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Terry Alderman talks to Andrew Miller
June 1, 2005
Terry Alderman is the undisputed king of the Ashes swingers. In 17 Tests against England he took exactly 100 wickets, including a phenomenal 83 on his two tours of England in 1981 and in 1989. On the second occasion he was instrumental in Australia establishing a grip on the Ashes that they have yet to relinquish. He is returning to England this month to promote the NatWest Series and NatWest Challenge for Sky Sports, who are screening both tournaments exclusively live.
You must be looking forward to getting back to England, the spiritual home of the swing bowler.
Yeah, somehow English conditions seemed to be made for me. In 1980, the year before my Test debut, I went up to play for Watsonians in Edinburgh, where I found out that that make of cricket ball, on those sorts of wickets, did all sorts for me.
You were a consistent success on both your England tours, in 1981 and 1989, but the memories must be hugely contrasting.
Oh yeah, I've still got the scars of 1981. Dennis [Lillee] and myself took 81 wickets between us in that series - he took 39, I took 42 - and yet we still lost the series 3-1. But we exacted our revenge alright, eight years later.
That 1989 series, of course, was epitomised by your remarkable success against Graham Gooch.
Well, I'd played against him a few times and by 1989 we'd developed this tactic of placing a man in short at midwicket. He used to drive me a lot, but we figured this might make him think about it twice, and that's exactly what happened. He played across the line and I got him lbw a couple of times, and then he popped a catch up to that very man at midwicket. After that he took a Test or two off to work on his game, but when he came back I still got him with a return catch. So yeah, I probably had the wood over him in that series, but he had some success against me at county level.
Does it surprise you that genuine swing bowlers are such a rare breed these days?
It is a dying art, that's for sure. There aren't too many playing Sheffield Shield cricket and there are very few coming through either. It's a shame, because if you put a man like Chaminda Vaas on a good wicket and with a ball that swings, the batsman's technique has got to be pretty perfect to overcome one of his good tight spells. Personally, my trick was that I bowled stump-to-stump, so if they missed I had a chance of an lbw. But it is a dying art. The best of Australia's recent crop was Damien Fleming, but he had a chronic shoulder problem and couldn't get the pace that he wanted out of it. He's now gone into coaching.
In 1989, Allan Border was driven by a singular urge to win back the Ashes.
Yeah, AB was our 'Captain Grumpy', and he was well-nicknamed, because he had openly admitted he didn't want the job. But he grew into the role alright, and the two captains that followed him, Mark Taylor and Steve Waugh, definitely took on board elements of what AB had taught them. I imagine the same goes for Ponting, although I've never played with him, so I wouldn't know.
Was that tour the true start of Australia's professional era?
Not really, because we were still only halfway to the professionalism that this team has reached now. We still celebrated hard and fast, whereas the blokes don't do that this days because they can't afford to. We enjoyed ourselves much more on the 1989 tour than they will on the 2005 tour. That is a fact of life. Sixteen years ago, we toured with a scorer, a physio, a coach and a manager. These days there is an entourage of 13 or 14 people. It's a lot more professional, but if you talk to AB the thrill on the `89 tour was incredible. We had such a camaraderie going. We toured around on a bus the whole time, and we were on a winning run the whole way. We didn't lose a single Test, and but for two terrible washouts we might have won 6-0.
Australia just might be caught out if they try to play like millionaires
Your two tours were eight years apart. Incredibly, the same can be said of Australia's attack, which looks like being identical to the 1997 line-up of McGrath, Warne, Gillespie and Kasprowicz.
On the one hand it's a tribute to their fitness, but on the other, you have to hand it to the selectors, because they have got Brett Lee on the sidelines and chomping at the bit. If the Test was being played tomorrow, he wouldn't be in the squad. They've left him like a caged lion and will let him loose in the one-dayers, where poor old Bangladesh and the English are going to cop it. He wants to play in the first Test, and the only way he can do that is by knocking a few heads and having a terrific series.
So far this summer, it's not been raw pace but swing - and Bangladesh's inability to play it - that has been the talking point. What have you made of Matthew Hoggard?
Hoggard is your typical old English workhorse, another of those guys like Gus Fraser, Mike Hendrick and Geoff Arnold who will keep running in all day. But he's penetrative as well. He'll get some wickets but he'll keep it tight as well and Australia aren't used to that - they are used to one or two loose balls an over. If England have got him bowling a 10- or 12-over spell, with Flintoff and Harmison operating on a five or six-over change at other end, plus the fourth seamer, Jones or Anderson, it's a pretty good attack. That's discarding Giles. He's not going to run through Australia. But the pacers could, and Australia will be under real pressure if they lose early wickets. There's still a bit of doubt over the fitness of both Flintoff and Harmison though.
And what about Harmison? Is he up to the challenge?
I saw a bit of him in South Africa and I was impressed, I must say. He wasn't fit towards the end and he struggled, but in Australia three winters back he was homesick all the time and didn't want to play. I can't imagine a person like Troy Cooley can have managed to turn him around, I reckon it's more likely to have been Rod Marsh who's done the work, got his mind back on the job and made him tougher.
What do the Aussies make of Marsh and Co. being in the England camp for this series?
I guess we beat our chests a bit and claim that England need our coaches to become competitive again. But there's been no harm done at all, and I imagine that with all those Australians on the county circuit as well, they've toughened up a lot of county sides too.
Michael Vaughan is taking a tough approach to this summer, much like Border in '89, in fact. Do you think it's working?
Vaughan is the key. He's done it before against Australia, and his aim is to get back to the form he showed at Edgbaston in the Champions' Trophy last summer. The way he took to Lee in that game was brilliant - no slogging at all, but he simply murdered him, and none of the bowlers knew where to bowl. He's the captain, so if he can get to that frame of mind again, then England will be a threat.
After such a long history of success, do you think Australia might just fear the end of the line?
I certainly hope they aren't complacent, because they just might be caught out if they try to play like millionaires. They haven't had a lot of cricket under their belts leading up to this tour, and guys like Justin Langer who aren't in the one-day squad will only get a couple of hits before the first Test. They can't afford to be complacent, but if things get tough, it might just sow a few seeds with the blokes who are contemplating retirement soon. Their bodies might not hold up and they might be caught short. But on the other hand, if Australia get away to a good start then England have got no chance. They have got to be competitive in that first Test at Lord's or else it's goodnight.
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