From Ashes to Ashes – Best of the Rivalry Since 1981 – Part 3/4

In a month time, Cricket will witness resumption of its oldest and most prestigious rivalry THE ASHES between Australia and England; 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


10. Terry Alderman 151-10 at Leeds 1St Test, 1989 and Michel Vaughan 183 at Sydney, 5th Test, 2002-2003Michael Vaughan

Terry Alderman’s career seemed all gone and dusted after the Rebel tour. However, while making a comeback for the second time, it was in Ashes of 1989 that he produced one of the most remarkable performances.

In the first test at Leeds, the wicket was flat as a highway, and Australia amassed a massive 601-7, England too were not much behind with 430, but Alderman swung the ball on the deck which had nothing for the bowlers finishing with figures of 107-5.

In the second innings, he ripped apart the English top order picking up the wickets of Barnett, Broad, Lamb and ending up with 44-5. Match figure of 151-10 was a massive achievement, as it gave Australia 1-0 series lead with the aim to win back the Ashes.

Alderman was terrific throughout the series picking up 41 wickets at an incredible average of 17.36. Considering he was 34 by the time he landed in England makes his achievement even more special.

If 1989 Ashes was called as Alderman’s Ashes, it wouldn’t be wrong to tag 2002-03 Ashes as Michel Vaughan’s Ashes. Even though Australia romped to a Crushing 4-1 victory at home but to amass a massive 633 on the home turf of one of the greatest teams to have ever played the game is superhuman effort and when it comes after many demoralising defeats its value increases many times.

While Vaughan made three daddy hundreds but it was his 183 at Sydney in final test that is still highly regarded as one of the greatest innings played by an English batsman in Australia.

After things were almost on par in first Innings, Michel Vaughan played an innings to remember. During his marathon stay of nearly seven hours, he played Australian attack comprising of Jason Gillespie, Brett Lee and Stuart McGill with disdain, playing some beautiful cover drive, cut and hook shots against hostile bowling. It was an inning which laid the base for the only test win on that tour for England which had nothing else significant to remember apart from the Sydney Test and Vaughan’s sublime form throughout the Australian Summer.

9. Bruce Reid 13-148 at MCG, Melbourne, 2nd Test,1990-91Bruce Reid

On the Fourth day of the Boxing day Test, England showcased one of the most horrific performances of the decade. After taking a useful lead of 46 in the first innings, they were 147-4 in the second innings but an hour of madness and some hostile fast bowling from Bruce Reid who arguably presented one of the finest bowling performances left them shell-shocked for 150 all out.

The 6 feet 8 Inch tall Reid couldn’t achieve the heights he was expected more so because of persistent injuries, but at Melbourne, he showed what he was capable of when fit. After taking 6-97 in the first Innings which was overshadowed by a brilliant hundred by David Gower, he ripped open English scars in the second innings again with 7-51 and the spell ensured that England would have to fell to another loss which will dent their confidence in worst possible manner.

Reid was exceptional in his spell after tea on 4th Day. Along with Matthews, he took 6 wickets for just 3 runs in 12 overs and 4of them were taken by the tall left-arm pacer who ended up with one of the finest Ashes Performances.

8. Darren Gough 6-49 and 51 at Sydney, 3rd Test 1994-95 and Stev Waugh 108 at Old Trafford, 3rd Test, 1997Steve Waugh

Darren Gough was the character that everyone loved, anyone who have been the fan of English team of 90’s would understand what difference his presence it used to make. While his decade-old career has some of the most remarkable performances but it was at Sydney in 1995, New Year Ashes Test that defines his persona.

In the 1994-95 Ashes, England started with 100% loss ratio by the time they reached Sydney. The Englishmen looked all over the sea especially when they threw away a good start on the first day 194-3 to 198-7 and seemed to be on the verge of another embarrassment. However, 23-year-old Gough took everyone by surprise by a blistering half-century that not only revived English fortunes but also gave them enough spine to take on a rampaging Australia.

On the third day, he showed enough fire in him as he cut Australian top order into two, knocking some of the most famous lineups and blew them in Sydney fireworks of New year as Australia were gunned down for 116, barely managing to save follow on. Gough finished with 6-49 and was given a standing ovation from the massive Sydney Crowd. In spite of Test ending into draw due to weather and some fascinating rearguard by Michel Slater and Mark Taylor, Gough’s performance went down in pages of history.

Sometime a century might value much more than a double or triple hundred. In 1997 Ashes, when Australia were trailing 0-1 and on a very testing pitch and in perfect English conditions at Old Trafford where the ball was swinging all over, English bowlers destroyed the Australian batting line up on the first day of the crucial second test.

In such a moment. Stev Waugh perhaps played one of the most crucial knocks of his careers. Throughout his innings of 241 balls 108, Waugh was beaten on numerous occasions by Dean Headley and Darren Gough, but as always he didn’t give up and continued to stitch up a torn innings.

With partnerships with tailenders, he gave Australian bowlers a total to defend, and by the time he was out, he had finished with a brilliant hundred. Steve’s knock probably saved Australia falling behind in the test which Aussies ultimately lost going 0-2 down in the series. The century is also my personal top 3 of last 25 years in an Ashes test.

7. Glen McGrath 8-38 at Lords, 2nd Test, 1997 and Shane Warne 6-48 at Old Trafford, Manchester, 3rd Test, 1997Glenn McGrath

At no. 7 are two of the most celebrated bowlers of all time, Glen McGrath and Shane Warne, for almost two decades both of them continued to haunt the English batsmen. They have some of the most magnificent Ashes spells under their belt. Here we picked two of their golden performances that stamped their authority over the opposition.

By the time Glen McGrath was on the plane for his first Ashes series in 1997, he had established a reputation of his own. However, his spell of 8-38 at Lords put him in the category of best in the world. After England took a lead of 1-0, the onus was on its paceman to count the advantage on a juicy Lords track. In such a moment McGrath decimated whole of English batting line-up knocking Hussain, Butcher, Stewart, Atherton and Crawley among top order players.

England were sent to another humiliation as they were shot down for 77. The test ended in a draw due to bad weather, but the fans still remember McGrath’s spell.

In the third test on the same tour after Australia were all out for mere 235 despite a brave century from Stev Waugh, one weak performance would have ensured England taking a 2-0 lead and would have become impossible for Australia to make a comeback. At 74-1, when England were looking all set to amass a huge total, King of Spin, Shane Warne rose to the occasion. He presented a magical spell which hypnotised the English batsmen, and the audience were made to sit to watch this fabulous theatre of Spin bowling. The way he continued to deceive Alec Stewart and Nasser Hussain was fascinating to watch, and throughout the spell, it was hard for the English batsmen to pick his variations. He ended up with the figures 6-48 and revived Australian Campaign which ultimately got a new lifeline.

6. Shane Warne 8-71 at Gabba, Brisbane 1st Test, 1994-95 and Mark Butcher 173* at Headingley, Leeds, 4th Test, 2001Shane Warne

The 1994 Ashes was billed on a great hype after Shane Warne has finished with 34 wickets in his first Ashes a year back in England. The spin wizard was the executioner of England’s parade towards loss. He knocked off Alec Stewart with a brilliant flipper and dislodged a hapless Atherton, While Thorpe and Hick played with brilliance and saved the day for England.

However, on last day, Warne was just irresistible. He started the action by bowling mainly around the wicket and breached Thorpe’s defence with a brilliant yorker.  The 160 Thorpe added with Hick in 275 minutes was England’s highest partnership in eight Ashes Tests.

England’s chance of survival ended there. In Warne’s next, Hick was caught bat and pad, and then Gooch was undone by Warne in his final spell  in which he captured the last four wickets to bring his figures on the final day to six for 27 off 25.2 overs. They truly told the story of Warne’s brilliance.

Mark Butcher’s hundred at Leeds might raise many eyebrows to be picked among top performances and then to rate it top 6 out of 20. However, his 173* was of high quality and came in very challenging circumstances while chasing 315 against one of the greatest attack that have ever toured England.

It would not be wrong to say that the innings became an Ashes Legend as it was played with backs to the wall. England were 0-3 down trailing by 138 runs in first innings. Aussies were so confident of the win that they declared it at 176-4 and set 315 for England to win which looked improbable the way home side had faltered throughout the series.

However, Butcher played entirely out of character as he cut anything short of a length with an immaculate power and timing and even came forward to drive McGrath.

It was only one day of the summer of 2001, but it was such a day that could never be forgotten. All of it though looked impossible when England had a horror start with Atheron and Trescothick falling cheaply, but once Butcher took on after settling down, there was no stopping him and reached to his hundred with a seamlessly endless ovation. Some of his shots were unbelievable, especially his six over point off Jason Gillespie. By the time he took England beyond finishing line, he had played 227 balls for his 173* runs with 23 fours and 1 six.


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