Why is the Ashes is so Hard to Win in Australia?

Australia team celebrating the victory in 2019
James Pacheco profile image

Betting Expert, James Pacheco

Last updated on 18th November 2021

Published: 19/11/2021

Categories: Cricket, News

You might win the odd Test here or there (if you’re lucky) but to actually win a whole four or five-match Series in Australia is almost unheard of. The question is…why? Given we’re discussing The Ashes here rather than all Test cricket, that’s the contest we’ll be looking at.

Having said that, I’ll reveal why there’s a glimmer of hope for England ahead of the 2021-22 Series. I’ll even drop in some live cricket satta rates for good measure!

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Let the numbers do the talking

Since the first Ashes series in Australia back in 1882-83, there have been 167 Tests played on Australian soil.

Of these, the hosts have won 86 (51.5%), with 25 draws (15%) and 56 won by England (33.5%).

Looking at the Ashes Series as a whole, England have been triumphant in winning a Series 14 times out of 35 in Australia, which is 40%. All things considered, that’s not bad at all.

However, it’s worth pointing out that in the late 1800s England won four in a row in Australia when Australia were quite frankly, considerably behind England as a cricketing nation.

If we were to take those out of the equation, the numbers would be far bleaker for England.

It’s been even harder work over the past 30 years or so.

Year Host AUS wins ENG wins Draws WIN Holder
1990/91 AUS 3 0 2 AUS AUS
1994/95 AUS 3 1 1 AUS AUS
1998/99 AUS 3 1 1 AUS AUS
2002/03 AUS 4 1 0 AUS AUS
2006/07 AUS 5 0 0 AUS AUS
2010/11 AUS 1 3 1 ENG ENG
2013/14 AUS 5 0 0 AUS AUS
2017/18 AUS 4 0 1 AUS AUS

Since 1990-91 there have been eight Ashes Series in Australia, so 8 (Series) x5 (Tests per Series), that’s 40 Tests. Of those England won just 8 Tests, which is 20%.

Of those 8 Series, they won just one (12.5%). Across the last two Ashes Series, they didn’t win a single Test, losing 5-0 and 4-0 (England drew a Test).  So you can see just how tough England’s task has been.

Australia are always strong

England won the 2010-11 Series 3-1 in Australia. At the time Australia had suffered an exodus of players to retirement four years earlier.

All of Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne, Damien Martyn, Justin Langer, Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hyaden, key members of the team who had won 5-0 the last Series was held in Australia, were no longer in the team.

They were rebuilding and just unlucky they were short on young talent as the old talent exited the stage.

But that was very much the exception to the rule. For the most part Australian players come and go but their core in Test cricket is very strong; they hardly ever have a side that’s anything but solid, experienced and durable.

And the greats stick around.

Just looking at world-class players from the last 30 years or so, the brilliant skipper Steve Waugh played 45 Ashes games, Allan Border 42, Shane Warne 36, Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke both 35.

In other words, England have to keep playing against these legends Series after Series after Series, not just two or three times.

Aussie Conditions

England have seaming wickets where the ball swings, India tend to have slower wickets where the ball may spin but where batting gets easier as you play yourself in, while the likes of Bangladesh can have real dust blows where the ball turns from the very first morning.

But Australian wickets, and Perth in particular, can be as hard as rock.

Genuinely fast bowlers of yesteryear like Mitchell Johnson, Brett Lee, Geoff Thompson and Dennis Lillee would use the incredibly fast Aussie wickets to have England batsmen fearing not just for their wickets, but their lives.

Bouncers saw England batsmen getting top edges into the hands of fielders, good length balls found the edge and then of course there was the old one-two.

A short ball at the head followed by a full one at the stumps, as the batsmen expected another bouncer. Wickets far quicker than what England batsmen were used to back home, or anywhere else for that matter.

And it’s not just the wickets. It can get incredibly hot and dry in the Australian summer. If superb bowling and fast, bouncy wickets don’t get you, 38 degrees heat, sunstroke and dehydration will.

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Fans and the Media

The Ashes aren’t just played in the middle of the ground, they’re also played around it. In other words, Australian fans and the Aussie media are very much part of the action, as well.

Let’s just say Australian fans at grounds aren’t the most polite.

Years ago one let a pig onto the pitch with the word ‘Beefy’ written in pen on its body, a reference to England all-rounder Ian Botham, nicknamed Beefy, who was playing at the time.

One Australian fan held up a poster saying ‘Phil (Tufnell), lend me your brain. I’m building an idiot’ a dig at Tufnell and his reputation for not being the sharpest tool in the box.

And these are some of the better-humoured and more mild mannered comments. Sometimes it’s just downright nasty abuse, especially aimed at England fielders who are unlucky enough to be fielding on the boundary and near the crowd.

The Aussie media join in as well. That could be in the form of hurtful nicknames for England players, digging out stories from their past or just plain criticism for how badly they’re playing or for individual mistakes on the field.

Enduring this for one Test match is one thing.

Putting up with it for a three month Tour is quite another.

The Aussie run-machine

As we’ve seen, Australian wickets are quick and bouncy. To make the task even harder for English batsmen, some of the grounds and outfields are huge, allowing for lots of twos and threes for those who can hit the ball into unprotected areas.

So the last thing you need as an England captain is an Aussie batsman who can deal with the pace of the wickets, the heat, knows the dimensions and where to hit the ball and doesn’t get tired (or bored) of batting.

The further problem for England is that Australia always have at least one of those, often two.

Since the mid-90s all of Steve Waugh, Mark Waugh, Matthew Hayden, Justin Langer, Matthew Hayden, Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke and Steve Smith have ticked all the boxes described above.

Run after run, century after century, they just keep going.Sucking the life out of England with each boundary, each well-run three.

As for 2021-22, they have two of them in Steve Smith and ‘Smith-clone’ Marnus Labuschagne.

They’ll surely be the favourites to be top batsman for their sides and at bigger odds, for the Series as a whole.

It’s just 1.3 with Betway that Australia win the Series. Over the next few weeks, lock out for prices of 4-0 on Australia or 4-1 to Australia. History suggests Australia could win quite easily.

Hope for England in the form of…India?

Maybe. In 2018-19 India went to Australia and beat them 2-1 (one drawn Test).

And then in 2020-21 India went back to Australia and beat them 2-1 again!

The 2018-19 Series needs to be put into context. Australias’ two best batsmen, David Warner and Steve Smith, were suspended at the time for their role in the ‘Sandpapergate affair’. It also helped that Chet Puajara was in the form of his life, scoring 521 runs in four matches.

But there were no excuses for Australia in 2020-21.  Not only did they have their best team out but India were missing skipper and ace batsman in Virat Kohli for two of the four Tests.

On the final day at Brisbane, India chased 328 runs on the final day to inflict Australia a first defeat at the Gabba in 32 years. It meant they won the Series 2-1, with less than twenty minutes to go on the final day.

How did they win? Simple. They just played the better cricket.