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International Cricket: Ashes often at the centre of fabulous finales

England's one-run defeat by New Zealand in Wellington marked just the second time a Test match has been decided by the slenderest of margins.

Needing 258 to secure a 2-0 victory in the two-Test series, the tourists found themselves 80-5 before Joe Root and captain Ben Stokes put on a stand of 121, only for another collapse to ensue.

Number 11 James Anderson came to the crease at the Basin Reserve with his team needing seven for the victory and, after fending off a bouncer from Neil Wagner, he crashed the next ball for four.

After Jack Leach had survived an over from Tim Southee at the other end, Wagner eventually got his man in Anderson thanks to a sprawling catch by wicketkeeper Tom Blundell down the leg side.

Blundell's heroics handed the Black Caps the victory required to level the series at 1-1 and the 'Bash at the Basin' is already being written into cricketing history.

Test cricket may have its critics but there is still plenty to be said for the longest form of the game, with the length of matches arguably what gives it the most intrigue and excitement.

Edgbaston, 2005 - Harmison saves the day

It would be remiss to produce a list such as this and ignore the 2005 Ashes, a series that captured the nation and introduced cricket to a new audience.

Australia easily won the opening match at Lord's by 239 runs, but England levelled the series in nail-biting style at Edgbaston.

Set 282 to win, the tourists found themselves at 175-8, before Brett Lee and Shane Warne took up the challenge with the bat.

Warne went with his team 220-9 as Michael Kasprowicz came in and he and Lee moved to within three runs of a famous victory, only for the former to be caught by Geraint Jones off the bowling of Steve Harmison.

Harmison's wicket sealed a victory which levelled the series and arguably gave England the belief that they could lift the urn for the first time since 1986/87.

The following Test at Old Trafford also saw another strong batting display by Lee as he and Glenn McGrath secured a draw, but England went ahead a fortnight later at Trent Bridge.

That three-wicket success gave them a 2-1 lead heading into the final match at The Oval and, after a grinding four days in the capital, the final one was disrupted by bad light, resulting in a draw and a historic success for the hosts.

Adelaide, 1993 - Wonderful Walsh edges Windies home

The only other Test to be settled by a single run and the only one won by the team bowling second, came in Adelaide in 1993 as West Indies beat Australia.

The bowlers were on top throughout as the visitors made 252 all out in the first innings before Australia were all out for 213.

The Windies made just 146 second time around, leaving the Baggy Greens requiring just 186 to win, only to find themselves at 74-7.

However, debutant Justin Langer held firm before going for 54, with his team 144-,9 but numbers 10 and 11 Tim May and Craig McDermott put on 40 to take Australia to just two runs shy of victory, only for Courtney Walsh to have McDermott caught by keeper Junior Murray.

The one-run victory levelled the series at 1-1, before Curtly Ambrose’s 7-25 in the first innings of the decider in Perth was backed up by 6-40 from Ian Bishop to help the West Indies claim the Frank Worrell Trophy.

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Cardiff, 2009 - Monty the man for the great escape

After the excitement of 2005, the Ashes offered up more intrigue in 2009 with the first Test in Cardiff arguably the best of the bunch.

England opened the series with a respectable 435 all out, but Australia piled on the runs on a low and slow pitch as Simon Katich, Ricky Ponting, Marcus North and Brad Haddin all recorded centuries as the Baggy Greens eventually declared on 674-6.

Rain meant the draw was the best England could hope for as they resumed on the final day at 20-2 but a dismal showing saw them 102-5 at lunch and in big trouble.

Paul Collingwood displayed all the tenacity that characterised his career with 74 from 245, but even he must have had his doubts when he saw Monty Panesar pass him on the way to joining Anderson at the crease.

A classic number 11, Panesar's technique often bewildered both the leading coaches and the casual observer, but his unbeaten seven off 35, combined with Anderson's 21 from 53, allowed England to scrape a draw in unlikely circumstances.

Headingley, 2019 - Stokes takes over Botham's Headingley mantle

Headingley has become synonymous with the Ashes, with Yorkshire's cathedral of cricket providing some glorious moments for Test fans.

Mark Butcher's unbeaten 173 to steer England home in the fourth Test in 2001 was one of the great Ashes innings, but the all-rounders have often taken the headlines.

The 1981 series was renamed 'Botham's Ashes' in part due to Sir Ian's unbeaten 149 at Headingley, with the all-rounder having already taken 6-95 in the first innings, but arguably the most famous innings on the ground was produced by Stokes in 2019.

The now captain had taken 3-56 in Australia's second innings but that still left England, who were reduced to 67 all out first time around, chasing their highest-ever run target in Tests of 358.

After starting a glorious day four on 156-3, the first 25 balls were dots, but Jonny Bairstow's dismissal at 245-5 seemed to signal the end as Jos Buttler, Chris Woakes and Stuart Broad made two runs between them.

However, with the ever-stubborn Leach happy to hold up his end, Stokes combined brilliant shotmaking with clever rotating of the strike.

He and Leach rode their luck at times, but their fortitude was rewarded as Stokes' 135 not out, which he rounded off by thwacking a fabulous four, and Leach's solitary single saw England to a one-wicket victory and guaranteed a good evening for all.

That series ended in a draw and Stokes will hope to inspire his side again in this summer's Ashes Series 2023.

England are 10/11 To Win Outright, with the Draw 6/1 and Australia, who won the last series Down Under 4-0, 6/4.

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