The summer of 1984. West Indies in England and the 5-0 'Blackwash'. When it was all over, Sri Lanka arrived at Lord's for a one-off Test match. It was a chance for England to restore some pride and pick up a straightforward victory. At least that was the plan...
We'd lost 5-0 to the West Indies, so there was a feeling of relief that for once we wouldn't have to face all those fast bowlers. I think some people thought it would be easy.
My debut had been earlier in the summer against the West Indies. The series had been pretty ghastly. Winning hadn't entered into it.
A couple of the Tests could have gone either way but then the West Indies got past us.
I'd played against Sri Lanka several times for Leicestershire, so I knew they'd be a decent proposition. At the team dinner beforehand there was a feeling that we'd crush them with fast bowling.
England underestimated us but we proved them wrong.
We weren't looking forward to it. It had been a long season and we had been given a beating. Sri Lanka was a hiding to nothing. It was their fi rst Test in England, so we were expected to win by a large margin.
Was it a respite? It was meant to be.
I was 18. It was a remarkable Test match for Sri Lanka. Every guy who went in made a decent score except me. I was the one who was a bit disappointed.
It was a nice summer's day. It was without doubt a bat-fi rst pitch. But for some reason I've never got to the bottom of why David decided to put them in.
I don't quite know what was going through David's mind. Pitches at Lord's in late August are usually pretty good to bat on.
We had spent the summer being pasted all over by the West Indies and then, against Sri Lanka who had only just come into the cricketing fold, we stuck them in on a fl at wicket.
The toss? Oh, God (sighs). When we got to the ground, Peter May, chairman of selectors, had an idea it might be a swinging day.
It was a classic London morning: overcast, a patchy forecast and the pitch looked a little green. If things went right they could have been four or fi ve down by lunchtime. But we were fooled by the conditions.
As captain I had the right to overrule Peter May but in a summer where we'd been beaten into submission my confi dence in my own abilities was a little low.
Literally as we walked out, the clouds parted and the sun shone. There was no swing and the ball wouldn't go past the bat.
Things got off to a bad start when some Tamil political protesters ran on to the ground just as I was about to bowl the fi rst ball. Dickie Bird was umpiring and he made a huge song and dance, almost lying on the pitch to protect it.
It was, of course, the very worst sort of wicket to prepare for a team such as Sri Lanka. They should have had something with much more pace. I remember the captain, Duleep Mendis, got some runs. He was very unathletic looking. That made it even more frustrating. They did play well, though. They batted out of their skins but the whole thing was so slow.
Ian Botham decided we could bounce them out. So we spent most of the day picking the ball out of the Mound Stand.
The final ignominy was that on the Friday night, when Sri Lanka were still going strong, we were in the field desperately trying to convince the umpires that we should go off for bad light as another ball sped past us. I was at square leg with Dickie Bird, trying to persuade him.
Sides coming to Lord's were usually inspired because they knew they might not be back. We had a bad record there, perhaps because of all the county games. There wasn't such a sense of it being a special occasion.
It was so special for most of the Sri Lankans and especially for me being my debut. It was a heartening Test for all of us.
Nothing against Sri Lanka but I wouldn't class it as my greatest hundred. Some of the guys in the side were under a little bit of pressure to get on the tour of India that winter.
Even though it was Sri Lanka that were the opposition, the selectors wanted to use that final Test to help them decide who was going on tour.
It was a shambles, rather sad in fact because many of us were playing for our place to India. I remember dear old Chris Tavaré, like me, was one of those uncertain of a tour spot and he played a ghastly knock.
Tavaré managed to bat himself out of the England side. It was his last Test for five years and he couldn't get it off the square.
Just before we were coming out to bowl, I saw Peter West and Richie Benaud commentating on the television saying, "Agnew is certainly one of those who has got to make an impression for the India tour." I thought "thanks a lot, guys". As a result I tried far too hard and had no success.
Botham was pleading to bowl offspin. Swing had failed, seam had failed. He thought it was the only way to get them out. When I saw that I defi nitely knew the standard of the game had dropped.
Reduced to Botham's offbreaks. Quite extraordinary.
It was hideous. We were going through new balls like there was no tomorrow. I think even our regular offspinner Pat Pocock took one of them.
The Sri Lankans were fi ne players of spin and I knew we were taking the piss when Botham started tweaking it.
Probably he did it in a fi t of pique, probably there was a hint of tongue in cheek. Whatever the reason, it didn't work at all.
We were lucky to get away with the draw.
By the end it had become rather a futile game; there was very little chance of a result. In fact it was really dull. But Sri Lanka had achieved their task. They had come to Lord's and not lost the Test. They were delighted.
Looking back, the game could be used as a classic case to illustrate how different things are today. I felt a complete outsider, not part of the set-up. I think the feeling in the dressing room was that the game had been a bit of a cock-up.
I suppose we were setting out to prove we weren't a bad side but it didn't work out that way.
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