It’s the greatest series in cricket and one of the planet’s fiercest sporting rivalries. The battle for the famous urn between England and Australia has produced some incredible memories down the years.
There’s only one place to start – Ian Botham’s swashbuckling century at Headingley in 1981 that changed the course of that summer’s Ashes and has entered sporting folklore.
The bookies were offering odds of 500-1 for an England win with the visitors on the verge of wrapping up an easy win within four days to go 2-0 up.
Up stepped Botham with a gung-ho 149 to make Australia bat again, when an inspired Bob Willis swept through their line-up with 8-43.
It sealed a remarkable 18-run win and England went on to win 3-1.
Don Bradman scored an astonishing three double centuries in seven innings in the 1930 Ashes series.
The highlight was undoubtedly his incredible 334 at Headingley – 309 of his runs being scored on the opening day, a record that has never been surpassed.
It’s amazing to think now that the man hailed as the greatest batsman in the history of the game arrived in England with only four Test matches under his belt.
This was the innings that announced him to the world and he would go on to finish his career with an average of 99.94.
LAKER’S 19 WICKETS
In the summer of 1956, English off-spinner Jim Laker recorded the greatest bowling figures of all-time to obliterate an Australian side stacked with batting talent.
Using flight, turn and bounce, he took all but one of the opposition wickets in the thirst Test at Old Trafford to collect 19 in the match for just 90 runs and give England an unassailable 2-1 series lead.
His clean sweep of all 10 wickets in the second innings has been repeated once but Laker’s figures remain top of the pile. No one had taken 19 in a match before, and no one has since.
BALL OF THE CENTURY
Shane Warne’s introduction to Ashes cricket couldn’t have been more explosive.
With his bleached blond hair, the legspinner nicknamed “Hollywood” by his team mates cut a striking figure as he began his run-up.
The delivery he produced fizzed through the air, drifting outside Mike Gatting’s leg stump before gripping the surface and flicking the top of off.
Gatting was bewildered, the Warne Era had arrived and a better delivery has arguably never been bowled in the history of cricket, let alone the Ashes.
VICTORY DOWN UNDER
For an England side at the peak of its powers, the biggest remaining challenge was winning in the Aussies’ backyard.
Memories of the 2006/7 series, which saw England whitewashed 5-0 were reawakened as the visitors trailed by 221 runs after the first innings.
But nerves were settled in the second as opener Alastair Cook compiled a mammoth unbeaten double century to take England to a comfortable draw.
They didn’t look back, going on to take the series 3-1 for their first Ashes victory on Australian soil for a quarter of a century.
ENGLAND END THE HURT
The 2005 Ashes series gripped the nation in a way that hadn’t happened since 1981, not least because England fans had become so used to Australian dominance.
This was the summer when all that changed with a mesmerising clash which see-sawed from one side to the other.
Heroes were born in the shape of all-rounder Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen as an inspired England recovered from going 1-0 down to clinch the urn for the first time in almost two decades. The turning point came in a nailbiting second game at Edgbaston, which the home side won by just two runs.