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The 5 greatest Ashes Tests of the last 50 years


Ashes_Australia_England_CricketAfter the buzz around limited-overs cricket following the Indian Premier League and the 2019 Cricket World Cup, Test cricket is back in focus with the Ashes returning to England. It is cricket’s oldest rivalry, lasting well over 140 years, and over the course of these years, several exhilarating Test matches have been played between these arch-rivals. Here we list the best of the lot in the past half-century.

Edgbaston, 1981
England 189 & 219 beat Australia 258 & 121 by 29 runs

The 1981 Test series came to be known as “Botham’s Ashes” after some extraordinary performances from the England all-rounder. In the fourth Test of the series at Birmingham, Botham put on a stunning show to come from behind and record a miraculous victory.

England were bowled out for 189 after electing to bat first with Terry Alderman taking a five-wicket haul. Australia took a decent lead by making 258 in their first innings with skipper Kim Hughes making 47. Chris Old and John Emburey did the bulk of the work for England with the ball.

Instead of driving home the advantage of a less than effective lead, England’s top-order wasted every start to left-arm spinner Ray Bright. Mike Gatting top scored with 39 as Bright picked up a five-wicket haul.

With 151 to win, Australia were favourites to win the Test and at 114/5, they were well on their way. Until Ian Botham produced a rip-roaring spell where he took five wickets for just one run. Australia were bowled out for 121 as England won by 29 runs.

Melbourne, 1982-83
England 284 & 294 beat Australia 287 & 288 by 3 runs

The fourth Test of the 82-83 series produced one of the closest Test matches ever between these sides. All four team totals ranged between 284 and 294 as England edged past Australia by three runs to win a humdinger.

Batting first, England made 284 with eighties from Chris Tavare and Allan Lamb. Rodney Hogg and Bruce Yardley picked up eight wickets between them. Australia got a three-run lead in the first innings making 287. Kim Hughes, Rod Marsh and David Hookes made half-centuries for Australia.

England responded with 294, the highest total in the game, setting Australia 292 to win. Graeme Fowler made 65 and Ian Botham sped up the scoring rate with a quick-fire 46. Geoff Lawson kept Australia in the Test with a 4/66 but the target was always going to be stiff.

With 292 to win, Australia went from 171/3 to 190/7 as Norman Cowans picked up four wickets. He went on to pick up two more to complete a six-wicket haul, but Allan Border and Geoff Thomson delayed England’s win with a sensational stand for the last wicket. Their 70-run partnership appeared to put Australia on course to overhaul England’s target. With four runs to win, Ian Botham prized out Thomson to give England a brilliant three-run win.

Edgbaston, 2005
England 407 & 182 beat Australia 308 & 279 by 2 runs

Arguably the greatest ever Ashes Test was played out at Edgbaston in the mind-blowing 2005 Test series in England. Glenn McGrath pulled out at the last moment due to injury, but Ponting surprised even his teammates by opting to bowl first on a batting wicket. England made merry with a 112-run opening stand as Marcus Trescothick made 90. Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen then damaged Australia with knocks of 68 and 71 respectively, the runs coming at run-a-ball. With 407 on board, England were bowled out and took a 99-run lead, bowling Australia out for 308.

Australia roared back into the Test, reducing England to 31/4. Flintoff went berserk with the bat to drive home a lead as Australia kept chipping away from the other end. Shane Warne (6 wickets) and Brett Lee (4 wickets) took all wickets among themselves as England folded for 182.

282 was Australia’s target, still a formidable score but the pitch had evened out, which helped Australia bat well. Flintoff kept picking up big wickets as Matthew Hoggard and Ashley Giles also chipped in. Australia were reduced to 175/8 but found resilience in their final two stands – Shane Warne, Brett Lee and Michael Kasprowicz resisted England’s surge and scored valuable runs.

Warne and Lee made 45 for the ninth wicket before Flintoff had Warne hit-wicket. If England thought they were winning from there, Kasprowicz had other ideas. He made 20 in 31 balls as Lee also got into the 40s. Three runs away from a win, Harmison bounced out Kasprowicz as England levelled series 1-1, winning the Test match by 2 runs.

Old Trafford, 2005
England 444 & 280/6d drew with Australia 302 & 371/9

After the humdinger at Edgbaston in the second Test, England and Australia played out another Test which followed a similar template. Batting first, England made 444, driven by Michael Vaughan’s 166. Brett Lee and Shane Warne took four wickets apiece but England drove home the advantage when bowling. Simon Jones put on a fine exhibition of reverse swing after Ashley Giles took three wickets early on. Australia folded for 302.

With a massive lead behind them, England furthered their progress with Andrew Strauss’ hundred and Ian Bell’s half-century. Setting Australia 423 to win, England declared. Australia began their innings on day 4 and survived the day without losing wickets. Ricky Ponting then hammered the English on day 5 and blasted 156 but failed to garner support from the middle-order.

While a stand between Ponting and Warne threatened to take the game away from England, Flintoff dismissed Warne and Steven Harmison dismissed Ponting to leave Australia at 354/9 but they still had to take one more wicket in the four remaining overs. Brett Lee and Glenn McGrath hung on in those four dramatic overs on day 5 as Australia eked out a draw.

Trent Bridge, 2013
England 215 & 375 beat Australia 280 & 296 by 14 runs

The first Ashes Test of the 2013 series at Trent Bridge produced a dramatic Test with both sides clawing their way back into the match at different stages of the match. Peter Siddle’s five-wicket haul cleaned up England for 215 in the first innings after the hosts won the toss and opted to bat first.

James Anderson and Steven Finn reduced Australia to 53/4 but Steven Smith and the late Phil Hughes made half-centuries before another collapse left them at 117/9. Hughes batted with the no.11 batsman and debutant Ashton Agar. The left-handed Agar then surprised all with a spectacular 98 as Australia took an unexpected lead.

England then roared back into the Test through an Ian Bell hundred and posted 375, setting Australia a stiff 311 for victory in the final innings. A middle-order collapse saw them slump to 164/6 but Brad Haddin led the recovery. Yet, at 231/9, Australia seemed well out of the game until James Pattinson resisted James Anderson’s surge with Brad Haddin. The duo put on 65 for the final wicket before England used the DRS for a caught behind appeal off Anderson to Haddin to snap up the final wicket and win the Test by 14 runs.

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