and single-handedly kept the series alive for his nation. Despite his heroics, however, the Aussies would still eventually retain the urn after a 2-2 series draw.