Another chapter of cricket’s oldest epic is underway, as Australia and England battle it out in the first Ashes Test at Edgbaston. Since its debut as Test centre in 1902, Edgbaston has played host to 14 Ashes Tests, with England winning six and Australia three.
As we anticipate an enthralling start to the series, which also marks the beginning of the inaugural World Test Championship, here is a look back at five memorable Ashes Tests contested at the iconic Birmingham venue.
Rain comes to Australia’s rescue – First Test, 1902
The first ever Test at Edgbaston was hit by inclement weather. England slipped to 35/3 on the first morning, before John Tyldesley, helped by some sloppy fielding, struck 138 to steer the total to 376/9.
Australia were shot out for just 36 – their lowest Test total – in reply, with the prolific slow left-armer Wilfred Rhodes snaring 7/17. Having already affected the second day, rain also ruined the third (final) day, with a relieved Australia placed at 46/2 while following on.
Botham brilliance floors Australia – Fourth Test, 1981
Two weeks after his epic 149* brought England back from the dead at Headingley, Ian Botham provided another punch to the Australians, this time with the ball. Terry Alderman swung his way to 5/42 on the first day, as England were skittled out for 189.
Australia slid from 203/5 to 258 in reply, thanks to off-spinner John Emburey’s 4/43. When Botham fell cheaply to Dennis Lillee in the second innings, England were struggling at 115/6, and were ahead by only 46 runs.
Emburey chipped in with the bat as well, scoring 37*, and along with Mike Gatting (39), oversaw England’s recovery to 219. Chasing 151, Australia reached 87/3 before Emburey removed the well-set pair of Graham Yallop and Allan Border.
This paved the way for a ‘Beefy’ special – Botham (5/11) left Australia shell-shocked with his second spell, reading 5-4-1-5, as the score crumbled from 114/5 to 121 all out. This result ensured England’s retention of the Ashes.
England start with a surge – First Test, 1997
England’s quest to wrest back the Ashes began in stunning fashion, as their pace trio of Darren Gough, Devon Malcolm and Andy Caddick (5/50) reduced Australia to an eye-popping 54/8 before lunch on the first day.
Shane Warne scored a counterattacking 47 to improve the total to 118, but was then tamed by a fourth-wicket partnership of 288 between Nasser Hussain (207) and Graham Thorpe (138), as England were lifted from 50/3 to an eventual declaration at 478/9.
Trailing by 360, Australia staged an admirable fightback in the second innings. Served by an opening stand of 133 between Matthew Elliott (66) and captain Mark Taylor (129), and another worth 194 for the second wicket between Taylor and Greg Blewett (125), the Baggy Greens posted 477.
This was not enough though, as captain Michael Atherton (57*) steered England to a nine-wicket win on the fourth day. Australia bounced back in style to win the six-Test series 3-2.
A classic for the ages – Second Test, 2005
Australia came into this series on the back of eight successive Ashes series wins dating back to 1989, and it was business as usual for them as they whipped the hosts by 239 runs in the opening Test at Lord’s.
Then, in a massive stroke of luck, England’s tormentor Glenn McGrath (who took 9/82 at Lord’s) twisted his ankle after treading on a ball in a nets session just before the second Test. England seemed to have got a psychological boost, and it showed in this classic contest.
Ricky Ponting decided to put England in, despite lacking his strike bowler, and watched as openers Marcus Trescothick (90) and Andrew Strauss raced to a stand of 112 in just over 25 overs.
Australia fought back to reduce England to 187/4, but Kevin Pietersen (71) and Andrew Flintoff (68) added to the visitors’ misery, putting on 103 for the fifth wicket. Useful tail-end runs meant that England ended their innings at 407 on the first day itself – at a run rate of 5.17.
Australia’s reply revolved around Justin Langer (82) and Ponting (61), but the last five wickets fell for 46, handing a 99-run lead to England. On the third day, England crashed to 31/4 against the potent spin-pace duo of Warne (6/46) and Brett Lee (4/82), and further to 131/9.
Andrew Flintoff (right) consoles Brett Lee after England beat Australia by two runs in a thrilling finish at Edgbaston in 2005 (source – Getty Images)
However, the dependable Flintoff was still there, and he found a willing ally in Simon Jones, with whom he added a crucial 51 for the tenth wicket. Flintoff hit a belligerent 73 before being the last man out.
Australia began their chase of 282 with a 47-run opening stand, but Flintoff played game-changer again. ‘Freddie’ removed Langer and Ponting (for a duck) in the same over, and from thereon, England were buoyed and Australia kept losing wickets, soon sliding to 137/7.
Australia ended the fourth day at 175/8, still needing 107 to win. On the final day, Warne and Lee added 45 for the ninth wicket before an unfortunate Warne was out hit wicket to Flintoff (4/79) for 42.
At 220/9, Michael Kasprowicz joined Lee. They steadily whittled down the target, and England were fast feeling the heat. The tension had reached tipping point, when, with Australia just three runs away, Steve Harmison banged one into the left glove of Kasprowicz, who played it down the leg side.
Within the next second, stumper Geraint Jones completed the winning catch to send the crowd into a frenzy. England had won by two runs – the narrowest margin in an Ashes Test.
English pacers rule the roost – Third Test, 2015
The series was delicately poised at 1-1 after two Tests, with Australia having won the second Test at Lord’s by a gargantuan 405 runs. But England turned the tables dramatically at Edgbaston, as their pace attack comprising of James Anderson (6/47), Stuart Broad and Steven Finn rolled Australia over for a paltry 136 just before tea on the first day.
England responded with 281, with Ian Bell (53), Joe Root (59) and number eight Moeen Ali (59) scoring vital fifties.
With Australia trailing by 145, David Warner (77) raced away to a brisk start in the second dig. However, he lacked support from the other end, as the middle order caved in to Finn (6/79) to send the score crashing from 62/1 to 92/5.
Peter Nevill (59) and Mitchell Starc (58) led a late recovery to improve the eventual total to 265, but it was never going to be enough. England duly took a 2-1 lead by sealing an eight-wicket win before tea on the third day, with Bell scoring 65*.