5 Individual performances that immortalized the Ashes

With the red ball traveling at over 145 kph and whistling past the ears of the batsmen, Mitchell Johnson redefined the art of life-threating fast bowling in the Ashes 2013.

Mitchell Johnson
Mitchell Johnson gave a deathly nightmare to the Englishmen in 2013/14. (© Getty Images)

It’s a chapter in the history of cricket which shall never end. It’s a classic which only gets better with time, just like a bottle of wine. Temperatures creep up, the world takes a pause, there’ll be tears of joy at one end and deathly silences at the other, as two of the oldest rivals combat for a battle of supremacy. The stage is all set for another exciting, spine-chilling and colossal edition of the Ashes which kick-starts at the end of this month.

Over the years, few legendary anecdotes from the past inspired the next generations to do something spectacular. Every Ashes series is filled with a plethora of emotions and a baggage of controversies. Many purists often lambaste the intensity, saying it goes off beat at times, but that’s Ashes for you, it’s a “No holds barred” banter.

From the era of Sir Donald Bradman and Douglas Jardine, the torch was passed on to the next generations and here we stand, with two young and exuberant leaders in Joe Root and Steve Smith leading the lines for each side. We witnessed some amazing individual performances over the years in the Ashes and on this eve, let’s take a look at five such instances where one individual immortalized the rivalry with his brilliance.

1. Sir Donald Bradman – Just godly stuff!

Sir Donald Bradman
The immortal – Sir Donald Bradman (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)

974 runs in 5 Test matches at an average of 139.14! Cricket lovers will understand who I’m talking about by just looking at these numbers. Sir Donald Bradman is arguably the greatest batsman the game has ever seen and his dominance in the Ashes was inexplicably tantalizing. Whilst there were so many such occasions where he pounded hard on the English, but the Ashes of 1930 remains to be the best.

With Sir Don’s bat breathing fire, the poor English bowlers could do nothing but watch the events unfold. He registered scores of 31 (Trent Bridge), 254 (Lord’s), 334 (Headingley), and 232 (The Oval) in the series and the Aussies were just too good for the Three Lions. Many often call it as the greatest phase not just in Bradman’s career, but also in cricket history.

2. The Botham’s Ashes

Ian Botham and Bob Willis
Ian Botham and Bob Willis. (© Getty Images)

1981 Ashes series in England was remembered solely for one individual and it’s none other than the greatman, Sir Ian Botham. With few top notch individual performances both with the bat and ball, he ensured England got out of the jail on various occasions, all by himself. Many questioned his selection as he was in a poor form, but now, English fans keep arguing that this was the best individual performance in the Ashes history (Almost there, but a whisker behind Bradman).

With England following on in the third Test, Botham smashed an unbeaten 149 and they posted a 130-run target. Bob Willis’ majestic spell thwarted an easy win for Australia and Botham followed it up with a 10-wicket haul at the Oval and a thumping century at the Old Trafford. Botham was one of a kind and though he’s provided so many ever-lasting memories, this one tops the chart by some distance.

3. Mitchell Johnson – TAKE A BOW!

Mitchell Johnson
Mitchell Johnson. (© Getty Images)

With the red ball travelling at over 145 kph and whistling past the ears of the batsmen, Johnson redefined the art of life-threating fast bowling. Few English batsmen like Jonathan Trott went into a mental trauma facing Johnson and eventually, he retired from the game. What Johnson did in 2013 Ashes was breathtaking and flabbergasting.

ABC commentator Kerry O’Keeffe famously wrote in his column asking the Aussie captain Michael Clarke to rest Mitchell Johnson for the fifth Test (Australia went 4-0 up by then), not to give him rest but to show some mercy to their opposition. He picked up a whopping 37 wickets in the series and unsurprisingly picked up the Man of the series award.

4. When Jim Laker “Spun” a web

(Photo Source: The Cricketer International)

Who can forget the “Laker’s match” at Old Trafford back in 1956? The legendary spinner was brilliant in the first three games of the series, picking up 20 wickets. When they travelled to Manchester for the penultimate game, Laker kept licking his fingers watching the turn spinners were getting on the track and what he did in that game can never ever be replicated.

He picked nine wickets in the first innings and followed it up with 10 in the second. With a total of 19 wickets in both the innings, Laker booked an irreplaceable slot in the record books. Only Anil Kumble came close to do something similar in 1999, but the web he spun across the Aussies will be remembered for as long as the game exists.

5. Shane Warne at his lethal best

Shane Warne
Shane Warne. (© Getty Images)

With 40 wickets in the 2005 Ashes, he stood fifth on the all-time list of wickets in a single Ashes series. No ardent lover of the game can forget his ripper to Andrew Strauss, which pitched almost on the peripheral tip of the pitch on the offside and hit the middle stump. That was quintessential Warne and on his day, he can a “Turn” the game into his favor.

Australia bowed down to the hosts in a scintillating Test series thanks to a brilliant rendition from Andrew Flintoff. His form dipped drastically due to the diminishing agility in his body, but he eventually signed off with an Ashes triumph in 2007. He shattered so many records in his blistering career and people often term the 2005 Ashes as the series where they saw “Warne at his best, for one final time!”.