At the time of writing, England's Ashes hopes for 2023 hang in the balance. But the Three Lions have enjoyed plenty of success in the Ashes over the years, and a lot of this has resulted from some standout performers. So, just which players have stood out from the crowd for England since the Ashes series began?
Ian Botham could well be England’s greatest-ever Ashes player, with many describing him as the ultimate Ashes hero. In 1981, Botham batted and bowled to perfection and managed to single-handedly get the Three Lions out of trouble on multiple occasions. If England had Botham in their ranks today, the Ashes betting odds would have been very different based on his skills alone.
When you think of Andrew Flintoff as a cricket fan, you immediately think of the Ashes series of 2005. When England needed a hero, like when they needed Ian Botham in 1981, Flintoff stood up and showed true all-round skills as a fast bowler, fielder and batsman. The over Flintoff delivered to Australian icons Justin Langer and Ricky Pointing went down in history, and he even had time to hit a one-armed century.
Like Flintoff, Kevin Pietersen also became a hero in the 2005 Ashes series. Pietersen was the player to make the difference on the final day, with his 158 the deciding factor and how England secured victory. But, as well as 2005, Pietersen also starred in four series victories during his Three Lions career and contributed effectively in all four of them.
Some players have managed to achieve extraordinary things during the Ashes, and Jim Laker is one of them. At Old Trafford in 1965, England managed to take twenty Australian wickets, and believe it or not, Laker was the player to take nineteen of the twenty, with ten of those coming in the second innings. It’s a feat that hasn’t been repeated since, and it’s unlikely it ever will be.
We’re back to a player who starred in the legendary 2005 Ashes series for the Three Lions, and this time it’s Michael Vaughan. Vaughan is the man who skippered the nation to success, so he will go down in history for this reason alone. Even in the Ashes series that didn’t go England’s way, Vaughan always impressed, especially against bowlers of the calibre of Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath.
If there’s anything that shows how great an Ashes player Ian Bell was, it’s him being on the winning side four times out of five. And he managed to do this by the age of thirty-one, which is some feat. Some may claim Bell isn’t an Ashes hero on the same level as the likes of Botham, Flintoff and Vaughan, but what he achieved as part of the team, and his winning record, certainly sets him apart.
To be one of England’s greatest-ever Ashes players takes something special, but the players mentioned above fall into the category, and it’s hard to argue against their inclusion. But as always, there’s plenty of time for more heroes to come to the fore in future Ashes series and successes.