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Australia were trying to regroup round Allan Border. David Gower hit rich form. And then there were Tim Robinson and Richard Ellison. After a fluctuating summer the Ashes were well urned
Interviews by Nick Hoult
In 1985, Australia were trying to regroup round Allan Border. David Gower hit rich form. And then there were Tim Robinson and Richard Ellison. After a fluctuating summer the Ashes were well urned
It was David Gower's finest hour, the summer when a Kent swing bowler with a mop of hair became an England hero and Australia were a team divided.
David Gower (England captain): It is my finest memory. A great summer.
Wayne Phillips (Australia wicketkeeper): We were going through a tough time in those days but we saw the trip as a great opportunity to turn things around.
The first Test at Headingley was awash with memories of the 1981 epic.
Phillips: It was time to move on from that.
Gower: The India tour the previous winter had helped build the nebulous thing called team spirit and we had people like Graham Gooch and Ian Botham back in the side as well, so things were going nicely for us. We were able to put out a traditionally balanced side, so we were very bullish at the start.
A hundred by the Nottinghamshire opener Tim Robinson enabled England to take a vital first-innings lead.
Gower: Whether against Australia or not, decent contributions from your openers are so important for setting a tone. Tim Robinson had played well in India and he carried that into the first Test. If an opener is consistently getting runs you feel better placed to control the game. Australia posted 324 in their second innings, Phillips top-scoring with 91.
Phillips: We were disappointed that, having made 600 runs in the match, we lost. I was a little disappointed not to get a hundred but it was terrific to have a little success early in the tour. England were set a target of 123. At 83 for 4 the Headingley curse threatened to strike again.
Paul Allott (England bowler): It was a good pitch at Headingley but I remember we really had to battle for the runs on the final day.
Gower: Given that Lamby was not out at the end we were not unduly worried. He was a good bloke to have around in those situations.
And so to Lord's. For Australia it was the perfect opportunity to fight back.
Gower: Allan Border batted brilliantly in the second Test and we just had one of our Lord's glitches.
Phillips: We were fortunate that the next Test was at Lord's because Australia have always had a good record there. AB's form early in the tour was spectacular. He rattled off a few hundreds and he steeled himself to make a big score at Lord's. His innings was marvellous.
Border made 196 but was helped by Mike Gatting's bizarre dropped catch at short leg on 87. He threw the ball up in celebration before he had fully collected the catch.
Allott: AB charged Phil Edmonds and Gatt covered himself up and the ball hit him. He might have held it but AB got the benefit of doubt on whether Gatt ever had it under control.
Gower: It was a very costly mistake.
The 38-year-old Bob Holland claimed five wickets with his leg spin for Australia in England's second innings. It left Australia needing only 127 to level the series. They suffered the odd jitter on the way.
Phillips: I was pleased for Dutchy. It was a great story for him to take five wickets at that stage of his career.
Allott: On the evening of the fourth day the atmosphere was terrific. I bowled Greg Ritchie and we harboured thoughts of what we had done at Headingley on the previous tour. They were 63 for 4 and the crowd were roaring you in as you bowled. It's my abiding memory of the series.
Phillips: We lost a couple of wickets quickly and it was a bit of a worrying time. I got a partnership going with AB. I remember Ian Botham walking past AB and whispering "Headingley". He was trying to make us aware of what had happened.
Australia hung on for victory and the series moved to Trent Bridge all square.
Gower: Trent Bridge was a very good pitch for batsmen and for us to have any chance of a result we had to have one or two things go our way in the field, which never really happened. It was a pitch that was too good to get a result; you don't see that too often these days.
Gower's purple patch had arrived. It started with 86 at Lord's, a hundred at Trent Bridge, then 47 at Old Trafford but the last two of these Tests offered little chance of a result.
Gower: During those middle two Tests the series was on hold and bubbling away for the final two.
Allott: In the third Test Ian Botham had a big row with Alan Whitehead about no-balls or bouncers or something. They had a set-to - if it happened now, Beefy would probably be banned - then it was swept away. I don't think they get on too well now.
Allott had struggled to make an impression and it became clear England needed more penetration to win the Ashes.
Allott: My first Test at Old Trafford turned out to be my last for England. I knew I was under pressure. It was disappointing to be dropped but not completely unexpected. I had not been taking wickets but I didn't think that was going to be the end of my career.
Allott was dropped for the crucial fifth Test at Edgbaston. England turned to Kent's Richard Ellison.
Allott: They dropped me and picked Richard Ellison, so in a way I won the Ashes for England.
Richard Ellison: When we got to Edgbaston I was advised not to play by Bernard Thomas (England physio) as I had a heavy cold. He thought I would not get through five days. The decision was left to me and I thought, as I had come this far, then why not.
It was the right decision. Ellison was brought in to counter the Border threat. He did more. He took 6 for 77 in the first innings.
Ellison: The dismissal of Border was one of the few occasions when we set a plan and it came off. We put Phil Edmonds on the leg side and he clipped one to him straight away. I sound surprised when I talk about it now but it was quite nice when those things happen.
Gower was inspired. He scored 215 - his highest Test score - while Gatting and Robinson also scored hundreds.
Gower: It was my highest Test score and I enjoyed it immensely. Halfway through the match it looked as if we might be running out of time but we scored our runs swiftly and were able to get past Australia's score. That kept us far enough ahead.
Australia collapsed in reply but a partnership between Phillips and Ritchie threatened to end England's hopes of an innings win, especially with rain forecast. But a controversial moment turned the match and the series. Phillips hit a ball from Edmonds that struck Allan Lamb's boot at silly point and was caught by Gower.
Gower: If you ask Flipper (Phillips) he will say to his dying day that it hit the turf before it hit Lamby's instep.
Phillips: I remember it vividly; it was never out. They set some really aggressive fields as they were looking for a wicket but we were doing well and then I was out. It was a real pain in the arse. I remember Edmonds bowled, I hit it into the ground, it bounced up, hit Lamb's boot and then looped up to Gower who caught it.
England appealed for the catch and umpires David Constant and David Shepherd gave Phillips out.
Phillips: Botham was adamant it was a catch while Lamby was hobbling around struggling with his leg. Shep consulted David Constant. He then looked at me and said: "Flipper, you're out." David Shepherd is obviously still haunted by it as it has just finished his career 20 years later. It has clearly plagued him. Good old Shep.
Gower: We couldn't be too forceful as it was the umpires' decision. David Constant was at square leg and the amazing thing was that he could see around Gatt at short leg.
England had won by an innings and 118 runs. A draw at The Oval would clinch the Ashes. Gower won a crucial toss and led from the front scoring a hundred along with Gooch.
Gower: The first day was what we needed. I was more pleased with that innings than at Birmingham. It was a great day and the way you want every day to go.
Australia subsided to a heavy defeat. Ellison took seven wickets in the match to go with his 10 at Trent Bridge.
Gower: It was Ellison's finest hour as he swung the ball so much. Botham bowled more quickly then he did for most of his career. It was a role he could not sustain much after that but he steamed in. That attack always gave me options.
Ellison: Everything happened in a flash. One minute I was out of the side the next I was playing. The moments off the pitch were drawn out but on it, it all went very quickly.
Australia had been in England for nearly four months. They were exhausted.
Phillips: By then we were very tired. We had been in England so long we could have voted in an election.
Gower: It was a great moment. There is a famous photograph of champagne being sprayed at me on the balcony. I've always felt that was a dreadful waste of champagne.
© The Wisden Cricketer
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