Following my pieces on the summers of 1984-85 and 1985-86, here is the third in my trauma trilogy – a reminisce of the 1986-87 cricket season.
Throughout Ashes history, matches have been played at nine venues across Britain, from Sophia Gardens in Wales to the Riverside in Durham. So which five venues have been chosen for 2019 and what should you expect?
First Test, August 1-5: Edgbaston, Birmingham
England since 2010: 7 Tests, 6 wins, 1 draw, 0 losses
Australia since 2000: 4 Tests, 1 win, 1 draw, 2 losses
Edgbaston is England’s Gabba: a fortress where they consistently perform in front of an increasingly drunken, costume-clad crowd clad in the Eric Hollies Stand. It sits fresh in the memory as the location where England ran through Australia in the World Cup semi-final.
Given the history of English dominance, there is no better place for England to start the series with winning momentum.
In the 2015 Ashes, England won by eight wickets at Edgbaston, with Jimmy Anderson taking 6/47 in the first innings as England skittled Australia for 136. Only Chris Rogers – a player with vast county cricket experience – showed any resilience against the swinging ball. Joe Root had solid performances with the bat in both innings, with 63 and 38 not out to bring his team home.
In 2018, England scraped home by 31 runs against India thanks to rearguard 63 by Sam Curran, taking his team from trouble at 5/85 to 180 all out in the second innings. Virat Kohli cashed in on an early reprieve in the slips to make a dominant 149 from 225 balls. This is the blueprint for how the Australian top order must play – patient and with steely determination.
Prediction: England victory, with Australia eyeing the weather radar – rain is forecast.
Second Test, August 14-18: Lord’s, London
England since 2010: 19 Tests, 10 wins, 3 draws, 6 losses
Australia since 2000: 5 Tests, 3 wins, 0 draws, 2 losses
The Home of Cricket boasts a far more upper-crust, respectful, smattering-applause type of crowd made up of bacon-and-egg blazers and cooler bags filled with sandwiches and the authorised single bottle of wine. A place of British pomp, Australia has a surprisingly good record at what should be an intimidating venue.
In the 2015 Ashes, Australia won by 405 runs. Steve Smith showed his class with knocks of 215 and 58, backed up by Chris Rogers with 173 and 49. This set up a second innings declaration, and Australia’s bowlers did not disappoint, knocking England over for 103 to claim victory. Mitchell Johnson was the standout performer with match figures of 6/80, outshining Mitchell Starc who returned 2/102.
In 2018, England defeated India by an innings and 159 runs. India’s top order couldn’t find an answer for Jimmy Anderson, who ran rampant with match figures of 9/43. Chris Woakes showed his skill with the blade with a lower-order century. Woakes is also the danger man with the ball – he has taken 24 Test wickets at an average of 9.8 from four matches at the ground.
Last week, on a pitch described as poor by captain Joe Root, Ireland’s Tim Murtagh exposed England’s batting fragility in the first innings, with figures of 5/13. England were all out for 85.
Prediction: Australia victory.
Third Test, August 22-26: Headingley, Leeds
England since 2010: 8 Tests, 3 wins, 1 draw, 4 losses
Australia since 2000: 2 Tests, 1 win, 0 draws, 1 loss
The home ground of England captain Joe Root and wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow, England should feel comfortable playing at Headingley.
However, they have a surprisingly poor record at this year’s northernmost Ashes venue, losing four of their last eight matches at the ground, including a surprising loss to a weak West Indies side in 2017 after back-to-back centuries by Shai Hope.
In the 2009 Ashes, Australia won by an innings and 80 runs. A 24-year old Peter Siddle – the only active Australian Test player in this match – ran through England’s tail with five wickets to reduce England to 102 in their first innings. Stuart Broad’s 6/91 couldn’t prevent Australia making 445 and an unassailable first innings lead.
Prediction: Australia victory.
Fourth Test, September 4-8: Old Trafford, Manchester
England since 2010: 5 Tests, 4 wins, 1 draw, 0 losses
Australia since 2000: 2 Tests, 0 wins, 2 draws, 0 losses
The home ground of Jimmy Anderson and the James Anderson stand, England haven’t lost a Test at Old Trafford since 2001, perhaps because they are more likely to play the minnows of Test cricket at the venue.
To justify having a stand named after him while still playing international cricket, Anderson has claimed 28 Test wickets at the ground at an average of 21.8 from seven Tests.
In the 2013 Ashes, Australia couldn’t find the victory and had to settle for a draw after declaring their second innings with a 331-run lead. Michael Clarke set the tone in the first innings with a century, backed up by a Steve Smith 89.
Usman Khawaja fared far worse in the match, with returns of 1 and 24, falling to the spin of Graeme Swann on both occasions.
The main highlight was Australia’s batsmen combating Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad, whose match figures of 2/153 and 2/138 respectively were some of the worst of their careers. Peter Siddle was the pick of the bowlers, with match figures of 5/71, in a contest where only 13 England wickets fell.
Prediction: A close England victory, setting up a 2-2 scoreline and a live final match.
Fifth Test, September 12-16: The Oval, London
England since 2010: 9 Tests, 4 wins, 1 draw, 4 losses
Australia since 2000: 5 Tests, 2 wins, 2 draws, 1 loss
Traditionally the final venue for any major series, this will be the latest date a Test match has been played on this ground in its 139-year history. The Australian top order will hope to perform better than Sir Donald Bradman’s famous final innings duck on this ground in 1948.
Less pompous than it’s North London counterpart, The Oval is known for its flat wickets and high-scoring matches. With the series possibly balanced at 2-2, this could play to Australia’s favour.
In the 2015 Ashes, Australia were victorious by an innings and 46 runs to salvage some pride in a dead rubber, with England reclaiming the Ashes 3-2. Steve Smith’s 143 sealed his spot as the series’ top-scorer with 508 runs at an average of 56.44.
David Warner chipped in with 85 and an opening partnership with Chris Rogers of 110. With the series won, England couldn’t chase Australia’s first innings total of 481 in their two innings.
In 2018, India lost to England by 118 runs, with Alastair Cook rolling back the years in his final Test with scores of 71 and 147. Joe Root also scored his first century in over a year. India made a final innings 345, not enough when chasing a monstrous total of 463.
Prediction: Australia victory, to win the series 3-2 – their first Ashes triumph in England since 2001.