England’s Ashes history is pretty up and down. Dominating through the late 1800s, the series became more competitive around the turn of the century, building to a period of Australian dominance through the 1930s, 40s and 50s.
England fought back in the mid-50s, only for Australia to hold the urn from 1959 through to 1971, when England won down under.
The 1970s and 1980s were mainly England’s, and included some of the best Test series between the two teams. The 1990s were all Australia, though, until that 2005 series.
Since then, it’s been all about home advantage. Australia haven’t won the Ashes in England since 2001, and England have been whitewashed twice in Australia since the beginning of the millennium.
For all the drama and heartbreak, there have been some magnificent Ashes moments for England down the years, here are some of the best…
Headingley Test (1981)
England were 1-0 down in the Ashes as the series headed to Headingley for the third Test. Having captained the first two matches, Ian Botham was replaced by Mike Brearley as skipper for the third match of the series.
Australia declared with 401 on the board in the first innings and quickly bowled England out for 174. The hosts were looking down the barrel. Defeat meant they could, at best, draw the series.
Botham provided resistance with a first innings 50. When England were following on, he strode to the wicket with that unmistakable purpose at 105/5. England needed a miracle.
What followed was the most remarkable counter-attack in Test match history. Botham crushed the ball around the ground as he made 149 not out, setting Australia 130 to win.
The tourists were still big favourites, but England’s all-rounder had given them a chance – a sniff of the most unlikely of Ashes victories.
If Botham was inspired with the bat, Bob Willis was possessed with the ball. Steaming in with his trademark snarl, Willis took 8/43 to bowl Australia out for 111 and level the series.
Harmison At Edgbaston (2005)
We were never going to get through this list without mentioning the greatest ever cricket match. After England raced to over 400 on the first day, and had a 99-run first innings lead, the Test was well and truly in their hands.
As they looked to bat Australia out of the match, though, Shane Warne and Brett Lee got England into trouble. A half-injured Andrew Flintoff battled England to 182 all out. Australia needed 282 to win.
Flintoff starred with the ball as he had with the bat. Dismissing Justin Langer and Ricky Ponting in one of the most unplayable overs in recent Test history, England were on course for victory.
Steve Harmison later bowled Michael Clarke with a filthy slower ball to make victory a formality as the match headed into day four.
Warne and Lee batted well together in the morning, chipping away at the 100 or so runs required. Warne stepped on his stumps after a delivery from Flintoff, bringing Michael Kasprowicz to the wicket with 62 to win.
It was meant to be easy from there. Instead, Lee and Kasprowicz fought their way to within touching distance despite a barrage from England.
With four to win, Harmison attemped a Yorker that became a full toss. Lee smacked it to the cover boundary – fortunately England had a fielder to keep it to one.
Kasprowicz was on strike. He defends one from Harmison. The next is a nasty bouncer, right at his ribs. The Australian number 11 fends it off, and it scrapes his glove on the way through.
Geraint Jones dives to his left to make an outstanding tumbling catch. England appeal. Billy Bowden raises a bent finger – England win by two runs, making it 1-1 in the series.
The match made the team, and the fans, believe that England can beat Australia and changed the course of cricket in this country.
Pietersen Saves The Ashes (2005)
Having two moments from the same series may seem like overkill, but if any Test series warrants it, it’s the 2005 Ashes. Needing just a draw at the Oval, England batted first hoping to kill the game.
Not making it to 400, though, gave Australia a chance. The tourists passed England’s score. Some well-timed, late-summertime dodgy English weather helped the hosts out, taking time out of the match.
England started day five at 38/1. They needed to bat sensibly and avoid collapse and the urn was theirs.
Glenn McGrath wasn’t keen on that idea – he dismissed Michael Vaughan and Ian Bell in consecutive balls to bring Kevin Pietersen, sporting a blonde-streak through his hair, to the wicket.
Pietersen survived early scares. Wickets fell around him. It became apparent England needed something special from their new man. Pietersen delivered.
Batting out the day wasn’t on Pietersen’s mind. He played a fearless – some would say reckless – innings, taking Warne, Lee and McGrath all around the ground. Maiden Test centuries do not come better than that.
Pietersen’s 158 included seven sixes (some of which were enormous), and secured England their first Ashes series victory since 1986/87.
As is tradition, the Oval is one of the 2019 Ashes Test venues – will we see anything like Pietersen’s knock?
Australia Skittled On Boxing Day (2010)
The Ashes was beautifully poised at 1-1 as the teams arrived at the MCG for the Boxing Day Test in 2010/11. With only one match to play, victory for England would see them retain the Ashes.
Andrew Strauss won the toss, which proved rather important. Strauss opted to have a bowl while many fans in England were just finishing off their Christmas Day celebrations.
Chris Tremlett got the tourists off to a flyer, getting Shane Watson in the fourth over. Tim Bresnan came on first change and got Phillip Hughes caught by Kevin Pietersen.
The big wicket was next: Tremlett nicked Australian captain Ricky Ponting off, with Graeme Swann claiming the catch in the slips. Australia were 37/3.
Michaels Clarke and Hussey put up some resistance. An 11-over, 21-run partnership was a wild success compared to their teammates.
Then James Anderson, who had faced criticism for his performances outside of England, got Clarke, Hussey and Steve Smith in quick succession. Clarke walked back to the pavilion with Australia 77/6. They were soon 77/8 and bowled out for 98.
By the end of day one, England already had a 59-run lead. They won the Test by an innings and 157 runs. Their Boxing Day performance provided the greatest Christmas present of all: The Ashes.
Broad At Trent Bridge (2015)
England were 2-1 up in the Ashes when they arrived at Trent Bridge. With no Anderson, however, the series felt very much in the balance.
When Andrew Strauss won the toss at Trent Bridge, it wasn’t a clear bat or bowl first kind of day. Stuart Broad wasn’t sure what was best – and all eyes were on him to deliver in Anderson’s absence.
The narrative was set for something out of this world. Broad was on 299 Test wickets. He got number 300 with the third ball of the match, getting Chris Rogers for a duck (his first in Test cricket).
Three balls later, Steve Smith was gone. Two balls after that, Mark Wood got David Warner. Then Broad got Shaun Marsh, Adam Voges (thanks to a ridiculous Ben Stokes catch) and Michael Clarke.
Steven Finn bowled Peter Nevill and Broad cleaned up the tail as the tourists were dismissed for 60. Broad finished with 8/15, the third-cheapest eight-fer ever, and his five wickets in 19 balls was the quickest five-wicket haul at the start of a Test ever.
England finished day one at 274/4 with the Test as good as over. England needed just two more days to win the match by an innings and regain the Ashes.
If you’re considering betting on the 2019 Ashes, Broad is a name to look out for once again – he loves the big stage.
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*