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Posts Tagged ‘Ashes’

Only a week to go now – come on!!!!  The heroes series continues with another Australian legend…

Allan Border is one of the greatest captains Australia has ever had and is widely credited as the man who built the platform for Australia’s golden age in the 1990s after his grit and determination guided Australia out of the dark days of the late 1980s.

AB celebrates becoming all-time leading run scorer.  Merv teeters in background...

AB celebrates becoming all-time leading run scorer. Merv teeters in background...

AB started his Ashes career in 1978 when he was called up for the 3rd Test in what would be his debut for Australia.  It didn’t go well – making only 29 and a duck – but in the following games he was Australia’s top scorer as we lost the series.  But AB was set for great things.  In the 1981 Ashes tour of England (which we lost again unfortunately) AB scored more runs than any other player (533)  including two centuries.  The legend of his toughness began to grow here after the 5th Test where he batted for 377 minutes with a broken finger to remain 123*.  He was named Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1982.

In the 1982-83 series, after a shaky start AB was on fire again and Australia regained the Ashes.  The era of Lillee, Thompson, Rod Marsh and co was coming to an end however, and Australia entered a dark time.  After Kim Hughes broke down in tears and resigned as captain  (after we got slammed by the all-conquering Windies) AB stepped up as captain.  But then seven top players went on a rebel tour of South Africa and were banned from the Australian team.  It was decimated for the upcoming 1985 Ashes series against England and Australia lost (although AB was by far the best bat).  The ’86/87 Ashes went the same way despite several tons from Border.

AB celebrates another ton against the hapless Poms

AB celebrates another ton against the hapless Poms

The setbacks were tough but AB was as tough as nails and began the rebuilding phase.  He injected steel back into the team, earning him the nickname Captain Grumpy.   The Ashes of 1989 were gonna be different.  He was famously quoted as saying  “I made a personal choice to have a harder edge as captain, be more stand-offish towards them [the English] … It was a hard thing to do and they all got the shits, but it was all part and parcel of what I wanted to achieve.”

It worked – Australia won the Ashes back and AB was named Australian of the Year.  The formation of a tough, brilliant cricket team had begun and 1989 marked the start of a glorious run – under AB the Aussies won the next two Ashes series (1990/91 and 1993) and when he passed the baton over to Mark Taylor (and then Steve Waugh) Australia were formidable.  The Urn remained in Aussie hands until 2005.

AB’s toughness, ruthlessness and sheer determination left an indelible imprint on the Australian team.  The team was built in his image and he was the architect of the side which became the world’s greatest for many years.  Individually he was an awesome batter – no nonsense, but he was the second man to 10,000 Test runs and is currently 3rd on the all time list.  He was no slouch in the field either.   What a deadset legend.

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Gary Pratt came into the 2005 Ashes a promising young batsmen and ended it a legend. In one of the greatest moments of the series (just behind Glenn McGrath’s self induced foot injury from standing on a stray ball), Pratt, who had taken to the field to cover for the injured Simon Jones, ran out Aussie captain Ricky Ponting in a stunning piece of fielding. What made the moment even more spectacular was the Aussie’s whinging reaction. There was not a ‘fair dinkum mate’ to be heard as Ponting aimed an irate, expletive filled rant at the England balcony as he walked off. Many say it was then that England knew they had won the Ashes.

Later Ponting claimed England’s habit of giving fast bowlers a breather was “a disgrace”, but Michael Vaughan, with the kind of Churchillian oratory which made him one of the all time greatest England captains, warned: “We will continue to do what we have been doing – we have not broken any rules. If someone needs to go to the toilet during a session of play, I’m sure he will be allowed to do so.”

With admirable modesty Pratt later gave his own account of the incident:”My feet are on the ground and I’m just concentrating on getting in the Durham side,” Pratt told BBC Sport. “It was just a normal, everyday thing you do – pick a ball up and throw it.”

Ponting: no oil painting

Ponting: no oil painting

In true Ashes spirit, Pratt explains that Ponting later swallowed his rage and congratulated his victor: “There were no hard feelings. I even got him to sign a photo of me and him and he gave me a couple of his pairs of boots and a shirt. I’ve got great respect for him for reacting like that but I must admit the photo’s still in my drawer. I don’t think my missus would like it on the mantelpiece.”

Pratt gained hero status for his achievements, even being invited aboard the open bus parade through the streets of London after the series victory was wrapped up. Sadly however his cricketing career took a nose-dive after THAT run out, and after a few years scratching a living in the lower cricket leagues he now manages a self-storage company in Bishop Auckland.

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With the Ashes now only weeks away it is time to start revving up the troops so Hod, Rutters and yours truly will be taking a look back and profiling some of the true heroes who have made the Ashes mean what it does today. The men whose amazing deeds in the battle for the urn have excited us all. Men with slightly large waistlines, questionable facial hair and not always meeting the description of an “elite athlete”. But men around whom legends have been born.

The Ashes starts here.

Ashes Heroes Profile #1 – David Clarence Boon MBEDavid-Boon-

Where to start with the ultimate Australian Ashes hero?  Where the man became a legend.

It’s 1989 and a 28 year old David Boon boards the plane in Australia to fly to London to reclaim the Ashes back from England.  Rather than relax on the 22 hour flight to London, a thirsty Boonie had decided to have a beer.  Or two. Or three, four….. and then it was on – he was going to have a crack at Rod Marsh’s record of 45 beers consumed between Sydney to London.

Boonie was a good candidate to have a crack at the title, having strong form.  In 1988 he famously came in to bat during a one day game after a huge night on the sauce and after a few minutes in the middle (and couple of scampering runs between the wickets) felt the beers from the night before on the way back up.  After a quick relieving vomit in front of a live TV audience of millions he went on to score 122 and win Man of the Match.  I digress – back to that flight.

The story is a long one (and well worth reading here) but to move this blog post along, in an amazing feat that has never been surpassed, Boonie guzzled 52 cans of beer before disembarking (without assistance) at Heathrow.  Team coach Bob Simpson was livid apparently, and Boonie almost got sent home.

Boonie unpacks his luggage upon arrival home from the 1993 series

Boonie unpacks his luggage upon arrival home from the 1993 series

Simmo said the story couldn’t leave the dressing room.  But it was too late – Merv Hughes (who also had “several” beers on the flight) had already done four or five radio interviews on the successful record attempt…

Mercifully, Boonie wasn’t sent home and went on to score 442 runs at an average of 55.25 as the Aussies reclaimed the Ashes in a 4-0 series win.  Boonie had always been a favourite with the Aussie fans but following the new record set on the flight over he was now elevated to cult figure.

Boonie’s career zoomed into the stratosphere following the ’89 series as he put bowling attacks around the world to the sword.  When England turned up in 1990-91 to try to get the Ashes back, “The Keg on Legs” was having none of it.  He was England’s nemesis – scoring a series high 530 runs and averaging 75.71 for the series, including a sparkling 121 in Adelaide.

Boonie wasn’t done there in tormenting England’s pathetic bowling attack and when he arrived back on English soil in 1993, he made sure the Ashes stayed in Australian hands with another dominant display – 555 runs (most in the series) at an average of 69.37.  He scored a century in the first three tests at Lord’s, Trent Bridge and Headingly (the biggest being 164 not out).  He was named Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1994.

Boonie enjoys a beer with some English prat

Boonie enjoys a beer with some English prat

Boonie’s form began to wane by the 1994-95 series (despite smashing 131 in one match and taking a gem of a catch for Shane Warne’s only ever international hat-trick) but of course, Australia won the series again.  He retired with a career average of 45 against England and seven centuries.

What a dead-set legend.

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