A brief history of the Ashes Part Two

England v Australia 1890 - 1914

Series home | 1861 - 1888 | 1920 - 1938 | 1946 - 1970 | 1970 - 1989 | 1990 - present



George Giffen: tormented England through the 1890s © The Cricketer

1890

Cricinfo | Wisden Almanack
Billy Murdoch led a strong Australian side but their batting deficiencies were exposed on English pitches and they were bowled out cheaply in both Tests. WG Grace led England from the front at Lord's, although the Oval Test went down to the wire as England squeezed home by two wickets. Their cause was not helped when Yorkshire refused to release Bobby Peel and George Ulyett and Andrew Stoddart opted to play for Middlesex rather than his country. The win at The Oval owed much to Nutty Martin who took 12 for 102 on his debut - he only played one more Test. The final match at Old Trafford was washed out.
England 2 Australia 0

1891-92

Cricinfo | Wisden Almanack
So financially disastrous was the 1887-88 tour that only the intervention of Lord Sheffield, who financed this trip, allowed tours to resume. Grace, on his first visit for 18 years, led a powerful side, but in front of large crowds Australia won the opening Test after bowling England out for 158 as they chased 213. Australia staged a superb comeback at Sydney after England had taken a 162-run first-innings lead, Jack Lyons and Alec Bannerman laying the foundations and George Giffen blowing away the tourists second time round. In the final Test at Adelaide, Australia were caught on a wet wicket after England had piled up 499 and lost by an innings.
Australia 2 England 1

1893

Cricinfo | Wisden Almanack
Once again England's batting proved too strong, and once again the three-day Tests did not allow enough time. The only positive result came in the second Test at The Oval where Johnny Briggs took ten wickets and Bill Lockwood eight as Australia lost by an innings.
England 1 Australia 0 Drawn 2

1894-95

Cricinfo | Wisden Almanack
A weakened England side got the tour off to a remarkable start. At Sydney, they were 261 in arrears after the first innings before, following-on, they recovered to set Australia 177 to win - Peel took 6 for 67 as Australia lost eight wickets for 53 on a drying wicket on the final morning. After England went 2-0 up, Australia battled to level the series, and in the decider at the MCG they again too a first-innings lead, only for John Brown to hit 140 as England successfully chased 297 to win. Giffen scored 573 runs and took 34 wickets in the series.
Australia 2 England 3



The Prince: Ranji arrived in 1896 with 154* at Old Trafford and ended the summer with a record aggregate of 2780 runs © The Cricketer

1896

Cricinfo | Wisden Almanack
Both sides were at full strength and that showed in the good standard of cricket and the huge crowds which flocked to games. With the series level going into the final Test at The Oval, England were left struggling when five players refused to play in a dispute over fees. Rain washed out most of the first day and both sides battled to come to terms with a wet pitch. Set 111 to win, Australia slid to 25 for 9 before recovering to 44 - still their lowest in England.
England 2 Australia 1

1897-98

Cricinfo | Wisden Almanack
Led by Stoddart, England were completely outclassed in all four Tests after opening the series with a win at Sydney, where KS Ranjitsinhji rose off his sickbed to score an imperious 175. Thereafter it was one-way traffic, with innings wins for Australia in the second and third Tests, and easy victories in the last two. Stoddart dropped himself for the final match. In the second Test, Ernie Jones became the first bowler to be called for throwing in a Test.
Australia 4 England 1

1899

Cricinfo | Wisden Almanack
Many regard this Australian side under Joe Darling as the finest of the Golden Age. The series opened with a draw at Trent Bridge - it was the 50-year-old Grace's last Test and the first for Wilfred Rhodes, whose Test career was to last until 1930. At Lord's, Victor Trumper and Clem Hill guided Australia to a 10-wicket win with a pair of 135s, and at Old Trafford rain again washed out an entire day. At Leeds, Archie MacLaren did not want to enforce the follow-on but under the prevalent rules, had no choice and the match was drawn (the rules were subsequently amended). The decider at The Oval again proved that three days was not nearly long enough for such games as Australia easily batted out time.
England 0 Australia 1 Drawn 4

1901-02

Cricinfo | Wisden Almanack
This was the last England side raised by a captain rather than a separate body (MCC had been asked to take over arrangements but declined) and MacLaren was further hampered by absences, especially after Yorkshire refused to allow Rhodes and George Hirst to tour. The series was much like the previous one in Australia - England won the first Test only for Australia to bounce back and win all four remaining matches. The margins were not as comprehensive as in 1897-98 but England never really recovered from the loss of SF Barnes after he had taken 19 wickets in the first two Tests. Monty Noble and Hugh Trumble shared 60 wickets in the series for Australia.
Australia 4 England 1



George Hirst and Wilfred Rhodes: they didn't 'get 'em in singles' but they won a memorable match © The Cricketer

1902

Cricinfo | Wisden Almanack
This was one of the classic series even though rain marred the summer. At Edgbaston and Lord's it was not possible to complete even the first innings of the game, but at Bramall Lane's first (and only) Test Australia won at a canter. The Old Trafford Test has gone down in folklore as Tate's Match, as it was poor Fred Tate who dropped a crucial catch and was last man out as England went down to a three-run defeat. Although the Ashes were lost, the decider at The Oval was another nail-biter. Gilbert Jessop smashed a hundred in 75 minutes and then Hirst and Rhodes, England's last pair who came together with 15 needed, "got 'em in singles" to secure a thrilling one-wicket win.
England 1 Australia 2 Drawn 2

1903-04

Cricinfo | Wisden Almanack
Originally MacLaren was supposed to raise a side, but when Barnes and Lockwood withdrew, he did likewise and so MCC took over the burden and appointed Pelham Warner to lead it. Unfortunately, Warner found himself captaining a side bereft of almost all the leading amateur batsmen. Again England started well, RE "Tip" Foster making 287 on debut as England won at Sydney, but this time they followed up with another win, and although Australia fought back, the Ashes were regained with victory in the fourth Test. The series was, however, slightly marred by crowd trouble in two of the Tests.
Australia 2 England 3

1905

Cricinfo | Wisden Almanack
After two excellent series, England were not really stretched (and were aided by winning all five tosses) and two comprehensive wins and having the better of two drawn games, while the Lord's Test was decimated by rain once again. Only one Australia batsman (Reggie Duff) scored more than 300 runs.
England 2 Australia 0 Drawn 3

1907-08

Cricinfo | Wisden Almanack
England had been scheduled to tour a year earlier, but infighting among the Australian authorities meant that the MCC toured New Zealand instead. The side that eventually toured, under AO Jones, was weak and barely representative. Jones missed the first Test and George Gunn, who was in Australia for health reasons and not to play cricket, was drafted in and made 119 although Australia won by two wickets.
Australia 4 England 1



Jack Hobbs and Archie MacLaren got out to open the innings © The Cricketer

1909

Cricinfo | Wisden Almanack
An excellent series between two strong sides was edged by Australia who bounced back after defeat in the opening match to win at Lord's and Headingley. Old Trafford was again drawn, although Frank Laver took 8 for 31 for the tourists, and at The Oval Warren Bardsley became the first batsman to score two hundreds in a Test as Australia easily held on to retain the Ashes. In 1905 England had won all five tosses - this time Noble called correctly every time for Australia.
England 1 Australia 2 Drawn 2

1911-12

Cricinfo | Wisden Almanack
Warner led England after CB Fry declined the offer, but in the event Warner was ill and so Johnny Douglas captained in all five matches. England lost a high-scoring opening Test, with Ranji Horden taking 12 for 175. But thereafter, SF Barnes and Frank Foster took 66 wickets as England swept Australia aside to win the next four games. Jack Hobbs scored 662 runs, and the final Test marked the last appearances of Hill and Trumper.
Australia 1 England 4

1912

Cricinfo | Wisden Almanack
It is hard to find a positive about the final series before WW1. It was the coldest and wettest summer of the century, the Triangular Tournament (which also featured South Africa) was a commercial failure which failed to attract crowds, and Australia were a near shambles. Bitter squabbling between boards and players led to half a dozen major names staying at home, and in the end what amounted to an Australian 2nd XI were drubbed. Rain ruined the first two Tests, and in the decider (which was timeless) England caught Australia on a drying track and with Frank Woolley taking 10 for 49, won by 244 runs.
England 1 Australia 0 Drawn 2

Martin Williamson is managing editor of Cricinfo