England from 526 to 1000.

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England from 526 to 1000.

Postby Arthur Crabtree » Sat Aug 04, 2018 2:11 am

The first Test I watched as a cricket fan was the 1977 drawn Ashes contest at Lord's, the summer when England won the urn 3-0 in a memorable series. The Ashes were regained after seven years. For some reason, having not followed the winter series win in India or even the sensational Centenary Test in Melbourne all that much, I emerged fully intact as a devotee by the summer.

Such is the glut of Tests these days, that even though I began to follow the story of Test cricket 100 years after it began, and only 41 years ago from now, I have been aware of Test cricket for roughly half of England's Tests. This week in Birmingham, we are watching and reading about an exciting Test at Edgbaston, England's thousandth. And some are commemorating that milestone and the players who left their mark. And this is what I am doing on this thread... I will pick a memorable Test from each of the 41 years of my era, so far. And I will identify 20 key England players along the way. And so I am going back to that first Ashes in 1977, and those first impressions.



Jul 28 - Aug 2, 1977, Trent Bridge. England beat Australia by 7 Wickets.

England won the second Test convincingly at Old Trafford to go 1-0 up in the series, but all of the press going into Trent Bridge was about selection. Geoff Boycott was back from his self imposed absence which began after a home Test against India three years earlier. Many observed that his leave had coincided with visits from Thomson and Lillee and the West Indian pace quartet, and others noted a possible cussed refusal to serve under a South African, Tony Grieg. Boycott returned just as Mike Brearley took over the captaincy, and though Thommo toured in 1977 he had lost the fearsome pace of his early years and Lillee was ruled out with injury.

It was a summer of bowling pitches, until The Oval at least, and in response to Australia's 243 all out, England were soon 34-2 in reply after Bob Woolmer departed. It was typical of the narrative detail that seems to punctuate the Boycott story that Woolmer was out for a duck. Boycott is dark matter and he absorbs the energy of the stars that surround him. Woolmer had scored a hundred in each of the first two Tests. On Boycott's big day, he would make a three ball zero.

Boycott was joined by Derek Randall, who he unambiguously ran out for 13, and ex skipper Grieg and Geoff Miller followed soon after. Of course, Boycott didn't mean to run out Randall, and I'm sure he was genuinely cut up to have deprived the local crowd of the one player they wanted to see above all others. And so, the image we have of that day is of the returning Yorkshireman, bat flung to the floor, with a huge batting glove clamped to his face like an ostentatiously devouring octopus. Even when the hero of the Centenary Test walked out in front of his county fans, it was still all about Geoffrey. It just happens that way.

England were 82-5 and in deep trouble. Alan Knott began to turn it around with 135 in 5 hours. What a contrast to Boycott he was, with his unorthodox stance and grip and shot improvisation. His impishness and his levity. Boycott ground it out slowly, his 105 coming in the best part of a day. It was a great stand which took the game out of Australia's control adding 215 and which handed England a lead of 121.

England made another change after Old Trafford of lasting significance. At 21, Ian Botham made his debut. A slim, glum, saturnine figure back then with a side on action that lasted only briefly because of back problems, but for a few years allowed him to swing the ball late at will. In these early Tests, Beefy was clearly one of the best England bowlers of the past 41 years. He was one of the best in the world. But then in a couple of seasons, he got flabby and he wasn't the same. One of England's greats no doubt, but like so many others of this period, what might have been. He took 5-74 in his debut bowling innings.

Bob Willis finished Australia off with 5-88 in the second innings. This was one of England's best attacks of my lifetime, with Willis, Hendrick, Botham and Underwood. They won handsomely in Leeds and regained the Ashes for the first time since 1970-71. At Headingley, Boycott crafted one of his great innings, the 191 that was also his 100th first class hundred. This was an excellent side with Boycott back and Botham unleashed. But it lasted only as long as the final Test at the Oval. Grieg, Woolmer, Knott and Underwood went to work for Kerry Packer and England wouldn't field a side of comparable quality until the next century.
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Re: England from 526 to 1000.

Postby Arthur Crabtree » Sat Aug 04, 2018 2:13 am

Next time, 1978, and England knock over some Packer weakened sides, but cock up in New Zealand.
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Re: England from 526 to 1000.

Postby The Professor » Sat Aug 04, 2018 7:29 pm

Great thread AC.

Look forward to the rest.

This was a little after one of the Test Series I would visit if I had a Test Match TARDIS: Clive Lloyd's new look England vs Gordon Greenidge's West Indies.
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Re: England from 526 to 1000.

Postby Arthur Crabtree » Sat Aug 04, 2018 11:23 pm

The Professor wrote:.

This was a little after one of the Test Series I would visit if I had a Test Match TARDIS: Clive Lloyd's new look England vs Gordon Greenidge's West Indies.


When was this?
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Re: England from 526 to 1000.

Postby The Professor » Sat Aug 04, 2018 11:36 pm

Was it not the winter previous? England went two down and then WI brought it to two apiece with all down to the final Test
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Re: England from 526 to 1000.

Postby Durhamfootman » Sat Aug 04, 2018 11:52 pm

nice one AC. interesting stat on ch5 tonight... seemingly our Geoffrey still tops the table for batting in the 4th innings with an average of over 58. good technique for backs to the wall stuff, presumably

unless I misunderstood it, of course
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Re: England from 526 to 1000.

Postby Arthur Crabtree » Sun Aug 05, 2018 12:16 am

The Professor wrote:Was it not the winter previous? England went two down and then WI brought it to two apiece with all down to the final Test


Can't track this down. The only away tour of WI where England were 2-2 at any point was in 1954.
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Re: England from 526 to 1000.

Postby ianp1970 » Sun Aug 05, 2018 7:45 pm

Nice one AC :salute

Just the time I started following cricket too :thumb

I doubt it'll be the test, but 1978 was the year:

'..what about my average :oops: '
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Re: England from 526 to 1000.

Postby Arthur Crabtree » Sun Aug 05, 2018 7:56 pm

Well, these will be wins and draws. I did the defeats last year. Not sure yet. It's a period of phony war when England (with Gower now on board) dominated the crisis stricken sides bereft of their Packer players (making light of their own losses), before tasting realism in 1980 when they ran into the full WI XI. But it was a period I enjoyed a lot just because England were doing well. Though of course they imploded memorably in NZ in that time as you allude to.
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Re: England from 526 to 1000.

Postby Arthur Crabtree » Sun Aug 05, 2018 8:01 pm

NZ didn't lose any players to Packer.
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Re: England from 526 to 1000.

Postby Gingerfinch » Sun Aug 05, 2018 8:09 pm

I thought the first time we lost to NZ was in 1983?
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Re: England from 526 to 1000.

Postby Arthur Crabtree » Sun Aug 05, 2018 9:48 pm

That'd be the first time in UK. They drew 1-1 in 78.
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Re: England from 526 to 1000.

Postby Gingerfinch » Mon Aug 06, 2018 5:34 am

Arthur Crabtree wrote:That'd be the first time in UK. They drew 1-1 in 78.


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Re: England from 526 to 1000.

Postby sussexpob » Mon Aug 06, 2018 2:33 pm

I might be talking utter nonsense to people who lived through it or were old enough to remember the finite details of it, but this era always feels to someone outside it (say 75-89 as a really rough boundary) like a golden age of test cricket in England. I remember being very young and not liking cricket at the time, but every knew who Botham was, and his name being soundchecked in a playground could be used to describe any manner of machoism or bravado. I doubt kids nowadays would jump over the local dyke rather than take the bridge, and be described as having "done a Botham". Has there every been a cricketer in anyones lifetime with such a grounding in the mainstream? So identifiable and well known? Freddie maybe took hold of it for a very short space of time, but not in the same way. I doubt 95% of the English population could answer a quiz question on Joe Roots profession.

It could have a lot to do with the state of football at the time mind you. The national game was at a very low ebb, attendances were lowering, the state of football grounds in many cases resembled war zones. It always seems footballs loss was crickets benefit, and when you talk to people of that generation about sport, they seem quite aware of what was happening in the game more than other times.
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Re: England from 526 to 1000.

Postby Arthur Crabtree » Tue Aug 07, 2018 12:40 pm

In the seventies there was a sense of the game in decline from the post war peak. The Test grounds were run down with attendances suffering. People knew about cricket, and it competed in news terms with football (which kept the summer months free) reasonably well. Cricket was the national summer game. Though the England team was as much of a butt of jokes as BR sandwiches. Through the nineties there was a feeling that the national side was too bad to care about, but then when it turned a corner under Fletcher, there was an audience waiting. The biggest decline in the stature of cricket in the country's consciousness has happened since 2005, and then speeded up after 2014.
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