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The Ashes: A look cricket's biggest rivalry in numbers

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New Delhi | June 10, 2023 10:10:56 PM IST
From June 16, cricket enthusiasts across the world will have their eyes riveted on two of the game's biggest and oldest rivals -- Australia and England -- as they square off in The Ashes series in England, with the first Test set to start at Edgbaston.

The hosts will be aiming to avenge their 4-0 loss in the 2021-22 series. Australia, on the other hand, will be aiming to win their first Ashes series in England in more than 20 years.

The hosts have been on a dream run in the red-ball format, reaping the benefits of a 'Bazball' revolution brought about by skipper Ben Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum. The dream run has seen the Three Lions win 11 of their last 13 Tests and dominate opponents with an attacking, aggressive and positive brand of cricket, which is about taking a draw out of the equation and pushing for a result.

The advent of digital media, smartphones and social media has made The Ashes an even more feistier affair between the traditional rivals. Even the before series begins in earnest, the Ashes makes headlines for the healthy banter between the two sets of fans.

While one of cricket's biggest rivalries has seen many knife-edged battles and pulsating, nerve-wracking contests, some of the best cricketing action in The Ashes have happened in the recent past, in the 2000s.

In 12 Ashes series played in the 21st century, Australia won six while England won five while one ended in a stalemate.

The rivalry has been extremely competitive this century, with neither exerting absolute dominance over the other.

The series of 2001, 2005, 2007, 2011 and 2019 were especially significant.

The series in 2001 was the last time Australia won The Ashes in England. Mark Waugh (430 runs in five matches), Damien Martyn (382 runs in five matches) and Adam Gilchrist (340 in five matches) and Glenn McGrath (32 wickets), Shane Warne (31 wickets) and Jason Gillespie (19 wickets) topped the batting and bowling charts for Australia, helping them crush England by 4-1 at their own territory. Due to Australia's lack of success in England, this victory would become even sweeter to the fans.

The 2005 Ashes series held in England is often considered as one of the best Ashes series ever. Michael Vaughan's brilliant captaincy, the rise of a young Kevin Pietersen (473 runs in five matches, with one century and three fifties, highest-scorer in the series), the all-round heroics of Andrew Flintoff (402 runs in five matches at an average of 40.20, with one century and three fifties and 24 wickets, second highest wicket-taker) were the highlights of England's 2-1 win at home, which was their first Ashes series win since 1986-87. The series win sparked massive celebrations all over the country.

However, the efforts of late spin great Shane Warne (249 runs in five matches with fifty, 40 wickets, the highest wicket-taker), Justin Langer (394 runs in five matches), Ricky Ponting (359 runs in five matches) and Brett Lee (20 wickets) made sure that Australia did not go without a fight.

The next series in 2006-07 was significant as it marked an end of an era in Australian cricket with retirement of Justin Langer, Damien Martyn, Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne. Australia won the series 5-0, the first clean sweep since the 1920-21 Ashes series. The efforts of Ricky Ponting (576 runs in five matches), Michael Hussey (458 runs in five matches) powered the batting mainly. The top four positions in the wicket-taking charts were occupied by Stuart Clark (26 wickets), Warne (23), Glenn McGrath (21) and Brett Lee (20). A retiring Langer scored 303 runs in five matches and Warne also completed his 700 Test wickets, the first bowler to do so.

England turned the tables the next time they visited Australia. A highly motivated England squad won the series by 3-1, which was for the first time in 24 years that England had won the series in Australia. The victory would be cherished by fans for years to come as their heroes failed to register a Test win in Australia after this landmark win.

Alastair Cook (766 runs in five matches with three centuries and two fifties at an average of over 127) still stays the highest run tally by an English batter in a singles Ashes edition. Jonathan Trott (445 runs in five matches) and Kevin Pietersen (360 runs in five matches) supported him well. The pace trio of James Anderson (24 wickets), Chris Tremlett (17 wickets) and Steven Finn (14 wickets) and spinner Graeme Swann (15 wickets) combined together to outshine Australia in a largely one-sided series, which saw England win all three matches by an innings margin.

The 2019 series ended in a 2-2 draw. In that series, Australia was in a period of transition, with wicketkeeper-batter Tim Paine being asked to lead the side. The series is remembered for two reasons, for Steve Smith's monstrous run in the series, including two successive hundreds at Edgbaston in the first Test, and Ben Stokes' one-man rescue job at Headingley.

Smith top-scored the series with 774 runs in the series at an average of 110.57, with three tons and three fifties in seven innings across four matches.

Coming to Stokes, with the first Test lost and the second drawn, England wanted someone to step up and he did exactly that. Chasing 359 in the third Test, England was 286/9. He stuck around with Jack Leach (1*) and scored an unbeaten 135* in 219 balls with 11 fours and eight sixes. He pulled off England's highest run-chase in Tests to level the series 1-1. Australia and England won the next two Tests respectively to draw the series 2-2.

This was the first drawn Ashes since 1972 and the first time Australia left England with the Ashes urn since 2001, as they had won the 2017-18 series.

In the 21st century, both sides have played 60 Tests, with Australia winning 33, England winning 17 and the rest 10 ending in a draw.

The top five run-scorers for Australia in the 21st century during The Ashes: 1). Steve Smith (3,044 runs in 32 matches at an average of 59.44, with 11 centuries and 11 fifties). 2). Michael Clarke (2,241 runs in 35 matches at an average of 40.74, with seven centuries and seven fifties) 3). Ricky Ponting (2,188 runs in 29 matches at an average of 46.55 with seven centuries and nine fifties) 4). David Warner (1,888 runs in 28 matches at an average of 38.53 with three centuries and 14 fifties). 5). Shane Watson (1,487 runs in 19 matches at an average of 42.48 with two centuries and 10 fifties)

The top-five run-scorers for England in the 21st century during the Ashes: 1). Alastair Cook (2,493 runs in 35 matches at an average of 40.20, with five centuries and 14 fifties) 2). Kevin Pietersen (2,158 runs in 27 matches at an average of 44.95, with four centuries and 13 fifties) 3). Joe Root (2,016 runs at an average of 38.76, with three centuries and 16 fifties) 4). Ian Bell (1,983 runs in 33 matches at an average of 35.41, with four centuries and 18 fifties) 5). Andrew Strauss (1,421 runs in 20 matches at an average of 39.47 with four centuries and seven fifties).

The top-five wicket-takers for Australia in the 21st century during The Ashes: Shane Warne (108 wickets in 18 matches), Nathan Lyon (101 in 28 matches), Glenn McGrath (91 wickets in 17 matches), Mitchell Johnson (87 wickets in 19 matches) and Peter Siddle (80 wickets in 24 matches)

The top-five wicket-takers for England in the 21st century during The Ashes: Stuart Broad (131 wickets in 35 matches), James Anderson (112 wickets in 35 matches), Graeme Swann (62 wickets in 18 matches), Andrew Flintoff (43 wickets in 14 matches) and Steve Harmison (41 wickets in 16 matches). (ANI)

 
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