Ranking England's Top 10 Ashes Heroes

Freddie Wilde@@fwildecricketContributor IOctober 30, 2013

Ranking England's Top 10 Ashes Heroes

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    England get underway on their tour of Australia tomorrow with their first warm-up match against a Western Australian Chairman's XI.

    With the Ashes Down Under looming, Bleacher Report has scoured the history books to uncover England's top 10 Ashes heroes.

    Let us know in the comments section if you think we've made any glaring omissions.

    Click Begin Slideshow to see who made the cut.  

10. Graeme Swann

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    Swann is open in his love for the Ashes and has claimed candidly that he believes it to be the pinnacle of any England player's career.

    The fact that he’s played in three series and won them all—and indeed taken 55 wickets in Ashes' series—might have something to do with this.

    Swann does appear to bring his best to the big occasion and has been integral to England’s victories in all three of the series he has appeared in. Taking the final wicket in England’s 2009 victory at the Oval will forever rank as one of his proudest moments. 

9. Douglas Jardine

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    Jardine was captain of England during the infamous "Bodyline" tour of Australia in 1933/34 that changed cricket forever.

    He instructed his bowlers to adopt a leg-side line and a short length with numerous fielders close catching on the leg side.

    The bowlers' aggression roughed up the Australian batsmen who could not cope with the unfamiliar tactics and struggled to score. England won the series and changed the game's tactics in the process.

8. Harold Larwood

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    Larwood was the chief practitioner of Jardine’s "bodyline" tactics and is widely regarded as one of the fastest bowlers ever to play Test cricket.

    He finished his career with 64 wickets in 15 Tests against Australia. 

7. Alastair Cook

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    There is only one place you can possibly start with this man and that is the 2010/11 series that saw Cook score 766 runs, including a series-defining double century in the first Test of the tour.

    Cook had been struggling prior to the series, but the trip Down Under saw a transformation in his concentration and hunger for runs.

    No score was enough, no milestone was satisfying and Cook’s individual belligerence was the defining image of England’s historic series victory that ended 24 years of pain in Australia. 

6. Ian Bell

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    Bell has now played in five Ashes series and won four; a staggering record for a man just 31 years of age and indeed one who will be competing in his sixth series this winter.

    However, until this summer—despite some impressive innings in isolation—you’d have been hard pressed to describe Bell as an Ashes hero.

    However, this year, in England’s 3-0 series victory, Bell scored 500 runs over the series, including three crucial centuries—each recorded when England most needed them.

    Some said this summer’s Ashes should be remembered as "Bell’s Ashes" and he’s not finished yet...

5. Michael Vaughan

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    Vaughan will, along with Flintoff, forever be an Ashes hero thanks to his skippering of the England side in the 2005 Ashes—generally thought of as the greatest series of all time.

    Vaughan also gave England fans many hours of joy in the dark years with his elegant batting against the likes of Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath, particularly in the 2002 series Down Under where he was the standout touring batsman.

4. Jim Laker

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    In 1956, at Old Trafford, Laker took 19 of the 20 Australian wickets—10 of them in the second innings.

    It's a feat that is never likely to be repeated.

    Laker went on to take 79 wickets against Australia in 15 Tests but will always be remembered for that performance at Old Trafford.

3. Kevin Pietersen

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    Pietersen will forever be regarded as an English Ashes hero following his staggering, match-winning, series-deciding 158 on the final day of the 2005 Ashes.

    Since then he has, however, played a number of superb innings and been involved, like Ian Bell, in four series victories. 

2. Andrew Flintoff

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    2005. The Greatest Series.

    Cometh the hour, cometh the Flintoff.

    Lion-hearted spells of ferocious fast bowling, superb catches and brilliantly belligerent batting made Flintoff the face of the 2005 Ashes.

    His over to Justin Langer and Ricky Ponting at Edgbaston is inscribed in English cricketing folklore, as is his one-armed century in the second innings, as is his 14-over spell in the final Test.

    He batted, he bowled, he caught. Flintoff was the nation’s hero. 

1. Ian Botham

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    England’s ultimate Ashes hero is Ian Botham.

    He is synonymous with the 1981 series in which he bowled and batted heroically, rescuing England on a number of occasions.

    His expansive hitting, fast bowling and colourful personality endeared him to the public and he, like Flintoff years later, became the face of a truly great British summer.

    An icon and a legend of British sport.