The Ashes are fiercely contested by two nations who breathe cricket day-in, day-out. England and Australia have been playing this sport longer than everyone else in the fray.
The term 'Ashes' came out of an obituary mocking the England cricket team, after they lost at The Oval to Australia in 1882. The obituary stated that English cricket had died, and that 'the body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia'.
This particular line caught the eye of the sporting public, although it was intended to mock one of the teams, and the name stuck. The victors of the tournament are presented with the Ashes urn, a 10.5 cm tall urn made of terracotta, believed to house the ashes of a burnt cricket bail.
From 2005 to 2019, England and Australia have faced each other in eight five-match Test series, four each at home. With over 40 games played among both the sides, let us look at the five best moments in this historic rivalry.
5. The escapade at Cardiff, 2009
The Australians were definitely buzzing when Monty Panesar walked out to bat at Cardiff in the first Test. Four players among their ranks had posted centuries, with their captain Ricky Ponting top-scoring with 150, and their final score reading 674/6 declared.
England's reply was weak, to say the least. Other than Paul Collingwood, who played 245 balls by spending over 5 and a half hours on the crease, no other batsman dug deep in an attempt to save the Test.
Collingwood's concentration gave in when 11.3 overs of play were left. The Kangaroos must have seen this as an opportunity to go one-up in the 5 match Test series. However, nobody could have anticipated the resistance the two tail-enders would offer.
Anderson and Panesar very both calm, not taking any risks at all, and turning a blind eye to all close shaves and appeals. The Cardiff crowd was firmly behind them, and when James Anderson edged a boundary off Peter Siddle, one would have thought by the sound of the cheer that England had won the Test match.
The cheers were for the one-run lead that had been achieved through the boundary. England's tail-enders managed to get to a 13-run lead, having played out the 69 balls that were left. There was no time for Australia to come out for the second innings, even if they had managed to get a wicket.
Ricky Ponting's face looked disconsolate as he shook hands with James Anderson. England's tail-enders helped them escape from the cusp of certain defeat, and they batted for over an hour to save the Test.
4. Brett Lee and Michael Kasprowicz put up a fight at Edgbaston, 2005
The 3rd day of the Edgbaston Test in 2005 was everything a cricket fanatic would have wanted to see. A total of 17 wickets fell on the day, split 8 and 9 between Australia and England respectively.
Brett Lee and Shane Warne ran through the English batting order on their own. The former dislodging the off-stump with a crackling ball to Michael Vaughan was the probably the most noteworthy moment in that innings. Andrew Flintoff capped it off by smashing every speedster over the Edgbaston boundaries, showing little to no respect for the fact that every fielder was on the boundary.
Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer started on a positive note, and again, it was Andrew Flintoff who played spoilsport. He dismissed Langer with a leg-cutter from around the wicket, and did the same to Ponting in the very over, this time from over the wicket. Australia crumbled, and were 8 wickets down, still needing 107 runs for victory at the end of Day 3.
The 4th day's proceedings got off to an aggressive start courtesy of Warne and Lee, but it came to a swift end. Again off Andrew Flintoff's bowling, the spinner was coaxed into stepping onto his stumps. Still needing 62 runs for victory, it was virtually over for the Kangaroos, but as the saying goes - "It is not over until it is over."
Brett Lee and Michael Kasprowicz dug deep. They stayed away from anything outside the off-stump, and targeted Ashley Giles when they had the chance. The pressure on the Englishmen was evident when Steven Harmison flung a ball at Kasprowicz down the leg side, which ran away for four byes. The tail-enders had dragged the target to within 20 runs, and Brett Lee got an inside edge off Harmison's ball, yielding yet another boundary.
They were scoring at an incredible run-rate, and the partnership was at 47 off just 50 balls. The world thought that Simon Jones had dropped the match when he dropped Kasprowicz off Flintoff, with Australia needing 15 runs to win. Misery piled on for England on the very next ball, as Flintoff bowled a no-ball down the leg side for another boundary. Five runs off a single ball, and Australia now needed only single figures to win.
They got three more of Flintoff's over, reducing the runs required to six. In the next two overs by Steven Harmison and Flintoff, they got two more runs, and just four were needed to win now. The ball was thrown to Steven Harmison again for the next over. Brett Lee flashed his willow to guide the ball to the deep point fielder, and gathered a single. Three runs for victory.
Call it fate or bad-luck, Steven Harmison banged a short ball out of nowhere on the 4th ball of his over to Kasprowicz. The batsman tried to duck and get out of the way, but he hadn't dropped his arms. The ball clipped his glove and flew to Geraint Jones, who desperately hung on to the catch.
England won the Test match to level the series at 1-1. Andrew Flintoff consoling the distraught Brett Lee is widely considered one of the most iconic pictures in the history of cricket.
3. Mitchell Starc's "ball of the summer" at Perth, 2017
Crack! That was the sound heard around the WACA in Perth at 4:04 PM local time. England were batting in their 2nd innings, trailing by 159 runs, as Mitchell Starc was lining batsman James Vince up for his thunderbolt.
The ball pitched just a whisker outside off-stump on a good length. As a left-armed bowler, it was naturally going to angle down the wicket and maybe hit the pads or go through to the keeper.
What followed was absolute bonkers. The ball pitched and completely changed its course. It straightened disturbingly, skittling the off-stump of James Vince. The English batsman was left wondering what in the pitch made the ball change its course so devastatingly.
The ball altered its initial angle by over by nearly 4 degrees and a linear distance of 42 centimetres. Wasim Akram praised the Aussie quick and said that this was a 'jaffa' if there ever was one.
The only person who wouldn't have enjoyed that was poor James Vince. The magical ball made complete fool out of him. He was batting on 55* and shockingly missed the ball by almost 10 centimetres.
2. Mitchell Johnson's 6-12 in the post-lunch session of Day 3 at Adelaide, 2013
Mitchell Johnson was sporting an alluring moustache in the 2013 Ashes series in Australia, but that wasn't the best thing about him. The best thing about him was his terrorising bowling throughout the series. Johnson took 37 wickets in the series as Australia trampled England 5-0, and by huge victory margins in every game.
In the first Test at the Gabba, Johnson hadn't been at his best. However, he exploded in the post-lunch session of the third day of the second Test at Adelaide.
He had already shaken the English dressing room with the manner of Alastair Cook's dismissal. 91 miles per hour, seemingly about to angle in after pitching on off-stump, but then holding its line. Cook defended the initial line, and there was nothing he could do about the deadly variation. Surprisingly, Johnson did not get any more wickets despite England being reduced to four down.
He came back after lunch to do bowl one of the greatest ever spells in Test cricket. He bowled a similar delivery as he did to Cook to Ben Stokes, but this time it went through on the initial angle and trapped him LBW.
Matt Prior came, and didn't touch the first three balls. He was teased by Johnson outside the off-stump, and he took the bait- edged and out for a duck. Stuart Broad walked out next and desperately tried to buy time by setting the side-screen- a poor attempt at trying to make Johnson lose him momentum.
Johnson was now like a rampaging bull. He charged in again and bowled the same delivery, pitching on off-stump, angling in to Broad's leg stump. Broad tried to move across and play a glance, barely looking at the ball, and he lost his leg stump. Johnson missed out on the hat-trick, but he wasn't done yet.
Graeme Swann flashed his blade at one desperately, and ended up being caught by Clarke as Johnson got his fifth scalp. James Anderson walked out next. He barely knew what was happening to him as Johnson's ball beat his bat and uprooted his middle stump with vicious pace.
Johnson was now on the 2nd hat-trick of the ruthless spell. Although he missed the hat-trick, he cleaned Panesar's stumps up too, ending his exceptional spell with 6 wickets, giving away only 12 runs in the process.
Johnson's figures for the innings read 17.2-8-7-40: perhaps the best fast-bowling spell in Ashes history.
1. Ben Stokes' heroic chase at Headingley, 2019
It was pandemonium at Headingley when Jack Leach was charging to get back into his crease. Nathan Lyon somehow managed to miss the easiest run-out he could ever have affected, and it wasn't to be for the Aussies. It was Ben Stokes' day, written in the stars.
After being wrecked by Josh Hazlewood's fifer and being reduced to 67 runs in the 1st innings, England were now looking at a mammoth 359 to level the series. Ben Stokes and Joe Root were batting overnight on Day 4, the target still 203 runs away.
Stokes was greeted by a vicious bouncer the next day by Josh Hazlewood as the cheek-guard of his helmet broke. Joe Root barely got going, and was dismissed by Nathan Lyon after contributing just 2 runs on the day. Still, despite the early hiccup, England made it to 238-4 at lunch on Day 4.
Things took a turn for the worse after lunch. First, Bairstow edged one off Hazelwood, and then Jos Buttler departed cheaply after a bad mix-up while attempting a single. Chris Woakes then chipped a catch off Hazlewood's bowling.
England were reeling at 261-7. Jofra Archer accompanied Stokes, and slogged a few, before eventually losing his wicket to a brilliant catch on the boundary. Stuart Broad vanished quickly courtesy of James Pattinson, and in came Jack Leach, with England still 73 runs adrift of the target.
Ben Stokes then came into his own with nothing to lose, and he launched an onslaught on the Kangaroos starting with Nathan Lyon's over. Lyon disappeared down the ground for a six. Stokes went after him in the next over too. A 2nd six was muscled down the ground and a third reverse-slog-swept over the square boundary.
Up next was Pat Cummins. Stokes walked across his wicket and scooped him over the fine leg boundary for a six, trotting into the 90s. Leach was playing his part by playing out the balls that he had to take strike on.
With 37 runs left to get the victory, Australia turned to their best bowler of the Test, Josh Hazlewood. Stokes didn't spare any time in going after him. The first ball was smoked through wide long-on for a boundary as Stokes reached three figures with a statement - he was going for the victory.
Hazlewood then went for a yorker and missed. Stokes flicked it over square leg for a massive six. Hazlewood went for a good length ball next on middle stump, and Stokes smashed it again for a huge six over the mid-wicket boundary. The target now just 21 runs away, he was toying with Australia's best bowler of the game.
Nathan Lyon came back into the attack. Stokes played it safe, and got one run from the over. He went after Cummins in the next over, though, with two boundaries - one on the square side and one straight down the ground. The target now down to 9 runs. Stokes faced Nathan Lyon again in the next over, and this time he risked a loft with the spin. He cleared the man at long-off, but only just.
Then came Australia's big chance as Jack Leach had run half-way down the track after Stokes hit a reverse sweep to the short third man fielder. The throw was perfect for a run-out, and yet, as it happened, Lyon missed the run-out. He also happened to trap Stokes plumb in front of the wickets, but the umpire shook his head, and Australia had wasted their only remaining review just overs before.
It was just Stokes' day. It was his destiny to seal the run-chase, and he did so in style, with a cut through the off-side. After the remarkable July day in 1981, Ben Stokes had completed the Miracle at Headingley 2.0.