While the Ashes is unique in the fact that it is only contested between two nations — England and Australia — it is still one of cricket’s premier events and widely respected in the wider world of sport. The rich history of the competition and the fierce rivalry between the two sides is what makes millions of people tune in for the bi-annual Series and the hunger to win is unmatched, with both teams often doing whatever it takes to gain the ascendancy.
The latest renewal is currently underway in England and the hosts entered as the favourites to win the Series in the Ashes odds 2023 after appearing rejuvenated under New Zealand head coach Brendon McCullum. However, Australia won the first two Tests at Edgbaston and Lord’s, and despite England’s win at Headingley to keep the Series alive at 2-1, the visitors are still in the driving seat to retain the urn for the fifth time in succession.
If England are to come back and win the Ashes from here, they would become just the second team in history to overturn a 2-0 deficit in a Series following Australia’s unfathomable turnaround in 1936/37. That would see this side go down in folklore and more importantly, confirm captain Ben Stokes as an Ashes legend.
There’s still a lot that could happen over the next Test or two though, so without jumping the gun, let’s take a look at four players who have already secured legendary status in Ashes history.
Sir Donald Bradman
Sir Donald Bradman was the man who inspired Australia’s unprecedented comeback from 2-0 down in the 1930s. The hosts were hammered in the first two Tests, being beaten by 322 runs in Brisbane and an innings and 22 runs in Sydney.
However, ‘The Don’ soon found his rhythm with the willow — scoring 270 as Australia won by 365 runs in Melbourne, 212 as they won by 148 runs in Adelaide and another 169 as the hosts wiped the floor with the visitors back in Melbourne.
Bradman took to the crease 63 times overall in the Ashes, racking up an aggregate tally of over 5,000 runs and averaging a score of almost 90. He’s considered one of the best cricketers of all time and still inspires Australians to this day.
Sir Ian Botham
With a total of eight appearances in the Ashes, few cricketers have featured more than Sir Ian Botham in the event’s storied history. With such longevity in a career that spanned from 1977 to 1992, ‘Beefy’ has had a significant impact on the Ashes and has single-handily turned the tide on several occasions.
The all-rounder’s most memorable year was arguably in 1981, helping England come back from 1-0 down to win the Series 3-1 thanks to fantastic work with both bat and ball. At Headingley, Botham took six wickets for 95 runs and scored 149 to level the scores at 1-1. He took five wickets for just one run as England won at Edgbaston next time out and his 118 at Old Trafford helped his side secure the Series.
Botham ended his Ashes career by amassing over 1,600 runs and taking almost 150 wickets from 36 Test appearances.
Having also played in eight Ashes Series between 1993 and 2007, Shane Warne is also one of the top appearance makers in the event’s history. Like Botham, he made his presence felt over the years and left a remarkable legacy in the sport behind.
His maiden wicket came from his first delivery in the Ashes, bamboozling Mike Gatting with his insane leg-spin at Old Trafford in 1993. Warne would go on to take 34 wickets as Australia won 4-1. His haul was in 2005 though, when he took 40 wickets across five Tests. But that was dampened by the fact Australia narrowly lost 2-1.
In total, Warne won the Ashes seven times — including a clean sweep (5-0) over England in 1998-99 — and took an amazing 195 wickets from 36 Test matches in his 11 Series appearances.
England’s top run scorer, or at least until he is caught by Joe Root, Alastair Cook featured in eight Ashes Series between 2006 and 2019 — earning bragging rights on four occasions over the Aussies, including a run of three-straight retention of the urn between 2009 and 2013.
Cook played a huge role with the bat in the second of those successes Down Under in 2010-11, scoring a massive 766 runs across the five Tests as England won 3-1. His biggest score of the Series was 235 not out in the second innings of the first Test in Brisbane.
All-in-all, Cook scored 2,493 runs in the Ashes.