June 26, 2013

The ghosts of '89

Australia's triumph in the 1989 Ashes is a cautionary tale for those who think England barely need to lift a finger to retain the urn
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Arguably England's greatest triumph of the 2005 Ashes did not come in victory. "Look over there," said Michael Vaughan at the end of the Old Trafford Test. "Australia are celebrating a draw. Just think what that means."

In a sense, Australia's 16 years of Ashes hegemony were bookended by the celebration of a draw. When Australia went to lunch on the final day of the first Test in 1989, they were thrilled. "As our meals were being served we were cock-a-hoop," wrote Ian Healy in his autobiography, "because we knew we couldn't lose." Australia may have been cock-a-hoop, but they certainly were not the cock of the walk. "Under the Southern Cross" was sung around once a year, not after every match. "We weren't used to winning," said Healy, "or even having a significant advantage in Test matches."

They soon would be. The story of their 4-0 victory in the 1989 Ashes, and how it changed Australian cricket at a stroke, is so well known that it might be on the syllabus. The precedent acts as a cautionary tale for those who think England barely need to dot i's and cross t's to retain the Ashes, yet there are probably more differences than similarities in Australia's build-up to the two series.

Despite some on-field struggles before the Test series in 1989, their world was far more stable: no coaches were sacked or players banned in the making of that Ashes triumph. Nobody predicted an England whitewash. But the odds on an Australia win at Trent Bridge in a fortnight are the same as they were for the first Test in 1989: 11-4. They were emphatic outsiders.

Allan Border's team was famously described as "the worst team ever to leave Australia" when they embarked on the Ashes tour. They were not so much written off as never written on in the first place. Australia had lost three of the last four Ashes, and had managed just one series win in the five and a half years since the simultaneous retirements of Greg Chappell, Rodney Marsh, and Dennis Lillee. The World Cup win in 1987 had not changed their Test form. "I would love the day I was part of a side that was really competitive," said Border, "and I could make captaincy decisions that were really positive."

England's record was just as bad as Australia's - they had won only one of the last 19 Tests - yet there was a widespread assumption that everything would be all right on the night. The reasons were threefold: their excellent Ashes record in the 1980s, the planned return of stars like Mike Gatting and Ian Botham, and particularly the feel-good vibes of the new regime of David Gower and Ted Dexter. "We don't intend to be second to anyone in any department," said Dexter. England fell in love with Gower all over again. He was the subject of various glossy feature interviews, and even adorned the cover of GQ, wearing a white shirt, black tie, and seductive half-smile.

Gower's face was instantly recognisable; that was not the case with many in the Australian squad, which included only four players who had toured England before. When the team arrived, and Border was asked to introduce them to the press, he told the players to come out one by one. "Do it that way," he joked, "and hopefully I might recognise you."

Jeff Thomson put his own spin on the Castlemaine XXXX slogan that was so popular in 1989. "I wouldn't," he said, "give you a XXXX for Australia's chances of regaining the Ashes." Australia won a Test for every X

The tour did not start auspiciously. After a couple of gentle warm-ups at Dartmouth and Arundel, Australia lost their first significant fixture, a one-day match against Sussex, with Dean Jones breaking his cheekbone. Later that week they were beaten in the first first-class match of the tour. County champions Worcestershire won inside two days on a dreadful wicket at New Road, with the England hopeful Phil Newport taking 11 wickets.

To compound Australia's misery, Botham's scores of 39 and 42 were decisive in a low-scoring dogfight that Worcester won by three wickets. "BEEFY BASHES THE AUSSIES!" screamed the Daily Mirror headline. Worcestershire had been thrashed earlier in the week by the Combined Universities. By playground logic, Australia were worse than a bunch of students.

The perception was that they sulked like a bunch of children when they refused to play an impromptu one-day game against Worcestershire the following day. That was a little harsh - Australia cited their unhappiness with a pitch that was not just dodgy but dangerous - and it turned out to be just about the only bad press they got all summer. They are remembered for their granite-nosed attitude on the field, and Border's distaste for tea parties. Yet they were quite the opposite off the field. "The players are polite, approachable and socially restrained," wrote Alan Lee in the Times. "Australia may not be quite good enough to win this series but I believe they will compete to the end. I am also convinced that, win or lose, they will go home a popular side."

The English media were generally very respectful towards Australia before the series. They were certainly not the laughing stock that the current team have become on social media. They were generally recognised as an enthusiastic, slowly improving side. But almost everybody expected them to lose. On the morning of the first Test, the former England wicketkeeper Bob Taylor graded both sides' 12-man squads for the Mirror. His verdict was England 101-96 Australia.

The Aussies were perceived as a side that would get runs but not wickets. Henry Blofeld, in the Cricketer, suggested they would struggle to bowl out England in any of the six Tests. As it transpired, Terry Alderman took enough wickets to win two Tests on his own: he ended with 41 in six games, and "lbw b Alderman" was trending all summer.

The two batsmen who would score the most runs for Australia went into the series battling considerable insecurity. Mark Taylor had played just two Tests and suffered a dreadful start to the tour. Healy recalls Taylor telling a few team-mates over a drink: "I don't think I'm good enough to get runs at this level." Steve Waugh had played 26 Tests without making a century. "The insecurity and self-doubt I was carrying had accumulated to such an extent," he wrote in his autobiography, "that getting a century wasn't a target but a barrier."

Even Lillee and Jeff Thomson backed England, an occurrence that made Halley's Comet seem everyday by comparison. "It will be a close series but I think England will win it 1-0," said Lillee. "They are always hard to beat on their own dungheap." Thomson put his own spin on the Castlemaine XXXX slogan that was so popular in 1989. "I wouldn't," he said, "give you a XXXX for Australia's chances of regaining the Ashes."

Australia won a Test for every X. With hindsight, the remarkable thing is not that they triumphed 4-0, but that it was only 4-0: without rain, it would almost certainly have been 6-0. The only contest that England won was musical chairs: they notoriously picked 29 players to Australia's 12 in the series.

Before that Ashes, Australia had won one series and lost seven under Border. For the rest of his tenure they won eight and lost two. And then they got even better under Mark Taylor. Steve Waugh's explanation of his own breakthrough in 1989 might also apply to the team. "How did it all turn around?" he wrote. "I don't really have an answer; perhaps it was just meant to be."

Against that, Healy argues that there was no great mystery: a group of players - Taylor, Boon, Jones, Waugh, Healy, and Hughes - matured into high-class Test cricketers around the same time, and that green-and-golden generation were supported by the brilliance of the returning Alderman. Then there is victory's happy habit of perpetuating itself, especially in Australian sport. "With hindsight," says Healy, "the speed of our ascendancy and the extent of our Ashes triumph is not so surprising."

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • on June 26, 2013, 7:16 GMT

    The '89 series was a precautionary tale however drawing too many parallels between the situation then and the present day might be a bit of a stretch. However one sentence really stood out for me - "a group of players - Taylor, Boon, Jones, Waugh, Healy, and Hughes - matured into high-class Test cricketers around the same time". This could very well be the time that one or all of the cadre of young batsmen - Smith, Hughes, Khawaja and Wade - live up to their full potential and assure themselves of a Test berth for the next decade.

  • Donsshaddow on June 26, 2013, 5:24 GMT

    Out of the 'Ashes' the phoenix rises. Australia, though low on confidence, can fight back and spring a few surprises. They're a side that, not too long ago, was inches away from grabbing #1 rank from South Africa. Though England are a strong side and are in good form, they will know, more than most, not to underestimate the Aussies. Rob's article proves that the Aussies only need to reflect on their cricketing history to get inspired once again.

  • BlueyCollar on June 29, 2013, 22:21 GMT

    Buckets of runs in the Shield season used to be a prerequisite for a baggy green. Did anyone notice Ponting's 2012/'13 Shield season?

  • it_happened_last_in_2001. on June 28, 2013, 11:33 GMT

    If there are hopeful Australians anticipating a repeat of 1989, I'd suggest a quick look in the results archive to see who actually played for England in the 1st test in '89. Neil Foster, Phil Newport & Derek Pringle to name but a few. The English team of 2013 is almost as superior from their predecessors as Border's team of '89 is over this years tourists. A simple look at the teams for this years contest indicate a comfortable series win to England. 4 - 0

  • on June 28, 2013, 10:06 GMT

    Great piece Rob. This Australian team has potential and may now become unified in the face of adversity. The England team is strong but has a tendency to become complacent, and just one bad result would see the media howling in outrage and demanding changes. It will be closer than many think.

  • cloudmess on June 27, 2013, 12:59 GMT

    One telling difference between the sides could be that both have recently had a steady, methodical opening batsman averaging in the low 30s - and England have been able to drop theirs.

  • cloudmess on June 27, 2013, 12:40 GMT

    The '89 series was the first I ever followed - as good an introduction as any to the agonies of English cricket. But it also demonstrated a changing culture around the game. Australia were essentially a team for the future: hard-working, focused, determined and scientific in their approach (they had well-laid plans for each of England's batsmen). England's approach, by contrast, belonged the past, with selection, training and preparation little different to what they had been in Edwardian times. I agree with those who seek to defend Gower's late career - he was still a quality batsman at test level well into the 1990s, and should have played much more. But he was a poor captain, with an old-fashioned and amateurish approach, unwilling either to man-manage or motivate his players. A repeat of 1989 is unlikely, but beware: as Beefy Botham once said, you can pitch up on any Australian beach with a cricket ball, and the locals will still give you a contest.

  • liz1558 on June 27, 2013, 11:42 GMT

    @george204 - agreed that Gower ought to have made 10,000 runs. But I agree with Clive Lloyd's assessment: right man, wrong body language. The language he spoke? fluent Insouciance. In the end Gooch was right; as gifted as DIG was, the attitude was all wrong. Tigermoths, walking out of press conferences, lazy off drives. He ought to have made 10,000 runs in the number of Tests he played.

  • george204 on June 27, 2013, 10:46 GMT

    @ Lmaotsetung I wouldn't be so sure. This is England remember - batting collapses & revolving door selection are never far away!

  • george204 on June 27, 2013, 10:24 GMT

    The 1989 Ashes still give me nightmares. In hindsight, it shouldn't have been a surprise: England were thumped 4-0 by the West Indies the previous summer, hadn't toured that winter & for the last five years had been operating chaotic "revolving door" selection.

    But the thing I remember most of all - and it still makes me angry & ashamed -is the way David Gower was treated & made a scapegoat. The way Gooch & Dexter used Gower to avoid any blame themselves & ruined his career was disgusting. Gower should have passed 10,000 test runs & had he played until 1995 (which he easily had the talent to do), he would have.

  • on June 26, 2013, 7:16 GMT

    The '89 series was a precautionary tale however drawing too many parallels between the situation then and the present day might be a bit of a stretch. However one sentence really stood out for me - "a group of players - Taylor, Boon, Jones, Waugh, Healy, and Hughes - matured into high-class Test cricketers around the same time". This could very well be the time that one or all of the cadre of young batsmen - Smith, Hughes, Khawaja and Wade - live up to their full potential and assure themselves of a Test berth for the next decade.

  • Donsshaddow on June 26, 2013, 5:24 GMT

    Out of the 'Ashes' the phoenix rises. Australia, though low on confidence, can fight back and spring a few surprises. They're a side that, not too long ago, was inches away from grabbing #1 rank from South Africa. Though England are a strong side and are in good form, they will know, more than most, not to underestimate the Aussies. Rob's article proves that the Aussies only need to reflect on their cricketing history to get inspired once again.

  • BlueyCollar on June 29, 2013, 22:21 GMT

    Buckets of runs in the Shield season used to be a prerequisite for a baggy green. Did anyone notice Ponting's 2012/'13 Shield season?

  • it_happened_last_in_2001. on June 28, 2013, 11:33 GMT

    If there are hopeful Australians anticipating a repeat of 1989, I'd suggest a quick look in the results archive to see who actually played for England in the 1st test in '89. Neil Foster, Phil Newport & Derek Pringle to name but a few. The English team of 2013 is almost as superior from their predecessors as Border's team of '89 is over this years tourists. A simple look at the teams for this years contest indicate a comfortable series win to England. 4 - 0

  • on June 28, 2013, 10:06 GMT

    Great piece Rob. This Australian team has potential and may now become unified in the face of adversity. The England team is strong but has a tendency to become complacent, and just one bad result would see the media howling in outrage and demanding changes. It will be closer than many think.

  • cloudmess on June 27, 2013, 12:59 GMT

    One telling difference between the sides could be that both have recently had a steady, methodical opening batsman averaging in the low 30s - and England have been able to drop theirs.

  • cloudmess on June 27, 2013, 12:40 GMT

    The '89 series was the first I ever followed - as good an introduction as any to the agonies of English cricket. But it also demonstrated a changing culture around the game. Australia were essentially a team for the future: hard-working, focused, determined and scientific in their approach (they had well-laid plans for each of England's batsmen). England's approach, by contrast, belonged the past, with selection, training and preparation little different to what they had been in Edwardian times. I agree with those who seek to defend Gower's late career - he was still a quality batsman at test level well into the 1990s, and should have played much more. But he was a poor captain, with an old-fashioned and amateurish approach, unwilling either to man-manage or motivate his players. A repeat of 1989 is unlikely, but beware: as Beefy Botham once said, you can pitch up on any Australian beach with a cricket ball, and the locals will still give you a contest.

  • liz1558 on June 27, 2013, 11:42 GMT

    @george204 - agreed that Gower ought to have made 10,000 runs. But I agree with Clive Lloyd's assessment: right man, wrong body language. The language he spoke? fluent Insouciance. In the end Gooch was right; as gifted as DIG was, the attitude was all wrong. Tigermoths, walking out of press conferences, lazy off drives. He ought to have made 10,000 runs in the number of Tests he played.

  • george204 on June 27, 2013, 10:46 GMT

    @ Lmaotsetung I wouldn't be so sure. This is England remember - batting collapses & revolving door selection are never far away!

  • george204 on June 27, 2013, 10:24 GMT

    The 1989 Ashes still give me nightmares. In hindsight, it shouldn't have been a surprise: England were thumped 4-0 by the West Indies the previous summer, hadn't toured that winter & for the last five years had been operating chaotic "revolving door" selection.

    But the thing I remember most of all - and it still makes me angry & ashamed -is the way David Gower was treated & made a scapegoat. The way Gooch & Dexter used Gower to avoid any blame themselves & ruined his career was disgusting. Gower should have passed 10,000 test runs & had he played until 1995 (which he easily had the talent to do), he would have.

  • Thefakebook on June 27, 2013, 9:09 GMT

    I'll tell you this right now all the current OZ team need is a win I don't care if it comes in the 1st or 5th test if they win one and remove this mental block of not being England,then OZ can make climb for the top again! This time we know they can take 20 wickets but can they score 450 even once? That'ts the main question.

  • zenboomerang on June 27, 2013, 6:15 GMT

    Can't see many similarities between the 2 Oz teams of '89/'13 if any... The Eng press & fans have already commited this series to "fortress" Eng & anything less that a series clean sweep would be a major loss to them...

    Oz has had more hiccups over the last 5 years than any other time in our history - Hilditch, Sutherland, Inverarity have proven rudderless leaders... Selections have been made with little thought on performance (Argus) over mindless probables - Watson VC role, dropping, then captaining Oz & selecting Maxwell as a Test opener is crazy - & allowing under performing players keeping their jobs when there are many good candidates waiting in Shield...

  • mk49_van on June 27, 2013, 2:36 GMT

    The Aussie batting has no real talent except for Clarke whose is back quite literally broken. Their only hope is to get England for low totals and pray that their batting can pull it together.

  • Lmaotsetung on June 27, 2013, 1:51 GMT

    I doubt England would go through 19 players this summer so the comparison is stretching it a little bit no?

  • on June 26, 2013, 22:33 GMT

    I've always maintained that England contrived to lose the Ashes in '89 as much as Australia won it. This was the bad old days of inconsistent selection, a poor team spirit in the dressing room, poor preparation, a host of injured players, unsettled captaincy issues, a detached former player from a remote era as Chairman of Selectors only too keen to wield the axe and in the background the spectre of another rebel South Africa tour luring disgruntled players with money. This time around, England only have to play Australia and not themselves.

  • gop_cricket on June 26, 2013, 19:43 GMT

    I completely and 100% agree with the author of this blog.Knowing OZ cricket as a cricket fan, feel this is the best comparison between current and 1989 OZ team, as I have followed that team of Australia Vs England every match and every match is in my memory as OZ played the best cricket though out that English summer.

  • jawaid1 on June 26, 2013, 15:16 GMT

    I think it's good for Austrailia to look at that series and gather some courage but English team is I think lot better than 89 series in all the departments. Clarke will have to play like he played against South Africa but couple of other batsmen will have step up because u can't expect to bundle Cook, Trott, Bell, Pieterson, Prior etc to fold out in every inning.

  • liz1558 on June 26, 2013, 14:58 GMT

    If there really are parallels between past and present, then 1985 is a better fit than 1989. This Australia side is just as green and chaotic as the '85 mob, who had lost 3 great players in the last 2 years. England had been humiliated by the best team in the world in 1984 and then gone on to an unexpected win in India under the captaincy of a left handed batsman. Coincidence?

  • Chris_Howard on June 26, 2013, 13:26 GMT

    I think one of the key differences in '89, as the article states, was both teams entered the series with poor form.

    England enter this series accustomed to winning, knowing how to win, and with players in form.

    As an Australian, I can't see how Australia can win this. If it happens, it will more likely be because England lost it.

    Australia will win sessions, but I think England will win more, and win the important ones.

  • Jonathan_E on June 26, 2013, 11:59 GMT

    In 1989, it was much about the same teams, on both sides, that had competed in the 1986-7 Ashes in Australia when England had won in Australia.

    In 1986, Waugh had flattered to deceive - Boon, one decent innings apart, had a horrible series and was dropped for the final match - Jones and Border had shown promise but even Border had been worked out by the England bowlers - Marsh was solid and workmanlike but little more - Greg Matthews was not quite good enough with bat or ball - and no Aussie had bowled particularly well: McDermott and Reid were perpetually breaking down injured, Hughes was more notable for his moustache and his verbals than his bowling, Lawson was fast but erratic, Alderman didn't even play, and apart from one freak match on a rank turner (in which the two Peters, Taylor and Sleep, both got five-fors - but then, so did Emburey), Australia didn't have a spinner worthy of the name.

    And then *every* Aussie suddenly pulled it together at once...

  • YorkshirePudding on June 26, 2013, 11:12 GMT

    Anyone who writes of or underestimates Australia at any time is likely to have egg on thier face.

    The bowling unit is showing its credentials, though it has been injury prone, its also the first time some of these guys will have used a duke ball through a full game so it will take getting used to. Batting wise I think they are missing a Hussey in the middle order to help clarke if the top 3/4 fail.

  • Ozcricketwriter on June 26, 2013, 9:36 GMT

    Before the 1989 Ashes, Allan Border had moulded a team that enjoyed their cricket. While this may eventually happen under Clarke, and with Lehmann as coach, right now it is a fractured team, much like it was after the debacles of the 1977 World Series Cricket exodus, the underarm bowling incident, the defection to the South African rebel tour and of course the resignation of Kim Hughes. We are right now at the stage that Australia was at in 1984 - at an all time low. We have to have 5 years of losing and 5 years of a team that finally becomes unified before a repeat of 1989 is possible. There weren't results that led to 1989 but there was a sense of team unity.

  • o-bomb on June 26, 2013, 8:26 GMT

    @Hammond - I'd say the comparison with the Australian team is not as outlandish as you may think. Substitute Border for Clarke (both captains and world class batsmen). Taylor and Waugh were both youngsters trying to make their way in the team so possibly sub in Hughes/Cowan and Khawaja for them. Jones had a couple of good years ('86 & '87), but had was struggling for form before the '89 series (not dis-similar to Watson now). Ok Warner's not in the same class as Boon was. Healy says that they had matured into top class players at the same time. That is entirely possible with this squad (although I think it's unlikely it'll happen this summer). I agree with you that where the comparison with '89 doesn't fit is that England's team is a long way ahead of the team we had 24 years ago.

  • liz1558 on June 26, 2013, 8:18 GMT

    Hammond - agreed. Do you remember the England side? A very past-it Beefy; Dilly and Foster at the end of the line, and, in the words of Ted Dexter, who can forget Malcolm Devon? The late 80s were England's nadir, and when we got beaten 4-0 by the Aussies it brought home how bad we really were. Victory for Australia in the current series isn't impossible, but it would be unparalleled and, as you say, massively against the odds.

  • on June 26, 2013, 8:14 GMT

    The problem is, in 1989 the Australians were able to grind out huge totals time and time again, due to batsmen who set up camp at the crease. Can you imagine this Australian side batting till lunch on the third day of the first test?

    Of course, the English bowling does seem to rely on Anderson, or Broad-on-a-good-day, and if Swann breaks down there could be problems. But it's nothing like the mess we had in '89..

  • dutchy on June 26, 2013, 8:05 GMT

    I agree with Liliam - the key to this very good article is that one sentence. Taylor, Jones, Waugh, Healy and even Hughes hadn't blossomed to their full potential until that tour (Jones had only just got back into the side). Does anyone really see this happening with Watson? But maybe it could with Smith, Khwaja, Rogers, and even Warner, with Cowan in the Geoff Marsh role. Our bowlers are even better than they were in 89 - but they need totals to bowl to and wicketkeepes who can catch. One massive difference though - England's selectors, who constantly made idiotic snap decisions in 89, have gotten a lot better.

  • foozball on June 26, 2013, 8:05 GMT

    @Hammond - do you remember the lead-up to this series? Taylor was fortunate to be in there, DJ was considered talented but about as hair brained as Woodie before him. And frankly, name me *any* team who would turn away Waugh, Border or Boon.

    The author goes to considerable lengths to put the comparison in perspective: "there are probably more differences than similarities", he says. But since you seem determined to make such a comparison, no need to look any further than Terry Alderman. His skill, coupled with fantastic captaincy and solid runmakers, not to mention some intelligent support from Hohns, and of course Hughes and McDermott, are part of the reason why Australia came away victors.

    But only part: England panicked - using 2 squads over 6 tests, what else can you call it? Complete disarray. I don't think either team will repeat that mistake, but I wonder who will come closest... I have a feeling this series will be lost, rather than won.

  • Hammond on June 26, 2013, 7:07 GMT

    5 reasons why this comparison is ridiculous. Taylor, Boon, Jones, Waugh, Border. Australia would kill for jjust one of these players to be in their team now. As for the England side in 1989? It is a far weaker unit than the cohesive giant killer that England have now. I think this is just wishful thinking. Australia is due a fearful hammering.

  • muzika_tchaikovskogo on June 26, 2013, 5:18 GMT

    I don't forsee a repeat of '89. This Australian side has the burden of a far greater legacy than its counterparts 24 years ago and there's no way England is going to pick 29 players in the course of the summer.

  • jonesy2 on June 26, 2013, 5:01 GMT

    I see a very similar thing happening in this upcoming ashes series. Australia have the bowling, they have enough batting if they work together they have more talent than England they just need to be a better team

  • on June 26, 2013, 4:04 GMT

    Its all about momentum and the right captain in my opinion; the leader is extremely important, he must inspire at the very least individuals to want to improve - he must get the best out of them. Border persisted and eventually won out; Taylor steadied the ship which was precisely what was needed at the time; Waugh pressed forwards urging dominance, again what was precisely needed. And Ponting poured on the arrogance. Clarke tried to emulate Ponting.. at a time when a Border was needed once again because the cycle had played itself out. Wrong man at the wrong time. There arent many candidates for captain right at this moment but Clarke, although decent cricketer, is the very worst choice in my opinion. You can be arrogant and flippant when you are winning, but not when you are on a downslide, and a rapid one at that.

  • on June 26, 2013, 4:04 GMT

    Its all about momentum and the right captain in my opinion; the leader is extremely important, he must inspire at the very least individuals to want to improve - he must get the best out of them. Border persisted and eventually won out; Taylor steadied the ship which was precisely what was needed at the time; Waugh pressed forwards urging dominance, again what was precisely needed. And Ponting poured on the arrogance. Clarke tried to emulate Ponting.. at a time when a Border was needed once again because the cycle had played itself out. Wrong man at the wrong time. There arent many candidates for captain right at this moment but Clarke, although decent cricketer, is the very worst choice in my opinion. You can be arrogant and flippant when you are winning, but not when you are on a downslide, and a rapid one at that.

  • jonesy2 on June 26, 2013, 5:01 GMT

    I see a very similar thing happening in this upcoming ashes series. Australia have the bowling, they have enough batting if they work together they have more talent than England they just need to be a better team

  • muzika_tchaikovskogo on June 26, 2013, 5:18 GMT

    I don't forsee a repeat of '89. This Australian side has the burden of a far greater legacy than its counterparts 24 years ago and there's no way England is going to pick 29 players in the course of the summer.

  • Hammond on June 26, 2013, 7:07 GMT

    5 reasons why this comparison is ridiculous. Taylor, Boon, Jones, Waugh, Border. Australia would kill for jjust one of these players to be in their team now. As for the England side in 1989? It is a far weaker unit than the cohesive giant killer that England have now. I think this is just wishful thinking. Australia is due a fearful hammering.

  • foozball on June 26, 2013, 8:05 GMT

    @Hammond - do you remember the lead-up to this series? Taylor was fortunate to be in there, DJ was considered talented but about as hair brained as Woodie before him. And frankly, name me *any* team who would turn away Waugh, Border or Boon.

    The author goes to considerable lengths to put the comparison in perspective: "there are probably more differences than similarities", he says. But since you seem determined to make such a comparison, no need to look any further than Terry Alderman. His skill, coupled with fantastic captaincy and solid runmakers, not to mention some intelligent support from Hohns, and of course Hughes and McDermott, are part of the reason why Australia came away victors.

    But only part: England panicked - using 2 squads over 6 tests, what else can you call it? Complete disarray. I don't think either team will repeat that mistake, but I wonder who will come closest... I have a feeling this series will be lost, rather than won.

  • dutchy on June 26, 2013, 8:05 GMT

    I agree with Liliam - the key to this very good article is that one sentence. Taylor, Jones, Waugh, Healy and even Hughes hadn't blossomed to their full potential until that tour (Jones had only just got back into the side). Does anyone really see this happening with Watson? But maybe it could with Smith, Khwaja, Rogers, and even Warner, with Cowan in the Geoff Marsh role. Our bowlers are even better than they were in 89 - but they need totals to bowl to and wicketkeepes who can catch. One massive difference though - England's selectors, who constantly made idiotic snap decisions in 89, have gotten a lot better.

  • on June 26, 2013, 8:14 GMT

    The problem is, in 1989 the Australians were able to grind out huge totals time and time again, due to batsmen who set up camp at the crease. Can you imagine this Australian side batting till lunch on the third day of the first test?

    Of course, the English bowling does seem to rely on Anderson, or Broad-on-a-good-day, and if Swann breaks down there could be problems. But it's nothing like the mess we had in '89..

  • liz1558 on June 26, 2013, 8:18 GMT

    Hammond - agreed. Do you remember the England side? A very past-it Beefy; Dilly and Foster at the end of the line, and, in the words of Ted Dexter, who can forget Malcolm Devon? The late 80s were England's nadir, and when we got beaten 4-0 by the Aussies it brought home how bad we really were. Victory for Australia in the current series isn't impossible, but it would be unparalleled and, as you say, massively against the odds.

  • o-bomb on June 26, 2013, 8:26 GMT

    @Hammond - I'd say the comparison with the Australian team is not as outlandish as you may think. Substitute Border for Clarke (both captains and world class batsmen). Taylor and Waugh were both youngsters trying to make their way in the team so possibly sub in Hughes/Cowan and Khawaja for them. Jones had a couple of good years ('86 & '87), but had was struggling for form before the '89 series (not dis-similar to Watson now). Ok Warner's not in the same class as Boon was. Healy says that they had matured into top class players at the same time. That is entirely possible with this squad (although I think it's unlikely it'll happen this summer). I agree with you that where the comparison with '89 doesn't fit is that England's team is a long way ahead of the team we had 24 years ago.

  • Ozcricketwriter on June 26, 2013, 9:36 GMT

    Before the 1989 Ashes, Allan Border had moulded a team that enjoyed their cricket. While this may eventually happen under Clarke, and with Lehmann as coach, right now it is a fractured team, much like it was after the debacles of the 1977 World Series Cricket exodus, the underarm bowling incident, the defection to the South African rebel tour and of course the resignation of Kim Hughes. We are right now at the stage that Australia was at in 1984 - at an all time low. We have to have 5 years of losing and 5 years of a team that finally becomes unified before a repeat of 1989 is possible. There weren't results that led to 1989 but there was a sense of team unity.