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Ashes countdown: Tugga's tons, Smith's 239 and Beefy's brutality feature in part 3 of our 40 greatest moments

Steve Smith (Photo by Getty Images).
5th December, 2021
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With the Ashes starting on Wednesday, The Roar is counting down the top 40 Ashes moments from the past 40 years.

On Saturday we looked at moments 40-31 and on Sunday we ran through 30-21. Here our writers – Tony Harper, Rob Smith and Benjamin Conkey – name the moments from 20-11.

20. Steve Waugh’s twin tons at Old Trafford in 1997

With Australia having lost the opening Test and drawn the second om this tour, captain Mark Taylor won the toss and chose to bat first on a greentop, thinking that Shane Warne would be decisive late in the match.

At 3-42, and the Ashes in the balance, the call looked crazy rather than brave. Steve Waugh came in and was soon struck on the pads, having missed a straight full toss from Andy Caddick. Waugh felt he might be out but survived and, as the English bowlers fretted over the call that went against them, Waugh preyed on their distraction, counter-attacking brilliantly for 108.

Warne took six wickets to give Australia a lead of 71 but again the top order floundered. Waugh arrived at 3-39 and, despite a badly bruised hand, scored 118 in more than six hours to set up a win by 268.

“Steve’s two innings in that match were pivotal in that series,” said Taylor after Australia claimed the series 3-2.

“Batting on will and desire can sometimes be enough,” said Waugh. “I was in battle mode, blocking out the pain and dismissing any potential threat.”

19. Smith hits back with double-century to retain Ashes, Old Trafford 2019

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Steve Smith silenced his naysayers and emphatically put to rest fears of any lingering ill-effects after he was concussed by a Jofra Archer bouncer to register his 11th Ashes century and third Test double-century as Australia roared back to level the series at Old Trafford.

Smith, a constant thorn for England’s bowlers throughout the series, compiled 211 as Australia romped home by 185 runs to retain the Ashes in England for the first time since 2001. Smith’s 11th Ashes ton is the second most by an Australian, with Don Bradman leading the way on 19.

Steve Smith (Photo by Getty Images).

Steve Smith (Photo by Getty Images).

Despite Archer clocking him twice – once in the forearm and then the sickening blow to the back of the neck at Old Trafford – the fearsome quick did not take his wicket in the series. As for the short ball, Smith was almost never troubled by it during his 319-ball stay.

“I’ve faced a lot of short pitched bowling in my life and haven’t had too many issues with it,” Smith said. “I said it before the game, [bowling short] means they can’t hit me on the pad or nick me off. And it softens their ball up as well. It played into our hands I think, and enabled that ball to get soft pretty quickly and for us to score some big first-innings runs.”

Smith would go on to finish the series with 774 runs at 110.57 even after missing the fourth Test with concussion. Australia’s pace trio Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins ensured victory by taking 17 wickets between them.

18. Ian Botham’s 138 in Brisbane, 1986

Australia’s selectors left experienced paceman Geoff Lawson out of the opening Test of this series, perhaps figuring he wouldn’t be needed against a touring team said to have just three problems: “they can’t bat, can’t bowl and can’t field”.

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Ian Botham, someone more than capable of all three, carved a murderous century to set England on the path to a series win.

“Things were moving along pretty well, England were putting together a reasonable score but nothing too fantastic,” recalled Australian captain Allan Border. “All of a sudden we take a fourth wicket and in walks I.T. Botham.”

Botham arrived at 4-198 and smashed 138 off 174 balls including 13 fours and four sixes.

A meeting of two giant personalities – Botham vs. Merv Hughes – proved the highlight as the English star carted him for 22 in a single over, from a six and four fours.

“With a mixture of slogging and good cricket , which was the way he played, he stole the game away from us, almost in no time,” said Border.

“He took 22 off my over and the Guinness Book of records I think was 24 but I thought I’d got a moral victory because it was 24 off an eight ball over and mine was a six ball over,” Hughes later laughed.

17. Bruce Reid’s 13 wickets in a match in 1990

Tall, fragile and prone to every imaginable injury, Bruce Reid didn’t get to enjoy many great days as Australia’s pace spearhead. But the Boxing Day Test of 1990-91 saw Reid at his peak – 20 Tests into his stunted career, and just seven from the end.

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Reid made his debut in 1985-86 but an injury in Pakistan in 1988 hit him hard and he subsequently suffered damaged ribs and tendonitis in his shoulder.

After a two-year break, during which he missed 18 Tests, he returned for the Ashes in 1990-91. Having five wickets in the 10-wicket win in Brisbane, Reid was almost unplayable in Melbourne, taking 6-97 and 7-51.

“He mesmerised them,” said pace partner Terry Alderman. “It was an amazing performance. He got 13 wickets but it could have been 18. I was in the slips and the ball was flying everywhere. One catch came to me, Mark Taylor took three and Ian Healy five.”

He missed 10 of the next 17 Tests and five before his farewell game, the first Test of the 1992 series at home against the West Indies.

“If he’d stayed fit there is no doubt Australia would have been recognised as world champions two or three years before we were,” said coach Bob Simpson.


16. Smith’s highest Test score in 301-run stand with Marsh to win Ashes, 2017

Skipper Steve Smith produced a ‘Bradmanesque’ performance with his highest Test score of 239 and featured in a titanic 301-run fifth-wicket stand with Mitchell Marsh as Australia powered home to seal the series in the third Test at the WACA.

In doing so, Smith lifted his career average to 62.32 after 108 innings, ranking him the second-best batsman only to Sir Donald Bradman in terms of average. It was an extraordinary win for Australia after England had amassed a respectable 403 first innings only to be well and truly gazumped by the Smith-Marsh propelled response of 9-662 declared. Smith faced 399 balls, smashing 30 fours and six, while Marsh thrilled his home state with a rumbustious 181 off 236 balls with 29 boundaries.

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“I was in the zone, and everything hit the middle of the bat. I felt incredibly good, I’m really proud to score my highest score and put on that performance with Mitch Marsh. Really set the game up for us, to get us in the lead.” said Smith, who admitted: “I don’t like watching cricket that much, to be honest. So I’d prefer to be out there making runs than up there watching someone else do it.”

After Smith-Marsh’s triple-century combo weakened England’s resolve, the tourists were bundled out for 218 in their second dig with Josh Hazlewood taking 5-48 to succumb by an innings and 41 runs.

15. Gary Pratt’s run out in 2005

Gary Pratt is unlikely to ever play a Test match but he will go down in history as an English Ashes hero for his pivotal role in an incredible series.

Pratt’s direct hit to run out Ricky Ponting for 48 sent the Australian captain into meltdown and made himself an instant celebrity.

The series was level at 1-1 in the fourth Test when Australia were forced to follow on for the first time in 17 years. Ponting was fighting from the front when Damien Martyn took off for a sharp single and Pratt threw down the stumps at Ponting’s end.

While clearly out, Ponting was angered by England’s use of substitute fielders. He had words with the England players and then a spray for their coach Duncan Fletcher.

Pratt, meanwhile, briefly enjoyed the high life: the Barmy Army sang his name, he made the celebration photo and stayed up all night boozing with Andrew Flintoff before meeting the Prime Minister.

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He also scored a couple of souvenirs. As the teams were having a beer in the rooms together, Ponting gave Pratt his boots and signed a photo of Pratt being held high by Andrew Flintoff.

14. Mark Taylor and Geoff Marsh’s record breaking 329 in 1989

Allan Border’s team was swiftly pronounced the worst Ashes tourists ever by judges both home and away when they rocked up in 1989. That alone wasn’t what made the captain grumpy – his leadership lacked authority and questions about his future had started – but it gave him a great motivational tool “to get the juices flowing”.

“It was like`are you going to lay down and die or do something about it?’” he recalled. Border’s team responded by belting the hosts senseless from the start and they went to Trent Bridge for the fifth Test leading 3-0, having retained the Ashes a week earlier in Manchester. Border won the toss and his opening batsmen proceeded to take the mickey, finishing the opening day on 301 with Marsh 125 and Taylor 141.

“Not in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine batting through a day of Test cricket with the same partner,” Taylor said. “It was a day Geoff and I both treasure and share the odd beer over.”

England captain David Gower somehow maintained his sense of humour.
“I can recall David opening a bottle of champagne at lunch on day two to sarcastically celebrate their first wicket, which fell only 45 minutes earlier,” said Taylor, who made 219 to Marsh’s 138.

13. Mark Waugh’s 100 on debut, 1991

Mark Waugh endured a long wait for his invitation to the Test arena. With a certain twin brother esconced in the Australian middle order, Waugh played more than 100 first class matches and posted 7501 runs before Steve’s form slump allowed him through the door for the fourth match of the series.

The flawless 138 which followed surprised no one who admired his classical strokeplay and level-headed approach.

“From the moment of my first scoring shot, a three down the ground off Phil DeFreitas, I felt comfortable,” he said. “Everything was coming off the middle and I don’t remember really playing a false stroke.”

Mark Waugh

(Credit: Shaun Botterill/Allsport/Getty Images)

Coach Bob Simpson described it as the most elegant debut he had seen and similarly awed was his captain Allan Border. “It was a fantastic debut. We were in a bit of strife and he just peeled off one of those magnificent Waugh hundreds that he’d become known for,” Border said.

Waugh’s first words to his skipper, in jest, were “see, you should have picked me years ago!” He missed just two more Tests in the next 12 years.

12. Alistair Cook’s two double tons in 2017

Alastair Cook joined exalted company as he became only the third visiting batsman to score two or more double centuries in Australia with his unconquered 244 in the drawn fourth Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Wally Hammond and Brian Lara are the other two batsmen to achieve the rarity. It was the highest score by a touring batsman at the MCG, overtaking the 208 by Viv Richards in 1984. Cook’s other double ton in Australia was his unbeaten 235 not out at Brisbane in 2010-11 – also the highest score by a visiting batsman at the Gabba. Cook carried his bat through the England first innings and occupied the crease for 409 balls.

“It has been a disappointing tour for me but I suppose when you haven’t scored runs you can play freely,” Cook said after his underwhelming scores in the series. David Warner scored the slowest half-century of his Test career on his way to 103 in the first innings and Steve Smith ground out his second-slowest Test hundred with un unbeaten 102 as Australia dead-batted their way to a draw that ensured there was no consolation victory for England.

11. Terry Alderman’s 83 wickets in 1989

TERRY Alderman’s mastery of English conditions was almost beyond a joke – although Graham Gooch apparently saw the funny side. Having lost his wicket seven times to the Australian swing bowler, including five times when hit on the pad in front, the Gooch reportedly recorded a message on his answering machine along the lines of: “I’m not here. I’m probably out . . . lbw, to Terry Alderman.”

Alderman first made an impact in 1981, taking an incredible 42 wickets for the series despite Australia’s loss in a series dominated by Ian Botham and Bob Willis. Having missed the 1985 tour because of his decision to play a rebel tour in South Africa, Alderman returned with Allan Border’s triumphant 1989 team.

He had top order players such as Gooch, Tim Curtis, Martyn Moxon and Kim Barnett in a trance, mastering the Reader ball with its pronounced seam.

It got so frustrating for the English fans that the Australians were chuffed to see a political poster aimed at the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher being doctored to express their dismay.
“Thatcher Out!” was followed by the graffiti “lbw Alderman!”

Tomorrow we count down 10-1. What are your favourite Ashes memories and what’s your tip for number one?

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