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We've just seen one of the greatest rarities in Ashes cricket

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20th September, 2019
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When the Ashes series concluded last week, England’s victory in the final Test match meant that the series was drawn two all. But do we realise how rare a result this is in Ashes history?

Of the 71 Ashes series since 1882 only six have been drawn. On five of these occasions, Australia has retained the urn. The only time England retained the Ashes in a draw was in 1972.

In the 24 Ashes series between ’72 and 2019, there has always been a conclusive winner.

When the Australians had been defeated 2-0 in 1970-1971 at home, the Ashes were lost. Bill Lawry was sacked as captain during the series and replaced by Ian Chappell. Chappell then took the squad regarded as “the worst to leave Australian shores” to England 47 years ago.

There was no room for stalwarts Ian Redpath and Garth McKenzie in this side but six Western Australians were included. The five Tests were played at the same venues as this year but in a different order.

After 40-year-old Ray Illingworth won the toss on his birthday at Old Trafford, Australia struggled with the seaming wicket. Tony Greig marked his debut by top-scoring in each innings.

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Despite Lillee’s 6-66 and Rod Marsh’s fighting 91, England achieved its first victory in an opening Test match at home since 1930.

The second Test became Bob Massie’s match at Lord’s when he took a total of 16 wickets on debut. He only played two more Tests after this series.

Australia had the better of a draw at Trent Bridge which left the series one-all with two Tests to play – just like 2019.

Just as Australia retained the Ashes after winning the fourth Test this year, England did so when they took advantage of the fusarium-infested pitch at Headingley.

Doug Walters being dropped for the fifth Test meant that for the first time in Australia’s Test match history, no NSW players were chosen. Similarly, England had played without a Yorkshire representative in the previous Test for the first time as Illingworth was playing for Leicestershire at the time.

The Chappells became the first brothers to score a century in the same Test match innings at the Oval in the final Test. Helped also by Lillee’s ten-wicket match haul, a five-wicket win was recorded in what the captain described as “a turning point in Australia’s cricketing fortunes”.

Could the retention of the Ashes in 2019’s drawn series also be the start of something new in Australia’s cricket history?

Does this snapshot of the 1972 series bring back any other great cricket memories of it?

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