New Delhi, July 24 (IANS) There is nothing quite like the drama of the Ashes. English and Australian players are known to get along well off the pitch, but on it, especially when they are wearing whites, the intensity and animosity of the years gone by between cricketers of the two country takes over and players end up making or breaking their careers.
IANS takes a look at the top five innings in the last 10 years of the storied rivalry:
Usman Khawaja, 171 at Sydney in 2018
England posted a competitive total of 346 and it looked like they were carrying forward the momentum of the previous match in Melbourne which was drawn at the end of what was another forgettable tour of Australia. They got Cameron Bancroft out for a duck but that was the end of England’s resurgence in that series. Usman Khawaja and Steve Smith came in and normal service resumed with the Australian batsmen dominating the Englishmen. Khawaja was one of three centurions in that innings, the other two being the Marsh brothers and Australia declared on a mammoth 649/7. They won the match by an innings and 123 runs.
Alastair Cook, 235* at Brisbane in 2010
Cook was at his prolific best when England arrived in Australia in a bid to defend their title. They started off on shaky ground though, with Australia taking a lead of 221 thanks to a brilliant pair of centuries by Mike Hussey and Brad Haddin. What followed was two and a half days in hell for the Aussie bowlers as Cook, Andrew Strauss and Jonathan Trott pushed England to 517/1, a scorecard that broke quite a few records. Cook was unbeaten 235 having shared a 188-run stand with Strauss before putting on 329 for the second wicket with Trott.
Steve Smith, 215 at Lord’s in 2015
Smith was on overdrive and before this match, his previous totals in Test cricket read as 214,161,206,188,30,253 and 66. Australia made a strong start to the second Test, batting first with a 78-run stand between David Warner and Chris Rogers. What followed that was the end of any hopes England had of taking a 2-0 lead in the series. Smith and Rogers put up 284 runs for the second wicket. While Rogers fell to Broad on 173, Smith carried on, even sharing a 91-run stand for the sixth wicket with Peter Nevill before being trapped leg before by Joe Root. Australia won the match by 405 runs.
Alastair Cook, 244* at MCG in 2018
When Cook bowed out of Test cricket in 2019 with a century, he was celebrated as one of England’s greatest ever batsman in the longest format of the game. But for much of the two years preceding that moment, the former England captain cut an embattled figure. The ball was not going to the places that he wanted it to and he was a shadow of his former prolific self. The colossal 244 in Melbourne, in which he batted through an innings that lasted 144.1 overs was an island in this run of bad form however. England finally showed fight in a series that they were trailing 3-0, and the match ended in a draw.
Kevin Pietersen, 227 at Adelaide in 2010
Pietersen’s Test career started and ended with the Ashes. Since he made his debut in 2005, the Ashes was his theatre and he was the anti-hero. The Australians were onto him every time he came out to bat as they knew getting him out is crucial to winning the match while his England teammates themselves were not too fond of him because of all the off-field problems that came with him into the dressing room. His ability with the bat however, was never in question and Adelaide was always a happy hunting ground for him. His 227 in the 2nd Test of the 2010 series helped England declare on a monumental 620/5. England went on to record an innings victory in that match and the icing on the cake for Pietersen was that he managed to get the prized wicket of Michael Clarke, something that he says he makes sure to remind ‘Pup’ to this day.
(Rohit Mundayur can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)