The Ashes is one of the most storied rivalries in sport, with countless memorable moments from across the ages.
This summer, ABC Sport will look back at the 40 greatest moments of the past 40 years and ask Australian cricket fans what they think stands out as the number one moment.
Is it Shane Warne leaving Mike Gatting bamboozled with what has become known as the ball of the century?
Is it Steve Harmison starting the 2006 series with a delivery so wide it was fielded in Ipswich?
Or — and we’re aware this poll will be picked up by our English readers as well — will it be Ben Stokes saving the day at Headingly in 2019, or sub-fielder Gary Pratt running Ricky Ponting out in 2005?
Click through the shortlist of moments below, then use the poll at the bottom of the story to cast your vote for your favourite moment.
You can pick any five moments.
Throughout the summer, we’ll look back at some of the best stories from the past 40 years and share our own favourite moments, starting with Test legend Ian Chappell.
The reader’s choice list will be revealed ahead of the fifth Test, and we’ll also launch the greatest women’s Ashes moments before that series begins at the end of January.
Start the conversation here and let us know what you think.
1: Botham’s Headingley miracle (1981)
Having resigned from the England captaincy after failing to win any of his first 12 Tests as skipper, then recording a pair of ducks at Lord’s and falling 1-0 behind in the 1981 home Ashes series, Ian Botham and England headed to Leeds at a low ebb.
Already low on confidence, Botham was also humiliated by chief selector Alec Bedser, who came out in the press saying had Botham not resigned, he would have been sacked.
Needless to say, the auspices coming into the third Test were not great, and England’s downward trajectory looked set to continue when they were forced to follow on after being bowled out for 174 in reply to Australia’s 9-401.
Bookmakers offered 500-1 odds for England to win the Test at the end of the third day, such was England’s plight.
However, with the Sword of Damocles still dangling over his Test career, despite being stripped of the captaincy, Botham felt inspired to unleash one of the great knocks in Test cricket, plundering a stunning 149 not out from 148 balls to help England overhaul Australia’s total and establish a teasing lead of 129 runs.
However, surely that would not be enough to force a victory …
2: Willis’s Headingley miracle (1981)
With a lead of just 129 runs, returning England skipper Mike Brearley opened the bowling with Botham and Graham Dilley, leaving Bob Willis wicketless from the first innings and plagued with doubt over his rhythm and form, stewing in the outfield.
After a wicketless spell at the end of day four, Brearley switched Willis to the downhill Kirkstall Lane end on the final day, and the towering quick rewarded his skipper by blitzing through the hapless Aussies.
In one of the great fast bowling performances of his era, Willis ended with figures of 8-43 from 15.1 overs to complete a memorable, momentum shifting win and etch Headingley ’81 into English sporting folklore.
3: The precursor to Edgbaston (1982)
Looking to win their first Ashes since 1975, the Aussies had a 2-0 lead heading into the fourth Test at the MCG, but a loss was basically locked in when Jeff Thomson joined Allan Border at the crease with one wicket left and still 74 runs to win.
With Border showing is trademark fight and Thommo doing everything he could to not get out, the pair ticked off half the required runs and made it through day four.
The gates were thrown open for a day five that could last one ball, with 18,000 people turning up to watch the Queensland teammates push towards an unlikely victory.
They got within three runs of England’s total before Thomson pushed a Botham ball straight to second slip where it burst through Chris Tavaré’s mitts, only for Geoff Miller to sneak around the back and clean up the scraps, leading to the most famous pregnant pause in cricket commentary from Richie Benaud: “He’s … got ‘im!”
4: The ‘worst ever’ win in England (1989)
Finding the writer who first dubbed Australia’s 1989 Ashes squad “the worst side ever to tour England” is difficult, but most Aussie cricket fans might like to buy them a beer because Allan Border’s team played with that chip on their shoulder for the entire six-game series.
Having last won away from home in 1975 — the heady days of the Chappells, Lillee, Marsh, Thomson and Walters — the underwhelming Aussie squad, populated by relative newcomers and players yet to nail down a spot in the team, was given less than no chance of breaking that streak.
But, on the back of stunning performances from Terry Alderman (41 wickets), Mark Taylor (a series-high 839 runs) and Steve Waugh (more on him in a second), the Aussies won 4-0 and kicked off an era of dominance that lasted for a decade-and-a-half.
5: Steve Waugh comes of age (1989)
With 26 Tests under his belt and a batting average in the low 30s, Steve Waugh headed to England under intense pressure to deliver.
Punching out unbeaten knocks of 177 and and 152 at Headingley and Lord’s, Waugh would go on to score 506 runs for the series, at a staggering average of 126.5.
He would go on to score 865 runs in the calendar year, marking his arrival as an Australian Test sensation.
6: More Waugh (1991)
While Steve Waugh had made his Test debut six years earlier, twin brother Mark had to wait until he was 25 years old to earn his first Baggy Green — and he made an immediate impact.
With the Australian top order tumbling fast on the Adelaide pitch, Mark Waugh came in at number six and scored 138 on debut, partnering with Greg Matthews (65) to lead the Aussies to a respectable first innings total of 386.
It would be the first of 20 tons for the younger Waugh as the twins became arguably the greatest pairing of brothers in Test history.
7: Grumpy vs Rowdy (1993)
If Craig McDermott ever wondered why they called Allan Border “Captain Grumpy”, his questions were well and truly answered during a tour game in Taunton in 1989.
“I’m talking to you, come here,” the skipper called to his fast bowler on the boundary, his brow furrowed and moustache twitching.
“You do that again, mate, and you’ll be on the next plane home.”
After what appeared to be a brief retort from McDermott, Border came back swinging.
“You test me, mate, we’ll see,” he said.
On a tour where they had been described as the worst Test team to visit England, the verbal clash highlighted how serious Border was when it came to team standards — an approach that would eventually pay dividends.
8: The ball of the century (1993)
There are some sporting highlights that you stop to watch whenever it is played, even if your mind could recreate every second of it perfectly at the drop of the hat.
The Gatting Ball is like that. Shane Warne’s first delivery in a Test match in England remains such an outstanding piece of cricketing artistry that it provokes nearly the same reaction now as it did some 28 years ago.
Warne, zinced up under heavy Manchester cloud, bowled the greatest loosener of all time — a leg break that drifted and dipped out of Gatting’s eyeline, ripped violently back across his front pad and clipped the off bail.
But you knew that. You’ve seen it a million times. But you’re also about to head to YouTube to watch it again, aren’t you?
9: Atherton literally falls short (1993)
This was the closest Mike Atherton would get to seeing his name etched in gold on the Lord’s honour board.
After Australia had declared at 4-632 in the first innings, England was skittled for 205 (Atherton scored 80) and sent straight back in. Losing Graham Gooch for 29, Atherton partnered with Mike Gatting to form a mini fightback, as the opener clawed his way towards an historic first century at the home of cricket.
Sitting comfortably on 97, Atherton worked an Allan Border off-spinner to the leg side boundary and pushed through for two runs to take him to 99. As Merv Hughes gathered the ball on the boundary, Atherton turned for a third, but the notoriously slow-moving Gatting refused the run.
Atherton slipped, and wicketkeeper Ian Healy collected the ball cleanly to complete the run out.
It was the epitome of English cricket in the early 90s.
10: Warne’s MCG hat-trick (1994)
Not satisfied with delivering arguably the greatest ball in Ashes history a year earlier, spin king Shane Warne wanted to leave an even greater legacy by skittling the English tailenders one by one at the MCG using all the tricks in his bag.
Wicketless in the innings after bowling 13 overs, proud Victorian Warne put on a show for the Melbourne faithful, catching Phil DeFreitas plum in front for his first act, claiming a Darren Gough edge through to Ian Healy as his next victim, then bamboozling Devon Malcolm with a top spinner that would be caught by David Boon in a very un-Boon like acrobatic display.
“The final wicket was typical Shane Warne,” his captain Mark Taylor would go on to say.
“As Devon came out to bat and Warney was on a hat-trick, he talked to the team about bowling a flipper or big leg spinner. After leaving the team huddle he obviously changed his mind and went for the top-spinner.
“He landed it perfectly, caught the gloves of Malcolm and it deflected to the leg side where Boon took a superb one-handed diving catch.”
11: Tugga’s twin tons (1997)
There weren’t many moments in the ’90s where Australia genuinely found itself in Ashes trouble, but the first morning of the third Test at Old Trafford in 1997 was one.
England had won the first Test, the second was washed out and Australia was battling at 3-42 early doors in Manchester. Enter Steve Waugh, whose legendary status in Australian cricket was built from moments like this.
He fought and scrapped to 108 in the first innings, dragging his team to a total of 235, before Shane Warne went to work with the ball. With a first-innings lead in hand, Waugh took control and the game away from England with another gritty 116.
Australia never looked back. They won the six-Test series 3-2, and those early-series concerns were instantly forgotten.
12: McGrath’s Lord’s debut (1997)
While pundits at the time knew Glenn McGrath was good, this would be the first indication of just how brilliant the lanky fast bowler would become.
Going into the Test having taken 2-149 in Birmingham, the pressure was on McGrath to perform as skipper Mark Taylor sent the English into bat in overcast conditions.
Quickly knocking over Mark Butcher, Mike Atherton and Alec Stewart for just seven runs, McGrath would record the best bowling figures in a Test innings by an Australian in 75 years, skittling the English for 77.
McGrath would go on to reveal that Dennis Lillee had advised him to stop trying to bowl too fast, instead focusing on line, length and movement.
And, when Dennis Lillee speaks, fast bowlers should listen.
13: Darren Gough’s SCG hat-trick (1999)
Day one of the fifth Test at the SCG saw Australia take firm control at 5-319 — even though the series was well in the balance at 2-1 in favour of Australia.
However, combative Yorkshireman Darren Gough gave England’s supporters serious hope with a stunning hat-trick, tempting Ian Healy into feathering one behind to the keeper before yorking Stuart MacGill middle stump.
He then bowled Colin Miller with a glorious outswinging yorker that dislodged his off bail, becoming the ninth Englishman to take a Test hat-trick.
14: Hayden punishes Hussain (2002)
Imagine this: You’re England captain Nasser Hussain. The sun’s shining at the Gabba. It’s day one of the 2002–03 Ashes. Sure, you haven’t beaten Australia in a series since the 1980s but, hey, at least you’ve won the toss.
Wait, what are you doing? You’re going to bowl?! You’re sending in an Australian team that opens with Langer and Hayden, into Ponting, Martyn, Steve Waugh, Lehmann and Gilchrist?
Maybe Hussain’s brain had been scrambled by a decade of getting belted by the Aussies, maybe he wanted his team to rise to the occasion, or maybe he actually meant to say, “We’ll have a bat” and was too embarrassed to say anything after he misspoke.
By the end of day one, Matthew Hayden was 186 not out, Ponting had been and gone for 123, Australia was 2-364 and England seamer Simon Jones had folded his leg in half while fielding.
Two months later the series was gone 4-1.
15: McGrath’s outfield screamer (2002)
Proving once and for all that fast bowlers are more than just grunt and raw cricketing fury, Glenn McGrath provided one of the highlights of the summer as he loped across the Adelaide outfield to claim one of the great Ashes catches.
With Michael Vaughan having the audacity to slog-sweep Shane Warne, McGrath sprinted across the grass and stretched his entire 196cm frame to send the English opener packing.
While spectacular in real time, it was only on replay that the brilliance — or luck — of the catch was revealed, as the ball bounced out of his outstretched left hand and into his right hand to take what Richie Benaud would describe as “one of the great outfield catches you will ever see”.
16: Waugh’s final-ball ton (2003)
The DVD released after it all was titled A Perfect Day, and for Steve Waugh it truly was.
Seemingly on his last legs as Test captain, Waugh had endured a difficult Ashes series as his teammates systematically took England apart. A bizarre and unsuccessful innings at the MCG had many suggesting the fifth Test in Sydney would be Waugh’s last.
It all happened so quickly. Waugh was 47 not out at drinks in the last session of day two, only to abruptly catch fire and start perhaps the greatest game-within-a-game the Ashes has seen.
With the milestone of 10,000 Test runs ticked off along the way, Waugh faced Richard Dawson’s off-spin needing two runs from the final ball. His incredible hands and perfect timing — in every way — did the rest.
17: Strauss leaves Warne, then leaves (2005)
If Shane Warne’s first wicket in England was the ball of the 20th century, his 100th in Old Blighty was one of the best of the 21st.
Having been bowled trying to cut a wide Warne ball in the first innings of the second Test at Edgbaston, opener Andrew Strauss wasn’t about to look silly again, especially with a healthy lead in the last over of day two. Time to bed in, get to stumps, and carry on tomorrow.
The first ball from around the wicket pitched on the left side of the rough outside off and went zipping past leg, but the next pitched even wider. It was so wide, in fact, that Strauss ended up with his back heel outside off as he took four steps across his stumps.
The last was the most decisive, almost looking as if he was getting out of the way so the ball could pass by, which it did — exploding out of the footmarks as if it was a rubber superball instead of a leather Duke’s, somehow hitting middle and leg from an impossible angle.
And, like Gatting 12 years earlier, all Strauss could do was look back at the stumps, down at the pitch and briefly at a jubilant Warne before walking off bemused.
18: THAT Flintoff over (2005)
As Australia settled into a 282-run chase at Edgbaston, England captain Michael Vaughan brought on Andrew Flintoff to break the opening partnership in the 13th over.
On a hat-trick after the first innings, Justin Langer kept out the first ball, but was bowled from a rising delivery that found his inside edge, back elbow and the stumps.
In came Ricky Ponting, coming off 61 in the first dig and building towards good form. Flintoff immediately found his pads, nipping one back in and up at the Aussie captain. The English went up, but it was far too high.
The second ball held its line and got the outside edge, but short of gully. Then massive movement off the pitch back into the pad of Ponting, who by this point had had his technique ripped away from him by masterful bowling. Another appeal denied.
Sweet relief as the final ball went by harmlessly wide, but Flintoff got a do-over thanks to a no ball. The Lancastrian saved his best for last, with a stunning out-swinger finding the outside edge on the way through to Geraint Jones’s gloves.
19: Edgbaston (2005)
Day four started with Australia needing 107 runs to win with two wickets in hand. There was a brief counter-attack from the Australian tail but, when Shane Warne inexplicably booted his own stumps over, the die was seemingly cast.
Michael Kasprowicz was only playing in this game because Glenn McGrath had stood on a cricket ball four days earlier but, suddenly, he found himself in the midst of history. He and Brett Lee took countless blows to the body as they slowly, then rather quickly, began to pick off the runs required.
With three runs to get, an increasingly despondent Steven Harmison had the ball. He dug in a desperate short ball that surprised Kasprowicz, flicking his glove — which may or may not have been on the bat — and looping towards Geraint Jones. Billy Bowden gave it out, and England had won the Test.
Andrew Flintoff was pictured consoling a crestfallen Lee in an image that came to define the best Ashes series of a generation.
20: Ponting saves Australia at Old Trafford (2005)
Set 423 to claim the third Test after England declared at 6-280 in their second innings, Ponting produced arguably his greatest knock as Australian captain to save the Aussies from defeat.
Scoring 156 from 275 balls — the other six top-order batters scored 124 from 284 balls combined — Ponting mixed his spectacular shot-making with stoic defence to frustrate and tire the English bowlers, who battled to clean-up the Australian tail end.
With solid cameos from Shane Warne (34 from 69) and Brett Lee (18* from 25), Ponting would lead his team to a crucial draw, keeping the series alive and cementing the Tasmanian’s place as one of the world’s great Test captains.
21: Ponting run out by some Pratt (2005)
Gary Pratt did not play a single first-class match in 2005, but his most famous moment came in the fourth Test of that year’s Ashes series at Trent Bridge.
Pratt, on the field as a substitute fielder — with Simon Jones off the field and in hospital with an ankle injury — pounced on the ball as Damien Martyn and Ricky Ponting took off for a quick single, throwing down the stumps to run the Australian skipper out for 48.
Ricky Ponting was not best pleased, railing against England’s use of substitute fielders all the way to the pavilion.
22: Pietersen secures the Ashes (2005)
Heading into the last day of the last Test of the 2005 series, England had a 40-run lead and nine wickets in hand, only needing a draw to win the urn.
Michael Vaughan and Ian Bell went in successive balls to give the Aussies hope of a miraculous win but, instead, it brought to the crease England’s final hero for the series.
Kevin Pietersen, in his first Test series, came within millimetres of being Glenn McGrath’s hat-trick victim, then was dropped by Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden and Shane Warne.
The gods were smiling on him and he took full advantage, playing the sort of confidence-soaked innings he became famous for, carving 15 fours and seven sixes — more than any Aussie batter had in the entire series — as he powered to 158 and, more importantly, put the Ashes out of Australia’s reach.
23: Harmison’s first-ball wide (2006)
The build up to the 2006–07 Ashes series was like unlike anything that had come before. The incredible 2005 series had seen the rebirth of this famous rivalry and, for 18 months, the Australian public had clamoured for a shot at revenge.
Tickets for the first day at the Gabba had sold out in seconds, and anticipation for that first morning in November was overwhelming.
Especially for poor old Steve Harmison. With the sun blaring down and a packed Brisbane crowd providing a hostile soundtrack, his series-opening ball got away from him. And the batter. And the keeper. And first slip.
Harmison’s opening delivery somehow made its way to Andrew Flintoff at second slip. The bowler made the obligatory “gee that swung a bit” gesture, but it hadn’t really. England never recovered, and lost the series 5-0.
24: Amazing Adelaide (2006)
The beauty of Test cricket is that you’re always thinking two, 10, 20 moves ahead. “If we can just take a wicket here, and then get two more before lunch, then have a run chase after tea, and then take 50 off the first 10 or so overs, then we’re a chance.”
Rarely, if ever, do all the hypothetical elements fall so perfectly in to place. On day five of the second Ashes Test in Adelaide, 2006, they did. Every last one of them.
Through a truly hypnotic day of cricket, the urgency and jeopardy steadily rose with every passing moment, culminating in a joyous celebration amid the lengthening shadows of a suddenly filled Adelaide Oval.
Greats of the Australian team said it was the best win they’d ever played in, such was the unlikely sequence of perfection required to turn an inevitable draw into a thrilling victory.
It was revenge for Edgbaston, a formal cleansing from all that went wrong for Australia in 2005. It was Warne and McGrath and Ponting and Hussey at their fanciful best. For Australia, it was as good as Test cricket gets.
25: Gilchrist tees off at the WACA (2006)
It seems funny now, but before this innings, England thought they had Adam Gilchrist worked out. And they had good reason for that — he struggled badly during 2005 and in the first two Tests of this series, mostly when the English quicks bowled around the wicket.
Frustrated by his own poor form and liberated by Australia’s strong position in the game, Gilchrist strode to the middle of the WACA in a weird state of zen. He quickly emptied his mind of the woes of the last 18 months and just swung the bat.
And boy, did he connect. Poor old Monty Panesar was so ruthlessly taken apart, it’s a wonder he had the gumption to bowl again. Gilchrist did it to Matthew Hoggard, to Steve Harmison, to Sajid Mahmood and to Andrew Flintoff alike.
By the time he was done, he had in his possession the second-fastest century in the history of Test cricket and England’s collective soul. To this day, nothing comes close to watching Adam Gilchrist in full flight, and that afternoon in Perth was as good as it got.
26: Warne’s 700th (2006)
It was party mode at the MCG on Boxing Day, 2006. The Ashes had been wrapped up, the Christmas gifts had been unwrapped, and everyone’s favourite Victorian was on the brink rapping the ball into the stumps of Andrew Strauss to claim his 700th scalp.
Heading into the Test with 699 wickets and a distinctly 2006 Shane Warne mullet, the king of spin made the 89,155 spectators wait until the 47th over before he struck, cleaning up the Englishman’s middle stump with a fast leggie.
It prompted one of the great Ashes celebrations, as Warne ran a marathon around his home stadium being chased by jubilant teammates.
Warne would go on to claim 5-39, his final five-wicket Test haul in an incredible career.
27: The miracle in Cardiff (2009)
When Paul Collingwood fell for a dogged, 245-ball 74 late on the final day of the first Test in Cardiff, it looked like Australia would take a 1-0 lead in the series that their performance deserved.
After all, with England still six runs behind Australia’s score with just under an hour of play remaining, only the fragile bats of noted tailenders James Anderson and Monty Panesar stood in their way.
However, Anderson (21 not out 53 balls) and Panesar (7 not out off 35) provided an obduracy that belied their combined batting abilities — albeit assisted by some very questionable time-wasting tactics — to hold out for 11 and a half overs and secure a memorable draw.
28: Siddle’s birthday hat-trick (2010)
The Gabba has never seen anything like it, before or since. Peter Siddle, he of gold chains and bananas and snarls at batters, ripping off the roof with a Test hat-trick.
It had been a sleepy opening to the 2010–11 Ashes series to that point, as England began to showcase the patient dominance with which it would grind Australia down over the course of the summer.
Alastair Cook was the first to go, edging to the cordon. Then Matt Prior was cleaned up by a yorker that zeroed in at his off stump. Finally, Stuart Broad missed a full toss, his struck foot dead in line with leg stump.
A review didn’t delay the celebrations, it merely added a second one. As Mark Taylor bellowed about birthday hat-tricks, Aussie fans were hugging strangers in the Gabba outer.
29: Cook bats forever (2010)
To win any series, you need top-order stability, and in the 2010–11 series, Essex’s finest, Alastair Cook, provided just that.
Cook scored 67 in the first innings before becoming the first victim of Peter Siddle’s birthday hat-trick as England were bowled out for 260, with Australia taking a 221-run lead after their 481.
He subsequently built on that half century, scoring an unbeaten 235 from 428 balls — then the highest Test score at the Gabba, beating a certain DG Bradman’s 226 in 1931 — to help England to a monster 1-517 as the bats ruled a run-heavy, drawn first Test in Brisbane.
In Adelaide, Cook continued where he left off, amassing 148 runs, meaning he faced 697 balls, batting for a whopping 1,053 minutes — over 17-and-a-half hours — between dismissals.
30: Australia all out for 98 (2010)
Christmas came a day late for England cricket fans at the MCG in 2010, in one of the most one-sided day’s play in Test cricket history.
Michael Clarke (20) was one of only four players to reach double figures for the host as James Anderson (4-44), Chris Tremlett (4-26) and Tim Bresnan (2-25) obliterated a pitiful Aussie batting line-up.
Not only did England bowl Australia out for just 98 on its sporting day of days, but reached the close with 157 runs in the bank for no wicket as Andrew Strauss (64) and Alistair Cook (80) made batting look deceptively easy — although by that time few of the 84,345 fans who started the day remained to see it.
31: The MCG sprinkler dance (2010)
Having subjected Australia to a humiliating innings and 157-run defeat at the MCG inside four days, taking a deceptively lopsided 2-1 lead in the series and ensuring they would retain the urn, England were in the mood to celebrate.
The MCG stands were mostly empty, aside from the jubilant — and well-watered — Barmy Army, who demanded a rendition of the sprinkler dance, which off-spinner Graeme Swan rejoiced in leading the entire team in.
32: Agar goes so close on debut (2013)
Ashton Agar’s debut innings in the 2013 Ashes series is one of those little slices of Test history — like Bob Massie’s 16-wicket haul — that will only get stranger as it’s boiled down to sheer numbers over the years.
When a 19-year-old number 11 comes to the crease for the first time in the opening innings of an away Ashes series, with his team looking doomed to a big defeat — despite bowling the opposition out for just 215 — it should be over quickly. But this was no ordinary number 11.
So unknown was Agar that even the selectors who picked him seemed not entirely aware of his batting prowess, but they would’ve been pleasantly surprised as he turned into a left-handed Kevin Pietersen, all limbs and lifted legs as he and Phillip Hughes — in what turned out to be his last Test — dragged Australia from 9-117 to 280.
His innings came to an anti-climactic end on 98 when he sent a pull shot, one of his most-prolific scoring weapons, into the hands of opposing spinner Graeme Swann.
Despite falling just short of a miraculous century, Agar walked off with a grin and with a “win some, lose some” shrug. Even if he never adds to his four Tests, he’ll always have Trent Bridge.
33: Mitchell Johnson’s return (2013)
How do you pick just one moment out of Mitchell Johnson’s Ashes? That summer has become such a heat-stroked blur of slinging left-arms and outrageous moustaches that it’s hard to remember where one Johnson onslaught ended and where the next one began.
Adelaide was probably the defining moment, when he took six wickets in a session, a combination of force and terror. But it was back in Brisbane where this epic begun and, under the gathering clouds at the Gabba, that Johnson broke England.
Late on day four, either side of a hellacious Brisbane hail storm, Johnson bowled with a fire and fury that won Australia the match and permanently scarred England’s collective psyche.
Captain Michael Clarke’s infamous warning to James Anderson — paraphrased to “you just stand there and get ready for a broken bleedin’ arm” — was crass and indicative of the Australian team of that era, but spoke to the looming threat everyone watching was aware of. Johnson was terrifying, and he didn’t need any words to do the scaring for him.
34: Ryan Harris’s miracle ball (2013)
It was the quickie’s equivalent of the Gatting Ball, a stroke of bowling genius that remains as miraculous through even a million replays.
Make no mistake, England were long since buried in this series. Shane Watson had just gone on the heater to end all heaters for his ballistic 103, George Bailey had taken James Anderson for about 70 in one over and Australia’s lead sat somewhere just short of 15,000.
In hindsight, for Ryan Harris to do what he did to Alastair Cook was just cruel. He wouldn’t have ever bowled a better ball in his life. There’s every chance nobody has ever bowled a better ball in their life.
With the first ball of the fourth innings, Harris produced a projectile that swung into to middle stump, seamed slightly towards off, then somehow swung a little further away toward the off bail, clipping the timber with a gentle nudge. Fast bowling perfection.
35: Broad’s 8-15 at Trent Bridge (2015)
One of the greatest spells of bowling in Test cricket history, Stuart Broad could barely believe what he was doing when he helped skittle Australia for just 60 runs before lunch on day one at Trent Bridge, taking eight wickets in just 57 balls.
His first five wickets fell in his first 19 balls as the Australian batters’s techniques crumbled in the face of Broad’s seaming, swinging master class.
What made the performance even more incredible was that England were without talismanic swing specialist James Anderson, meaning this game was the first time Broad had bowled the first ball of a Test match. It’s a wonder he hasn’t done it more often since, such was his success.
To make matters worse for Australia, England made it to 4-274 at the close off the back of 124 unbeaten runs from Joe Root.
36: The Marshes ton up together (2017)
Taking the mickey out of the Marsh brothers has been a past-time for Aussie cricket fans for years.
But when Shaun started the 2017–18 Ashes series with scores of 51 and 126 not out in the first two Tests, then Mitch belted 181 for his first Test century in an innings victory in the third game at the WACA, the social media jabs had to begrudgingly stop. And there was more fun to come.
With the series already sewn up, the Marshes were united at the crease in the first innings of the final Test. Shaun reached his second ton of the series before Mitch joined him with a drive through point, and the pair embraced for a second time in the middle of the SCG.
But, apparently not wanting to completely do away with their punchline status, they did so before they’d finished the second run, sending panic through the team — Steve Smith in particular.
Mitch was immediately bowled the next ball. Neither brother has scored a Test century since.
37: Smith’s comeback century (2019)
After the ball-tampering saga in 2018, Steve Smith — along with David Warner — was the face of everything wrong with Australian cricket.
His year-long ban from international cricket ended with his appearance at the World Cup in June 2019, but the comeback couldn’t be complete until the best Test batter in the world returned to the five-day game on the biggest stage: an Ashes tour.
After the arrival and prompt dismissal of both Smith’s ball-tampering accomplices — Warner and Cameron Bancroft — Smith came out to boos, jeers and fans waving a few B&Qs’ worth of yellow sandpaper at him.
However, Smith either ignored them or was spurred on by the rancour and won the day, proving he hadn’t lost a step by belting 144 of Australia’s 284 runs on day one of a series that truly belonged to him.
A second century followed in the second innings, followed by a 92 at Lord’s and urn-securing scores of 211 and 82 in the fourth Test at Old Trafford, before finishing with 80 and his only sub-50 score of the series at The Oval.
38: Archer on target at Lord’s (2019)
Steve Smith was the best batter in the world on his comeback tour, drawing nearly warranted comparisons to Bradman as he toured the English countryside. Jofra Archer was the Test debutant with a career’s worth of myth-making behind him already.
They met on the fourth day. And, for 20 minutes, it felt like the rest of the world stood still.
Archer bowled as fast as anyone had for at least a decade, and Smith tried to hit every last ball to the boundary. It was a spine-tingling battle, just even enough to capture complete attention and just scary enough to force you to look away.
In the end, Archer won. He struck Smith on the back of the head, prompting the most-harrowing of flashbacks and silencing Lord’s entirely. Smith returned to the crease for a clearly-impaired rebuke but fell short of a century. This match was drawn, and Smith would miss the famous Headingley Test through concussion.
39: From concussion sub to Ashes star (2019)
Marnus Labuschagne had a weird start to his Test career. Picked to debut as an extra spinner in the UAE during the awkward year after Sandpaper-gate, he had two wickets, a run-out and a catch before he scored a Test run. He was dropped to start the home summer a couple of months later, came back into the side, played three Tests, and then missed out on selection in the first two Tests of the 2019 Ashes series in England.
But, befitting the Queenslander’s odd start to his international career, he got another chance after Smith’s battle with Archer at Lord’s saw Australia’s star ruled out with concussion.
Labuschagne, a talented right-hand batter with a weird personality and a penchant for leg spin, couldn’t have been a more “like-for-like” replacement, as stipulated by the concussion substitution rules that came into effect just two weeks earlier.
He wore his first ball, from Archer, flush on the grille, bounced to his feet and top-scored with 59 runs as Australia held on for a draw. It was the first of four successive half-centuries as he finished the series with 353 runs and a spot cemented in Australia’s top order.
40: Stokes’s Headingley miracle (2019)
England were down and out. Skittled for 67 in their first innings and, chasing an improbable 359 runs to win, the hosts were staring down the barrel when number 11 Jack Leach tentatively wandered to the middle, still needing 73 runs.
But this was Headingley and, as Ian Botham showed 38 years earlier, at Headingley magic can happen.
What followed was historic.
Sure, one can question any one of four massive blunders that facilitated England’s impossible quest: Tim Paine’s bewildering tactics and ludicrous review-burning, Nathan Lyon’s inexplicable fumbling of a certain run out, Marcus Harris’ drop and umpire Joel Wilson’s inability to raise his finger for a bang-to-rights lbw.
But you can’t question Stoke’s unparalleled genius in pulling off one of Test cricket’s greatest solo innings.