Ashes: Cricket's oldest rivalry in numbers

The Ashes is currently played biennially, alternately in England and Australia, and has renewed itself for the 71st time.

Great rivalry: England’s captain Joe Root (left) and his Australian counterpart Tim Paine hold the trophy for the Ashes series on the eve of the first Test match at Edgbaston in Birmingham, on July 31.   -  AFP

Since 1882, England and Australia have competed in Test match cricket for glory and the historic urn. When you consider the traditions involved, the Ashes exceeds any other rivalry, not just in cricket but across all sport.

This celebrated rivalry is currently played biennially, alternately in England and Australia, and has renewed itself for the 71st time. Keeping in view their recent form across all formats, England as the hosts should start off as the favourites.

But, given the importance to this series, the contests rarely turn to be one-sided. In the 10 Ashes series played since 2000, England and Australia have won five apiece, although Australia have won more Test matches – 27 to England’s 15. However, it has been 18 years since Australia won the Ashes in England, having last beaten England 4-1 in 2001. Since then, England has won at home in 2005, 2009, 2013 and 2015.

The Ashes story is 136 years old. The trophy, which is currently housed in the Memorial Gallery at Lord’s, London, consists of a small terracotta urn supposedly containing the ashes of a bail burnt by some ladies in Sydney on January 30, 1883.

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This urn was presented to Ivo Bligh after he had led his English team to a 2-1 victory against Billy Murdoch’s Australians, making England the first team to win the ‘Ashes Trophy’. Interestingly, the Ashes series was conceived the previous year as a result of a mock obituary notice published in The Sporting Times after Australia had beaten England in England for the first time on August 29, 1882.

A note at the foot of this obituary announced that “the body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia.” England captain Bligh, who retained the urn and its embroidered velvet bag till his death in 1927, bequeathed it to the Marylebone Cricket Club. Since then, it has remained at the museum at Lord’s even when held by Australia.

However, since 1999 a Waterford Crystal representation of the Ashes urn is presented to the holders of the Ashes as the official trophy.

Although the fight for the Ashes began on December 30, 1882, the first officially recognised Test match between England and Australia began on March 15, 1877, at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, where Australia won by 45 runs on a Monday afternoon (March 19, 1877) before a crowd of 3000 people.

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Interestingly, a hundred years later (in 1977) this result and its victory margin were repeated exactly, at the same ground between the same two teams. Incidentally, both these Test matches do not have “the Ashes” status, although they form a part of the head-to-head records between the two teams. (Note: Since 1877, 16 Tests have been played between the two sides that are not a part of the Ashes. The last such non-Ashes Test was the one-off Bicentenary Test match at Sydney from January 29 to February 2, 1988).

Before the start of the 2019 Ashes series, both teams have met each other 35 times in their respective countries, with Australia winning 33 times to England’s 32. However, England have won the series at home on 18 occasions, while Australia have done so in England on 14 occasions.

The Australian side has held the urn for the longest duration, from August 22, 1934 until August 18, 1953 – for nearly 19 years – the longest spell one side has held it. This, of course, was aided by the period between 1940 and 1945, when no Tests were played because of World War II. Even otherwise, the record for the claim over the trophy over the longest uninterrupted period is also held by the Aussies — from 1989 to 2005 – for 16 years. The England team held the Ashes for the shortest period for one year and three months from September 2005 to December 2006.

Here are some head to head Ashes records from 1882 to 2018:

Match results:

            Mts   Eng  Aus    D

in Eng      163    50   48   65

in Aus      165    56   84   25

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Ashes total 328   106  132   90  

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Overall Ashes series results

Venue

Series

Eng

Aus

Draw

In England

35

18

14

3

In Australia

35

14

19

2

Total

70

32

33

5

 

Ashes series summary from 2000

Month, Year

Venue

Mts

Eng

Aus

Draw

Ashes series won by

July to August 2001

Eng

5

1

4

0

Australia

Nov 2002 to Jan 2003

Aus

5

1

4

0

Australia

July to September 2005

Eng

5

2

1

2

England

Nov 2006 to Jan 2007

Aus

5

0

5

0

Australia

July to August 2009

Eng

5

2

1

2

England

Nov 2010 to Jan 2011

Aus

5

3

1

1

England

July to August 2013

Eng

5

3

0

2

England

Nov 2013 to Jan 2014

Aus

5

0

5

0

Australia

July to August 2015

Eng

5

3

2

0

England

Nov 2017 to Jan 2018

Aus

5

0

4

1

Australia

Total

 

50

15

27

8

 

 

Series results since 2000

Venue

Series

Eng

Aus

Draw

In England

5

4

1

0

In Australia

5

1

4

0

Total

10

5

5

0

 

Highest team totals:

For Eng: 903/7d (The Oval) 1938

For Aus: 729/6d (Lord's) 1930

Lowest team totals:

For Eng: 45/10 (Sydney) 1886-87 (in Eng: 52/10 at The Oval 1948)

For Aus: 36/10 (Birmingham) 1902

Total individual 100s: 538 (in Eng: 243; in Aus: 295)

For Eng: 235 (in Eng: 110; in Aus: 125)

For Aus: 303 (in Eng: 133; in Aus: 170)

Highest individual score:

For Eng: 364 by Len Hutton (The Oval) 1938

For Aus: 334 by Don Bradman (Leeds) 1930

Leading run scorer:

For Eng: 3636 runs by Jack Hobbs (in Eng: 1519 runs by Graham Gooch)

For Aus: 5028 runs by Don Bradman (in Eng: 2674 runs by Don Bradman)

Leading run scorer in a series:

For Eng: 905 runs by Walter Hammond in 5 Tests, in 1928-29

(in Eng: 732 runs by David Gower in 6 Tests, in 1985)

For Aus: 974 runs by Don Bradman in 5 Tests, 1930

Best bowling (in an inngs):

For Eng: 10/53 by Jim Laker (Manchester) 1956

For Aus: 9/121 by Arthur Mailey (Melbourne) 1920-21

(in Eng: 8/31 by Frank Laver at Manchester 1909)

Best bowling (in a match):

For Eng: 19/90 by Jim Laker (Manchester) 1956

For Aus: 16/137 by Bob Massie (Lord's) 1972

Leading wicket-taker:

For Eng: 128 wkts by Ian Botham (in Eng: 78 wkts by Ian Botham)

For Aus: 195 wkts by Shane Warne (in Eng: 129 wkts by Shane Warne)

Leading wicket-taker in a series:

For Eng: 46 wkts by Jim Laker in 5 Tests, in 1956

For Aus: 42 wkts by Terry Alderman in 6 Tests, in 1981

Leading wicket-keeper:

For Eng: 101 dism (93ct+8st) Alan Knott (in Eng: 54 dism (50+4) Alan Knott)

For Aus: 135 dism (123ct+12st) Ian Healy (in Eng: 70 dism (67+3) Rodney Marsh)

Leading fielder:

For Eng: 54 catches Ian Botham (in Eng: 25 catches by Walter Hammond)

For Aus: 51 catches Allan Border (in Eng: 36 catches by Allan Border)

Most Tests as captain:

For Eng: 22 Tests by Archie McLaren (1897-1909): won 4, lost 11, drawn 7 (win% 18.18)

For Aus: 28 Tests by Allan Border (1985-1993): won 13, lost 6, drawn 9 (win% 46.43)

Most Test victories as captain:

For Eng: 11 Tests by Michael Brearley (1977-1981): in 15 Tests (%win 73.33)

For Aus: 13 Tests by Allan Border (1985-1993): in 28 Tests (%win 46.43)

Most match appearance:

For Eng: 43 Tests by Colin Cowdrey (1954-1975) (in Eng: 24 Tests by Graham Gooch)

For Aus: 52 Tests by Syd Gregory (1890-1912) (in Eng: 29 Tests by Syd Gregory)

Youngest player:

For Eng: 19y-269d by Ben Hollioake in 1997

For Aus: 19y-96d by Clem Hill in 1896

Oldest player:

For Eng: 50y-320d by WG Grace in 1899

For Aus: 50y-327d by Bert Ironmonger in 1933 (in Eng: 43y-254d Warren Bardsley in 1926)

(All statistics before the start of the ongoing Ashes series)