It’s the question to spark a thousand debates and occurs in every sport. Ali or Tyson? McEnroe or Agassi? Pele or Maradona? Bradman or Tendulkar or Lara?
With the Ashes about to kick off, we set out to pick the best Ashes team of all time. The big problem with that is it becomes all about stats and players only your great, great granny has ever seen play. So to make it easier, we’ve gone for the best Ashes team since 2000.
Sadly for you guys Down Under, that rules out performances in all the towellings handed out to England in the 80s and 90s. Legends like Steve Waugh never came close to this side. Other than wicketkeeper and spinner, every position was up for grabs which made for some interesting debates, in my head at least.
Don’t agree? Stick your 11 in the comments at the bottom.
1 Marcus Trescothick
Matthew Hayden or Marcus Trescothick. Hayden was a colossus for Australia dominating England (and most teams) from the top of the order with his swagger, sneer and big hitting. Trescothick did the same thing for England, without the posturing and gum chewing. Trescothick might have gone on to achieve more if illness wouldn’t have curtailed his international career. A really tough call between the two, which Trescothick wins on the back of having the best nickname: Banger.
2 Alistair Cook
The other half of the most successful Australia opening partnership, Justin Langer, will feel hard done by here. Andrew Strauss might want a stewards enquiry too. Both those guys have had good Ashes, without ever really frightening the opposition, but in 2010/11 series, Cook put the fear of God in Australia. He scored 766 runs (did The Don ever get that many in a series?) at a ridiculous average… he now averages over 61 in the Ashes.
3 Ricky Ponting
Quite simply the best batsman I’ve ever seen live. When on song Punter used a bat that felt a mile wide and dominated a bowling attack. Despite his abysmal record as captain in Ashes series (I don’t need to point out how many he lost), he could always carry his head high based on his performances. In a team of top quality players, his was always the prized wicket.
4 Michael Vaughan (c)
Captain. The man who masterminded the first Ashes win in a generation against, let’s face it, one of the best teams of all time. He brought his team back from losing the first Test to win the amazing 2005 series in England. His value as captain was underlined by the 5 – 0 drubbing in the return series when Freddie was handed the reins. He also scored runs against Australia, all of the time. His 177 at Adelaide when no other Englishman got 50 was one of many highlights.
5 Kevin Pietersen
The Oval. 2005. Brett Lee was bowling a spell that was about to change the game and retain the Ashes for the Aussies. With about 20 minutes to go to tea, KP couldn’t put a bat on Lee who was pumped and bowling at nearly 100mph – it was fascinating, but not for England fans. After tea KP walked to crease, smashed the first ball for 4 and went on to score his highest Test score (at the time). He finished the series as top scorer with 473 runs, remember, that was against Lee, Warne, McGrath et al.
6 Paul Collingwood
Before you start throwing abuse my way, consider what you want from a number 6 batsman. Someone who can sort out a crisis, score some quick runs, be dependable in the field and bowl a few overs if you need. In the forthcoming series, the Aussies are hoping Steve Smith will fill this role, but he’s not a patch on Colly. In addition to his all round abilities, Collingwood gets in on the strength of three knocks. His 10 off 51 balls in 2005 to help win the Ashes (he got an MBE for that!), 206 in Adelaide in 2006 and 74 from an almost unbelievable 245 balls to save the Cardiff Test in 2009. Others might have been prettier, some might have better stats, but I’d have Colly in my team any day.
7 Adam Gilchrist
I’m a huge Matt Prior fan and he may well finish up as England’s finest wicketkeeper. Alec Stewart was pretty hot too, captain and opening the batting as well as keeping wicket, but neither of them come close to Gilchrist. The man revolutionised the position, seemingly never missed anything behind the stumps and scored at such a rate that victory in any game was always a possibility. A genuinely frightening sight for opposition fans.
8 Andrew Flintoff
Freddie always thought of himself as a batsman who bowls. He’s in this team as a bowler who bats. Yes he captained the team when England were hammered in 2007 and he never hit the heights again of the 2005 series, but if you don’t think he should be in this team, check out the best over in test cricket to Ricky Ponting. One of the top 5 batsmen of all time was beaten all ends up for the whole over. Case closed.
9 Shane Warne
Like Gilchrist, another G.O.A.T. The ball of the century http://youtu.be/waE8Ew5bejM is outside the time frame for this team, but from that moment to when he retired in 2007 he was the most hated Australian player in the game… and that was just because he was so, so good.
10 Jimmy Anderson
McGrath nails one opening bowling spot, and there was decent competition for this spot. Harmison had two good Ashes series in 2003 and 2005, Brett Lee grew into the best in the world after 2005, Peter Siddle loves an Ashes scrap as does Mitchell Johns… oh wait. Anyway, Jimmy – was left out in 2005 for Paul Collingwood but since then has been immense. Has shown he can master the Kookaburra as well as the Duke and is a handful at all times.
11 Glen McGrath
Opening bowler. Retired from Ashes cricket after the 2007 series and was waved off into retirement by every English fan – we were relieved to see the back of him. Never the quickest bowler in the world, but certainly the most feared. His nagging line and length, with swing both ways and seam movement had the even the best players in trouble. England had Hoggard doing a similar job, but they were on different planets.