England have won the 2013 Ashes, but this series has seen several individual performances and team efforts worthy of their place in the history books.
Australia have their fair share of entries on this list as well, and they'll be glad to know that despite a miserable run in the series, they avoided the worst losing streak in their history. Defeats at Trent Bridge and Lord's, in addition to a 4-0 crushing at the hands of India earlier in the year, meant they'd lost six Tests on the spin this year. However, a draw at Old Trafford prevented a record-equalling seventh.
That's enough about the records which have been broken—let's focus on the ones which have been set.
Ashton Agar was an unknown when he got a shock call-up to the Australia squad for the first Test at Trent Bridge.
That changed when he strode out to bat for the first time for his country.
With his side on their knees, Agar played freely and fluently, scoring 98. Never has a No. 11 in the history of the game—over 136 years and more than 2000 Tests—managed more from that position.
Not bad for a teenage debutant—and no surprise that he moved up to No. 8 in the very next innings.
Read more on that record in the Daily Telegraph.
England's victory over Australia at Trent Bridge was wafer-thin, but their triumph the next week at Lord's arrived by a landslide.
Winning by 347 runs meant that they recorded their largest victory in a home Ashes Test in history.
To quote the Metro:
The crushing win is the biggest ever in a home Ashes Test for England in terms of runs scored, beating the 289-run margin they secured at The Oval in 1926. It’s also the first time since 1928 they’ve won four successive Ashes Tests.
After winning at Trent Bridge in five days and Lord's in four, the draw in the third Test meant England had retained the Ashes.
That in itself was a record for the hosts, who had never ensured they kept the urn so quickly.
As journalist Derek Pringle noted, though, Australia have historically done it faster:
This time it took England 14 days to keep possession of the Ashes, the fewest ever needed at home in the era of five-day Tests.
[...] Two Australian teams of recent vintage managed to retain the Ashes in 11 and 13 days, in 2001 and 2002-03, but those contained several all-time greats of the game.
Chris Rogers was a shock pick for the Australia squad, but justified his selection at Durham in the fourth Test with a thrilling debut Test century.
Cricinfo report that just one other Australian has ever scored his first Test century at an older age—and that was 87 years ago:
Chris Rogers became the second oldest Australia batsman after Arthur Richardson to hit a maiden century, at 35 years and 344 days. Arthur Richardson was 37 years and 351 days old when he hit his first and the only century of his career, in the Ashes Test at Leeds in 1926.
Ian Bell's three centuries in the first four Tests of the series put him in a group of just three England batsmen to have scored three tons in a home Ashes.
According to the Guardian, only Maurice Leyland in 1934 and David Gower in 1985 have also managed the feat.
By reaching a 20th Test century at Chester-le-Street, Bell also joined a group of just nine England batsmen who had hit 20 centuries or more, and meant that England had statistically one of their strongest Ashes XIs of all time:
This is the first time ever that an England Test side has included 3 men with at least 20 centuries & 3 men with at least 200 wickets #Ashes— Freddie Wilde (@fwildecricket) August 12, 2013
(The centurions in that list are Alastair Cook, Kevin Pietersen and Bell, the bowlers are James Anderson, Graeme Swann and Stuart Broad.)
Wicketkeeper Brad Haddin, recalled by Australia for this series after a lengthy absence from the side, has become a record-breaker, eclipsing countryman Rod Marsh's previous record of 28 catches in a series, set back in 1982/3.
Haddin's tour has been quietly effective, with a couple of feisty contributions with the bat, but it was in the field that he was most important, his grab of an edge from Joe Root in the second innings at The Oval his 29th of the series.
As England went off in pursuit of 227 to win the fifth Test, Kevin Pietersen rose to the occasion with a 36-ball fifty. It was England's fastest half-century in Ashes history, one delivery quicker than Matthew Prior had managed four years ago.
As KP reached the landmark, The Oval crowd roared one in anticipation of one final series record being broken—that of England's first 4-0 victory in an Ashes.
Kevin Pietersen's 50 off 36 balls is now the fastest #Ashes fifty for England, passing Matt Prior (37 balls at Lord’s in 2009)— BBC TMS (@bbctms) August 25, 2013
Bad light had the final say on the fifth Test of the series at The Oval, the umpires forced to call the game off as the clock ticked ever closer to 8 p.m. in London, and left the overall result a 3-0 victory to England.
But there was still time for a record to be set—that of the most runs scored on day five of an Ashes Test match.
Result or not, it was coruscating stuff, with 447 runs scored in the day, and 17 wickets falling to boot. Had a further 13 runs been scored, as they surely would have been if the light had held that little bit longer, it would have eclipsed even Australia and New Zealand's 459-run day five, set back in Brisbane in 2001, but it was still an Ashes record.
For more top scores in a single day's play, Cricinfo has a table of the records.