England v Australia History | Famous Clashes
The History of the England v Australia Cricketing Rivalry
England fans reacted with jubilation after Jos Buttler’s 77 not out handed their team an emphatic T20 series victory over Australia at the weekend. There is nothing sweeter than beating the old enemy on the cricket pitch, and the supporters were delighted to earn temporary bragging rights over their Aussie counterparts. However, Australia will have plenty of opportunities to gain swift revenge, with an ODI series set to unfold and the Ashes looming large on the horizon. Each showdown will be a gripping affair due to the intense hostility that exists between these cricketing heavyweights.
The rivalry dates back to March 1877, when Australia hosted England in the first ever Test. They won it by 45 runs, but England prevailed by four wickets when the second Test was held at Melbourne Cricket Ground a fortnight later. The rivalry really heated up in 1882, when Australia picked up their first win on English soil. A London newspaper called The Sporting Times published an obituary for English cricket, proclaiming that it had died, the body would be cremated and the ashes would be sent to Australia. England captain Ivo Bligh promised to reclaim those ashes, and they headed Down Under with a point to prove the following year.
It was a treacherous journey, as their ship collided with another vessel 300 miles south of Sri Lanka, causing fast bowler Fred Morley to break a rib. Yet it ultimately proved fruitful, as England picked up a 2-1 series victory. They were presented with a ceremonial urn to commemorate their success, and the Ashes tradition was born.
Early English Dominance
That victory for Bligh’s team ushered in an eight-year period of English dominance. They won the first eight Ashes series in style, and lost just four out of 23 Ashes Tests held in the 1880s. Australia’s first triumph came in 1891-92, when they earned a 2-1 series victory, but England continued to dominate after that. The first five-Test series took place in 1894-95, and England opened with a sensational win in the first Test at Sydney. Syd Gregory hit 201 for the hosts as Australia put up 586, and then dismissed England for 325. The tourists had to follow on, but they responded with 437 before sterling work from Bobby Peel and Johnny Briggs helped England dismiss Australia for just 166 to seal a 10-run victory. England ended up winning the series 3-2.
The legendary W. G. Grace was installed as captain when England retained the Ashes in 1896. They won by six wickets at Lord’s, but slipped to a three-wicket defeat in the second Test at Old Trafford. The decider was a low-scoring encounter. England had the upper hand after the first innings, and bowled their opponents out for just 44 in the second to wrap up a 2-1 triumph, leaving with 11 wins from the first 12 Ashes series.
Australia Fight Back
That marked the end of England’s longest period of Ashes dominance. Australia picked up a 4-1 series win under Harry Trott in 1897-98. His successor, Joe Darling, won the following two series, leaving the Aussies full of confidence as they prepared to tour England in 1902. It was one of the most entertaining Ashes series of all time. England boasted arguably their finest team since Test cricket began, and they surged to 376/9 before declaring in the opener. They then took just 90 minutes to bowl Australia out for a mere 36 runs, but they were robbed of a certain victory due to torrential downpours. The second Test was also a washout, after England had raced to 102/2.
It really livened up in the third Test, which Australia won by 143 runs at Brammal Lane in Sheffield. Jack Saunders was the star of the show, as he took 5-22 in 12 overs when the wicket began to show unmistakable signs of wear. Australia then won a nail-biter by three runs at Old Trafford to clinch the series with a match to spare. England needed only 32 to win, with seven wickets in hand, but they crumbled in the face of relentless bowling from Hugh Trumble and Saunders. England restored some pride by winning the final Test by a single run. Gilbert Jessop turned the match on its head with 104 in 77 minutes at the crease. That handed England the initiative, and they edged a thrilling clash.
England won the next two series, but Australia picked up a number of successes in the subsequent years. By 1932, England had won 17 Ashes series to Australia’s 11. The 1932-33 Ashes was another classic. Australia’s star man, Don Bradman, was absent when England romped to a 10-wicket win in the first Test, but he returned to lead the hosts to a 111-run victory in Melbourne in the next match. The next showdown took place in Adelaide, and the hosts reduced England to 30/4 on the opening day. England battled back and half-centuries from Maurice Leyland, Eddie Paynter and Bob Wyatt allowed them to post a more respectable 341 in the first innings.
England then upset the Australians with their rough tactics, dubbed “Bodyline”, which saw them bowl rough and short on the line of leg stump and then wait for deflections on the leg side. Harold Larwood began the assault by launching the ball straight into Australian captain Bill Woodfull’s chest, causing an almighty kerfuffle. The fielders hounded Australia’s batsmen on the leg side, removing Woodfull, Bradman and co with ease, before securing a convincing victory. They went on to win the series 4-1.
However, Australia soon had their revenge. They picked up five wins and a draw from the next six series, and England did not retain the Ashes until 1953. England finally returned to the ascendancy in the mid-1950s, rattling off three consecutive series wins. The most memorable Test came at Old Trafford in 1956, when Yorkshireman Jim Laker put up a remarkable 9-37 in the first innings to decimate the visitors. In the second innings, he took all 10 wickets to end up with match figures of 19-90. No other bowler has ever come close to matching those numbers. England and Australia continued to trade series victories in the ensuing years, and the all-time record stood at 24-21-5 by the time the 1981 Ashes began.
Ian Botham was ousted as England captain after Australia opened up a 1-0 series lead following two tense Tests in 1981. The series was balancing on a knife-edge as the action shifted to Headingley for the third showdown. Australia made a flying start when opener John Dyson produced a cool knock of 102, and then Jim Hughes and Graham Yallop enjoyed a 112 partnership. Australia declared at 401-9, and Botham’s 50 was the only positive as England slumped to 174 all out. They were forced to follow on, and quickly fell to a dismal 135-7. A humiliating defeat beckoned, and England were 500/1 to win the match when Graham Dilley joined Botham at the crease.
What happened next was truly remarkable. Botham went ballistic with the bat, smashing 27 fours and a six to finish 149 not out, and Dilley chipped in with 56 to help England to a total of 356. Australia should have won comfortably, as they needed just 130 runs from their second innings, but Bob Willis ripped them to shreds, taking 8-43 to leave Australia all out for a mere 111.
The next match took place at Edgbaston with the series delicately poised at 101. The Australian attack was rampant in the first innings, with Terry Alderman putting up 5-42 as England were all out for 189. Australia responded with 258 and they were the heavy favourites once more in the cricket odds. England were yet again woeful with the bat in the second innings, and Australia needed just 151 to take a 2-1 series lead. They were all but certain to prevail when they surged to 114-5, but then Botham grabbed the ball and took five wickets or one run to hand England the unlikeliest of wins.
In the fifth Test at Old Trafford, Beefy hit a century off 86 balls to set England on their way to victory. That handed them an unassailable 3-1 lead in the series, and another brilliant performance from Botham saw him take 10 wickets in the sixth Test, which resulted in a draw. He took 34 wickets in total during the series, and hit 399 runs, so it is justifiably referred to as Botham’s Ashes.
World Cup Final Glory for Australia
The intense rivalry between the teams has also spilled over into one-day cricket. England and Australia have played 149 ODIs against one another, with 82 wins for Australia, 62 wins for England and two ties. Australia’s greatest white-ball triumph over England came in the 1987 World Cup final at Eden Hardens in Kolkata. Neither team had won the trophy before – Australia were runners-up in the inaugural World Cup in 1975, England lost the second World Cup final in 1979 and they both flopped in 1983 – so the stakes were high.
Australia won the toss and chose to bat first. David Boon led the charge by hitting 75 from 124 balls, and Australia posted 235. England opener Tim Robinson suffered the ignominy of a first ball duck, but Bill Athey clawed England back into contention. He forged a solid partnership with captain Mike Gatting, and the English looked capable of seizing the initiative. Yet Gatting then surrendered his wicket with an ill-judged reverse sweep, leaving his team in trouble. Athey battled valiantly to score 56, while Allen Lamb managed 45 from 55 balls. England ultimately needed 17 runs from the final over, but they fell short, and Australia secured a narrow seven-run triumph.
That also marked the start of an outrageous spell of Australian dominance over England in Test matches. They surged to a 4-0 victory in the 1989 Ashes 4-0, and the Australians did not surrender the urn until 2005. The 1990s proved to be a golden period for Australian cricket, while England were left in the doldrums. Allen Border, Boon, Steve Waugh, Mark Taylor, Ian Healy and Merv Hughes formed the core of the successful Australian team in the early 1990s, and then Glen McGrath. Jason Gillespie came to the fore, yet the dominant figure of the era was undoubtedly Shane Warne.
The Australian leg-spinner dismissed Gatting with his first ever delivery in Ashes cricket, and it became known as Ball of the Century. It totally bamboozled Gatting, and it is credited with reviving leg spin bowling. That set Australia on their way to a 3-1 series victory in 1993, and Warne continued to torment England for many years to come. The win-loss ratio between the teams was extremely close by 1989, with 87 Test wins for Australia, 86 wins for England, and 74 draws. However, by 2005 Australia had 115 wins under their belt, while England’s tally increased to just 93, with 82 draws. England won just seven Tests during that time, and six of them came when they had already lost the series.
The 2005 Ashes
England fans had practically forgotten what it was like to win an Ashes series by the time Australia rocked up in 2005. The visitors were on an eight-series winning streak, but captain Ricky Ponting warned it would be the closest Ashes showdown in years. Australia were still at the top of the world rankings, but an improving England side had rattled off six straight series victories, and secured 14 wins and three draws from their previous 18 Tests, so it promised to be an almighty battle.
Every single match was a classic. Australia surged to a 239-run win in the first Test, and McGrath goaded England by predicting a 5-0 whitewash. Yet England fought back in style. Kevin Pietersen, Marcus Trescothick and Andrew Strauss were all on song as England opened up a 99-run lead after the first innings of the second Test. They collapsed in the second innings, setting the visitors a target of 282 to win. Australia got all the way to 279, but a sensational catch from Geraint Jones handed England a two-run win to level the series.
Michael Vaughan hit a superb 166 at the start of the third Test at Old Trafford, but Ponting responded with 156, and both Warne and McGrath were on song as the match ended in a draw. All-rounder Andrew Flintoff managed 102 as England ended up with 477 in the first innings of the fourth Test at Trent Bridge. Simon Jones took 5-42 to help England bowl Australia out for 218, and Ponting’s men were forced to follow on. They were much better in the second innings, mustering up 387 runs, and suddenly England were staring down the barrel of defeat after Warne reduced them to 57-4. Ashley Giles and Matthew Hoggard then stepped up to carry England over the line in one of the twitchiest matches imaginable.
The series went right down to the wire. England were 2-1 up ahead of the final Test at The Oval, but victory for Australia would have pulled them level and seen them retain the Ashes. Strauss was the star of the first innings, as he hit 129 runs. Warne tried his best to spoil the party, taking six wickets, but England had the upper hand. Tons from Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer then pulled Australia back into contention, but Pietersen hit seven sixes and posted 158 to leave the Aussies with an impossible total to chase. The light began to fade and the match ended in a draw, handing England the urn.
T20 World Cup Final Success for England
England and Australia renewed hostilities in the T20 World Cup final in 2010. The English reduced their opponents to 8/3 after just 2.1 overs and then removed Australian captain Michael Clarke. Australia battled back to 147/6, but England bettered that total with 18 balls to spare. Craig Kieswetter scored 63 runs and Kevin Pietersen added 47 in an impressive performance. Pietersen was named Man of the Tournament for his heroics with the bat.
Australia had a 9-8 record against England in T20 internationals before this month’s series. Yet England beat them by two runs in the first T20 and six wickets in the second T20, handing them the lead in the all time stakes. It makes T20 the only format in which England have the upper hand over Australia. The Australians have earned 146 Test wins over England, compared to 110 wins for the English and 95 draws.
England won three Ashes series on the bounce between 2009 and 2013, but Australia then whitewashed them in 2013-14. England edged a tense series in 2015, before the Aussies won convincingly in 2017-18. The last Ashes series took place in England last year, and it finished 2-2, meaning Australia are currently in possession of the urn. England will bid to bring those ashes back home when the next series begins in November 2021, and it promises to be another fascinating clash. The upcoming ODI series is a more pressing concern for both sets of fans, and we have plenty of exciting cricket spread betting markets and cricket odds on the action.