Is there a greater rivalry in world sport?
Australia and England first locked horns in Test cricket way back in 1882, and they have hated each other’s guts ever since.
Those 13 decades have produced some giddying highs and bitter lows for both sides, so many of which have occurred on English soil.
Here are five of the very best Ashes moments to take place in cricket’s homeland, starting with an Aussie legend’s famous farewell.
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Bradman falls short of ultimate ton
The Oval, 1948
The 1948 Ashes series was memorable for so many reasons.
This was the summer of ‘The Invincibles’ – an all-conquering Australia side that went the entire tour without suffering a single defeat.
It also happened to be Sir Donald Bradman’s final bow in Test cricket, culminating in one of world sport’s most ironic send-offs.
Needing only four runs to achieve a career batting average of 100, the Don lasted only four runless deliveries before Eric Hollies scattered his stumps.
That duck left Bradman with the most storied set of digits in Australian sport – 99.94.
Laker’s near-perfect figures
Old Trafford, 1956
The Australians still whinge that the pitch at Old Trafford was an unplayable dustbowl.
Bill O’Reilly, widely regarded as the greatest spin bowler of his generation, went so far as to call it “an absolute disgrace”.
But no matter which way you slice it, Jim Laker’s one-man show in the fourth Test remains – and may always remain – the greatest bowling feat in cricket history.
Having dismissed nine of Australia’s batsmen in the first dig, the durable off-spinner went one better in the second to finish with mind-boggling match figures of 19 for 90.
Only one other man – Anil Kumble in 1999 – has taken all 10 wickets in a Test innings, and nobody in any format has come close to matching Laker’s record of 19 wickets in a game.
Beefy and Bob save the series
The 1981 Ashes series was an English triumph on many levels, but it all started with the Leeds Test.
Having lost the first Test and drawn the second, the hosts were staring at a humiliating defeat as Australia took a commanding first-innings lead.
Kim Hughes enforced the follow on, which gave Ian Botham the platform to back up his fighting 50 in the first dig with a magnificent, match saving, run-a-ball 149 not out.
It was still Australia’s Test to lose, however, as they needed only 130 to clinch the win and take a 2-0 lead into the fourth Test at Edgbaston.
Enter Bob Willis, who snared eight wickets in 16 fantastic overs to square the series and kick start an incredible English revival.
The Ball of the Century
Old Trafford, 1993
Nothing could possibly have prepared England – or the world – for what Shane Warne would produce at Manchester in 1993.
The young Victorian had enjoyed only moderate success in his 11 Tests prior, and it was widely believed at the time that his traditional leg-spin style was ill-suited to a modern game dominated by faster bowlers and bigger hitters.
That tune changed after Warne sent down the first delivery of his maiden Ashes series.
The bamboozled victim was former England captain Mike Gatting, who could only shake his head in astonishment at a ball that curved, dipped, ripped past his front pad and clipped his off bail.
“He’s done it – with the most beautiful delivery,” was the late, great Richie Benaud’s equally memorable reply in commentary box.
The greatest Test ever played?
The Ashes had fallen into a predictable funk throughout the 1990s and the early 2000s as Australia romped to eight consecutive series victories.
The 2005 tour looked to be heading the same way when Glenn McGrath ripped through England at Lord’s, but Edgbaston – as at Headingley in 1981 – turned everything upside down.
McGrath was out injured, and the hosts took full advantage after Ricky Ponting showed more hubris than sense by opting to bowl after winning the toss.
Warne took 10 wickets for the match, Andrew Flintoff starred with bat and ball, and a series of fighting partnerships in the Aussie tail reduced the margin to a mere two runs before Michael Kasprowicz was dismissed late on the last day.
England celebrated, Australia mourned, and Flintoff consoled a distraught, exhausted Brett Lee in an image that has come to define everything we love about Ashes cricket.
Headingley, 1930: Sir Donald flays the English attack to all corners on his way to a world-record score of 334.
The Oval, 1953: Tony Lock and Jim Laker bowl England to their first series victory on home soil in 27 years.
The Oval, 1989: Allan Border and Australia kick off a new era of dominance with a 4-0 series win.
Trent Bridge, 2005: Substitute fielder Gary Pratt runs out Ricky Ponting, sparking outrage among the Aussies.
Trent Bridge, 2013: Debutant Ashton Agar saves the day with a thrilling 98 – a record score by a number 11.
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