Pretty sure that was a fantastic Ashes, but what do you actually remember of it?

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The 2023 Ashes has sogged and then at the last moment unexpectedly fizzled to its conclusion. With five Tests in 46 days, immediately following on from the World Test Championship final, it’s been a lot to take in. What do you actually remember of it?

The series itself resulted in a 2-2 Ashes retention for Australia. This seems to us no more or less fair an outcome than several alternative scorelines. We’d quibble with a 5-0 to either side, but anything between 3-1 for one side and 3-1 for the other wouldn’t have felt too colossal a miscarriage of justice. England’s dominant moments were obviously far more striking, but that perhaps distracts from the fact Australia had plenty of their own.

What would have been a fair result? What’s fairness got to do with anything? It was 2-2 and that’s that.

The overall feel

We have a strong desire to describe this as “a series of three halves” in a nod to a Kevin Keegan quote which we’ve just discovered is not actually a Kevin Keegan quote at all – it just sounds like one. (There are so many great Keegan quotes but “I’d love to be a mole on the wall in the Liverpool dressing room” never fails to make us smirk.)

Australia were robust and professional in the first half; England were a mad, scary batting typhoon in the middle half; and then the third and final half at first looked like it was kind of dribbling out thanks to what is always referred to as “the Manchester weather” and then subsequently what is for some reason never described as “the London weather“. However, a ball change and a break in the clouds ultimately delivered what was really the first batting collapse of the series right at the finish.

Maybe that final session was a fourth and much smaller half. If it feels like the fractions are out of control at this point, maybe the total is still right. It certainly felt like two misshapen series squeezed into one.

The specifics

Anyway, the five Tests. And again we’ll ask, what do you actually remember?

Off the top of our head, Edgbaston gave us Ben Stokes’ first innings declaration and Pat Cummins’ admirable and feisty effort with the bat in Australia’s run-chase.

Lord‘s had Stokes’ in-defiance-of-reason second innings 155 and we’re honestly not sure what else without going and looking it up. Oh no, wait, we remember – it was the Test of a trillion bouncers. And that long-range stumping thing.

We’ll always remember Headingley for Mark Wood’s perfect arrival in the series and then, even though it was only three weeks ago, we already have only a hazier memory of Harry Brook marshalling England’s chase in the final innings before Wood and Chris Woakes finished the job.

Old Trafford was obviously Zak Crawley flaying Australia’s bowlers here there and everywhere before Jonny Bairstow did much the same, all culminating in a bit of a fizzle-out.

Finally, The Oval was this week and somehow we’ve already forgotten the first innings. Was it Harry Brook again? After that, the match was obviously noteworthy for Stuart Broad’s final shot, his bail-swapping shenanigans and then his last ball in Test cricket deciding the final scoreline – all of which rather drew the spotlight away from Chris Woakes.

It has been a rapid and dizzying series. Gelatinous new memories have been squidged out by even newer ones before they’ve had chance to crystallise. So we ask you yet again: what do you actually remember?

The series is over, but the pace of this series means we’ve still got quite a bit of catching up to do. You can therefore expect a fair bit more Ashes stuff from us in the next week or two. Sign up for the email here and get free tickets for the dissection, you ghoul.


  1. My personal opinion is that it was over far too soon, as if someone was watching the highlights at 150%*.
    In fact that they could have continued playing for six more weeks (maybe three or four more Tests), and it still would have been finished before the first matchday of the CL, but because of the bloody Hundred100 , it has to end halfway through the season rather than continuing into the really warm days in August.

    1. Odd fact that the 2019 Ashes hadn’t even begun at this point in the season.

      Brevity aside, we don’t especially mind the early finish. August is often a bit of a duff month in these parts and it can feel like summer’s petering out after all the best weather in May and June. This means a Test series can feel a bit melancholic, particularly as it inches into September. Test cricket’s best when the days are long.

      This was just way too quick though. We need to revisit stuff to firm up memories and there was just no time. It was always straight onto the next Test.

      That’s just the way these days but it’s weird to pine for the days when they jammed one day series right into the middle. At least that provided some thinking time.

  2. I remember going to the second day of the first Test and then suddenly it was over. Having hungrily consumed every article, podcast and Twitter hot take over the past six weeks, by the end of today I’d had enough of it. Or maybe I’d just had enough of Jonathan Agnew and Michael Vaughan.

    1. Memory-wise, for me, these series are very much about interaction with other people.

      Hence, my Heavy Rollers experience, which included a brief meeting with you, Sam, is an important part of the memory bank.

      Similarly the days I spent at Lord’s, with strangers and those I have known half-a-lifetime alike.

      I shall remember Headingley more than anything for the game of tennis I played at Lord’s during Day One, which started with all of us players glum, as the Aussies seemed to have got off the hook cruising at 240/4. . When I strained to look from the court at the TV in the dedans and said, “I think it says 249/8”, we stopped the game to go and confirm the dramatic shift in fortunes.

      Old Trafford I remember for lurking here and learning of the KC family experience, before the rain ruined that match.

      The reason we differentiate between Manchester rain and London rain is because the former can set in to ruin several days, whereas the latter usually only does for the odd session or three.

      The Oval weather did me and Daisy a favour today, the rain interruption coinciding with separate work-based commitments we both had in the early afternoon, allowing us both to enjoy the ending TV-wise a little later in the day.

      Over too soon? Only because the Ashes this time was that good.

      1. Last year’s Oval Test lost a day to rain and would have lost another if it weren’t for losing a reign.

      2. On the very rare occasions we get relentless rain in London, we get relentlessly posh rain, we don’t get that grim northern stuff.

        Like the floor piss in the loos behind the members’ stands at Lord’s; to the casual observer it’s just floor piss, same as everywhere else, but to the cognoscenti, it is clearly a better class of floor piss.

        Unless the weather improves counter to the current splodgeness and today’s forecast, we could well be in for a double-no-result in today’s London derby double-header at Lord’s. But, if that happens, it will be posh no-results, it won’t be grim ones. Different.

    2. Think that’s just five Tests, rather than six weeks, Sam. You can pace yourself better and slot in some normal life events during a more spread-out series. The density of matches and the density of action within those matches made this series very dominant. You never really got chance to look away.

  3. Where does this series rank on the ridiculous scale?

    My nominations would include the day one declaration, Moeen ripping his finger off, Root reverse ramping, Carey v Bairstow, Wood pretending to be a dog in the dressing room, Broad swapping the bails, everyone getting obsessed with weather apps, Harry Brook’s filthy dobbers, the rise of the bucket hat, Ricky Ponting being pelted with grapes.

    1. Usman Khawaja batting forever. Almost all of England’s batting, but particularly the Stokes and Crawley hundreds. Cummins and Broad somehow playing every match and still finishing capably.

      1. Marnus’s whinge about the light after his 9 runs in 82 balls blockfest has to be up there in the ridiculous stakes.

        The Stokes ton at Lord’s, given the context, must be up there with all-time ridiculousness.

        Broad going out with a final ball six (batting) and a final ball wicket (bowling) is so ridiculous it probably needs its own adjective.

  4. It’s hard to find a full test series where Jimmy Anderson was, well, rather inconsequential for the most part. I do hope he gets to go out on a high with a flurry of wickets. Jimmy, and cricket, deserve it.

    1. Yeah, he hasn’t really bowled badly, but there’s been a constant air of it just not happening for him.

      Really admire his persistence. He just wants to play some more Test matches. Simple as that.

      1. If Jimmy can transfer even a small amount of his special skills to the younger bowlers coming through, surely he is worth his place in the squad still. How many (and which) matches he should play in a series is another matter. Whether that role would satisfy Jimmy’s his desire to continue is yet another matter.

        Discarding Jimmy while he remains hungry for more is, to my mind, simply not an option.

  5. On the highlights programme last night, Isa Guha said it was “a great Ashes series, possible the greatest Ashes series”. In normal circumstances I like Isa Guha, but for this astonishingly wrong comment, she gets discarded.

    My take on it is that England were by and large the better team. Early in this test, Cricinfo had an article about how Australia’s long game (aka normal test cricket) had just-about won over Bazball. I disagree. I think that Bazball, whatever that actually means, was the dominant force. It came up short in the first two tests, but only just, and only because if anything it was well constrained by the bowling. Once it had been unleashed though, it was unstoppable. Three tests were manoeuvred into winning positions via this tactic, even with days lost to rain.

    Once England had won the third test, my Australian friend and bet partner virtually conceded. After Old Trafford, which we both attended, he declared the series an inevitable draw, with only the weather being able to provide an Aussie series win. I realize that there is an element of the pessimism of the supporter in all this, but I felt I agreed with him. After Headingly, there was only the sound of inevitability, to borrow Douglas Jardine’s famous phrase from The Matrix.

    So while the series score was 2-2, the tactics score was #1 Test Team playing The Old Way nil, Lesser Team playing Bazball three.

    At some point, everyone is going to see this. At some point, Bazball is going to be a redundant term.

    1. This astonishing optimism seems very un-English. But I’m all for it, let’s just ignore that ball change…

    2. Beware of what you wish for, Bert. If the current BBC management were to discard Isa Guha for you, they would probably replace her with Clare Balding.

      Roll on the day that the term Bazball is redundant, though.

      Last night Daisy and I were talking about where this series might sit in the canon of our favourite Ashes memories and we agreed that 2023 will be pretty high up the list. 2005 is probably unsurpassable for us, given the context of it and all those aspects that have been discussed on this site many times.

      Of course all good series have some special memories:
      * 2009 – the hoodoo-removing fifth day at Lord’s after the “Monty and Jimmy hanging on for grim death” draw at Cardiff,
      * 2013 – the “everything that could go wrong going wrong” Aussie fold at Lord’s on Day Two followed by the whole of that astonishing Chester-le-Street test,
      * 2015 – that astonishing Edgbaston test in which Broad, Anderson & Finn took the Aussies apart, while Moeen & Broad (again) rescued England’s fragile batting. How could Stuart Broad perform better than that…apart from THAT performance at Trent Bridge…do you remember that one, Bert?
      * 2019 – the ebb and flow of Edgbaston followed by the almost-rain-ruined but still fascinating “concussion test match” at Lord’s, followed by THAT Stokes/Leach innings at Headingley.

      For this 2023 series, for the first time since 2005, I think every single match has been utterly absorbing and has seemed pivotal. The England style of cricket more than anything has been the making of it. England might have won the series in 2009, 2013 and 2015, but I still think England’s overall performance in 2023 drawn-series surpasses all three of those series wins.

      1. Yes, that 2019 Lord’s Test was another blighted by the London weather.

        This series was remarkable for the consistently close finishes and the tension throughout, we’d say. If some other series had higher highs, this delivered a higher level of entertainment from start to finish than pretty much any series we can remember.

        As you say though, it’s almost impossible to envisage circumstances where the emotional hit of 2005 can be beaten and that series had its fair share of drama to enhance that.

        You appear to have excluded away Ashes from your list.

      2. I suppose these are largely personal reflections and the truth is that it is…or at least was…difficult for me to engage directly with the away series for most of my life.

        In the late 1970s and 1980s I would have engaged with the away series only by reading the newspaper reports a day or two after the events. I do recall being so pleased reading about the success of the Gatting squad of 1986/87, which had been deemed to be a “can’t bat, can’t bowl and can’t field” squad by a fate-tempter in the Aussie press at the start of the tour. But as is the case with most Ashes matches in Oz, the matches themselves were either draws or pretty one-sided wins. I don’t remember feeling in suspenders, rushing to the radio news or the newspaper the next morning for an update. Yet another Ashes series in which Broad was the hero – Broad père rather than Broad fils in this case.

        1990/91 I barely engaged at all. I was majorly crocked in the back… “Ged’s back!” I hear you all cry…and in any case was still spitting feathers about so many of my England heroes going on the 1990 South Africa rebel tour, which felt like dreadful timing to me, so soon after Mandela’s release and the delicate stage of negotiations with the South African nationalists. Sorry to get political, but I simply disengaged that winter and thought England deserved to be thrashed…which we were.

        1994/95 I re-engaged and I do recall listening on the radio quite a lot through the night, much to the chagrin of my then relatively new beau, Daisy. As usual, one-sided matches apart from some of the draws. England’s inevitable collapse at Melbourne second dig meant that it was all-but over before 1994 was out. Darren Gough’s heroics at Sydney in the new year test was a highlight – I think I even woke Daisy up with that one.

        Nigel “Father Barry” is better qualified than me to relate personal memories of away series, not least his “curtains story” from Adelaide in January 1995, contained within this guest piece on my blog:

        1998/99 was another series that was effectively done with one-sided Aussie wins by Christmas, although the Boxing Day test was a nail-biter. Dean Headley the hero of that one for England.

        2002/03 had a little false hope for England, soon dashed by a decision to bowl first at Brisbane and a horrible (ultimately probably career-shortening) injury to Simon Jones. One-sided affairs and all over by 1 December.

        2006/7 – so much hope after 2005 but those hopes soon dashed with one-sided Aussie wins and it was all over by mid December. Is there a thread running through these reminiscences?

        2010/11 – ah, now there was an away series to remember. Of course I was/we were thrilled to witness an England team doing so well over there. But in truth it was a relatively weak Aussie squad that year and it soon became apparent (after a very exciting England-backs-to-the-wall draw at Brisbane) that England would prevail in one-sided matches.

        Since then, England haven’t won so much as a match over there during an away Ashes series.

        If the new style means that England will compete over there and make the series exciting on both sides of the globe, that would be an absolutely marvellous thing.

      3. England’s prospects in the next Ashes are more intriguing than normal. You’d imagine the batters could potentially enjoy themselves on Aussie pitches against the Kookaburra ball. Strong positions may ensue, but the bowling’s anyone’s guess.

        From the most recent Test, it’s quite hard to imagine Woakes or Wood making it, let alone Jimmy. Jofra Archer isn’t often around. An attack comprising, say, Josh Tongue, Matt Potts and Saqib Mahmood feels a bizarre prospect right now for a series that isn’t really so far off.

  6. I think you’ve got it spot on, particularly with the headline. I mostly just remember it being close.

    In fact it was close to the perfect series, and the fact that it wasn’t because of the draw makes it kind of disappointing, almost more disappointing than if we’d lost. I didn’t know til now that I’ve waited my whole life for the perfect series, which is decided in the final hour of the third session of the last day of the fifth test. And now I know that’s never going to happen and it makes me a bit sad. I never really thought about it before as even a possibility. It’s like Alex Tudor’s 99.

    A lot of people have pontificated about the Lord’s crowd and the members about the Bairstow thing, but nobody seems to have recognised that the reason people felt angry was because they felt they’d been robbed of the spectacle. Bairstow might have popped an easy caught and bowled back for his next ball and nobody would have reacted the same way. Or Carey could have done that in the 10th over to get rid of Pope and maybe the most one-eyed England fans would have kicked off, but not the whole crowd. It was England’s last real chance but it felt like it really was a chance, and it was going to be yet another amazing test even if England lost – all punctured in an instant. Spectacle of cricket, not the spirit.

    I suppose it kind of exposes something about test cricket which is that so often it’s about grinding your opponent into the dust and that’s more fun to watch if you’re winning or somehow hanging on for a draw. Those fourth and fifth test dead rubbers at the MCG and SCG always have an air of watching for the individuals not the teams, watching someone make the best of a lost cause like the viking on Stamford Bridge. Maybe we need to be a bit more honest that “the greatest form of the game” is only truly great when the sides are pretty evenly matched.

    The other thing I’ll remember about this series is being annoyed at the constant whingeing. Just. So. Much. Whingeing. And not just from the Aussies, although they’ve whinged even more than usual. It’s like England and Australia have taken the worst things about each other and adopted them. Yabba was a tosser but somehow English crowds are all in his incarnation, yelling nonsense insults at the Aussie players and calling it banter. And still booing Smith – it’s been five years ffs. We’ve turned into that bloke at work who comes in with a joke on Monday morning and then repeats it to everyone he talks to for the whole week. And the Aussies have developed that snide, side-mouthed, tabloidy way politicians picking up on some bullshit detail to somehow invalidate some pretty spectacular achievements, and to justify shit behaviour by calling it hypocrisy.

    Anyway. It was a great series. I’m mostly just a bit melancholy that it’s over. Keep writing great stories.

    1. Think that’s a good point about the context of the Bairstow stumping. As you say, maybe the reaction was at least partly borne of the flatness of disappointment and the slightly crappy/unsatisfactory mode of dismissal provided an emotional outlet.

      1. I think it’s related to why the run-out-at-the-mankad-end annoys people. Whatever the rights and wrongs of it are. If cricket is about a contest between bat and ball, when that’s interrupted it’s going to be unpopular with people who like the contest as much as the result. Which applies to odd run outs when the ball is / isn’t dead, rain etc etc etc

  7. These comments are getting longer and longer. ‘And the writer and commenters looked from one to another…and they couldn’t work out which was which’.

    Or something like that.

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