A brief history of the Ashes Part Five

England v Australia 1970 - 1989

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Flashpoint: Terry Jenner is struck by John Snow at the SCG © The Cricketer

Ray Illingworth led England to a remarkable Ashes success in a series of unprecedented length and bitter exchanges. Illingworth was only chosen when Colin Cowdrey pulled out injured, but he forged a closely-knit side. The tour started badly, and Alan Ward had to be replaced by Surrey's Bob Willis before the first Test. The first two Tests were drawn, and then Melbourne was washed out, leading to a seventh Test being added at the end of the tour. To placate the crowds, a one-dayer was arranged and more than 40,000 turned up to watch Australia win the game's first ODI. England took a vital lead at Sydney where Geoff Boycott (77 and 142*) laid the platform and then John Snow (7 for 40 in the second innings) sealed a 299-run win. The fifth Test was dull and marred by poor crowd behaviour, and while the sixth, which started three days later, was also drawn with Illingworth declining to enforce the follow-on on a pitch getting easier. Australia ditched Bill Lawry, their captain and leading batsman in the series, for the decider back at Melbourne, replacing him with Ian Chappell. Australia gained an 80-run lead but Snow was warned for short-pitched bowling after striking Terry Jenner on the head and resulting crowd trouble - Snow was grabbed by a spectator and bottles and cans thrown at him - led to Illingworth taking England from the field. They returned after warnings from officials, and a doughty second-innings performance left Australia needing 223 to win and retain the Ashes. Even though Snow was out of action after breaking a finger, only Keith Stackpole mastered a crumbling pitch and England won by 62 runs.
Tests Australia 0 England 2 Drawn 4
ODI Australia 1 England 0


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Illingworth and Chappell locked horns again and this series was every bit as entertaining, with fortunes ebbing and flowing throughout. Snow and an allround contribution from Tony Greig gave England an 89-run win at Old Trafford, but Lord's belonged to the seam of Bob Massie. He took 8 for 84 and 8 for 53 - 16 for 137 in all - on debut to bowl Australia level and they were in charge at Nottingham before running out of time as England reached 290 for 4 chasing 451. The pitch at Headingley left Australia deeply unhappy but it suited Derek Underwood down to the ground. The authorities claimed it was affected by a fungus, fusarium, the Australians suspected skullduggery. Underwood took 10 for 82 and Australia were bowled out for 146 and 136 and an innings loss inside three days. That meant England retained the Ashes, but Australia squared the series as they won the six-day Oval Test by five wickets, and Chappells Ian and Greg became the first brothers to score Test centuries in the same innings.
Tests England 2 Australia 2 Drawn 1
ODI England 2 Australia 1


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England arrived buoyed by a good summer against India and Pakistan, and blissfully ignorant about what awaited an old side which had already shown signs of unrest before leaving home. While there were rumours about Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson, the former was considered unlikely to play after a serious back injury and the latter dismissed as a beach bum. Within weeks it was clear that England's batting, already weakened by the self-imposed absence of Boycott, was not equal to the task. At Brisbane, Tony Greig made a classic hundred but Thomson announced his arrival with blistering pace and 6 for 46, as well as breaking the hands of Dennis Amiss and John Edrich, in a 166-run victory. England flew out the 42-year-old Cowdrey and threw him straight into action at Perth, but gutsy though he was, he could not prevent another rout and more injuries. The third Test was in complete contrast, a tense affair with all four innings within 10 runs of each other and Australia needing eight to win with two wickets in hand at the finish. The fourth Test made headlines before it started when Mike Denness, England's out-of-form captain, dropped himself and put Edrich in charge. The outcome was no different and Australia regained the Ashes with plenty to spare. England had Australia 84 for 5 in the fifth Test, but the tail wagged and then Lillee and Thomson (who missed the second innings) ran amok. The final Test gave England some consolation, although Thomson was absent and Lillee broke down early, and led by 188 from Denness, they won by an innings. The single ODI, played between the third and fourth Tests, was poorly attended with only 18,977 at the MCG.
Tests Australia 4 England 1 Drawn 1
ODI Australia 0 England 1


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Vandalism stops play at Headingley © The Cricketer

This four-match series was hastily arranged to follow the inaugural World Cup and to replace a long-since-scrapped South African visit. The opening Test seemed to herald more of the same from the previous winter, as Denness stuck Australia in, they made 359 and then the heavens opened and Lillee, Thomson and Max Walker proved devastating on a wet pitch. Denness quit, and was replaced by the popular and charismatic Greig, who made changes and instilled a new belief in his team. At Lord's it was the bespectacled and prematurely grey David Steele who epitomised the new grit. The third Test at Headingley was beautifully poised, with Australia on 220 for 3 needing 445 at the close on the fourth day. Overnight, protestors vandalised the pitch and the game had to be abandoned, although rain would have prevented play anyway. The final Test at The Oval was played over six days as the series was at stake, if not the Ashes, but it seemed it would not even reach a fifth when England followed on 341 behind after hundreds from Rick McCosker and Ian Chappell. But England batted almost 15 hours to save the game, including a valuable but painfully slow 149 from Bob Woolmer.
Tests England 0 Australia 1 Drawn 3


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A one-off Test at the MCG commemorated the first-ever Test exactly 100 years earlier. The Ashes were not at stake but this was nevertheless an epic match. By the tea on the second day few expected the game to last until tea-time on the fourth day when the Queen was scheduled to meet the teams. Australia made 128 and then bowled England out for 95. But Australia rallied, largely thanks to Rod Marsh's belligerent 110, to set England 453. David Hookes announced his arrival with five successive fours off Greig and McCosker hung around with great courage despite having his jaw shattered by Willis in the first innings. Derek Randall's 174 gave England hope but in the end Lillee, who took 11 for 165 was the difference as Australia won by 45 runs ... spookily exactly the same margin as had been the case a century earlier.
Tests Australia 1 England 0


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The whole summer was overshadowed by the Packer affair, news of which broke as the Australians arrived. It left the tourists a divided and unhappy side without the injured Lillee, while England, under Mike Brearley who replaced the sacked Greig, a Packer ringleader. After a rain-affected draw in the opening Test at Lord's, England went one-up at Old Trafford where Derek Underwood (6 for 66) ran through Australia's second innings despite a defiant hundred by Greg Chappell. At Trent Bridge, Boycott was recalled after a three-year absence and after running out local hero Derek Randall, he made amends with a typically dogged hundred as well as batting on all five days. England brought in Ian Botham for his debut and he made an immediate mark with a first-innings five-for, and a seven-wicket win put England two-up. Boycott again dominated at Headingley, making his 100th first-class hundred in front of his adoring home crowd in an innings win. The final Test at The Oval was marred by rain, but with World Series Cricket looming, international cricket was about to change forever. This was the first Test series in England to be sponsored.
Tests England 0 Australia 1 Drawn 3


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This series was played in direct competition to the unofficial WSC matches elsewhere in Australia and, while England lost a few regulars, Australia fielded what amounted to a third XI. The public responded to this, and emphatic defeats, by staying away in increasing numbers. Although England romped to a 5-1 win, the tour started less convincingly with some unimpressive performances, not least against South Australia when Rodney Hogg gave indications of what was to follow. He alone showed real class, and his 41 series wickets at 12.85 in a losing cause was remarkable. The opening Tests were hard fought, but Australia were not able to put enough runs on the board and lost both convincingly. Predictions of a whitewash ended when Hogg took 10 for 66 to send England to defeat at Melbourne. The series could have been squared at Sydney when Alan Hurst (5 for 28) helped Australia to a 142-run first-innings lead. But Brearley and an epic 150 from Randall tipped the balance, leaving Australia needing 205 in 265 minutes on a wearing track - they made 111. England scored a fourth win at Adelaide when Geoff Miller and Bob Taylor rescued their first innings and Australia's batting imploded, and the rout was completed with a nine-wicket win back at the SCG. It was not only the Australian players who were left traumatised. The board was wounded by poor attendances and declining interest, and it made the settlement with Packer inevitable.
Tests Australia 1 England 5 Drawn 1
ODI Australia 2 England 0


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Dennis Lillee argues with Mike Brearley over the legality of Lillee's aluminium bat © Getty Images

This was a hastily-arranged visit aimed to bolster the Australian board who were fence-mending after settling with Packer. Unlike previous visits, this was more about ODIs than Tests - a result of the TV terms required by packer's Channel 9 - and the tour was shared with West Indies. England griped about a number of regulations for the ODIs - not least about floodlights which were new to them - and this, and the refusal to put the Ashes up for grabs in a short series, led to them being unpopular from the off. Brearley, who grew an Ayatollah-style beard and epitomised the English establishment, was the target of much of the venom. An Australian side back to full strength was too much to handle and Lillee, Len Pascoe and Geoff Dymock provided a cutting edge England never mastered. The series started with controversy and tantrums when Lillee tried to use an aluminium bat at Perth, and the second started on a sodden pitch which both captains objected to, but the authorities leant on the officials to get underway. Chappell, who won the toss, shrugged as the coin landed and admitted that whoever called correctly would win the game. He was right. But luck had nothing to do with Australia's win in the final match. The series was also notable for the remarkable number of players who made nineties - Kim Hughes (99) Boycott (99*) David Gower (98*) Greg Chappell (98*) and Graham Gooch (99), of which Gooch, run-out going for his maiden hundred, was the most unlucky. The one-day matches were forgettable, although Brearley added to the opprobrium heaped on him by posting all 10 fielders on the boundary when West Indies needed three of the final ball at the MCG.
Tests Australia 3 England 0


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The great and the good gathered at Lord's for the Centenary Test, but the weather spoilt what could have been a tight game. The second and third days had little play but plenty of incident, and one of the umpires was manhandled in the pavilion as tempers flared on the Saturday when the restart was delayed despite glorious sunshine. Australia had a sniff of victory when England were struggling to avoid a follow-on on the fourth morning, but once that had been avoided, it was stalemate although England could have made more effort to chase on the last day. Kim Hughes took the plaudits for glorious strokeplay when making 117 and 84.
Tests England 0 Australia 0 Drawn 1


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1981 ... Ian Botham ... say no more © Getty Images

Botham's summer. That just about says it all. A remarkable series which contained quite a bit of unremarkable cricket but from the fourth day at Headingley onwards it gripped the English consciousness in a way not repeated until 2005. Australia won the opening Test at Trent Bridge amid much speculation over Ian Botham's future as captain, and after he collected a pair at Lord's he resigned (although as chief selector Alec Bedser told the media, he would have been sacked anyway). England sent for Brearley, but for the first three days at Headingley England were again on the rack and followed on. Then Botham smashed 149 not out, Bob Willis took 8 for 43 and somehow the series was level. At Edgbaston a low-scoring affair (Brearley top scored with 48) again looked to be going Australia's way until Botham grabbed 5 for 1 in 28 balls to secure a 29-run victory and set off wild celebrations. Old Trafford centred around Botham's brutal second-innings 118 was scored from only 102 balls, and despite making a valiant effort when chasing 506 to win, England took the series with a 103-run win. The drawn final game at The Oval was a rather anticlimactic end to the series. Terry Alderman and Lillee were the outstanding wicket-takers (42 and 39 wickets respectively), but Botham's allround efforts (399 runs and 34 wickets) were all the difference.
Tests England 3 Australia 1 Drawn 2
ODIs England 1 Australia 2


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England were without those players who toured South Africa the previous season, and of all of them Gooch was missed the most as a sound start eluded them almost throughout. Australia missed their two strike bowlers of 1981 - Lillee broke down in the first Test while Alderman was badly hurt trying to tackle a spectator during some ugly crowd scenes in the same match at Perth. England's hero from 18 months earlier, Botham, also had a poor summer. Australia were two-up after the third Test but England staged an unlikely comeback with a three-run win at Melbourne after Allan Border and Thomson had taken Australia to the brink. The Ashes returned to Australia when England turned down a stiff challenge of making 460 on the final day at Sydney. Geoff Lawson was the outstanding bowler of the series (34 at 20.20)
Tests Australia 2 England 1 Drawn 2


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Australia were an unhappy unit even before they lost three players - including Hughes and Alderman - who were axed after signing for a rebel tour of South Africa. Although most people only remember England's winning 3-1, the series could have gone either way. England took a lead with a five-wicket win at Leeds, set up by Tim Robinson's 175, but their Lord's voodoo continued as they lost there by four wickets. The third and fourth Tests were high-scoring draws which neither side looked like winning. The fifth appeared to be going much the same way when England only declared their first innings on the fourth afternoon, but by the close Richard Ellison had reduced a dumbfounded Australia to 37 for 5 and they slid to an innings loss on the final day. The series was decided at The Oval where Gooch (196) and Gower (157) batted them into submission - and another innings loss - on the first day.
Tests England 3 Australia 1 Drawn 2
ODIs England 1 Australia 2


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An England combination just about at their peak during this tour under Mike Gatting's captaincy in a high-scoring series where a few inspired bowling displays made the difference. Chris Broad scored three centuries for England while Botham blasted a rapid 138 in the first Test at the Gabba. The series was settled in the fourth Test at the MCG when Gladstone Small spearheaded an innings victory inside three days. Australia regained some respect in an exciting final Test on an SCG spinner's pitch.
Tests Australia 1 England 2 Drawn 2


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A one-off Test to celebrate Australia's bicentenary celebrations at Sydney was not for the Ashes. The match was memorable for Broad's tantrum when dismissed after a good hundred - he left the field to booing as a result of him demolishing his stumps with his bat - and an eight-hour 184 by David Boon which steered Australia to safety when they had been forced to follow-on.
Tests Australia 0 England 0 Drawn 1


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England were a mess but few expected Australia to inflict such a comprehensive defeat on them. Gower was appointed captain, and even then it was on the chairman's vote as Gatting was favoured by others, but from the off Australia were rampant. At Headingley they made 601 for 7 - they never scored under 400 in a first innings in any of the six Tests - and from then on it was slaughter. Geoff Marsh (442 runs) and Mark Taylor (839) were a formidable opening pair and Steve Waugh (506 at 126.50) dominated the middle order. With the ball, Alderman was back to his best with 41 wickets as if to underline how missed he had been in 1985; Neil Foster was the leading English bowler and with 12 wickets, the only one in double figures. England's selectors seemed as clueless as the team, and they used 29 different players during the series. As if things couldn't get worse, the announcement of a rebel English side to South Africa led by Gatting came during the fourth Test. England lost four matches heavily, and the two they drew they only did so with the help of the weather as they were outplayed in both of those. At Trent Bridge, Marsh and Taylor batted the whole first day on their way to an opening stand of 329. It showed a gulf between the sides that was to remain for almost a decade and a half.
Tests England 0 Australia 4 Drawn 2
ODIs England 1 Australia 1 Tied 1

Martin Williamson is managing editor of Cricinfo