With less than a month to go until the Australia-England Test series gets underway, Commentary Box Sports is kicking off a series of ‘Ashes Top 5s’ – starting with the greatest run-scorers in Ashes history.
THE ASHES – MOST CAREER RUNS
5. Steve Waugh (Australia) – 3,200
The personification of the tenacity and guts that saw Australia dominate England throughout the 1990s and early-2000s, Waugh’s 10 centuries are behind only cricket knights Don Bradman and Jack Hobbs in Ashes history. His first campaign was a solid enough contributor in the 1986-87 home series, but he came of age with unbeaten scores of 177 at Headingley and 152 at Lord’s in the first two Tests of the 1989 series; in fact, Waugh scored 393 runs across four innings before he was finally dismissed in that series. Dropped for twin brother Mark after a lean run during the 1990/91 series, Steve’s Ashes return in 1993 was highlighted by 157 not out at Leeds. He notched centuries in both innings at Old Trafford in 1997, and top-scored in the 1998/99 series with 498 runs at 83. Waugh saved his best for his last visit to England, however, making a courageous 157 not out at The Oval as captain in 2001 despite carrying a painful calf injury into the Test that should realistically have kept him out of the match. ‘Tugga’ also managed a century in his last Ashes Test in Australia, the skipper stroking 102 in front of his hometown crowd at the SCG as Australia completed a 4-1 series rout in the 2002/03 summer.
4. David Gower (England) – 3,269
The elegant, aristocratic Gower smashed nine centuries at Australia’s expense during an Ashes tenure that spanned from the 1978/79 series Down Under until England’s 1990/91 tour. Fairly underwhelming in his first three campaigns, Gower top-scored in Australia in 1982/83 with 440 runs, but he firmly established his Ashes legacy during the 1985 home series as captain. Gower plundered 732 runs at 81.33 in England’s 3-1 success, including scores of 166, 215 and 157. Subsequent series against Australia were disappointing for one of the most talented-but-exasperating batsmen of his generation, but he did managed hundreds in his last visits to the MCG and SCG during England’s dismal 3-0 defeat in 1990/91.
3. Allan Border (Australia) – 3,548
There was no more influential figure in Australia’s turnaround from the harrowing days of the early-to-mid-1980s to regaining control of the Ashes rivalry later in the decade – and putting their foot on England’s throat in the early-1990s. Border debuted during the World Series-affected 1978/79 Ashes loss, and gradually became a thorn in England’s side with consecutive unbeaten centuries at Old Trafford and The Oval in 1981. Australia’s best as captain during the 3-1 defeat in England in 1985 – scoring 597 runs at 66.33 – ‘AB’s’ ruthless leadership was more important than his batting as they finally wrested back the urn in 1989 and retained it in 1990/91, but his farewell Ashes campaign included 200 not out in an innings victory at Headingley in 1993.
2. Jack Hobbs (England) – 3,636
Cambridge-born Hobbs ranks alongside any pre-Bradman Ashes figure, setting still unmatched records for most runs (3,636) and centuries for an Englishman (12) against Australia. His Test career began on England’s 1907/08 tour of Australia and ended during the 1930 Ashes on home soil. Hobbs’ most prolific series was the 1911/12 tour Down Under, when he scored 662 runs – more than twice as many as the top Australian – at 82.75, including three centuries. He scored 187 and 178 in back-to-back Tests in Adelaide and Melbourne as England powered to a 4-1 triumph. The Surrey legend also managed centuries in three consecutive Tests during the 1924/25 Australian summer.
1. Don Bradman (Australia) – 5,028
No player’s legacy hovers over The Ashes narrative like ‘The Don’s’. The greatest batsman of all time, Bradman scored 19 of his 29 Test centuries against England, and plundered over 5,000 runs at an average of almost 90. He set all manner of unattainable records in the 1930 series in England, scoring 974 runs at 139.14, including famous innings of 254 at Lord’s and 334 at Leeds in consecutive Tests. England invented ‘Bodyline’ almost exclusively to combat Bradman on Australia soil in the 1933-34 summer, but he exacted revenge with scores of 304 and 204 in the 1934 series in the Old Dart. Bradman scored back-to-back double-centuries in Melbourne and Adelaide during the 1936-37 series, and picked up where he left off after World War II, scoring 187 in Brisbane and 234 in Sydney to kick off the 1946-47 Ashes – his first Tests in over eight years. Fittingly scoring 173 not out in his last innings at Headingley in 1948, the incomparable Bradman bowed out of Test cricket with a duck at The Oval that left him stranded on his now-iconic career average of 99.94.