What You Can Get Away With » What if everyone could compete for the Ashes?

A thought struck me as I was looking at the Cricinfo archive yesterday – what if the Ashes hadn’t stayed as purely England vs Australia series, but – when other countries started playing Test cricket – had been seen as an accolade everyone could play for?

Googling didn’t reveal any cricketing equivalent of the Unofficial Football World Championship which traces its origins back to the first England vs Scotland international and then proceeds in a ‘man who beat the man’ style to have Japan as the current world champions. So, I decided to waste some time and work out who would hold the cricketing version.

The rules are the same as currently with the Ashes – the team that holds the trophy retains it if they win or draw the series. The challenger can only take the title by winning the series. The trophy can also only change hands in games that are generally recognised Test matches and series.

There’s only one change in who holds the Ashes for the first sixty or so years of its existence. Until World War I, there were only three Test-playing nations, and South Africa were generally weak. West Indies, New Zealand and India joined between the wars, but England and Australia remained dominant.

1882: First Ashes series (in England) and the birth of the name, won by Australia
1882/83: Bligh takes his team down under and regains the Ashes for the first time
England then win series against Australia in 1884, 1884/85, 1886, 1886/87, 1887/88, 1888 and 1890, as well as winning the first series against South Africa in 1889.
1891/92: Australia win the series and take back the Ashes
1893: England win the series and take back the Ashes
England then win the 1894/95 and 1896 series against Australia and the 1895/96 series in South Africa
1897/98: Australia win the series and take back the Ashes
Australia then win the 1899, 1901/2, and 1902 series against England and the 1902/3 series in South Africa.
1903/04: England win the series and take back the Ashes
England beat Australia in 1905
1905/06: South Africa beat England and take the Ashes for the first time
1907: England beat South Africa and take back the Ashes
1907/08: Australia beat England and take back the Ashes
Australia then beat England in 1909 and South Africa in 1910/11
1911/12: England beat Australia and take back the Ashes
England win the Triangular Tournament in 1912, then beat South Africa in 1913/14 and thus hold the Ashes through World War I

1920/21: Australia beat England and take back the Ashes
Australia then win the 1921 and 1924/25 series against England and the 1921/22 series against South Africa.
1926: England beat Australia and take back the Ashes
England then win the 1927/28 and 1929 series against South Africa, the 1928 series against West Indies (their first), the 1928/29 series against Australia and the 1929/30 series against New Zealand (their first)
1930: Australia beat England and take back the Ashes
Australia then beat the West Indies in 1930/31 and South Africa in 1931/32. India become the first country to make their Test debut in a non-Ashes series when they lose to England in 1932.
1932/33: England beat Australia in the Bodyline series and take back the Ashes.
England then draw the 1932/33 series in New Zealand, beat West Indies in 1933 and India in 1933/34.
1934: Australia beat England and take back the Ashes
Australia beat South Africa in 1935/36 and England in 1936/37. The 1938 series against England is drawn, which means Australia hold the Ashes during World War II

Test cricket resumes in 1945/46 with Australia beating New Zealand. They then beat England in 1946/47 and 1948, India in 1947/48, South Africa in 1949/50, England in 1950/51 and West Indies in 1951/52.
1952/53: South Africa beat Australia, take back the Ashes and the trophy starts to diverge wildly from the accepted historical path
South Africa beat New Zealand in 1953/54, the first Ashes series not to feature either England or Australia.
1955: England beat South Africa and take back the Ashes
England then beat Australia in 1956, draw with South Africa in 1956/57, beat West Indies in 1957 and New Zealand in 1958
1958/59: Australia beat England and take back the Ashes
Australia beat Pakistan in 1959/60, India in 1959/60, West Indies in 1960/61, England in 1961 and 1964. They draw series with England in 1962/63, South Africa in 1963/64 and India and Pakistan in 1964/65.
1964/65: West Indies beat Australia and win the Ashes for the first time.
West Indies then beat England in 1966, and India in 1966/67.
1967/68: England beat West Indies and take back the Ashes. For the first time, England hold the alternative Ashes while Australia hold the traditional Ashes.
England draw with Australia in 1968 and Pakistan in 1968/69. They beat West Indies in 1969, New Zealand in 1969 and 1970/71, Australia in 1970/71 (reunifying the Ashes) and Pakistan in 1971. England did lose the 1970 series to the Rest of the World, but as those are no longer regarded as Test Matches, we’ll ignore them. If you want to count them, then ignore the next 36 years until Australia play the ICC World XI in 2006.
1971: India beat England and take the Ashes for the first time.
India beat England in 1972/73
1974: England beat India and take back the Ashes (another reunification)
1974/75: Australia beat England and take back the Ashes
Australia beat England in 1975, West Indies in 1975/76, draw with Pakistan in 1976/77, and beat New Zealand in 1976/77. They also beat England in the 1976/77 Centenary Test.
1977: England beat Australia and take back the Ashes.
England draw with Pakistand and New Zealand in 1977/78, then beat them both in 1978. They beat Australia in 1978/79 and India in 1979.
1979-80: Australia beat England and take back the Ashes – though the real Ashes weren’t actually at stake in this series as the MCC wouldn’t sanction a three match series as an Ashes one.
1979-80: Pakistan beat Australia and take the Ashes for the first time.
(Tricky call, this one – the Australians lost a series against the West Indies at the same time as they were beating England. However, as the last game in the series against England was after the last game against the West Indies, I’ve chosen to have that as the point where the title changed. See below for the alternative route.)
1980/81: West Indies beat Pakistan and take back the Ashes.
The West Indies then go on to be undefeated in a series until 1994/95, winning eighteen series and drawing nine.
1994/95: Australia beat West Indies and take back the Ashes.
Australia beat Pakistan and Sri Lanka in in 1995/96
1996/97: India beat Australia and take back the Ashes
India beat South Africa in 1996/97
1996/97: South Africa beat India and take back the Ashes for the first time since rejoining international cricket
1996/97: Australia beat South Africa and take back the Ashes.
(Yes, 1996/97 was a very busy season for Test cricket)
Australia beat England in 1997 and New Zealand and South Africa in 1997/98.
1997/98: India beat Australia and take back the Ashes.
1998/99: Zimbabwe beat India and take the Ashes for the first time. (It was a solitary test, but I’m counting it. India went on to lose their next series to New Zealand, and see below for what happens down that path)
Zimbabwe beat Pakistan in 1998/99
1999/2000: Australia beat Zimbabwe and take back the Ashes. Zimbabwe take the title in a single test, and lose it in a single test.
Australia beat Pakistan, India and New Zealand in 1999-2000, and West Indies in 2000/01
2000/01: India beat Australia and take back the Ashes.
India draw with Zimbabwe in 2001.
2001: Sri Lanka beat India and take the Ashes for the first time.
Sri Lanka beat West Indies and Zimbabwe in 2001/02 and also win the Asian Test Championship.
2002: England beat Sri Lanka and take back the Ashes.
England draw with India in 2002
2002/03: Australia beat England and take back the Ashes
Australia then go unbeaten for ten series including nine wins) until 2005
2005: England beat Australia and take back the Ashes
2005/06: Pakistan beat England and take back the Ashes
Pakistan then beat India and Sri Lanka in 2005/06
2006: England beat Pakistan and take back the Ashes
2006/07: Australia beat England and take back the Ashes
Australia beat Sri Lanka and India in 2007/08, and West Indies in 2008.
2008/09: India beat Australia and take back the Ashes.
India beat England and New Zealand in 2008/09, beat Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in 2009/10, draw with South Africa in 2009/10 and Sri Lanka in 2010, beat Australia and New Zealand in 2010/11 and have just retained the Ashes by drawing against South Africa.

India are thus the current holders of the alternative Ashes, and I’m sure we all eagerly look forward to a unification series between them and England. Bangladesh are the only side to have definitely never held the title, and there’s scope for endless arguments about whether Zimbabwe or New Zealand have.

If the West Indies take the title in 1979/80 in their series against Australia, then the following occurs.
1979/80: New Zealand beat West Indies and take the Ashes for the first time.
1980/81: Australia beat New Zealand and take back the Ashes
Australia draw with India in 1980/81
1981: England beat Australia (Botham’s Ashes) and take back the Ashes
1981/82: India beat England and take back the Ashes
1982: England beat India and take back the Ashes
England beat Pakistan in 1982
1982/83: Australia beat England and take back the Ashes
Australia beat Sri Lanka in 1982/83 and Pakistan in 1983/84.
1983/84: West Indies beat Australia and take back the Ashes, returning us to the order above.

If we don’t count solitary test matches, then Zimbabwe don’t take the title from India in 1998/99, and the progression goes like this instead:
1998/99: New Zealand beat India and take the Ashes for either the first or second time, depending on how you think the title went in 1979/80.
1998/99: South Africa beat New Zealand and taken back the Ashes
South Africa then hold the title until 2001/2 through nine series (eight wins)
2001/02: Australia beat South Africa and take back the Ashes
The two series then come back together in 2002/03 when Australia beat England

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6 comments untill now

  1. @eugeneseosamh http://www.nickbarlow.com/blog/?p=1158. A very odd idea.

  2. Oh and someone else has done an Unofficial all Test Nations Ashes Championship: http://www.nickbarlow.com/blog/?p=1158 #cricket

  3. If everyone played for The Ashes India would be the current holders – http://www.nickbarlow.com/blog/?p=1158

  4. RT @nestaquin: If everyone played for The Ashes India would be the current holders – http://www.nickbarlow.com/blog/?p=1158

  5. Neat idea! I think this would make for a better Test Championship than what the ICC is proposing.

  6. based on Nick Barlow’s awesome idea, Pakistan currently hold the Ashes until someone beats them: http://t.co/MUjZ26Tk