Specials – The Greatest Ashes Tests, Part 2

  Continuing from Part 1, we move on to the twentieth century and look back at three more Ashes thrillers that arrested the attention of cricket lovers:

4th Test, Old Trafford 1902

  Holders Australia retained the Ashes with a thrilling victory at Old Trafford. Victor Trumper carved a brilliant hundred before lunch on the first day. He added 135 with Reggie Duff (54) for the first wicket, and was still unbeaten when Australia took lunch at a whopping 173/1.

  Trumper was soon out after the interval for a crackling 104, caught behind off Wilfred Rhodes (4/104). Clem Hill and captain Joe Darling (51) put on 73 for the fifth wicket. But from a solid 256/4, Australia ended up with only 299. Fast bowler Bill Lockwood (6/48) did most of the damage.

  Then the effective pair of off-spinner Hugh Trumble and slow medium bowler Jack Saunders destroyed the hosts’ top order, leaving them at 44/5. England ended an entertaining first day at 70/5. Fortunes were to turn dramatically on the second day.

Victor Trumper

      Victor Trumper made a hundred (104) before lunch on the first day of the 1902 Old Trafford Test, which Australia won by 3 runs (source – guardian.co.uk)

  Stanley Jackson staged an excellent fightback as he put on 141 for the sixth wicket with Len Braund (65). Jackson batted with responsibility around the tail and was last out for 128 in a total of 262. Despite their brilliant start, the Australian bowlers could ensure a lead of only 37. Trumble was the pick of the lot with 4/75.

  In their second innings, Australia crashed to 10/3 as Lockwood whisked out the top three batsmen. Darling (top-scored with 37) and Syd Gregory attempted a recovery by adding 54 for the fourth wicket, but the latter’s dismissal, LBW to debutant medium paceman Fred Tate led to another collapse as Australia lost 5 for 15. They ended the day in tatters at 85/8, leading by just 122.

  Australia were all out for just 86 early on day three, Lockwood getting another 5/28 to finish with 11/76 in the Test. Needing 124 to win, the English openers Lionel Palairet and captain Archie MacLaren ( who top-scored with 35) put on 44 for the first wicket.

  But Trumble and Saunders proved to be England’s nemesis again. They chipped away with regular wickets and at 97/5, the game was in the balance. At 107, first-innings hero Jackson was dismissed as the sixth wicket. Trumble (6/53) then removed Braund and Lockwood cheaply to make it 109/8. 

  With 15 runs required, Rhodes joined Dick Lilley and in three hits, the score was carried to 116, whereupon Lilley was dismissed. Still eight runs were needed. Heavy rain then drove the players from the field and there was a 45-minute delay before the match could be finished. Upon resumption, Tate managed a leg-side boundary but two balls later was castled by Saunders (4/52), leaving Australia victorious by just three runs.

2nd Test, Melbourne 1907-08

  England levelled the five-match series (which they eventually lost 4-1) with a humdinger of a victory at the MCG. Australia’s openers Victor Trumper and Charles Macartney added 84 before the side somewhat lost its way. Captain Monty Noble’s 61 guided the hosts to 266 while off-spinner Jack Crawford picked up 5/79. 

  England were 61/2 in reply, but Jack Hobbs (83) and Kenneth Hutchings put on 99 for the third wicket. Hutchings added a further 108 for the fifth wicket with Len Braund en-route to a knock of 126. England finished with 382, a healthy lead of 116. Fast bowler Tibby Cotter toiled hard to take 5/142.

  The Australian openers showed positive intent in the second innings too, with Noble (64) and Trumper (63) adding 126. Australia soon slipped to 162/4 but Warwick Armstrong (77) and Macartney (54) shared a 106-run stand for the fifth wicket. Wicketkeeper Sammy Carter boosted the total to 397 with a valuable 53. The great fast bowler Sydney Barnes took 5/72.

  England needed a challenging 282 to win. Captain Frederick Fane and Hobbs added 54 for the first wicket, but Noble dented the chase with his off-breaks by removing Hobbs and George Gunn in three balls. Fane was out for 50 while Hutchings could not capitalise on his start. At the start of the final day, England were 159/4.

  Even though all the English batsmen (except Gunn) reached double figures, Australia were constantly on top. Cotter removed Joe Hardstaff while Armstrong dismissed the stubborn Braund. Wilfred Rhodes was soon run-out and when Crawford fell to Saunders, the score read 209/8 and the match seemed to be out of England’s grasp.

  However, Joe Humphries and Barnes put on 34 together and then, amid high excitement, Barnes and Arthur Fielder hit off the remaining 39 runs as England reached 282/9, winning by one wicket. Barnes scored an unbeaten 38 and the winning run was just scored – Gerry Hazlitt’s throw from cover point failed to hit the stumps.

3rd Test, Headingley 1981


       Ian Botham hooks Geoff Lawson en route to his 149* in the second innings at Headingley in 1981, a knock that galvanised England (source – guardian.co.uk)

  This Test is widely regarded as the most famous of all Ashes Tests. The background to this match is now well known – Australia were 1-0 up in the six-Test series against an England team led by Ian Botham. Captaincy had affected Botham’s game as well, a pair in the second Test at Lord’s being his lowest point.

  Desperately needing an inspirational leader, the master tactician Mike Brearley was recalled to lead the side for the third Test. Even at Headingley, the game began to follow a predictable script – Australia piled up 401/9 declared, led by John Dyson’s 102 and captain Kim Hughes’ 89. Botham picked up 6/95. 

  England were then rolled over for 174 (Botham 50, Lillee 4/49) and were 6/1 following-on at the start of day four. An innings defeat seemed inevitable as the pace duo of Lillee and Terry Alderman (6/135) made life difficult for the hosts. At 135/7, with England still needing 92 just to make Australia bat again, Graham Dilley joined Botham.

‘Beefy’ was batting freely with the burden of captaincy off his shoulders. What followed was one of the most epic partnerships of all time. The two added 117 in just 80 minutes as they went on a hitting spree. Botham, in particular, was playing as if there was no tomorrow. 

  Inquiring of the strategy, Dilley was told by his senior partner: ‘Let’s give it some humpty.’ Dilley made 56 and England were 252/8 when he got out. Chris Old then put on a priceless 67 for the ninth wicket with Botham. When the fourth day ended, England were 351/9, ahead by 124. Botham, who had come in at 105/5, was still unbeaten, on 145.

  England’s innings ended early on the final day at 356, with Botham compiling a stunning unbeaten 149 off 148 balls including 27 fours and and one straight six. Still, the target for the visitors was just 130 and they looked home and dry at 56/1 with Dyson and Ian Chappell in the middle.

  At that point,Willis, having changed ends to bowl with the wind on Brearley’s advice, had Chappell caught behind. From thereon, Willis bowled like an inspired man. His face bereft of emotion, he ripped through Australia as they crashed unbelievably to 75/8.

  Lillee joined Ray Bright and their 35-run ninth wicket stand raised hopes for their team. But Willis removed both of them to finish with a career-best 8/43. Australia were all out for 111, losing by 18 runs.

Final-Willis_2959180    Bob Willis looks near stone-faced during his astonishing spell of 8/43 which destroyed Australia on the final day of the 1981 Headingley Test (source – skysports.com)

  This was only the second instance of a team winning a Test after following on, the first also being an English win, over Australia at Sydney in 1894-95. Interestingly, the betting tents at Headingley were offering odds of 500-1 on an English win at the start of day four.

  As it happened, Botham’s resurgence, Dilley’s contribution, Willis’ inspired spell and of course Brearley’s outstanding leadership combined to defy the odds and hand Australia a defeat from which they could not recover – England won the series 3-1 and retained the Ashes.

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