Cow Corner

On This Day in 1921: Australia enjoy first Ashes whitewash

Cow Corner

View gallery


Warwick Armstrong of Australia

Australia became first nation to win the Ashes 5-0 on this day in 1921 in the first series to be played after an eight-year break due to the First World War.

The whitewash, which would not be repeated for another 86 years, was clinched with a nine-wicket victory over England in the fifth Test at Sydney.

The Australians, captained by Warwick Armstrong, easily routed a side that had been decimated by a war that claimed the lives of 166 English first-class cricketers.

The locals’ emphatic run of victories had also begun in Sydney, where in the first Test they beat England by 377 runs.

This was followed by a victory by an innings and 91 runs in Melbourne. At Adelaide, they won by 119 runs. And the return to Melbourne saw the hosts win by eight wickets.

In those days Brisbane and Perth were not yet Test venues, as they have both been since the 1970s, so Australia’s two biggest cities often each hosted two Tests.

A British Pathé newsreel - which declared that “England had more than their share of bad luck” but Australia “were the better side” – highlighted the final match.

England, led by fourth-choice captain Johnny Douglas, entered the packed Sydney Cricket Ground after choosing to bat first.

But they were demolished by a bowling tour-de-force that included pace pair Jack Gregory and Ted McDonald, googly specialist Arthur Mailey and all-rounder Armstrong, whose giant stature and toughness earned him the nickname “Big Ship”.

View gallery


Arthur Mailey of Australia

In bat, Australia were blessed with the big-hitters Warren Bardlsey, Herbie Collins and Charlie MacCartney. England had great names too in all-rounders Frank Woolley and Wilfred Rhodes, and batsmen Patsy Hendren and Jack Hobbs.

But they struggled to find enough top recruits to take on an young side that had been badly hit by the war, despite Australia’s tremendous general sacrifice.

The respected Wisden almanac commented that “English cricket had not had time to regain its pre-war standard” and blamed bowlers for the defeat.

The side had not improved much when Australia toured England for the follow-up Ashes tournament later that year.

The visitors won the first three Tests – giving them an unprecedented eight victories in a row – and drew the final two.

England regained their form in time for the 1926 Ashes and went on to retain them again two years later for the first time since 1912.

But thereafter – barring their controversial 1932 Bodyline Tour - they would lose to Australia and their formidable batsman Don Bradman in every Ashes series until 1953.

It was not until professionals were allowed to play for England that their fortunes began to turn around.

They narrowly outperformed Australia until 1989 when a new side – powered by batsmen like Steve Waugh and bowler Shane Warne – dominated for 13 years.

England finally won the Ashes again in 2005, but they would hold the tiny urn for only 15 months, the shortest period in history.

Australia, so far the only side to have completed a whitewash, beat their great rivals 5-0 again in 2006-2007.

England won three series on the trot after that – only to have their new-found fortune erased by another comprehensive drubbing in this year’s tournament.

Yet the two sides remain close in the overall standings, with Australia only marginally ahead with 32 series wins over 31 for England.

View gallery


View comments (1)