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Greatest Moments in Ashes Cricket History: Australia-England Test Cricket

Updated on November 6, 2021
MG Singh profile image

The author is an air warrior, military historian and writer on warfare and military history

The Ashes Cup

England and Australia have a long cricket history. The first test match was played in 1877, but the Ashes appeared after the 1882 test match at the Oval which Australia won. A satirical obituary in the Sporting Times a British paper first referred to the ashes. Subsequently, the next series in Australia was dubbed as the ‘Quest for the Ashes’. A terracotta cup containing the ashes of a cricket bail was presented to the English captain in Australia in 1885 and after that, the ashes has become a symbol of Australia –England test matches.

There have been 71 Ashes series: Australia have won 33, England 32 and six series have been drawn.

England Australia Test Matches

Cricket between Australia and England for the ashes has been played regularly except during the war years. The series dubbed as the fight for the Ashes arouses worldwide interest. During this long period of 145 years, many memorable test matches have been played. Obviously, a selection of the greatest moments is slightly subjective, but some moments will stand out.

Lacker in action at the Oval
Lacker in action at the Oval

Great moments -The Oval Test 1882

Below are some of the great moments of Ashes series between Australia and England. They are not in any particular order and a reader can pick his own order. The following six tests can be considered unique and among the greatest moments in Ashes history. Three of the earlier tests are discussed below.

The Oval Test of 1882

The Oval test of 1882 qualifies as one of the greatest test matches for the Ashes. Australia was a colony at that time and it was expected the English team would beat them easily. It was a low-scoring game with Australia making 63 and 122. England replied with 101 and 77. It was a stunning defeat as 85 was thought to be gettable. Australian fast bowler Spofoth in an inspired spell took 4 wickets for 2 runs and led Australia to a great victory. An astonished Oval crowd fell silent, unable to believe that England had been destroyed by a colony. The satirical obituary in the English press appeared after this defeat.

Bradman and the Bodyline series

Bradman’s Test Headingly 1932

The Headingly test of 1932, where Bradman set the stadium afire with some stupendous batting is also one of the great tests. Before this Bradman had played only 4 test matches and not much was expected of him. But Bradman with an innings of 334 set England and the entire cricket world aflame with a precision batting of the highest class. In each of the 3 sessions of play, he hit over a hundred runs and it was no surprise that England lost. For the sheer brilliance of Bradman’s batting, this ranks as one of the greatest test matches for the Ashes.

Bodyline Series Down Under 1932-33

The bodyline series down under 1932-33 holds special significance. The English captain Douglas Jardine specially formulated a bowling tactic spearheaded by Harold Larwood the English pace bowler to contain Bradman. He called it the ‘leg theory’, but in practice, it meant bowling short-pitched stuff at the batsman’s head. Larwood finished with 33 wickets in the series at 19.31 apiece and England won the ashes.

The series is very important and almost led to the break of cricket relations between England and Australia. The Australians felt that Larwood and Douglas Jardine had not played "cricket" in the true sense. Larwood was almost banned from Test cricket and ended up playing just 21 test matches. Bradman in the series and was the only occasion where he relatively failed but he continued to become the greatest batsman of all time.

The later years- Lakers Test 1956

The Australian team under Ian Johnson toured England in the summer of 1956. It boasted of a solid batting lineup with Neil Harvey as the mainstay and a fast bowling combination of Lindwall and Miller. The English team was led by Peter May. On paper, both sides appeared evenly matched. Australia had won the second test and all eyes were on the Oval test. One spinner Jim Laker was to make history on the oval wicket. The Australians were clueless against Laker who took all 10 wickets in the first innings and followed up with 9 in the second innings. The Aussies lost the test heavily. Laker established a world record that may never be beaten. Most likely this is one record that will last forever. His bowling figures for the test were 68overs- 21maidens-90 runs-19wickets. The pitch was slow and dusty but Laker exploited it. The mystery was that the other spinner in the English team Locke managed only one wicket.

Botham’s Test Headingly 1981

The 1981 Headingly test is one of the most famous Ashes tests. The test is famous for the performance of Ian Botham the English all-rounder. England was made to follow on after they folded for 174 against the Aussie first innings total of 413. Botham played a stupendous 149 not-out and helped gain a small lead. The bookies were offering 500-1 odds for an English win. Bob Willis with 8 for 43 led England to a most unlikely win. This was only the second time in cricket history at that time that a side following on won the test

Bradman's farewell test: Headingly 1948

The Headingly test in 1948 between Australia led by Don Bradman cannot be omitted from this list. This was the 4th test of the series and England set Australia 404 to win. England was already two down and needed to win. Bradman stepped in at 57 for 1 and five hours later walked off with 173 not out. Arthur Morris made 182 as Australia overhauled the score to win. This remained a record for 28 years as the highest total chased for a win in the fourth innings.

Ray Lindwall-poetry in motion
Ray Lindwall-poetry in motion

Last word

The tests selected above are not in any order, but they bring the romance of the Ashes alive. The Ashes even now remain the pivot of Test cricket which is the acid test off the game. The game has spread to many other countries now and India is the leader in world cricket as well as the powerhouse of finance. The ashes series have thrown up many great names in the world of cricket including Sir Len Hutton, Dennis Compton, Charlie Grimmet, and many more. Cricket however remains an elite game and is played by very few countries in the world and there is a need to spread this game like football on a global scale.

Further Reading

  • Australia versus England: a pictorial history of every Test match since 1877. Frith D(1990) Victoria (Australia): Penguin Books..
  • Test cricket records from 1877. by Gibb, J, London: Collins.
  • Penguin history of Australian cricket. by Chris Harte Penguin Books.(2003)
  • Cricket's Biggest Mystery" The Ashes, by R Willis The Lutterworth Press (1987), .
  • The complete history of cricket tours at home and abroad. London: Hamlyn. by Wynne-Thomas, P. (1989).


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