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evidence”, a handicap we don’t have nowadays when sometimes – as with Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson in 1974–75 – the bowling has looked to be more Bodyline-ish even than what Harold Larwood and Bill Voce served up in 1932–33. Wisdenhad caught up by 1934, when the new editor Sydney Southerton wrote a balanced and defining article condemning Bodyline.
Don Bradman remained the focal point of the Ashes story until his retirement in 1948. Soon after that came Johnston’s outburst at The Oval, when England beat a Donless Australia to win back the Ashes, starting a brief period of dominance that included Jim Laker’s astonishing 19-wicket haul at Old Trafford in 1956. And the Ashes survived the colourless 1960s and lived through the colourful ’70s, saw off the challenge of World Series Cricket, and established itself once again as cricket’s marquee series in 1981, with another epic rubber, this one dominated by Ian Botham.
Botham, now a knight of the realm as well as a blunt TV commentator, was a central figure in 1985 and 1986–87, too, before his mate Allan Border ushered in a period of Aussie supremacy in 1989. Border, Mark Taylor and Steve Waugh presided over eight successive series victories, which was either amazing or appalling, depending on which hemisphere you came from. By 2005, though, what people in England and Australia craved was an exciting series, to rekindle the Ashes. The essence of a decent rivalry is that both sides are in contention and that the matches are close, and successive series which were over by about halfway did not fit the bill. All but the most one-eyed of Australian fans wanted a good battle. And what transpired was better than anyone can have expected: Wisdenhad no hesitation in dubbing the 2005 Ashes the Greatest Test Series of all, and devoted a special section to it. But pride comes before a fall, they say, and the 2006–07 rematch – the last series covered in this book – was a contender for Worst Series. Good or bad, it all goes into the Ashes melting pot.
Collating all the material for this book has been a pleasure – and sometimes a bit of a pain. Some of the early reports were too long, while others were too short or almost non-existent: in 1885 the Editor apologised for not carrying much information on the previous year’s Ashes series, pointing out that full details had been printed in another book, “whereas no other annual has appeared. . . in which so much space is devoted to the leading Counties, the Universities, the Gentlemen of Philadelphia and the MCC.” The 2005 Editor fortunately chose not to follow this lead. Early on, it seems, time was – literally – of the essence: many reports carried exhaustive details of exactly when Dr Grace went in, or when Ulyett or Mr Murdoch or Briggs was out. For the sake of space – and readers’ attention spans – I had to remove some of this sort of thing, and also usually cut out details of who had been left out of a particular Test squad, unless it seemed of particular importance.
I tried wherever possible not to tinker with the wording of the pieces, preferring to retain the period feel of the language, but I have occasionally inserted the odd comma into pieces where they originally seem to have been mysteriously banned. The major changes have been in the length of some of the articles, especially the tour reviews, which have grown and grown over the years and these days often weigh in at around 5,000 words – too long for a work like this. I have tried to shorten them sympathetically, leaving in details of the important figures of each series. The same goes for match reports. If anyone feels deprived, or wishes to find out more about a specific tour, the unexpurgated reports and articles can be found in the Archive section of our website, www.wisden.com. STEVENLYNCH
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