Not just intriguing to those from the nations invested in the drama, the Ashes series between old cricketing rivals England and Australia is viewed by millions across the globe.
With Test cricket’s five-day format and a long and rich history to draw back on, the Ashes can create storylines and interest that give it a special place in the world’s sporting calendar.
History Adds To Ashes Spectacle
Starting with the first series back in 1882-83, the Ashes was created on the back of an article written in The Sporting Times which claimed “English cricket is dead” following Australia’s first-ever win in England. Australia has come a long way since that victory at The Oval and is -217 in the Ashes betting to win the series this summer. Who knows what would have happened if Australia had not claimed that victory at The Oval in 1882 but after England’s defeat, the article in The Sporting Times claimed the body of English cricket had been cremated and the ashes sent to Australia. With England’s then-skipper Ivo Bligh and his side making the long trip to Australia for the following series, the captain famously claimed his team was on a quest to reclaim those ashes.
Since the 1882-83 series England and Australia have been playing out one of the most fierce rivalries in cricket and the wider sporting arena. While cricket from the outside can have the look of a slow-paced quiet game played in the surroundings of rich green countryside, the Test arena can be a combative hotbed that challenges men and women to decide the victor. Over the years the Ashes series has thrown up some flashpoint moments to further enrich the rivalry and the 2023 Ashes has been no different.
Bairstow Dismissal Fuels The Rivalry Flames
With Australia winning the first Test of the 2023 series at Edgbaston, England was battling to get themselves back on level terms in the second clash at Lord’s. In a contest that was swinging both ways over the opening days, a flashpoint occurred on the final day as England wicketkeeper batter Jonny Bairstow was ruled out with a controversial dismissal. Ducking a bouncing ball, it flew over Bairstow’s head to the Baggy Green’s wicketkeeper Alex Carey. Believing the over was completed, Bairstow marked his spot and proceeded to walk out of his crease to speak to skipper Ben Stokes at the other end. Carey threw the ball at Bairstow’s stumps as he left his crease to the shock of England’s players and supporters and to the delight of the Australians.
Queue the uproar and countless replays of the incident which sparked debate across the cricketing world and into the wider sporting sphere. Technically the wicket was well within the rules but the “spirit of cricket” was called into question. Australia went on to win that second Test at Lord’s amid fury from the England supporters that the wicket appeal should have been withdrawn. Australia stood their ground and skipper Pat Cummins was adamant he would have made the same decision to take the wicket if given his time again. Whichever side of the debate cricket players, pundits, and fans rest on, there can be no denying the incident added even further fuel to the Ashes rivalry. England responded to that defeat at Lord’s with a three-wicket victory at Headingley Stadium in Leeds to pull the series back to 2-1 with two Test matches to follow.
The Bairstow stumping will go down as another controversial moment in a long line of incidents to have occurred in this iconic series over its long history. Even though the matches take place over such a long time for some sports fans, it’s an event like no other. A combination of rivalry, skill with bat and ball, and two nations desperate to win means the Ashes will always have a special place in the sporting calendar.