Filling in a quick fifteen or so minutes in my lunchbreak I thought I’d take myself away from the personal appearances and instead look back at my favourite TV watching experience of the Ashes; 1985.
It wasn’t really a vintage series. You got the impression that England were far stronger in all departments, but like so many Aussie teams, we couldn’t nail them. That was until an amazing spell by Richard Ellison at Edgbaston, but more of that later.
I was a schoolboy cricketer at the time, going up from year-based cricket to the 1st and 2nd XI structure at my school. The 2nd ODI coincided with the only time I ever carried my bat in a cricket match (11 not out out of 36) for which honour I was dropped from the team a fortnight later. I have not changed much and had an almighty strop and told them where they could poke their bloody cricket (I played one more game, where I batted 10 to come in the last two overs to save the game. OK, but the number 9 was the kid who batted 11 for our year team and was awful as a batsman. The explosion after that…) I digress. I became our 1st XI scorer (and going on to score for England Schools) and this meant sitting in the scorebox listening to TMS while scoring our matches in the early part of the tour. Most notably the 1st Test at Headingley.
Now 1985 made me fall for Tim Robinson as a player. Sorry, but I was never a Foxy Fowler fan, and despite making 201 in Madras (as it was known then) two tests before the Headingley test, someone had to make way for Graham Gooch. It was Fowler, and Robinson made sure that this would last at least until the West Indies quicks dismantled him the following winter. England also brought back John Emburey, to replace venerable Pat Pocock. A winning team dropping players for those who put personal gain over their country…. let that statement stand.
Headingley memories are a headline after day 1 that said “Hilditch Carts The Rubbish”. England would have the last laugh over Andy, but he made an excellent first day hundred, but we still managed to eke out wickets. Australia’s innings fell away a little, making 331. I particularly liked Greg Ritchie’s batting and thought he was one for the future, but he didn’t really go on. Simon O’Donnell had made a century against the MCC (captained, I think, by Lord HawHaw Nicholas) but copped a first baller from Botham (LBW). England’s reply was interrupted by rain on the second day, but there had been a recovery after we lost Gooch (LBW) and Gower (caught behind) off new Aussie quick Craig McDermott. Gatting and Robinson put on a hundred, Lamb came in and made 38, and then into the bear pit came Ian Botham, with bright highlights in his mullet and a bad attitude. The great memory was him plonking Jeff Thomson into the stands for 6 and Thommo giving the ubiquitous salute to the Western Terrace! Robinson carried on and on, Emburey cracked a square cut that Richie Benaud thought was one of the hardest hit fours he’d ever seen, and even everyone’s favourite MD of England Cricket managed an aplomb-filled half century. Robinson, in his first test innings in England, made 175. England had a lead of 202.
I remember it being quite attritional getting the wickets on the Monday, but we had 5 down by the end of play, with David Boon and Wayne Phillips likely to stand in our way. Hilditch and Wessles put on over a hundred for the second wicket, but I was in the middle of exams so don’t think I got to watch much of it! I do remember watching Phillips go on to 91 and looking mightily impressive in doing so. Aussie made 324, with Emburey taking five wickets, and England wobbled in getting the runs. The match finished in farce when a steepling hook from Lamb was heading down Geoff Lawson’s throat, except he was surrounded by loads of fans running onto the pitch and had no chance. In modern day cricket this is never going to happen, and I could imagine the po-faced reaction to it if it did, but I don’t know, it was funny at the time. England had won by five wickets and were 1-0 up in the series.
The second test at Lord’s had a lot to live up to. The first day of the game coincided with a school cricket match to score, and I listened all day as England continuously lost wickets, making 290. Craig McDermott took 6 more English wickets, with Gower top scoring with 86. Did Gatting get out padding up? I seem to recall he might have…. Australia saw 290 and thought they were in with a shout. They were quickly 24 for 2 and 80 for 3, then 101 for 4 and it was game on. However, one of those wickets wasn’t Allan Border, and in that summer, the Aussies were not dead until Border was killed off. There was the infamous Gatting “catch that wasn’t” when Border was in his 80s I believe, but in alliance with Greg Ritchie, Border took Australia past the England score. Ritchie made 94, O’Donnell 48 and the captain a mighty 196. Australia were dismissed just before the end of day 3 for 425, and then made immediate inroads into the England team by dismissing both openers so that England finished the day 37/2 and had two night-watchment batting. They both went rapidly on day 4, and but for a partnership between Mike Gatting (75 not out) and Ian Botham (85 – batting at 8!) England would possibly have lost more comfortably. Nice to see our MD make a nice round one with aplomb – a first baller to Bob Holland who took 5 for 68.
Australia wobbled in getting the 127 needed, and if we’d have got Border early, we might have won. At 65 for 6, memories of 1981 were being invoked, but Border was still there, and Wayne Phillips made a 32 ball 29 to take his team to the brink of victory. This was an innings that caused Richie Benaud to say “word goes around that Wayne Phillips doesn’t know what a crisis is”. O’Donnell smacked the winning runs, and Australia’s choke-hold of Lord’s remained.
I’ll come back to this series as breakt-time is over. Any thoughts from you lot on this first part of the series?