Graham Dilley 1959-2011 October 6, 2011

Dilley 'an unsung hero' - Border


Allan Border has described Graham Dilley as "one of the good guys" and a forgotten hero of England's 1981 Ashes triumph at Headingley. In a ten-year period Border played 12 Tests against Dilley, who has died at the age of 52, and whose pace and swing, Border said, made him a key man for England during the 1980s.

But it was for his batting in Leeds in 1981 that the Australians most remember Dilley. During one of the all-time great Test matches, Dilley and Ian Botham put together a 117-run partnership for the eighth wicket that gave England the lead after they followed on, and Bob Willis then demolished Australia as they chased 130.

"He's an unsung hero in the 'Botham Ashes', because without him at the other end, Australia [would have won] that game and Botham's heroics [gone] unnoticed, and history [been changed] changed subtly," Border told ESPNcricinfo. "He doesn't get the accolades, but Graham Dilley in that Headingley Test match was a big part of England getting the lead and Botham's heroics. I often said to him, 'You should cop more of the raps, mate!'

"He was a good quality fast bowler, swung the ball away and had real genuine pace. In the mid '80s he was at his best, although I played against him earlier than that, when he was a young tearaway with excellent pace.

"He was very easygoing - not your typical meathead fast bowler. He was a good man to sit down and have a drink with, and a very good competitor. I always enjoyed the contests and then the after-match, sitting down and reflecting on things over a beer. He was one of the good guys."

Against Australia, Dilley took 41 Test wickets at 32.90, and only the offspinner John Emburey claimed more victims for England during the 1986-87 Ashes, when Mike Gatting led his side to victory away from home. The leading run-scorer during that series was Dean Jones, who said Dilley was as quick as most bowlers of the current era.

"He was a quiet fella, but bowled good heat," Jones said. "He was underrated as a bowler at that time. In '86 with Gatting's team he had the new nut and was pretty well supported by Phil DeFreitas and Co, and Gladstone Small, but Dilley was the first guy to worry you. There are not too many guys who are quicker than him going around even now. But you wouldn't hear a bad word against him."

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Sameer on October 7, 2011, 11:30 GMT

    I saw him in 1981-82 tour of India at Nagpur in a first class game.He was very fast. I still remember his unusual action where he almost stopped at delivery stride. RIP Graham

  • Sameer on October 7, 2011, 11:25 GMT

    I saw him in 1981-82 tour of India at Nagpur in a first class game.He was very fast. I still remember his unusual action where he almost stopped at delivery stride. RIP Graham

  • Dummy4 on October 7, 2011, 9:52 GMT

    I will never forget the 1981-82 ashes series in england. In one of the tests in that series, Dilley stood bravely against Lillie, Alderman and other Aussie quickies and helped Ian Botham in the second innings, though england was trailing in the first innings, to take lead against Australia and ultimately beat the Aussies by just 18 runs. Another unforgettable thing about Dilley - from BBC radio commentary by the Veteran Brian Johnston - Lillie (c) Willey (b) Dilley. RIP

  • karthik on October 7, 2011, 7:14 GMT

    I remember watching the 86/87 ashes series videos and wondering how a bowler with that kind of an action could actually get the ball to the batsmen. Loved his outswinger, tried in vain to achieve that kind of swing by copying his action, but never could! Neil foster and dilley were probably the only bowlers who could swing the ball so late back then. thanks for the memories graham. RIP

  • Kunal on October 7, 2011, 0:27 GMT

    Loved that final-lift of Dilley's left leg to complete the action. Probably, only Geoff Lawson had a more pronounced stride. Don't see such variety in bowling actions these days, and still bowlers get injured.

  • Chris on October 7, 2011, 0:17 GMT

    RIP Dilley. As an Aussie growing up in the late 80s we didnt have much success and it was partly due to this man. Great bowler and I always remember my mum commenting how dirty his whites always were from shining the ball, a habbit i still do to this day, it annoys my wife as much as it did my mum..Thanks for the memories Graham, hope they have you bowling downhill with the wind where ever you end up...

  • david on October 6, 2011, 15:53 GMT

    in the sydney test of 87. england had dean jones caught down the leg side on single figures and he went to score 170 or so . i think if memory serves me right dilly was the bowler. i was with a tour party and on speaking to john emburey the folloing night dean jones had said that he had touched it, so graham u should have had another test wicket mate lol. mind it was aussie umpires in those days. sad day for cricket. dpk

  • Clive on October 6, 2011, 12:47 GMT

    Worth adding that he took 36 wickets at 28.77 in 11 matches against the mighty West Indies side. None of those matches were in the "blackwash" 0-5, 0-5 series in 1984 and 1985. If he had played in them, the scoreline might have been a little less one-sided.

  • Dummy4 on October 6, 2011, 12:37 GMT

    Good bowler this Dilley. Remember that he was fast, had a long stride, very distinct run up and lastly never remember him "sledging" anyone...RIP

  • Alan on October 6, 2011, 11:56 GMT

    Some fine words from Border, showing not for the first time that he has plenty of other sides to his character besides the old "Captain Grumpy" image. Dilley (rather like Border and Jones themselves) tended to do well in England-Australia tests. Fitting that both Dilley's first test (in 1979-80) and his last one (1989) were both against Australia.

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