From Bodyline to Ben Stokes’ heroism, we look back on five epic Ashes series.
The most controversial Ashes series of them all was created by a desire to slow down Bradman’s phenomenal race scoring.
England captain Douglas Jardine’s response was to insert ‘benteori’ – bowling cards to a full side of the field – with the supremely accurate fast bowler Harold Larwood as the spearhead for the attack.
It worked to the extent that England won the Ashes 4-1, with Bradman’s average for the series reduced to 56.57.
But the use of what became known as the ‘Bodyline’, in which batsmen had to defend themselves in front of their butt, was condemned as “unsportsmanlike” by Australian officials and almost caused a collapse in diplomatic relations.
1948: Australia’s Invincibles
An Australian team led by Don Bradman in its last Test series swept everyone in front of them in an undefeated trip where they won the Ashes 4-0.
To emphasize their superiority, Australia were given a seemingly impossible goal of 404 on the final day to win the fourth Test at Headingley.
Still, they got there for the loss of just three wickets, with Arthur Morris making 182 and Bradman undefeated 173.
But the series is best remembered for Bradman’s final test laps at The Oval, when he needed four for an average of exactly one hundred, he was thrown for a duck by leg-spinner Eric Hollies and had to settle for a grade of 99.94.
1981: Bothams ash
Rarely has one man done so much to win an Ashes as Ian Botham in 1981.
He started the series as England captain, but after defeat in the first Test at Nottingham and the embarrassment of having a pair draw at Lord’s, Botham withdrew as captain.
England were in serious trouble after being forced to follow in the third Test at Headingley, where former English wicketkeeper Godfrey Evans – who had become an odds setter for a bookmaker – made them 500-1 outsiders to win the match.
Botham’s stunning counter-attack innings of 149 *, however, meant Australia were set at 130 before fast bowler Bob Willis’ inspired 8-43 gave England an astonishing 18-run victory.
Botham’s hardly credible 5-1 return in 28 balls at Edgbaston ensured England won the fourth Test with 29 runs.
There were more heroics in the fifth Test as Botham’s blistering 118 put a 103-run victory at Old Trafford to win the series.
2005: England wins thriller
2005 Ashes was one of the biggest series in cricket history and saw England win over their toughest rivals for the first time in almost 19 years.
It looked to be business as usual for long-suffering England fans as Australia won the first Test at Lord’s with 239 races.
But when Australian fast bowler Glenn McGrath was ruled out of the second Test at Edgbaston after stepping on a ball during training on the morning of the match, England took responsibility.
England’s Andrew Flintoff played the lead with both bat and ball, and as Australia had 175-8 and chased 282 for the win, a home win seemed certain.
But Australia got closer before last man Michael Kasprowicz was caught behind Steve Harmison to give England victory with just two races.
The third Test was drawn and England survived a brilliant burst with four wickets from play-spin big Shane Warne to win the fourth Test at Trent Bridge.
England, now 2-1 ahead and needed to avoid defeat in the fifth Test to regain the ashes, were in danger of losing on the final day at The Oval until Kevin Pietersen’s breathtaking 158 and a fine fifty from Ashley Giles saved a draw.
2019: Stokes heroics, genius Smith
Australia retained the urn as proprietors despite the series being drawn for the first time since 1972, with Steve Smith snatching headlines when he returned from a ball-playing ban by excelling in the face of mocking English spectators.
He struck out at a different level than anyone else, scoring 774 runs on just seven innings to an average of more than 110, including back-to-back centuries in the preliminary Test at Edgbaston.
Had he not missed three innings after being hit by a Jofra Archer bouncer, he could have come close to Donald Bradman’s record of 974 runs in a test series, set in 1930.
But the highlight of the series was England’s phenomenal Ben Stokes-inspired victory with one wicket in the third Test at Headingley.
With just one wicket left and 73 runs needed for the win, the Stokes tailor protected Jack Leach to steer his side to their highest successful race chase in tests with a memorable undefeated 135.
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