The greatest combined Ashes XI of all-time

The quest to grasp the coveted ash-filled urn has seen some of the greatest cricketers from both the countries take the field over the years.

Batsmen with most runs against a single team in Tests
Sir Don Bradman. (© Allsport Hulton/Archive via Getty Images)

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August 1882: An obituary in The Sporting Times mourned the death of a very special entity, who’d passed away at the famous Oval ground on 29th August, ’82 and whose crematory ashes would be carried to Australia. It was the declaration of the demise of English cricket!

The sarcastic news piece came in the wake of the triumph of Billy Murdoch’s Australia on English soil for the first time in cricketing history. What followed was England captain, Ivo Bligh’s solemn oath to recover the mythical ‘ashes’ and the subsequent genesis of the legendary cricketing rivalry between England and Australia called the “Ashes”.

The Ashes is incomparable to any other cricketing event for more reasons than one. Apart from being the seat of one of the world’s fiercest sporting rivalries, it also marks a bilateral series that has existed in all its glory for over a century now. The quest to grasp the coveted ash-filled urn has seen some of the greatest cricketers from both the countries take the field over the years.

Here’s our take on the All Time Ashes XI:

1. Jack Hobbs

Born in 1882, English opening batsman Jack Hobbs hails from the era long gone by and yet, his records remain unparalleled to this day. Hobbs, who is often termed as one of the most prolific batsmen in the history of the game, holds the unique record of being the highest run-getter in first-class cricket, with a staggering run tally of 61,760.

His performance in the Ashes in the span of 1908-30 saw him score 3636 runs, including 12 centuries in 71 innings at an average of 54.26. Be it the “Best Opener of All-time” or the “Most Centuries” list of the prestigious Ashes, Hobbs still stands tall at the top half of the ladder.

2. Herbert Sutcliffe

Herbert Sutcliffe
Herbert Sutcliffe. (Photo Source: Getty Images)

The opening pair of Hobbs-Sutcliffe commands respect owing to the sheer opulence of the figures they produced with the willow. The duo had 15, 100-run stands in between them, with the highest being 283 in the first innings of the Test at Melbourne in January 1925.

Herbert Sutcliffe donned the whites for England for the period 1924-35, in the course of which not only did he score 4555 runs at an average of 60.73, 2741 of them were recorded in the Ashes itself. What adds to the man’s brilliance is that he could be counted on to rescue his team from a pickle with his composed demeanour and sound defence, and equally be expected to hit the ball out of the park with a clean hook shot if the need be.

3. Donald Bradman

Sir Donald Bradman
Sir Donald Bradman. (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)

The name “Sir Donald Bradman” is as timeless as the game of cricket itself. Pick up any batting record list in the book and Sir Bradman will be found perched on the very top of it, more often than not. The legendary cricketer had a glorious cricketing career, spanning two decades, during which he scored 6996 Test runs along with a humongous tally of 28,067 runs in first-class cricket.

“The Don”, as he was lovingly referred to, holds the record of scoring the highest number of runs in the Ashes (5028) at the highest average (89.7

8), which included 2 triple-hundreds (334 and 304) and 6 double-hundreds (270, 254, 244, 234, 232 and 212 respectively). Bradman holds the privilege of eternally being hailed as the greatest cricketer to have ever trodden the earth- a man whose legacy transcends the grasps of time.

4. Allan Border

Allan Border Test
Allan Border, Australia. (Photo by Bob Thomas/Getty Images)

Allan Border is arguably one of the greatest captains the Australian team has ever had at its helm. A tough taskmaster to the very core, Border hauled his nation’s team from a bottomless abyss and put them back at the top of the cricketing map – a remarkable feat that inspired Gideon Haigh to name him “The man who stood by Australia”.

He’s the third highest run-getter in the Ashes, with 3222 runs under his belt at an average of 55.55, including 7 centuries. The 1981 Ashes series saw Border amass 533 runs at an average of 59.2, including three centuries and he captained the side for 28 matches in the tournament, which is a record in itself. His most memorable Ashes innings would have to be the unbeaten knock of 200 against a Graham Gooch-led English side at the Leeds, in July 1993.

5. Steve Waugh (C)

Steve Waugh
Steve Waugh. (Photo Source: Getty Images)

The man to lead the all-time Ashes XI would be none other than Steve Waugh. The record of 16 consecutive Test victories for Australia had Waugh shepherding the team for 15 of them. Although his initial years had him scrambling for a foothold in the team, he metamorphosed into a worthy cricketer that he’d always had the penchant for being.

He comes fourth in the list for the most runs in the Ashes tournament with an aggregate of 3173 runs at a significant average of 58.75. Waugh also went on to score 10 of his 32 Test centuries in the prestigious tournament, with the highest score of 177*. His steely-strong captaincy in his hay-days not only mounted overwhelming pressure upon the opposition but also earned him accolades and adulation from all quarters and gave the Australian team the wings they needed to soar high.

6. Ian Botham

Ian Botham
Ian Botham. (Photo Source: Getty Images)

English cricketer, Sir Ian Botham is certain to find a place in the Ashes XI compiled over the ages owing to his exceptional all-round abilities that made him one of the best players in the world. In the 32 Ashes games that he played, he picked up 128 wickets at an average of just 28.04. His batting exploits weren’t far behind as he accrued 1486 runs, comprising 3 centuries.

Although his career saw him oscillate between the highest zenith and the lowest ebb at an alarming frequency, the 1981 Ashes series encapsulated the genius that Botham was. The third Test at Headingley witnessed England accomplish the remarkable feat of winning the Test match after having followed on, propelled largely by Botham’s scores of 50 and 149 in the two innings, along with bowling figures of 6/95.

The fourth and fifth Tests once again, saw the sheer brilliance of the man as he picked up 5 wickets for 11 runs in 14 overs in the first and slammed 118 runs in the next, aiding England to secure thumping victories in both Tests.

7. Ian Healy (wk)

Ian Healy
Ian Healy. (Photo by Graham Chadwick/ALLSPORT)

The fact that Healy still features at the top of the wicket-keeping records in the Ashes, in spite of having played his last Test back in 1999 is a resounding ode to the man’s ingenuity. Healy behind the stumps with Shane Warne firing at the batsman from the other side, led Australia to some of the greatest victories they’ve ever recorded.

Out of the 395 wickets that he scalped in his career, Healy registered 135 (123 catches, 12 stumpings) of those against England in the competitive tournament. Apart from his agility as a wicketkeeper, he was also a dependable lower-order batsman for his team and went on to score 1269 runs in the Ashes, including the highest score of 134. The 1997 Ashes series witnessed Healy notching up 27 dismissals behind the sticks, where he registered 6 dismissals in the Birmingham Test, inking his name in gold in the list of the Best Wicket-keepers in the legacy of the game.

8. Shane Warne

Shane Warne
Shane Warne. (Photo Source: Getty Images)

The first delivery this man bowled on English soil went on to be termed as the “Ball of the Century”- a ball that pitched outside the leg-stump of a bewildered Mike Gatting and swung back dramatically to clip the bails off the off-stump. The ultimate showman of the game, Shane Warne dominates the bowling figures of the Ashes to this day.

Having played 36 games in the tournament in his 14-year long career, ‘Warnie’ flummoxed the batsman facing him 195 times at an average of 23.25. The flamboyant leg-break bowler stamped his name on every bowling record with panache and then created some more! Warne has 4 ten-wicket hauls next to his name, along with astonishing best figures of 8/71 at the Gabba in 1994.

9. Bob Willis

Bob Willis
Bob Willis. (Photo Source: Getty Images)

Robert George Dylan Willis, popularly known as Bob Willis, possessed the temperament of a true fast bowler- an undying spirit and the temerity to bounce back from the biggest of setbacks. Armed with a lengthy run-up and daunting pace, Willis picked up 325 wickets in his career span of 90 Test matches, out of which 123 were picked up by him in the Ashes at a bowling average of 24.37.

Willis had severe knee problems for a major part of his career which meant that he had to undergo considerable pain in bowling each delivery for several years in the latter part of his playing days. The 1981 Ashes Test at Leeds bears testimony to the excellence of Willis as he picked up 8 wickets while conceding just 43 runs and helped his team win the Test by 18 runs.

10. Sydney Barnes

Sydney Barnes
Sydney Barnes. (Photo Source: Getty Images)

Never mind the age-old rivalry, when it comes to Sydney Barnes both the Australians and the English along with the rest of the world have been in awe of him since time immemorial. Armed with 12 five-wicket hauls, Barnes scalped 106 wickets in the Ashes in between 1901-1912 at an average of 21.58.

The fact that the eccentric English pacer faced only Australia and South Africa ensured that he bowled against the best of sides with no scope of cutting himself a slack. His best bowling figures of 13/163 at Melbourne still remains an exemplary example for all bowlers old and new.

11. Glenn McGrath

bowling partnerships in Cricket
Glenn McGrath. (Photo Source: Getty Images)

The boyishly good-looking Glenn McGrath invokes reverence by the very mention of his name and is often regarded as one of the greatest fast bowlers of all time. His on-field camaraderie with Shane Warne had the duo put on a relentless attack on the opposition batsmen and crushing the opponent’s batting attack was, more often than not, a stroll in the park for them.

During his playing days, McGrath picked up 157 Ashes wickets in just 30 matches, at an average of 20.92 and a minimal economy of 2.70. In addition to his accurate line and length, the lanky pacer has to his credit 10 five-wicket hauls in the tournament. Possessor of 563 Test wickets and an immaculate sense of understanding of the game- any congregation of great cricketers of all times is incomplete without Glenn McGrath.

12th man: Wally Hammond

Wally Hammond
Wally Hammond. (Photo Source: Getty Images)

English batsman from yesteryear, Walter or Wally Hammond is unequivocally termed as Jack Hobbs’ most worthy successor. Hammond accumulated over 50,000 runs in first-class cricket- a milestone that has probably been surpassed in figures but still lies unparalleled in the significance of having reached it at a time when the batters didn’t have the latest technology or a fleet of support staff at their disposal.

He scored 2852 runs in the Ashes, comprising 4 double-centuries and 9 centuries, with the highest score of 251 runs at Sydney in 1928. Interestingly, his slip-fielding was another shining facet of his cricketing abilities. Hammond’s steady hands and hawk-like sharp eyes contributed to him being an excellent catcher at the slips, making him an indispensable cog in the team.