The Best Ashes Series – 10 Memorable Ashes in Short

Ashes encounters between England and Australia always tend to produce thrilling games but which are the best series of all time? Here’s a round up.

Top 10 Memorable Ashes Series in Short

The 2005 Ashes

Opinion will differ but, if you ask neutral cricket fans, they will often say that the 2005 Ashes series was the best of all time. England eventually won by a 2-1 scoreline while there two draws, but each of those games could have gone either way.

When Australia arrived in the UK, they hadn’t lost an Ashes series since 1987. The home side were up against it and it looked to be ‘business as usual’ as the Aussies won at Lord’s. From that point, however, the English team was transformed.

Playing a new brand of positive cricket under skipper Michael Vaughan, England responded in the second game, scoring heavily on the first day to set up what was one of the tightest finishes of all time. This was the match where Australia’s last two wickets threatened to snatch the game before England eventually won by the narrow margin of two runs.

Australia were on the back foot in the third game but managed to salvage a draw after their last wicket pair survived the final few overs.

It was 1-1 going into the fourth test and this is where England seized the initiative. The home side made 477 on first innings with Andrew Flintoff making a century. Australia were forced to follow on but rallied to set England a tricky final target.

England scraped over the line, making a winning total of 129/7 as Shane Warne’s brilliance threatened to take the game away.

Michael Vaughan’s men only needed to draw the last test to regain the Ashes. They did it but, once again, the match had more than its fair share of drama. Australia made 373 on first innings and England were struggling in reply before Kevin Pietersen’s counterattack produced his debut test century.

Rain played a part before the umpires removed the bails to bring the curtain down on what must surely have been the greatest Ashes series of all time.

2019 Ashes Series

Australia were dominant for much of the 2019 Ashes series but England battled hard. At the end of the five games, the series was drawn 2-2 and that’s a fair reflection of some thrilling, evenly balanced cricket.

The series will be remembered, certainly by Australians, for Steve Smith’s brilliance with the bat. Smith made 774 runs in just four tests and headed the run scoring charts by some margin.

Steve Smith began his onslaught with centuries in both innings of the first test which set up a 251-run victory for the tourists. England were on the back foot but played more positively in the second test where rain on the first day saw the game end in a draw.

Next up was that unforgettable third test at Headingley where a last wicket stand between Ben Stokes and Jack Leach saw England over the line. A win for the home side looked unlikely after they were bowled out for 67 on first innings but Stokes’ brilliance won the day.

The victory gave English fans hope but a double century from Smith in the fourth test set up another easy Australian win as the tourists regained the Ashes.

Brilliant bowling by Jofra Archer in the first innings of the final game helped England level at 2-2. Australia had played the better cricket, but England always battled in what would become another memorable Ashes series.

1981 – Botham’s Ashes

The 1981 series in England will be forever known as ‘Botham’s Ashes’ following the heroics of England’s greatest ever all-rounder. Ian Botham would eventually turn the series England’s way, but it all started in ignominy after he resigned the captaincy at Lord’s.

By that stage, the home side were losing 1-0 after the first two test matches. Mike Brearley returned as skipper and it all changed from that point. Freed from his responsibilities, Botham took it out on the tourists and England won one of the most incredible tests in history.

At Headingley, Brearley’s men were forced to follow on. Famously, they were 500/1 outsiders during the fourth day but a brilliant 149 from Ian Botham provided a slender lead. Eight wickets from Bob Willis on the final day saw Australia slump to 111 all out as England won one of the greatest tests of all time.

Botham’s brilliance was to the fore in the fourth test at Edgbaston. This time, he delivered with the ball, claiming figures of 5/11 as England won by 29 runs.

It was back to batting at Old Trafford as a Botham century helped England to a more comfortable win. The shell-shocked Aussies managed a draw in the final game but the turnaround in a brilliant series had already helped England to win the Ashes.

1932/33 – The Bodyline Series

The games in Australia across 1932/33 would become known as the Bodyline Series. Almost 100 years later, it remains as the most notorious and ill-tempered Ashes series in history.

The issue was with Don Bradman and England had to devise a plan to deal with him and the rest of Australia’s batters. Bodyline – known as leg theory at the time – was the idea. It was a fast and hostile style of bowling with short pitched deliveries from around the wicket with a packed leg side field waiting.

It was controversial but it was certainly effective as England bowlers Harold Larwood and Bill Voce starred in a 4-1 series win.

Bradman still managed to top score for Australia with 396 runs in the series, but the Aussie batters struggled as a whole. Larwood was the leading wicket taker with 33 victims while Wally Hammond and Herbert Sutcliffe both scored 440 runs for England across the five games.

The Oval, 1882

This is the game where the Ashes was effectively born. Australia and England had been playing each other since the first ever test in Melbourne in 1877 but they did not have an official trophy at this point.

That was to change in 1882 after an extraordinary, low scoring game. It was the only test of the tour and it seemed as though England would cruise to victory after dismissing the tourists for just 63 in their first innings. The hosts gained an advantage but it would prove to be a slender one as they were dismissed for 101.

Australia improved, making 122 in their second innings but England would have been confident of chasing down their target of 85. Instead, they were dismissed for 77 as the ‘Demon’ Fred Spofforth took figures of 7/44 for the tourists.

It was a poor defeat and the Sporting Times published a mock obituary which referred to the ‘Ashes’ of English cricket. On the subsequent tour to Australia in 1882/83, England captain Ivo Bligh was presented with an urn which purported to contain the ashes of a bail. On the back of the 1882 test, The Ashes was officially born.

1948

The 1948 Ashes series in England was notable for a number of reasons. Firstly, it marked the departure from the game of the great Donald Bradman who played his final test at The Oval on this tour.

Bradman, despite making a duck in his last innings, led Australia to an emphatic, 4-0 victory. He certainly wasn’t a failure with the bat either, scoring 508 runs across the five games. Arthur Morris top scored for Australia with 696 runs while Denis Compton responded well for England with 562.

But the Aussies would dominate, claiming their four victories by heavy margins. Rain in the third test at Old Trafford may have prevented the tourists from claiming a 5-0 whitewash. As it was, Bradman’s men remained undefeated on their long tour and that achievement earned them the nickname of The Invincibles.

1974/5

It’s not a series that England’s players will want to remember but the games in 1974/75 produced some thrilling cricket. This was the series that saw Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thompson develop one of the most hostile fast bowling partnerships in the history of the game.

This was another one-sided contest with Australia winning the six-test series by a scoreline of 4-1. The tourists simply had no answer to the pace and hostility of the home side’s bowling attack.

Thomson claimed 33 wickets in the series while Lillee contributed 25. Even when England had seen off the new ball pairing, they had Max Walker to contend with. Walker claimed 23 wickets of his own and the tourists were blown away by pace.

Australia’s victory in the first test at Brisbane by 166 runs set the tone. Worse was to follow as the Aussies won by nine wickets at Perth in the follow up. Rain helped England secure a draw in the third game at Melbourne before Australia claimed the next two tests to secure the Ashes.

With Jeff Thompson missing the final game through injury, England took full advantage and won by an innings. It was an impressive way to end the tour, but it was a hollow victory in the context of the entire series.

1894/95

England travelled to Australia in 1894 and played out what was the most thrilling Ashes series up to that point. The tourists won the opening two games before the home side pulled it back to two matches apiece.

In a topsy-turvy series, England regained their composure to win the final game and claim the Ashes by a 3-2 scoreline.

The first test was notable for England winning after being forced to follow on. Victory in the second game was more comfortable before Australia won the third match by a huge margin of 382 runs. The Aussies won by an innings after two weak efforts by England with the bat in the fourth game.

The fifth test marked an astonishing recovery with the tourists winning by six wickets. There were some great individual performances and the scoreline alone tells us that this was one of the best Ashes series of all time.

1993

1993 in England saw the tourists dominate. It’s another set of games that home fans would rather forget but it was notable for the introduction of one Shane Warne. With his very first delivery in Ashes cricket, the leg spinner produced the ‘ball of the century’ to dismiss Mike Gatting.

Australia won that first test at Old Trafford by the comfortable margin of 179 runs. Warne took eight wickets in the match and the tone for the series was duly set. The leg spinner would continue to dominate English batters and would finish as the leading wicket taker with 34 victims.

The second test was won by an innings after David Boon’s 164 had helped Australia to a colossal total of 632/4. England really had no answer in any department although Robin Smith, Graham Thorpe and Graham Gooch shone with the bat to draw the third game.

The Ashes were secured after another innings victory for Australia in the fourth test. Allan Border’s double ton helped the tourists to a total of 653/4 while England could only make 200 and 305.

It was a one-sided affair with Australia playing some great cricket. England won’t want to remember this period, but we had to admire the tourists and, in particular, the emergence of Shane Warne.

2009

England had won the Ashes in 2005 but had lost the urn following Australia’s 5-0 series whitewash in 2006/07. 2009 saw Australia return to English soil and the tourists were very much the favourites.

The hosts were without a number of players from the successful 2005 campaign. Michael Vaughan, Simon Jones, Ashley Giles, Matthew Hoggard, Geraint Jones and Marcus Trescothick had already played their final tests while injuries prevented Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen from featuring in the entire 2009 series.

Australia dominated at times and will feel that they should have won the series. In the first test at Cardiff, the tourists were on top for the entire game and England were only saved by a famous last wicket stand between James Anderson and Monty Panesar.

The home side were on the back foot and it was something of a surprise when England won the second test at Lord’s. Skipper Andrew Strauss set things up with 161 on first innings while Andrew Flintoff secured the Player of the Match award with six wickets in the match.

It was England’s first Ashes win at Lord’s since 1934 and they were surprise series leaders. Rain saw the third test end in a draw as the game looked poised for a tight finish.

In the fourth test at Headingley, Andrew Flintoff was injured and Australia took full advantage, winning by an innings and 80 runs, The tourists had the momentum and were favourites once again going into the final game at The Oval.

With Flintoff back for what would be his last ever test, England dug deep and won with a brilliant all-round team performance. Jonathan Trott scored a century on debut while Stuart Broad blew away Australia’s middle order with five wickets in the first innings.

England won by the comfortable margin of 197 runs, but it was a tight and thrilling series which could have gone either way.