Cricket is a game now played all over the world. Back in the 1920s there were two main teams, Australia and England. The Ashes are a series of cricket test matches between Australia and England. The first Ashes test ever played was on March 15th 1877 in Australia. Since then Ashes tests between Australia and England have flourished numbering a series approximately every three years. The overall Ashes results are in favor of Australia, while since 1989 the Ashes series have all been won by Australia. The 1920’s Ashes saw a more even event with England winning two series, Australia three. Although Australia won 13 tests to England’s six with six draws all in England.
The first Ashes series in Australia was in 1920-21. This series was dominated by Australia winning all five tests. This was the first English team to tour Australia since the war, but it was delayed by an outbreak of typhus on the passenger ship carrying the English team. Australia placed seven test debutants under the captaincy of Warwick Armstrong, and yet they seemed too experienced and too good for England. The team was; W. Armstrong, W. Bardsley, H. Collins, J Gregory, C. Kelleway, A. Mailey, G. McDonald, W. Oldfield, C. Pellew, J. Ryder and J. Taylor. The first test in Sydney never from the outlook looked like a two teamed race, rather a spectacle to see how much Australia could win by. Armstrong won his first of many tosses and decided to bat first, Australia making 267 on a pitch favoring the bowlers. England, on the second day crumbled being spun out for a feeble 190 and in reply Australia made 581, with centuries to Collins the opener and Armstrong the captain. This meant England needed 658 on the last two days. Australia’s superior bowling attack dismissed England for 281, 377 short.
The second test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground was no closer. Australia batted first and made 499 with centuries to Pellew and Gregory. Australia then bowled England out for 251 with inspirational Gregory taking 7/69. Enforcing the follow on, Australia’s bowlers took advantage of the mental state of England and bundled them out for 157 winning by an innings and 91 runs.
The third test in Adelaide beginning on January 14 was by far the closest test. Australia winning the toss decided to bat for the third time in a row. On a road like’ pitch Australia hit a comparatively feeble 354. England for the first time in the series played with some confidence making 447, a lead of 93. However it was not to last. Australia got their act together and piled on 582, Kelleway, Armstrong and Pellew all scoring hundreds. England had no reply to this falling short by 119 runs.
So the two teams moved onto Melbourne, the home of Australian cricket’. England batted first and reached 284, a feeble total for the Australians who managed 389. In the second innings Mailey dominated taking an amazing 9/121 off 47, and single handedly dismissed England for 315. Australia got the required 211 only two wickets down.
By the fifth test came around it was a matter of whether Australia could rewrite the record books and become the first of the two teams to win all test matches in a series. Inevitably it happened with a win of 9 wickets dismissing England for 204 and 280, and getting 392 and surpassing them at 1/92.
Australia had won the Ashes in a whitewash 5-0. Australia’s dominance in the results clearly represented the difference in the standards of cricket between the two nations. England had a lot to learn before they returned in 1924.
The 1924/25 series proved to be much more enjoyable than the previous series due to the amazing number of runs scored in each test match compared to the last series. The popularity of cricket since the last Ashes series had grown enormously with people lining up to get into the grounds which was unheard of before. As with the last series the expectation from both the media and the public towards the Australian team was for a large series win. Australia was expected to dominate with both bat and ball. The team for the first test was named, but throughout the series many changes were made despite Australia’s winning ways.
Traditionally the first test is played in Sydney, and this was no exception, Australia won the toss and batted compiling 450 due to centuries by HL Collins, the captain, and WH Ponsford, who was to go onto great things during and after this season. England replied with a shaky 298 with no-one offering resistance except opening batsmen Hobbs and Sutcliffe. England’s bowling left somewhat to be desired in the second innings where all but three batsmen made over 20. It was careless mistakes on the batsmen part rather than good bowling by the English that got most of the dismissals. 452 was made and England needed 705 to grasp victory. It was never to be, being bowled out for 411, however it was an improvement and promising for things to come.
England’s form continued, bowling badly and batting respectfully. Australia made 600 on account of centuries to Ponsford, 128 and Richardson, 138. The two English openers again led by example scoring 154 and 176 each. Unfortunately this could not be continued through the team with no other batsman scoring over 30. England trailed by 121. A turnaround for the English bowling attack came through Tate and Hearne, taking all 10 wickets between them and dismissing Australia for 250. England only needed 371 for victory. It was not to be as the Australian bowling again proved to be too good, the only resistance came through Sutcliffe again in a man-of-the-match 127. England fell short by 81 runs.
England were getting progressively better, but Australia had managed to hold them off so far, needing one more victory to retain the Ashes. Australia batted first for the third time in a row and knocked up 489 with a brilliant 201 not out to Jack Ryder. England replied with 365 then bowled Australia out for 250, their lowest score so far. England needed 374 for victory, but only managed 363. The Ashes was Australia’s again and England had not beaten Australia since 1912.
It was finally England’s turn at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, finally winning the toss and batting. Making a huge 548 with another century to Sutcliffe, Australia were put under a bit of unusual pressure being bowled out for 269 and being made to follow on. Never looking like they were going to win Australia only managed 250 in the second innings, giving England their first taste of victory by an innings and 29 runs.
Australia got back to their winning ways in Sydney, winning the toss and batting again. 295 and 325 never looked enough on a pitch that was perfect for batting, but due to the best debut performance by Clarrie Grimmett Australia won by a massive 307. Grimmett’s match figures of 31 overs, 5 maidens, 82 runs and 11 wickets single handedly spun England out and handed the series to Australia for the third time in a row. Australia had retained the Ashes 4-1
The previous series in England had seen England win it 1-0 with four washouts. The 1928/29 Australian team had famous names in it including; Bradman, Grimmett, Ironmonger, Kippax, Oldfield, Ponsford, Ryder (captain) and Woodfull. This was Bradman’s first series but he still topped the averages. The English team was also a very strong one and this would prove to be highest scoring series yet.
This was not to be in the first test where England batting first made 521 and bowled Australia out for 122. England batted again and declared at 8/342 with Grimmett taking 6. With only ten men batting Australia were 8/66 handing England an comprehensive win.
The second test at the SCG lasted six days, six painful days for Australian supporters. Batting first Australia was bundled out for 9/253 with Ponsford retiring hurt and taking no further part in the game. England replied politely with 636 due to a marvelous 251 to WR Hammond. Australia were already beaten making 9/397, England polished off the runs going two up in the series.
The third test at the MCG went for seven days and saw England prevail in a close contest. Australia amassed 397 due to centuries from Kippax and Ryder, and England in reply scored 417, with yet another double century to Hammond. In the second innings Woodfull and Bradman set about the task of a challenging total, but without help from the rest of the team, the batsmen making 107 and 112 and the team 351. England needed 332 for victory, and Australia’s arch nemesis Sutcliffe guided the team to their third win with 135.
There was no way Australia could regain the Ashes, but some dignity would’ve been nice. However it was not to be losing another close seven-dayer at Adelaide. Man-of-the-series Hammond made a century in both innings showing England to 334 and 383. The Australian first innings was both positive and dominating scoring 369. Although chasing 348 White destroyed Australian hopes with 8 for 126, Australia falling 12 runs short.
Finally in the fifth test there was some consolation for the Australians. England won the toss and batted and made 519. The Australians, although beaten in the series replied with 419, their highest score yet, Bradman and Woodfull making 102 and 132 each. Then Tim Wall, on debut took 5/66 on his way to dismissing England for 257. Australia passed their total with five wickets in hand, and at long last Australia had won the test after eight consecutive days or 34 hours. England had retained the Ashes with a 4-1 series win over the gallant Australia.
Pollard, Jack, Australian Cricket 1918-1948 The Bradman years
200 seasons of Australian cricket
author unknown, Test Match Cricket, Australia and England 1877-1977