The Ashes, a fiercely contested cricket series between England and Australia, has witnessed some remarkable innings over the past four decades. Each batsman's performance is evaluated based on several criteria, including the number of runs scored, the quality of the opposition bowling attack, the match's run-scoring level, and the match result. In this blog, we delve into the analysis of the top-rated Ashes innings from each decade leading up to the present day. Additionally, we explore the top 10 innings since 1977, highlighting the brilliance of the batsmen who left an indelible mark on Ashes history.
|1880s||Allan Steel (Eng)||148||Lord's||1884||229|
|1890s||Clem Hill (Aus)||188||Melbourne||1898||276|
|1900s||‘Tip’ Foster (Eng)||287||Sydney||1903||286|
|1910s||Jack Hobbs (Eng)||126*||Melbourne||1912||218|
|1920s||Warren Bardsley (Aus)||193*||Lord's||1926||229|
|1930s||Don Bradman (Aus)||270||Melbourne||1937||321|
|1940s||Denis Compton (Eng)||145*||Manchester||1948||246|
|1950s||Neil Harvey (Aus)||167||Melbourne||1959||292|
|1960s||Bobby Simpson (Aus)||225||Adelaide||1966||265|
England’s 5-1 Ashes victory in the 1978/79 season came when the Australian side was lacking its World Series Cricket players, but let that not detract from Randall’s brilliance here. England was bowled out for just 152 and trailed by 142 on first innings, but he batted for nearly 10 hours in compiling a match-winning 150, coming into bat after Geoff Boycott had been dismissed first delivery of the innings.
England’s 2002/03 tour may be best remembered for that toss at Brisbane, but the one shining light for the visitors was the form of Michael Vaughan. He tweaked his right knee during the warm-up but decided to play nonetheless. Made against Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie and Shane Warne at their peak, no-one else passed 50 but – despite ending the first day on 295-4, England ended up losing by an innings.
The Ashes had already been lost and the Sydney Test may now be better remembered for the ‘Peter Who?’ selection controversy, but Dean Jones anchored Australia’s first-innings of 343 with this magnificent, nine-hour knock when no-one else passed 34. England had a sniff reaching 91-1 chasing 320 to win but ended up all out for 264.
The series was level 1-1 going into the fourth Test at Melbourne and Australia was shot out for just 98 before England reached 157-0 at the end of a momentous first day in front of 84,345 people. Trott scored his fifth Test century and remained undefeated when England’s innings ended at 513. Australia fared better second time around, but was dismissed for 258 and England retained the Ashes.
Everyone knows the story here. England was forced to follow-on and was staring down the barrel at 135-7, still 92 runs behind. What followed upset odds of 500/1 and set a memorable series alight. Graham Dilley also played the innings of his lifetime and helped add 117 for the eighth wicket, Chris Old added 67 for the ninth and even Bob Willis played his part with the bat before demolishing the Australian batting with 8/43.
Batting first, Australia finished day one on 337/1 and Smith extended his innings into the second day before falling for a career-best 215. It was a relief for him, having fallen for 192 and 199 earlier in his career. It was then over to Mitchell Johnson who ran through England with three wickets in each innings to bring an emphatic victory by 405 runs.
Where better to score your hundredth first-class century than in front of your adoring home fans, and that was the case for Geoff Boycott in the 1977 Ashes Test at Leeds. Mike Brearley fell without a run on the board, but Boycott batted for ten and a half hours before being the last batsman dismissed. It was more than enough for England as Australia fell for 103 and 248 and lost by an innings.
Things were looking so promising for England. Paul Collingwood made the first double-century by an England batsman in Australia since 1936 as England declared at 551-6. He added 310 for the fourth wicket with Kevin Pietersen as Warne bowled 53 overs with just the wicket of Geraint Jones to show. At the end of the fourth day the match was seemingly drifting to a draw, but Brett Lee, McGrath and Warne had other ideas!
The Ashes may have already been lost as Australia was 3-0 up going into the fourth Test, but that didn’t stop Mark Butcher from playing his most famous innings. A second-innings declaration set England an unlikely 315 to win. Two early wickets threatened to derail the chase, but Butcher stroked 23 fours and one six to bring a famous victory, helped along the way by Nasser Hussain and Mark Ramprakash
The 1997 Ashes series started in an unexpected fashion, with Australia 54-8 after 90 minutes of the series thanks to inspired bowling from Andy Caddick, Darren Gough and Devon Malcolm. A Warne cameo helped the total to 118 and England started badly, falling to 50/3 when Graham Thorpe joined Nasser Hussain. A partnership of 288 followed with Hussain making his career-best score against an attack of Kasprowicz, Gillespie, Warne and McGrath. His 38 boundaries set a new record for an England batsman in an Ashes innings and helped England take a 1-0 lead in the series. It wasn’t to be of course, as Australia won the six-Test series 3-2, but the match did feature the innings rated by the computer as the most valuable in Ashes cricket in the past forty years.
The Ashes series has provided cricket fans with countless memorable moments and extraordinary innings over the past four decades. From Nasser Hussain's record-breaking 207 to Mark Butcher's heroic 173*, each batsman showcased their skill, resilience, and determination to leave an indelible mark on the Ashes history. These top-rated innings from the past 40 years exemplify the essence of Ashes cricket, where great batsmen rise to the occasion and create moments that are cherished by fans for years to come. As the series continues to unfold, we eagerly anticipate witnessing more incredible innings that may add to this illustrious list. The Ashes rivalry, with its rich history and fierce competition, remains one of the most captivating contests in the world of cricket.