From Donald Bradman to Ian Botham to Steve Smith, cricket’s oldest rivalry has seen some of the most iconic innings in history played by some of the greatest to have ever picked up a bat. As the two teams prepare for another chapter of this epic rivalry in the first Test at the Gabba, we look back at the top five Ashes knocks since the turn of the Century.
5. Steve Waugh 157* – The Oval 2001
In his final Test in England, Steve Waugh scored one of the great Ashes centuries in an innings defined by true character and grit. After being stretchered off the field for tearing a calf muscle in the 3rd Test in 2001, Waugh had no business playing in the final Test just weeks later at the Oval. However, the Australian captain braved through the pain and batted virtually on one leg in the 5th Test to score a majestic 157*.
4. Mark Butcher 173* – Headingley 2001
Before the heroics of Ben Stokes in a fourth-innings run chase of an Ashes Test at Headingley, there was Mark Butcher, who scored an unbelievable century in 2001 to give England their first win of the series. Chasing an unlikely 315, Butcher rescued England from 33 for two and dismantled the likes of Warne, McGrath, Lee and Gillespie on his way to a career-best score of 173* that gave the hosts a comfortable victory by six wickets and prevented a clean sweep.
3. Steve Smith 144 – Edgbaston, 2019
At number three is one of the finest innings by a visiting batter on English shores as Steve Smith marked his return to Test cricket after his one-year ban with a phenomenal 144 at Edgbaston. Facing the likes of Anderson and Broad on a green seamer, Smith made it look like he was batting on a different pitch to the other 21 players and showed immense skill and courage in front of a hostile crowd. With Australia reduced to 122 for 8, Smith perfected the art of batting with the tail to take the visitors to a competitive first-innings total of 284 before following that up with another century in the 2nd innings to give Australia a 1-0 series lead.
2. Kevin Pietersen 158 – The Oval, 2005
Kevin Pietersen announced himself on the world stage in the 2005 Ashes, with the South African born right-hander scoring his maiden Test ton in the final Test at the Oval. Needing a draw to clinch the series 2-1, England were in a tricky position at 126 for five until Kevin Pietersen took the charge to the likes of Warne, Gillespie and McGrath. Pietersen scored a sublime 158, which included some stunning strokes off Brett Lee and helped England secure the draw and win their first Ashes series in nearly two decades.
1. Ben Stokes 135* – Headingley, 2019
The greatest knock in Ashes history came from the bat of Ben Stokes, who defied logic and cricketing norms to help England chase down 359 in the fourth innings of a Test while facing the likes of Cummins, Pattinson, Lyon and Hazlewood. Stokes displayed his unbelievable versatility and ability to adapt according to the situation, scoring just 2 runs off his first 66 deliveries before accelerating towards the end in his partnership with Jack Leach. The all-rounder creamed 64 runs off his final 34 balls, putting on an unbelievable 76-run partnership for the final wicket to give England their most famous victory in an Ashes Test.
[Featured Image Credit: ANI]