War of words: The Ashes sledges that became the stuff of legend

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By the PlayersVoice team

The Ashes has been one of the most fiercely fought rivalries in world sport for well over 100 years.

Back in the Bodyline series of 1932-33 England captain Douglas Jardine complained to Australian counterpart Bill Woodfull that Aussie players were swearing at him.

“Now which of you bastards called this bastard a bastard?” was Woodfull’s reply. It was always thus.

The Ashes is as much about the war of words as the war on the wickets.

we highlight the best of Ashes banter throughout history; the greatest sledges and most memorable quotes – some verified, some apocryphal, all legendary.


Warnie and Michael Clarke got the inspiration for one of the most famous sledges from Chris Owen’s character in US comedy flick American Pie, referring to Bell as “Sherminator” throughout the 2006-07 series.

Warne once asked Bell: “You don’t like being called the Sherminator do you?”

Bell replied: “I’ve been called worse.”

Shane Warne and Ian Bell has plenty of Ashes battles with one another.
Shane Warne and Ian Bell had plenty of Ashes battles throughout their careers. Pic: Getty

In 2013, Bell had gone from comedic character to Ashes match winner. “There is always the odd muttering of ‘Sherminator’,” Bell said. “But I’ve played Australia enough times to know that it’s not new. It’s been eight years since I first got that nickname from Shane Warne.

“As a group, Australian teams are going to come at you hard with the way they bowl, the way they dive around the field, their body language, everything.

“That Australia team I started against didn’t always just sledge you. What they did was put you under pressure and that’s what it’s all about.”


Warne was a master ‘chirper’ during his career, getting under his opponents’ skin and backing it up with his devastating bowling.

The members of England’s 2005 Ashes winning team were awarded MBEs, which Warne used to scratch away at Paul Collingwood. The Englishman’s sole contribution to the series victory was scoring 17 at The Oval.

When they met later Warne taunted him: “You’ve got an MBE, right? For scoring 17 at The Oval? That’s embarrassing.”

But it wasn’t just the Aussies who were dismayed at the honour. “I feel so bad about mine now I’m going to tie it around the cat” said Geoff Boycott.


Ormond was said to be a bit too fond of a smoke and few pints, and only played two Tests, including one in the 2001 Ashes where he was taunted by Mark Waugh.

“Mate, what are you doing out here? There’s no way you’re good enough to play for England,” said Waugh.

Ormond replied “Maybe not, but at least I’m the best player in my own family”.

Ormond finished with two Test wickets – those of Ricky Ponting and Rahul Dravid.


Botham gave as good as he got during his career. Once, when facing Rodney Hogg, the Aussie paceman stumbled and fell at Botham’s feet.

Botham said: “I know you think I’m great Hoggy, but no need to get down on your knees.”

Merv Hughes loved a fiery Ashes clash.
Merv Hughes was certainly no stranger to a bit of Ashes banter. Pic: Getty

Merv Hughes was Australia’s master sledger, but he recalls being put in his place at the Gabba after Botham smashed him for a record 22 runs off an over.

Hughes recalls approaching the allrounder after his brutal 138.

“‘You probably don’t remember me,’ I said to him. ‘But I was at a coaching clinic you did at Benalla when you played grade cricket here in the 1970s.’

“‘Did I give you any good advice?’ he asked. ‘I told you I wanted to be a fast bowler, but you said I should take up tennis or golf because they were more enjoyable and better paid.’ He got up to leave, turned to me and said, ‘You should have listened to me.”


Hughes decided to zero in on Hick, a Zimbabwe-born player who racked up some legendary county cricket scores before being brought into the England set up.

Most famously, he just ran up to Hick and growled in his face after dismissing him. More cleverly he once taunted him with “if you turn the bat over there’s instructions on the back.”

Hughes also tangled with Robin Smith.

Hughes: “You can’t f***ing bat.”

Smith, after hitting him for a boundary: “Hey Merv, we make a fine pair. I can’t f***ing bat and you can’t f***ing bowl.”


More sledge hammer than mere sledge, as Clarke boiled over at Anderson after some bitter banter in 2013.

Michael Clarke's infamous run-in with James Anderson.
Michael Clarke's run-in with James Anderson typified the bitter Ashes rivalry. Pic: Getty

“Face up then. Get ready for a broken f***en arm,’ said a riled up Clarke as Mitchell Johnson waited to bowl.

Later England spinner Graeme Swann managed to get a brutal dig in at Clarke as he recalled the incident.

“There was a minor furore about it at the time though I can bet you James would have forgotten about it within seconds.

“After all, we’re talking about easily the least intimidating of the Australians.”

Read the full PlayersVoice article here

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