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Australian cricketers I have feared

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Tom Fordyce | 07:36 UK time, Saturday, 1 January 2011

Sydney, New South Wales

I've never believed in aliens. I stopped being scared of monsters at the age of six - OK, nine. But there is a bogeyman who has struck fear into me for most of my adult life, and he wears a baggy green cap.

Unrelenting destroyer of Ashes dreams, impervious to anything thrown at him, the Aussie cricketer was everything his English counterpart appeared not to be - hard-nosed, aggressive, indomitable under pressure. The names changed and the series went by, but the menace remained constant.

Until now.

It first struck me on the final day in Brisbane, and then in the aftermath of that glorious, ghost-slaying win in Adelaide. Perth put it out of my mind, but it was there again from the first morning in Melbourne and hasn't gone away since: I am no longer scared of Australian cricketers.

It isn't just that England have been left holding the Ashes in three of the past four series. Nor is it that, for the first time in almost a quarter of a century, they will leave these shores with heads held high rather than tails between legs.

It's that, of the 17 players Australia are likely to have used by end of the fifth Test, not a single one makes me want to hide under the bed sheets.

Mike Hussey has been wonderful, of course, but he's more to be admired and liked than feared. The rest of them? Once upon a time, the sight of Ricky Ponting marching to the crease was enough to trigger dread thoughts of runs plundered and matches stolen away, but not any more. Shane Watson makes runs but seldom big ones. Ben Hilfenhaus looks like a student teacher, Phillip Hughes his errant pupil. Mitchell Johnson? He's more scared of what'll come out of his hand than any batsman is.

It feels dangerous to talk in this fashion. Such is the power of Australia's decades-long dominance that even musing internally on such topics makes you afraid of some supernatural revenge, the mockers as surely placed on English hopes as if it were Trent Bridge '89 or Adelaide '06 all over again.

It isn't, and you shouldn't be. Michael Clarke could yet hit a match-winning, captain's innings; Johnson may randomly shift into gear and blow the tourists' top order away, England losing the match to end the series tied, but the old aura is absent.

It could come back, just as England have. Maybe in four years time the Barmy Army will be booing Steve Smith and Usman Khawaja to the crease, terrified of the hell they are about to unleash.

In the meantime, by way of laying some ghouls to rest and reminding myself how delightful it feels to be finally free of the shackles of the last 24 years, I've put together a little list of those who scared before. If you find it cathartic, I invite you to do the same.

It's OK. They've retired.


Merv Hughes
How the young Fordyce laughed when a bloke who looked like a Victorian ironmonger first waddled into Ashes cricket and found himself promptly smashed all around the Gabba by a paunchy, mulleted Ian Botham.

Hughes came into that 1986 Ashes tour having gone for 1-123 on his Test debut and went out of it in no better shape, taking just 10 wickets for 444 runs across the series and going for 22 in that single Botham over alone.

With Bruce Reid at the other end he formed a cricketing incarnation of Jack Sprat and his wife, a cartoon character with a figure to match and as much chance of becoming an international strike bowler as I had of marrying Kelly Le Brock. When he insured the handlebar 'tache for a reported £200,000, his absurdity appeared to have no limits.

Fordyce, you fresh-faced fool. In the three Ashes series that followed, The Swerve took 65 wickets, including 31 in the thrashing of '93 alone, and made mincemeat of knock-kneed English batsman with a barrage of sledging almost more brutal than his bouncer.

Who was laughing then? Certainly not me. I didn't smile again at sport until Dominic Cork's hat-trick against the West Indies more than two years later.

Glenn McGrath
This bloke doesn't look all that, I remember thinking. He's not that fast, and his approach is a bit pigeon-toed, and his track record as a kid wasn't all that goo ...

Ah. By the end, after 157 English wickets at a cost of just 20 apiece, even the sight of McGrath loosening up, latent threat sizzling in those long limbs, was sufficient to induce a crushing depression.

His action looked nothing like the destroyers of the preceding years - Waqar Younis, Curtly Ambrose, Malcolm Marshall - but the result was the same.

He saw off Mike Atherton 19 times in 17 matches - 19 times! But to single out just one victim is to underplay the damage he did to legions of English stooges. The noise of ball hitting stump during that spell of 5-2 at Lord's in 2005 remains my aural definition of doom.

Steve WaughSteve Waugh was the embodiment of the hard-nosed Australian assassin

Steve Waugh
A large chunk of the school holidays of 1989 were spent staying with my Irish granny in her small bungalow on the Essex coast. Absentminded at the best of times, her extreme forgetfulness in those declining years meant that I could spend as much time as I liked watching that summer's Ashes on telly. There was nothing else to do, after all.

Social workers should have stepped in.

My memories of the period are now reduced to two things: Terry Alderman, trapping Graham Gooch lbw with such regularity that it might as well have been an endless replay of the same delivery, and Steve Waugh batting. And batting. And batting.

He hit 177 not out in the first Test, 152 in the second. At one point his average was over 250.

Alderman popped into the Test Match Special box in Perth a few weeks ago. He was fat, and had a bad beard. It made me feel a little bit better.

Waugh is not fat. Neither does he look a roadie for Fairport Convention. That summer was only the start for him. I could go on to talk about the 16 consecutive Test victories, or the images of him hoisting the little urn aloft, or the way he belted Richard Dawson for four off the last ball of the second day at the SCG in 2003 when he was supposed to be finished.

I could, but I'd rather not. It's better to move on.


Ian Healy
Australian wicketkeepers in the 1980s were as memorable as Big Fun, and lasted about as long - Wayne Phillips, Mike Veletta, Greg Dyer, Steve Rixon.

Then came Ian Healy. It wasn't so much his glovework that left deep mental scars as his batting. Just when you thought England had Australia on the ropes, the top order gone, Healy would stroll out to turn the innings around with biff after bash.

He only averaged 30 in Ashes Tests. I've had to double-check that, because it doesn't seem enough. That was his power. He could make even cold hard facts look like lies.


Adam Gilchrist
Thank the Lord for that - Healy's retired. This Gilchrist bloke looks alright, but he'll never be as good as Healy.

That worked out well, didn't it?

Did his 152 off 143 balls at Edgbaston in 2001 hurt more than his 57-ball century in Perth '06? You might as well ask whether I'd rather be punched by Muhammad Ali's right hand or his left.

If his dismal trot of 2005 hadn't happened, I wouldn't be able to say his name out loud without my voice quavering. For that - and many other things - thank you, Freddie Flintoff.

Shane Warne
When he was spinning it he was terrifying to watch. When he wasn't, it was almost worse.

How could we be getting out to a ball that wasn't even doing anything? It didn't matter. The combined forces of Merlin and Potter couldn't have cast a more effective spell over the English batsmen.

To see Robin Smith, scourge of the West Indies, proud precursor to KP, reduced to thrusting his pad blindly down the line of an entirely different delivery was to see a hero unmasked. To see Gatting and Strauss left motionless as the ball turned sideways was to believe in witchcraft.

Warne's future away from cricket wasn't bright. His future was orange. But with a past like that, who cares?

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Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    Tis true, I'd approach ashes series with an 'oh no' background constant in my thoughts. That dread is not over for me, afterall, being English, there's always a gremlin in one's thoughts that says we're all doomed. But now, I see the glass as 1/2 a pint, neither half full nor half empty. And for an Englishman, that's just about as close to delirious as I have been in two decades. We're not World class yet, ashes or no. We are a couple of consistency rungs off the saffas and Indians, but at least we're on the right path at last; no more floundering. Most important of all, the guys believe they can win on their day, and even when the chips are down, they give it a damn fine go, and get draws that would have been collapses in past times. Let's not get ahead of ourselves but all the same - C'mon England!

  • Comment number 2.

    To which list you could also quite comfortably add Mark Waugh and Mark Taylor. Overall this really does highlight the decline in Australian cricket. Its a shame in a way, because for all the thrashings they handed out, those teams of the last 15 years or so were pretty much guaranteed to put on an entertaining match.

    My one great memory of Merv Hughes is during an ashes summer in England, possibly '93, when a dog got onto the outfield and ran around evading stewards until Merv dropped onto the ground and managed to get it to come up to him happily. He may have been clattering the English batting order all summer long, but that was a nice moment.

  • Comment number 3.

    p.s. As much as I have feared the above players and more Oz players besides, nothing will strike the same fear into me as the Windies attack and defence of the 70s/80s. They were the most terrifying cricket team ever assembled. Mcgrath may be strike fear and doubt, but Ambrose, Marshall and Walsh were terrifying. And Viv with the bat, who felt like hoisting England for six at will when the mood took him. Then they introduced the daft one bouncer rule to spoil the party/wake depending on your loyalties. I cannot imagine the utter fear our batsmen must have felt in those times, because something coming at you at 90mph from about 8ft high, bouncing up the same height, must have been like batting bombs from the sky.

  • Comment number 4.

    Melbourne's in Victoria not NSW as you've stated at the top.

  • Comment number 5.

    Maybe the current Aus selection panel should heed the lesson of Merv? Then again maybe not! Drop that Beer fellow before he's played a game, could save me 10 years of pain!

  • Comment number 6.

    Hayden and Langer coming out to bat...... looking down the line-up to see Gilchrist at 7 and Warne at 8........ wondering before a ball was bowled whether they'd stick us in for the final hours play on day 2 and whether we'd start day 2 20-3 with a night-watchman in......

    Why am I doing this? As King Julian might say I'm giving myself the heebedee jeebedee's......

  • Comment number 7.

    Tom - the nightmare figures go much further back.
    Mine start in the 70's
    Lillie and Tommo - fearsome.
    Two of the Chappells - relentless.

    Then Border, Taylor etc....

    But I agree with TippyTappy number 3 - the WIndies were much worse.....

    The world seems a much more even place these days.

  • Comment number 8.

    Jaquesdeburg - good spot. Good to see the day after the night before hasn't slowed you down, like it clearly has the rest of us!

  • Comment number 9.

    Great blog Tom, reminded me of my childhood too.

    I hate to be "that guy" but Gilchrist's 57 ball century was at the WACA.

    I just hope this blog isn't ruined by the inane dross of comments from certain people.

  • Comment number 10.

    I'll wait until it's 3-1 (I hope) before counting any chickens yet!

    Let's hope in twenty years' time they're talking about the knee-trembling terror of England stars current and future, eh?

  • Comment number 11.

    Thanks Tom for bringing back the nightmares! Like you, the most explosive Gilchrist innings for me was the Edgbaston 01 test. What was so scary is that his most powerful ally was Glenn McGrath!

  • Comment number 12.

    Good blog(again) cheers, let's hope our players realise what a chance they've got of laying ghosts of past hammerings down under to rest,I thought before the series started that England were the better side, I just hope that they go an to prove it by securing the series win.

  • Comment number 13.

    Because of the time difference in Australia (as a young kid in the early 90's I didn't stay up late) I remember the W.I bowlers more than the Aussies. The sight of Walsh and Ambrose sending down 90 MPH deliveries at head high made me full of dread

  • Comment number 14.

    BennyBlanco - thanks and sorted.

  • Comment number 15.

    Hehe Tom, nice words as usual.
    I still feel a touch of the "it feels dangerous to talk in this fashion", but I cant see any demons waiting to mug us this time.

    Aggers mentioned this in commentary the other day. I am just about old enough to remember watching this WI team, but looked it up to remind myself. Jeez.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-f5pfBgpNE

    Another of more recent vintage which I vividly remember:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JojnoSO4MDc&feature=related

    Yeah, thats what cricket is all about.

  • Comment number 16.

    My memory of that 1989 tour is just one word- Alderman.
    My driver, a big cricket buff, only talked about one cricketer at that time, no prizes for guessing, Alderman, Terry Alderman.

  • Comment number 17.

    Hey Tom, you forgot to mention Tim Zoehrer, Aussie wicketkeeper prior to Heals. And Botham smashed Merv at the Gabba not the Waca.

  • Comment number 18.

    I remember the BBC had a "Catch of the series contest" when the Aussies toured in 1993 covering the test matches and one day series. I think all 9 catches on it were from Australians, which summed up their total dominance over us in that era.
    Anyone remember Mark Waugh's catch to get rid of Alec Stewart in the Headingley match of that 1993 series? Best catch I've ever seen in 30 years of watching cricket.

  • Comment number 19.

    The Aussies have gone soft, even their PM cries on TV now.

  • Comment number 20.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 21.

    great article - like westinbristol my nightmares started in the 70s with many of the nigtmares beginning under the covers listening to TMS from OZ waking up at 5 in the morning

    Rod Marsh, the Chappell Brothers, Lillee and Tomson, Max Walker, Rodney Hogg, Geoff Lawson, Allan Border, Terry Alderman, Boon, etc etc

    I'm sure there must be loads from the 50s and 60s too - someone can fill us in

  • Comment number 22.

    Gilly's 100 off 57 was at his home ground in Perth and not Adelaide, as stated above.

  • Comment number 23.

    This all began with the Bobby Simpson- Allan Border era.

    For god knows how many series the Aussie Top 6 each hit a century and each bowler would get 5 wickets in an innings.

    Anyone remember Dean Jones? The Victorian who could run three of a simple defensive stroke to mid off!!!. Surely the quickest runner between wickets ever.

  • Comment number 24.

    Surely the nightmare sounded more like whispering death, Sir Geoffrey of Boycott manor may comment.

  • Comment number 25.

    How much was done to encourage English talent back then? (Even now)

    One of the greatest myths about Aussie sport is the nation has an abundance of talented sportsmen like no other. The author here talks of previous cricketers as if they were Gods.

    Having lived there, it is easy to see why the Aussies excel at sports. Simply, they encourage the talent every nation - including England - has.If you are good at sport you will be monitored, encouraged and sent to an academy.

    It is simple maths. If you are encouraging youngsters and backing them up, they will come forward. The notion the English do not have the same percentage of 'hard nosed, aggressive' players around, is nonsense.

    The problem is the English just do not do enough to encourage the truly talented to develop.

    Same with the Kiwis.....only 5 people live there and yet they still produce brilliant rugby players and teams.

    The Ashes success should feed an interest in the sport and more kids wanting to play. We either sign them up NOW, or watch them lose interest and do nothing.

    We blew it big time with the rugby (immense interest from kids wanting to be the new Wilkinson, yet nothing done to get them to play) and risk doing the same now, I am sure.

    To be fair, the BBC must take criticism here, as the total lack of Ashes coverage on a public service channel does also kill development of interest in the game.

    There can be no doubt there are new English Bothams, Merv Hughes, Warnes and perhaps even a Viv Richards/Flintoff/Ponting/Warne talent rolled into one cricketer. The question is what are we going to do to ensure he is found and nurtured into a player?

  • Comment number 26.

    England should win this Series quite easily in the end,if they was 6 matches ,,, Johnson would miss this one and return fired up for the 6th but would be little to late ,,,Well Done to the England Cricket and Management Team !!! Randee from Barbados

  • Comment number 27.

    My first experience of Ashes cricket.... Headingley, 1988, Western Terrace, chant. "He's fat, he's round, he cant get off the ground, David Boon! Nightmares!!!!!

  • Comment number 28.

    25. At 11:00am on 01 Jan 2011, jonhan wrote:
    How much was done to encourage English talent back then? (Even now)

    Simple answer is lots. For example, the Chance to Shine initiative is putting coaches in lots of schools and reaching 1000's kids encouraging them to participate in the game and driving them towards local clubs. Coaching for kids and involvement in the game through schools coaching has never bben greater. I'm assuming you have no involvement in grass roots cricket.

  • Comment number 29.

    Warne's mesmeric hold over the England batsmen was never better illustrated than in 1997 when a bamboozled Adam Hollioake shouldered arms to a delivery that pitched on middle stump and hit middle stump. Even Warne himself seemed nonplussed by that one.

    Also Gooch in 1993 watching the ball very carefully as it pitched way outside his leg stump and bowled him round his legs. Dark, dark days...

  • Comment number 30.

    I agree with others here who can remember back to the days of the fearsome Windies quartet of fast bowlers and the flashing blades of the likes of Richards, Lloyd, Greenidge, Haynes, etc. The pre-helmet days when Mike Brearley use to go out with a little skull cap underneath his England cap and the sad sight of watching 40 something batsman Edrich and Close being battered at the Oval by Holding and Roberts, not a pretty sight.

    Then back in the 70's we had England having to call up Colin Cowdrey, age 41, to face Lillee and Thompson. Interesting how there have been calls on the Australian side today to bring back the likes of Warne. That's what happens when you are desperate, but it also shows how succession planning can fail. Who would have thought during the ea of Warne and MacGill, that no young leggies would come through worthy of Test consideration and that today Australia would be reduced to picking someone with a handful of first class games to his name in Michael Beer? There again, when England had Ian Botham, it took years after his retirement for the next worthy all rounder in Flintoff to emerge and he only held that lofty status for a few years before injury took its toll.

    So, the mighty do fall. Perhaps it is just a generational thing? A nation sometimes puts together a team that can dominate because it all comes right just once in a lifetime. The Windies are an example of that great decline and Australia are now facing the same question. They've gone from great to good, to average and at times outright bad. They are mortal again.

  • Comment number 31.

    I hope Ricky retires at the end of this series with his head held high. A fine cricketer & combatitive sportsman.

  • Comment number 32.

    30. At 11:10am on 01 Jan 2011, ArthursAshes wrote: So, the mighty do fall. Perhaps it is just a generational thing? A nation sometimes puts together a team that can dominate because it all comes right just once in a lifetime.
    It certainly is a generation thing. We never truly replaced Botham (even with Freddie) but then again Pakistan never replaced Imran Khan, NZ Richard Hadlee, India Kapil Dev. The era when they all were playing together was a golden time for the all-rounder in world cricket with Botham (IMO) sitting proudly at the top of the tree.
    The players you mention are once in a lifetime players. Long before my time, but we've never seen another Bradman, not even close to it and we're unlikely to do so.

  • Comment number 33.

    Smudger,

    It sounds great,what you write. No, I am no longer involved in cricket here as I moved to Oz back in the 80's - not a Pietersen like escape from bad conditions, though!

    But back then whole groups of friends at primary school and secondary (early 80's) were told 'you can't play cricket, football is the game for Londoners'.

    I then went to Oz and couldn't believe the immense difference in conditions, mentality and love of the game.

    If we are now being more serious and more disciplined about getting young talent to play, then I am thrilled about that and welcome it.

  • Comment number 34.

    Stats:
    Smudger 11 4 5 16
    jonhan 1st 11 64 all out

  • Comment number 35.

    #34 very confusing post

  • Comment number 36.

    You talking about an attack ? How about Michael Holding, Joel Garner, Malcolm Marshall, Winston Davis together in the early to mid 80's

    Back to the Blog....... You forget two of the most fearsome pace bowlers to retired early and gave the poms nightmares albeit only for brief time.

    Queenslands: Billy the Kid A.k.a Craig Mcdermott took 32 wickets in 1991
    and
    Western Australia Bruce Reid 27 wickets in 5 tests against England in 1991 series and 13 wickets in the Boxing day test at the MCG

  • Comment number 37.

    Not clear, sorry.
    Bowler: Smudger. 11 overs, 4 maidens, 5 wickets for 16.

  • Comment number 38.

    #36 my main memories of the 2 fast bowlers you mention are botham smashing mcdermott for 6 back over his head first ball he faced and reid being obliterated by lamb in an ODI. McDermott was very good, Reid less so IMO.

  • Comment number 39.

    #37 cheers john, I've had worse days!

  • Comment number 40.

    It says something about the domination of past Australian sides that despite the fact that we won two tests by an innings, their bowling attack is at best average, their top order batting has been a shambles and that their team selection has at times been puzzeling, I still keep getting the feeling that the next game we play against them they're going to blow us away. Maybe this fear will go away if we win the next game at sydney, but until then...

  • Comment number 41.

    Mitchell Johnson's action has always puzzled me & this is where I think his problem lies: I was always instructed to bowl with arm brushing ear, sideways on with eyes directed at stumps. He does none of this. So wayward. I'd go as far as to say he is not test class by a distance. If this is the "class" we face, as seems we, will win easily again.
    Aussies: Can't bat, can't bowl, can't field.... fill in the rest.

  • Comment number 42.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 43.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 44.

    I'd add Ricky Ponting to Tom's list.

    Though he has the build of a slightly undernourished U15 tyro, and is a deadringer for Alfred E Neuman, the fresh-faced kid on the cover of Mad magazine. While his baggy green looks a couple of sizes too big, and he is forever biting his fingernails to the quick and making twitchy glances at his field placings like a schoolboy nervously expecting puberty to ambush him at any moment. He may even have the temper of a one-eyed rhino that's been bitten in the ass by an anger fly. Nevertheless, he has been one helluva batter for more than 15 years.

  • Comment number 45.

    You must be joking!
    Anderson, Tremlett, Bresnan, Swann, Broad....





    Johnson.

  • Comment number 46.

    My first recollection of the Ashes is a vague memory of listening to the radio as an 8 year old in '55 and my then cricketing hero, Godfrey Evans, scoring the winning runs in the final test.

    The 58/9 tour was rather a non-event because of the Aussie chucking that went on but there were no real scourges of our batsmen until Lillee and Thomson.

    All the ones you mention as nightmares, especially the vastly over-rated Merv Hughes, do not come close to the West Indies in the 70's and 80's.

    Arthur'sAshes touches on the most intimidating spell of bowling I have witnessed and that was the last session on day 3 of the Old Trafford Test in '76. Edrich and Close were bombarded with virtually non-stop short pitched bowling which should never have been allowed, and the Aussies complained about 'bodyline'. Close, surely the hardest man to have played in the last 50 years, was hit in the chest by Holding and his knees buckled but he did not go down. My recollection of it was that Clive Lloyd offered no apology and only commented to the extent they had not taken any wickets.

  • Comment number 47.

    #40: that's because you're English.

    I think we're a year or two away from turning what is now a good side into a really good side. And that will be based on results. It will be based on not just winning when you're on top, but get out some big holes with a draw or a win. Brisbane this year was a start!

  • Comment number 48.

    #43
    Please explain that to me.

  • Comment number 49.

    I agree with most of this but have to moan :) what's wrong with looking like a roadie for one of the greatest bands ever produced by these islands.

  • Comment number 50.

    I think I saw Johnson walk into the English team at the end of the 4th test. He was trying to get to the Aussie team but got his direction all wrong.

  • Comment number 51.

    19. At 10:40am on 01 Jan 2011, Kingorry wrote:
    The Aussies have gone soft, even their PM cries on TV now.

    ..............

    Rudd wasn't the first blubberer they've had as Prime Minister. Bob Hawke was a tiny tears too (around the same time they were last rubbish at cricket).

  • Comment number 52.

    #47 Cardiff 2009, Centurion Park 2009, Cape Town 2010 & of course Brisbane 2010 all excellent examples of England drawing tests they may well have lost had they not shown the gumption to fight back or hold on.

  • Comment number 53.

    #50
    Thank you!
    My first fun of 2011!

  • Comment number 54.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 55.

    #42 At 11:59am on 01 Jan 2011, papa shango always right wrote:
    Warne probably the only man to rival my cricketing knowledge.

    Really? - how interesting. And extremely arrogant...

    #43 At 12:01pm on 01 Jan 2011, papa shango always right wrote:
    #41 Johnson would walk into our side.

    Utter drivel. He might have done 2 years ago but not now.



  • Comment number 56.

    #54
    refer to #50
    That's it!

  • Comment number 57.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 58.

    papa shango must be in a pub team, that's the only way his comments would make one iota of sense.

    That or he is a monkey who wouldn't know a cricket ball from his elbow.

  • Comment number 59.

    @#42, just when I was in danger of agreeing with you about Warne playing on his reputation you had to go and spoil things.

    An obscure record (dare I say FACT) is that Nasser Hussain has the most first-class innings without being out stumped. 7 bowlers (yes, including Warne, but also Murali twice, Yuvraj Singh, Chris Harris, Hashan Tillekeratne, Shahid Afridi and Mushtaq Ahmed) had him stumped in ODIs. So anyone who's read Nass's autobiography and/or who can use the stats thing on CricInfo rivals your cricketing knowledge...

    Back to the (excellent) blog. The first Test I saw was Edgbaston 1981, and I can remember being scared witless by Dennis Lillee in particular, even from way back in the Rea Bank stand (as it was then). Cricketers weren't supposed to be bristling with machismo in my 12-year-old imagination: they were either introspective types like Brearley and Boycott or quirky eccentrics like Knott and Randall. Even Botham had too much hearty joviality to be scary. And as you say there have been plenty since but the supply seems to have dried up. Those that try (like Johnson and Siddle) do it no more convincingly than your average Aussie soap actor.

  • Comment number 60.

    You could also add players who didn`t play too often but as soon as they were asked to play a test came in and destroyed us, showing their depth of talent and why us picking Mark Lathwell or Martin McCabe didn`t really compare. Players like Paul Reiffel,Stuart McGill,a young Jason Gillespie,Matthew Elliott. This series is the first time we`ve successfully done the same with Bresnan and Tremlett. Come on England..3-1!

  • Comment number 61.

    Matthew Hayden.

    When he came down the pitch to smash the first ball of the series over the top the signs were ominous for English supporters.

    Lost some his aura as a part of the 05 team, and when one of the aforementioned English supports sledged him:

    'Hayden, your recipes are sh*te'.

  • Comment number 62.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 63.

    Please don't.....well you know the rest.

  • Comment number 64.

    Shane Warne's delivery to remove Mike Gatting is rightly held up as one of the finest deliveries (if not the finest) of all time. However, it was Gatting's removal at the hands of Merv Hughes on a different occasion which I rank as the best thought out bowling I've ever witnessed.

    Picture the scene, last over of the day and the lumbering Hughes snorting at the mouth, nose and every other facial orifice has steamed in like a rhinoceros with a stinking hangover and whistled the first five deliveries past Gatting's nose. We await the last ball of the day and fully expect Merv to bowl it half way down to try to frighten and try to intimidate Gatting into a rash shot. I fully expected him to and so did Gatting who played back to the perfect full-length delivery which cut-back and smashed his stumps all over the shop. The finest piece of cricketing kidology and psychology I've ever witnessed.

    It was such belief, aggression, arrogance and plain simple ability which set a generation of Aussie cricketers apart from the rest of the world. To the names already mentioned you can also add further exceptional players such as Mark Taylor, Alan Border, Dean Jones, David Boon, Michael Slater, Matthew Hayden, Mark Waugh, Brett Lee and several others lost in conyeyer belt of talent that Australia were able to produce during their period of dominance. But times change and the cycle of sporting success rotates. Great players retire, complacency sets in and the opposition get fed up of being humiliated and do their utmost to turn the tables.

    As someone who witness the WI torment and demolish England in the 70s and 80s only to be replaced by the Aussies in the 90s and the noughties, I'll gloat like the rest of the UK cricket supporters at the demise of a fallen giant and enjoy our success for as long as it lasts. God knows we've waited long enough.

  • Comment number 65.

    I would suggest that in Brad Haddin they have found another keeper/ batter whose runs in this series (av. 54) would have been very demoralising in a larger team total instead of just annoying. And how many player have had poor starts in test cricket only to become greats; G.Gouch to name but one.So prehaps Phil Hughes will be a fearsome player. I seem to remember that Jeff Thomson also had a wayward start not unlike Michell Johnson. Without the support these players are not to be feared, and surely the strength of this current England team is that they are a Team. Anyone could be a match winner and when more than one puts in a match winning performance, as has been the case, it all looks so easy. Lets enjoy it while we can!

  • Comment number 66.

    #62, Hussain was _never_ out stumped in a Test match, to Warne or anyone else. Caught 100 times, lbw 34, bowled 20 and run out (surprisingly only) once. So your original point is not valid. Do you have it in you to admit you're wrong? Thought not, let's move on shall we?

  • Comment number 67.

    "a wise man's self-regard is in inverse proportion to his knowledge. An arrogant man walks the same path" – Confucius, in his forward to the 500 BC edition of Wisden.

  • Comment number 68.

    I stopped respecting Australia when they legitimised systematic verbal abuse of the batsmen as "mental disintegration".
    I suppose they would reply with one word - bodyline.

  • Comment number 69.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 70.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 71.

    Bumble never tires of reporting that Nassar is stumped every time he tries to calculate a restaurant tip

  • Comment number 72.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 73.

    are we witnessing a huge rip in the fabric of time and space? PSAR got one wrong, surely not?

  • Comment number 74.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 75.

    #69, this is getting boring and the only way I get to look stupid is by carrying on responding to you. God knows why, but I've just checked all of the many references to Warne in Nasser Hussain's autobiography and nowhere does he say what you claim. And that's because it never happened. If you really do have a copy, then look at the appendix (page 481 in my edition). This includes the forms of dismissal I quoted in my earlier post and notes that Nass holds the world record for most innings without being stumped. End of.

  • Comment number 76.

    Great blog again Tom.

    I too have had recurring nightmares from the age of about 10. They always seem to involve the colour green and invariably have a tinge of gold as well.

    All my life I have grudgingly respected, and like yourself, feared, Aussie sportsmen. They have had, as you describe, a nuggety, hard nosed, professional approach, the likes of which we could not seem to grasp in this country. We have always tended to have a "taking part is what counts" type of attitude.

    Their ability to dig themselves out of holes became the worst thing. It would seem that whenever we had them at a disadvantage, someone would step up and restore the Status Quo. This would knock the heart out of their opponents, particularly the notoriously fragile English. Not so much Bulldog as mouse like!

    When they were on top though, you could watch out, as they would make any other team look silly. The phrase "keeping your foot on the oppositions throat" was written for them.

    The psychological damage became so great that even ordinary bowling became enough to blow teams away. Innocous deliveries became hand grenades with all sorts of imagined movement. IMO this is where it all starts, as poor batting against sometimes excellent, but sometimes fairly ordinary bowling, left the Aussies in a position where, without undue pressure, the Aussie batsment were able to face down the, possibly similar standard of bowling and build the pressure, under which England would invariably crack. The rest of the match would be part of the self perpetating cycle.

    However, the loss of Warne, McGrath, Hayden, Langer, Gilchrist, Healey, Waugh, Waugh etc etc means that Andrew Strauss was correct in his assertion that this current Australian team has indeed lost the "aura" and this has led to all kinds of knock on effects:-

    1. England do not tend crumble any more just at the thought of playing Australia.
    2. The Australian bowling does not hold the same fear, as a consequence the English batting does not tend to fold as easily, allowing our batsmen to build substantial scores.
    3. Substantial scores mean that the Australian batsmen are under pressure, something which will affect every batting side.
    4. The combination of pressure on the batsmen, and confidence in the bowling unit (coupled with no small amount of skill) allows the skipper to set well thought out, attacking fields, bringing the more than useful England fielding into the equation.
    5. Chasing the game without the usual suspect to whom Ponting used to throw the ball, now means that the situation invariably becomes worse, rather than better and the boot is now very much on the other foot.

    ONe thing that I feel must be pointed out, is that my grudging admiration has always been built on the understanding that the Aussie attitude was a good thing. However, what I did not factor in was that, throughout this long period, they were always winning, so we did not see the effect this attitude would have when they weren't. I have to say that, now the situation has changed, I am not that enthusiastic about the way they have carried on. I always assumed that the Australian had an inherent love of sport. It would appear that this is not precisely the case, I think they have a love of winning and cannot cope very well with anything different. I fear now is that they will have to learn!

  • Comment number 77.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 78.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 79.

    'not a single one makes me want to hide under the bed sheets.'

    Hmmm. Have you SEEN some of the pics of Mitchell Johnson posing to show off his tats....

    Trust me, if he came into MY bedroom in the middle of the night I'd hide under the bedsheets, and advise you guys to do the same if you value your honour ! ;-)

  • Comment number 80.

    Returning to deserving additions to Tom's list, I would like to offer up two Aussie greats, Evelyn and Auberon Waugh. Evelyn memorably turned to a butterfingered slip fielder and remarked, "You've just dropped the Ashes, mate," an incident recaptured by Waugh in his novel A Handful of Dust. Auberon, famously sledged for not even being the best novelist in his family, took revenge by exposing Graham Thorpe as a left-hander. Thorpe subsequently lost his place in side to David Steele.

  • Comment number 81.

    #74 If you are so sure name the test match in which this stumping took place.

  • Comment number 82.

    #78 oh dear PSAR. I too have a copy of Nassers Hussains excellent autobiography 'Playing with fire' In the statistical appendage page 463 in my copy it clearly states NH holds the world record for the most innings without being stumped - 171, so unless he is referring to another NH the facts are you are wrong. Again, I am absolutely shocked and don't know how this sequence of events have occurred. Unless of course your copy is the only one in existence that is correct?

  • Comment number 83.

    #78 Is this the copy in your imagination?

    Never mind though eh! (attempting the deflect the FACT that he is wrong)

  • Comment number 84.

    #42
    just about the first time you've written something completely sensible and based on sound facts, as said by the man himself (Warne)...

    then you go and ruin it with #43 - balderdash, as you well know. You cannot rely on Johnson to bowl a good spell. When he is on fire (not often enough if you had him in your team) he is extremely dangerous... but he has only managed it for one match out of the three he has played in during this series. Don't be daft, he would not walk into the England team.

  • Comment number 85.

    I don't think it helped that the England teams during the 90's allowed themselves to be bullied at times and thereby assisting the development of the aura surrounding certain Aussies. I could never understand in '93 why a 6'4" Graeme Hick would seemingly just stand there and take the verbals from Hughes, similarly embarrasing was the backing away to square leg by Peter Such when facing in that series....before the days of body language interpretations but certainly made us look weak.

    One additional thing I have enjoyed this series is the snippets of C9 coverage on the UK highlights package. Having put up with years of the biased Lawry and Benaud and their hero worshipping it has been so enjoyable to detect the seemingly stunned disbelief in their tone...!

  • Comment number 86.

    Nasser Hussain has only ever been out once stumped. However, not in a test match. It was against India Young Cricketers for England Young Cricketers on 28 Feb 1988, noting the game was a youth ODI.

  • Comment number 87.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 88.

    #78 reminds me of a tale I once heard.

    A lowly troll, anxious to raise its statiion in life, approached an eminent philosopher for advice. 'Well young Troll', he said, 'Success can be achieved by personality, by talent, or by power. You have none of the first, so you must acquire power'.

    What is that, and how do I get it?' asked the Troll.
    'Some people buy it with money, some acquire it through hard work, some achieve it through back-stabbing their friends, others must find a cunning plan. But the task is to get other people to do what you want them to do. Then you have power'.

    Having no money, no talent and no friends, the troll came up with a plan. He would lie down in the gutter and make himself so odious that every man that passed would feel obliged to use his face as a spitoon and his body as a latrine. In so doing, he would make them do his bidding!

    Sure enough, he rapidly became so odious that every man that passed felt obliged to treat him thus, until one day even the king of the land, on seeing this sad creature, felt obliged to spit on his face and urinate on his body. Full of pride, the troll leapt up and sought out the Philosopher!

    'I have power, I have power!' he proudly claimed. 'Even the king does my bidding!'

    'Indeed you do', said the Philosopher, 'but you also have a face full of gob and you stink of urine, and the trick is to acquire the one without the other......'

  • Comment number 89.

    PSAR - I suppose this is wrong as well then??

    Perhaps it's a different Nasser Hussain?

    Full Name: Nasser Hussain
    Date of birth: 28 / 03 / 1968
    Role: Batsman
    Batting style: Right-hand
    Bowling style: Leg break


    Batting Career Span: 1990-2004
    Matches: 96
    Innings: 171
    Not Outs: 13
    Runs: 5764
    Highest Score: 207
    Average: 37.19
    50s: 33
    100s: 14
    Ducks: 14
    Pairs: 0
    Caught Out: 100
    Stumped Out: 0
    Bowling Innings Bowled: 1
    Overs: 5.0
    Maidens: 1
    Runs Conceded: 15
    Wickets: 0
    5 Wicket Innings: 0
    10 Wicket Innings: 0
    Average: 0.0
    Economy Rate: 3.0
    Best bowling in Innings: 0/15

    Man enough to admit you are WRONG??

  • Comment number 90.

    This link reveals that Nasser Hussain was not stumped in a test match... end the nonsense.

    http://www.cricket365.com/player-stats/6607/Nasser-Hussain

  • Comment number 91.

    Geoffrey just beat me to it...

    The fool will probably say you can't rely on stats.

    I think we should say that we have proved he is wrong and not indulge him any further.

  • Comment number 92.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 93.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 94.

    #87

    All this will confirm is that you're a blatent WUM. LOL!

  • Comment number 95.

    #86, stumped 8 times in ODI's, 8 times in 1st class cricket, 3 times in domestic limited overs but NEVER in a test match.

  • Comment number 96.

    #88

    Hilarious!

  • Comment number 97.

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  • Comment number 98.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 99.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 100.

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