CW Special : Ashes abound in quirks and curiosities – Kersi Meher-Homji
Before England start playing their first match this weekend against Western Australia at the WACA in Perth and the first Ashes Test on 23rd November in Brisbane, let us recall interesting curiosities and nuggets which colour Oz-Pom Test series.
Australia has whitewashed England 5-0 three times in a series, all three times in Australia. First time was in 1920-21 when Warwick Armstrong’s Australians thrashed Johnny (JWHT) Douglas’s Englishmen. We had to wait 86 years before Ricky Ponting’s Aussies trounced Andrew Flintoff’s Poms 5-0 in 2006-07. Then in 2013-14 Michael Clarke’s men whitewashed Alastair Cook’s English tourists.
England has never whitewashed Australia in a 5-Test series.
All eleven England players bowled against Australia in the 1884 Oval Test. The most successful bowler was the regular wicket-keeper Alfred Lyttelton who took 4-19 with lobs while W.G. Grace kept wickets.
Both the inaugural Test of March 1877 and the Centenary Test of March 1977 were played in Melbourne and in both Australia defeated England by the identical margin of 45 runs.
In the 1928-29 Brisbane Test England amassed 863 runs (521 and 8 declared for 342) during which Australian wicket-keeper Bert Oldfield did not concede a bye. This was a Test debut for Brisbane and Don Bradman and a swansong for Jack Gregory.
The Manchester Test started on 7-7-1977, the 77th day of the Australian tour of England. In the 77th over, Australia’s Doug Walters reached 77 runs.
Earlier, the figure of 7 had dominated the August 1882 Oval Test. Fred ‘Demon’ Spofforth captured 7 wickets in each innings (7-46 and 7-44) and England collapsed for 77 in the second innings to lose by 7 runs and the legend of Ashes was born.
Australia’s Don Bradman is the only batsman to record 5000 runs in Ashes; 5028 at 89.78 in 37 Tests. No one else has even touched 4000, England’s Jack Hobbs coming next with 3636 runs at 54.26 in 41 Tests.
Both Hobbs and Bradman were bowled for low scores in their final Test innings at The Oval, England; Hobbs for 9 against Australia in August 1930 and Bradman for a duck in August 1948 against England. Sad swan songs for the iconic cricketing knights.
Many think that Bradman is the only batsman to average 100 (2674 runs at 102.84 in 19 Tests) for the Ashes in England. However, two Englishmen have topped him in Ashes in England; CAG “Jack” Russell 108.00 (216 runs in two Tests in 1921) and Charles Mead, a freaky 229.00 (229 runs in two Tests the same year).
Another batsman to average over 100 in Tests against Australia is England’s Eddie Paynter, 101.75 (407 runs at 101.75 in four Tests). He has the highest batting average of 84.42 (591 runs in seven Tests against Australia in England and Australia).
After the first three Tests in England in 1989, Steve Waugh averaged an awesome 393.00 (177 not out, 152 not out & 21 not out and 43).
In the 1993 Lord’s Test, Australia’s first three batsmen hit hundreds; Mark Taylor 111, Michael Slater 152 and David Boon 164 not out. It would have been four centuries by first four batsmen but Mark Waugh was run out for 99.
Only three bowlers have taken more than 150 wickets in Ashes, and all three are Australians: Shane Warne (195 wickets at 23.25 in 36 Tests), Dennis Lillee (167 wickets at 21.00 in 29 Tests) and Glenn McGrath (157 wickets at 20.92 in 30 Tests).
England’s off-spinner Jim Laker has the best spell of 10-53 in an innings and 19-90 in a Test. This was at Manchester against Australia in 1956.
Australian swing sensation Bob Massie captured 16 wickets (8-84 and 8-53) in his Test debut at Lord’s in June 1972. This was the first instance for a debutant at Test level and remains unique in an Ashes Test.
Australia’s Charles Turner and Glenn McGrath have identical bowling average of 19.34 in Ashes in England; Turner in 8 Tests, McGrath in 14.
In the December 2006 Perth Test, Australia’s wicket-keeper batsman Adam Gilchrist destroyed English bowlers to hammer the second fastest Test century ever. He was only one ball slower than West Indies legend Viv Richards whose century had come off 56 balls against England at St John’s in 1986. Gilchrist’s second fifty came off only 17 balls.
The most topsy-turvy Ashes Test was played at Leeds in 1981. England collapsed for 174 replying to Australia’s 401. Forced to follow on, England was tottering at 7 for 135, still 92 needed to avoid an innings defeat. Unfazed, Ian Botham scored an unbeaten 149 and England won by 18 runs.
The Ashes are currently tied 32-all. Of the 69 Ashes series contested, Australia has won 32 times, England 32 times with five drawn. So the current series will decide the ultimate winner.
Finally to my magical Ashes moment: Steve Waugh scoring a century off the last ball on the second day of the January 2003 Sydney Test.
What are yours, CW readers?