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From Ashes to Ashes – Best of the Rivalry Since 1981 – Part 1/4

In a month’s time, Cricket will witness resumption of its oldest and most prestigious rivalry THE ASHES between Australia and England, and we look back to some of the most glorious performances in years gone by some of the finest cricketers of their times which defines this century-old rivalry

20. Brilliant 176 by Michel Slater – Gabba, Brisbane, First Test, 1994-95Michael-Slater

Australia slowly and steadily rising almost threatening to end West Indies’ dominance in World Cricket. England, however, had their share of miseries in years gone by, moreover their most potent weapon Devon Malcolm was out of the first test at the Gabba. In spite of all this Australia’s failure to win last of their three series and England’s decent performance in English summer of 1994 filled the hearts of English supporters with a lot of optimism when Philip De Freitas took the ball against a young Michel Slater.

Most of the openers use the first ball to calm their nerves down especially in such a high profile encounter but 24 year Slater with an air of authority hammers it through gully and point for four. The scorebook confides that Slater hit the first ball of the series for four, wrote Gideon Haigh. “It relates nothing of how eyes rolled, shoulders sagged, and hearts sank among English players, spectators and journalists.” This was the moment when Australia laid the foundation of winning the Ashes in that year. Michel Slater made a brilliant 176 that buried the English hopes in first test of the series.

19. An English Spinner turns Australia out – Phil Tufnell 11-93, Sixth Test, 1997Phil-Tufnell-celebrating-England-victory-Australia

Phil Tufnell in spite of all his habit of being a problem child of English Cricket has been among top 3 spinners (Along with Swann and Panesar ) produced by English Cricket in last 30 years. A lot of people ponder what he could have achieved in a controversy free Career. However, in 1997 with Ashes already lost and England left to play for pride only, Tufnell produced one of his best performances. In the first Innings after England were shot out for 180, it looked that another abject loss was on the cards but English bowlers led by Tufnell restricted Australia only to 220.

In a mesmerizing performance the left-arm spinner eked out Five top batsmen of the opposition in a spell where he bowled without change. In the second innings when a meager 124 was needed, he floored the opposition with 4-27. Australia were left stunned by this loss. From 1989 to 2005, this was the only Ashes where England won two tests in the series against Australia.

18. Stuart Broad lethal 8-15 at Trent Bridge, Nottingham, 4th Test, 2015 Stuart-Broad

Since 2005 tables have turned in Ashes with England five of the Seven Series, During the period England have extended domination on several occasion leading numerous occasions when Australia flipped badly. Nothing though comes close to the embarrassment of 2015 at Trent Bridge. On the first day of the Fourth test at Nottingham Australia were gunned down for 60 only. Stuart Broad was at his menacing best ripping the heart out of Australian innings. He swung the ball both ways making the Australian batsman look incapable of playing high quality swing bowling. It took him only 19 deliveries to take 5 wicket haul and shot visitors for their lowest score since 1936. During his memorable performance, Broad also completed his 300 wickets.

17. Matthew Hayden’s Brutal 197 at the Gabba, Brisbane, 1St Test, 2002-03Matthew-Hayden

This was one of those Ashes series were England couldn’t be faulted to lose, Australia in the early part of last decade were on rampage possessing one of the legendary all-time great squads, having an excellent opening combination in Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer. On the first day of the first Test Nasser Hussain misread the pitch and sent the Australians in to bat. The decision proved disastrous as Matthew Hayden bludgeoned to a brutal century putting the English attack already devoid of Simon Jones due to horrific Injury on sword.

At stumps, Australia were 364-2 and Hayden returned with a massive 186* against his name and Hussain’s decision seemed to be going down as one of the biggest blunders.  Next Morning, Andrew Caddick got the Burly opener out for 197, but by that time the Hulk has already done severe damage not only to the scoreboard but also dented the confidence of English players and Barmy Army.

16. Graham Gooch Defiance ends, Old Trafford Manchester 1st Test, 1993Graham-Gooch

Great innings are not scripted in wins, but a lot of them comes in defeats as well. One of the most remarkable performances seen in an Ashes series since 1981, was Graham Gooch’s memorable defiance at Old Trafford 24 summers ago. After being set an impossible 502 to chase, 40-year-old England Captain played one of the finest knocks of his career.

In an innings which lasted over 5 hours, Gooch showed how to tackle the Australian attack comprising bowlers like Merv Hughes, Craig McDermott and Shane Warne. In his 247 ball innings, Gooch cut and drove Macdermott and Hughes ferociously and used his feet admirably against Warne dominating all of them. Just when it looked England will run away with the match with the score reading 223-2. Gooch did an unthinkable, he tried to prevent a Merv Hughes ball going on the wicket by his hand. On the appeal of Australian players, he was given out for handling the ball. A mighty inning came to an end abruptly, England were bundled out soon for 332 and lost the test by massive 179 runs. However, despite the loss, Gooch’s innings went down as one of the finest Ashes innings of recent times.

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