Raking over the Ashes
The Ashes is cricket’s longest running and most richly historic competition. The contest only involves two countries: England and Australia. Every couple of years these countries play five test matches to decide which team is better. Each country takes its turn to host an Ashes series and such is the aura surrounding the competition that full houses at most of the grounds can be guaranteed.
Understanding what makes the Ashes unique
For most of the first hundred years of test cricket, the Ashes were where ‘it was at’. England and Australia were the two best cricket nations on the planet – not that difficult as up until the 1920s, only three countries played the sport to international standards (the other was South Africa). Therefore, games between these two countries were considered the pinnacle of the sport.
Understanding the secrets of Australian success
Ask any England cricketer and they’ll tell you that beating the Australian cricket team is a very tough task. The Australians have brilliant individual players and are usually well organized.
In Australia a player can progress from club cricket to the national team. On the other hand, if you fail for the national and the state side, you can soon find yourself playing in club cricket. Australian cricket teams like to play aggressively. However, Australians pride themselves on their sportsmanship and showing respect for opponents who succeed against them.
England’s Ashes heroes
Although England have often been on the end of test series defeats by Australia, it hasn’t been for the lack of great players.
Southern hemisphere rivalry: South Africa v Australia
When South Africa was suspended from international cricket in 1970 – in reaction to the country’s racist apartheid policy – the team had just become the best in the world by thrashing Australia. When, after 21 years in the wilderness, South Africa was re-admitted to international cricket in 1991, the country felt it had something to prove. Every time South Africa play Australia the South African players see a chance to prove that they are number one again. Although the matches between these two countries have always been hard fought, usually the Australians have continued to come out on top – much to the annoyance of the South Africans.
Crossing the final frontier: India v Australia
During the late 1990s and the turn of the millennium, the Australians were beating everyone all around the world; with one big exception. No matter how hard they tried, Australia couldn’t beat India in India. Steve Waugh, the former Australian captain, described winning a test series in India as ‘the final frontier’ – very Star Trek. In 2001, the two teams played a three-match test series which Australia, under the captaincy of Steve Waugh, looked set to win until an amazing fight back by India snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.
Beating England Is Everyone’s Goal
Cricket is a game spread by the British Empire, and the former colonies like nothing better than to beat England at their own game. Previously, only Australia were able to beat England on a regular basis, but since the emergence of the great West Indian team of the 1970s, the other test-playing nations have been making up for lost time, winning lots of games. When England tour other test-playing nations they normally draw a big crowd because the home fans want to see their heroes triumph.