Ashes 2010: The 25 Greatest Ashes Tests: Part 1 of 3

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England and Australia have competed in 321 Test matches since the first acknowledged Test started on 15 March 1877. Australia have the edge in the oldest international sports contest with 132 wins to England’s 99 and there have been 90 draws.

There have been many classic Tests in the battle for the little urn. In a three-part series, we have picked 25 of the best, which we will list chronologically.

The Oval, 28-29 August 1882 Australia won by 7 runs: The birth of the Ashes with Australia winning a stunning victory after bowling out England for 69 having set them only 77 to win. Spofforth took 14 for 90 after declaring that “this thing can be done” and the dismissal of Grace saw England slide from 51 for two to a defeat considered so ignominious that Reginald Shirley Brook penned his mock obituary to English cricket in The Sporting Times.

1st Test,  Sydney, 14-20 December 1894 England won by 10 runs: An amazing come-from-the-dead victory for England after following on 261 runs behind. Ward hit 117 as England recovered to set Australia 177 to win – a target they appeared to be coasting to when 130 for two. But Peel took six for 67 and Australia lost their last eight wickets for 53 as England completed an unlikely victory. England eventually won the series 3-2 by chasing down 297 in the decider at Melbourne.

3rd Test, The Oval, 10-12 August 1896 England won by 66 runs: It was all square going into the final and deciding test of the 1896 series, but with the home side being skittled for 89 in their second innings it seemed that with Australia only needing 111 victory the tourists had regained the Ashes. But on a wet pitch, they slid to 25 for nine and ultimately 44 all out.

4th Test, Old Trafford, 24-26 July 1902 Australia won by 3 runs: Australia retained the Ashes in a match that swung one way then another. Trumper became the first batsman to score a hundred before lunch on the first day of a Test as Australia hit 299. England recovered from 44 for five thanks to a hundred from F.S Jackson and then bowled Australia out for 86 in their second innings. But then the hapless Fred Tate took over. Having dropped a skier to reprieve Darling, Tate was last man out and the urn had gone. The test is still known as Tate’s Match.

5th Test, The Oval, 11-13 August 1902England won by 1 wicket: The Ashes may have gone in the previous match, but that didn’t stop this Test from being a classic. Set 263 to win, England slipped to 48 for five before Gilbert Jessop bludgeoned a hundred in 75 minutes. Then Hirst and Rhodes – England’s last pair – came together with 15 required and ‘got ’em in singles’ to record a famous win.

5th Test, The Oval, 14-18 August 1926England won by 289 runs: After a period of utter Australian dominance following the end of World War I, the 1926 series in England was a much tighter affair. In the decider at The Oval, England were just ahead near the start of their second innings before a thunderstorm rendered the wicket as a treacherous ‘sticky dog’. All seemed lost, but Hobbs and Sutcliffe thought otherwise and compiled an opening stand of 172 (Hobbs 100, Sutcliffe 161). England set Australia 415 and Rhodes and Larwood did the rest. Ashes regained.

3rd Test, Melbourne, 29 December 1928 – 5 January 1929 England won by 3 wickets: Hobbs and Sutcliffe reprised their heroics in the next series, where with England set 332 to win on another wet wicket they compiled another century opening stand. Jardine, Hammond and then Hendren also provided sterling support to Sutcliffe who anchored the chase with 135. Despite some late wickets, England made it home by just three wickets to achieve an unassailable 3-0 series lead.

5th Test, The Oval, 16-22 August 1930 – Australia won by an innings and 39 runs: Despite the utter brilliance of Bradman, who scored 974 runs at 139.14, the series was locked at 1-1 going into the timeless decider at The Oval. England won the toss and 161 from Sutcliffe helped England compile 405 in their first innings. But with Bradman around that was never going to be enough. The Don scored 232 with Ponsford hitting 110 and Jackson 73 in a crucial 243 run partnership with Bradman as Australia made 695. It was too much for England and they folded for 251 to hand the Ashes back to Australia.

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