The Ashes – Cricket’s Biggest Rivalry
The Ashes 2020-21 is underway – the latest instalment of one of the biggest competitions in the history of cricket.
The Ashes is a special series of matches played between Australia and England, considered to be one of the most historic and longest-running rivalries not just in cricket, but also in the sporting world.
Approximately every two years, Australia and England face each other, both vying to claim the most famous (albeit the smallest) trophy in cricket – the famous Ashes urn.
The tournament is held in England and Australia alternately, with the winter 2021/22 tournament being hosted by Australia. The teams play a series of five test matches which can last up to five days each.
The 72nd series of the tournament began on the 8th December at The Gabba, in Brisbane. The Australians are steaming through the tournament and the England team have already lost after being defeated 3-0 in the first three matches, making a comeback now impossible. However their 4th test match draw means they are no longer in danger of complete annihilation.
WHY IS THE TOURNAMENT CALLED THE ASHES?
The history of the Ashes tournament goes back to 1882 after Australia beat England at home in the Oval for the first time ever. This was such a shock defeat that the Sporting Times published a joke story, describing it as the ‘Death of English Cricket’. The paper went on to say that henceforth, English cricket would be burnt down, with the ashes being sent over to Australia.
The next time England toured Australia, those fictional Ashes became fact – with a pair of bails being burned and those ashes placed into the forthwith famous ‘urn’. After every tournament, the winning team will be given a replica of this earn as a prize, with the original urn being far too fragile.
Now, more than 100 years later, the original urn can be found at the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), which is located at the Lord’s cricket ground, London.
THE ASHES WINNER
The current winner of the Ashes is Australia – and have been for some time. They won the 2017 tournament and, as rules dictate, held on to the trophy after the series ended in a draw in 2019 – which was the first time it had finished in a draw since 1972. In order to take the Ashes, a team has to win it, a draw isn’t good enough. Most recently, they went up by 3 test matches to 0 in the 2021 tournament, which gave their opponents no right of reply – everything after that was simply for pride.
Overall, Australia has now won 34 series compared to England’s 32, with six series ending up in a draw. So, England is now on the backfoot and will be looking to up their game for the next tournament.
This may be tough, given the dominance of Australia recently, the Aussies, known as the Baggy Greens have boasted impressive results in recent years, winning 5-0 in 2006-07, 5-0 again in 2013/14 and 4-0 in the 2017/18 series – and going up 3-0 this time, making a bet on the whitewash for this series popular with cricket betting fans, who will have been disappointed with England finally holding on for a draw in the next test. This obviously makes England the underdogs, but they will be boosted by the fact that they won the Cricket World Cup for the first time in 2019.
However, they have failed to win at the Gabba since 1986, and Australia was undefeated at home for 33 years until a defeat by Australia in January 2021.
WHO TO LOOK OUT FOR AT THE 2021 ASHES
James Anderson: The legend that is James Anderson has suffered from injuries but has widely been regarded as one of the best bowlers in the history of the sport. He is the top wicket-taker ever at Test cricket level and is the only fast bowler that has taken more than 600 test wickets, making him the third-highest wicket-taker ever.
Joe Root: Root is another great England player to watch. The team captain took over the lead role in 2017 and has been a reliable and steady captain. He has also been in excellent form and has broken the English record for the most centuries (with six) in 2021. This isn’t the first record he has broken – in 2013 he became the youngest English player to score a century in the Ashes.
Steve Smith: The former Australian captain remains one of Australia’s top batsmen – and is considered by some as the best in the world. In 2019, he finished with 774 from the four matches he took part in, which is the second-highest number of runs ever scored in four tests.
Josh Wood: This Australian bowler is a tough opponent. He made a big impact in 2019 and his deadly accuracy can prove fatal for the best batsmen out there. In total, Hazlewood has taken more than 212 in over 55 matches – and thrives against England.
Although England boasts excellent players, it seems that Australia is simply too strong for them right now.