Revealed The inside story of how England won the 1987 Ashes
In 1986, an England side who had just been humbled at home by India and New Zealand travelled to Australia. Pundits predicted humiliation; instead, they secured one of the most memorable wins in Ashes history. In the first of a two-part series, Simon Brig
Mike Gatting, England captain
Micky Stewart and myself were new to one another, but when we wrote our teams out there were only a couple of differences. We both wanted Beefy [Ian Botham], even if it meant problems with the rest of the committee. Jack Richards was a little left-field but he was a competitor, a good keeper who could bat a bit. The interesting one was Phillip Defreitas, a young lad whom nobody had really seen, but the umpires all said he was the real thing.
Micky Stewart, England manager
We didn’t have Graham Gooch, the most consistent player in the country, who had opted out after spending too many winters away. It was a talented side but, given the recent results, the powers-that-be had decided they needed somebody in a managerial role, for the first time. The game was changing. It had been a pleasant pastime for a lot of people who played it, with no great money to be earned. Now people were beginning to understand that winning was important, and so was preparation. Gatt didn’t like running too much but he bought into the principle.
Chris Broad, England batsman
It was my first England tour, I turned up at Heathrow, and there was Eric Clapton, having a drink with Ian Botham in the bar. Beefy says: “Come and meet Eric.” I was like, “F---, Eric!”
Phil Defreitas, England seamer
I was sharing a room with Botham, who had been my hero growing up. The first night after we got to Australia, I went down for the team dinner and he went out. He came back in the middle of the night, woke me up, and there was a bottle of whisky and two glasses on the table. He said: “Pour, you’re on tour now, come on.” I poured it, but I crashed out, never touched it. When I woke up the next morning, it was still there.
Broad In those days, no one cared about how much you had to drink, as long as you did your job from 11am to 6pm. All the experienced guys had been to Australia before. They would phone people up, go out and do their own thing. So, there was no real unit when we started the tour. As first-time
tourists, going into the tour matches, the rest of us were thinking: “Crikey, we had better get some runs or wickets”, not really knowing that the other guys couldn’t give a s---.
Gatting Our first match was in Bundaberg, and the night before David Gower decided to have a drinking competition with Beefy. David said: “I don’t like beer”, so
Beefy said: “Let’s drink Bundies [Bundaberg rum].” David said: “I’ll match you drink for drink while the speeches are on”, but this bloke went on for 40 minutes. By the time we had finished he was six Bundies behind. And Beefy made him drink them. I don’t know what possessed David. He could drink champagne and wine, but he was never a hard-spirits drinker. It was so un-david-like.
Defreitas Botham, Gower and Allan Lamb were all having this drinks race. I was the one who kept going up for the drinks, and the speeches were so boring, but I was thinking: “This is so much fun.” I’ll never forget when we got on the coach, Gower was spewing out the window, Lamby was stopping the driver to go to Pizza Hut, and Beefy was just beating everyone up.
David Gower, England batsman
During the match against Western Australia, we got invited down to Fremantle by White Crusader [the British entry to the America’s Cup regatta]. As luck would have it, there was a thunderstorm on the Waca in the final session, which was just the right time to say: “Oh f--- it, let’s finish for the day”.
So, we got early to Fremantle, and it was like a London club on the docks: leather everywhere and polished mahogany, a few girls around the place, Harold Cudmore and his team. It was only 1am or so when Beefy had a bit of a twitch on his 18th glass of brandy and knocked a lamp over. We thought it was time to go. But it didn’t stop there. When I got back to the hotel, I collapsed into bed. Beefy and Lamby attacked their minibars.
To be fair to Beefy, after the average night out, you wouldn’t know the difference in the morning. This one was exceptional and he was ropy. He spent most of the morning with his head plunged into the butler’s basin in the dressing room, full of cold water and ice, trying to shock himself into life. We were having a terrible morning, no one had made double figures, and he was allowed to slip down the order until eventually we said: “Beefy, you’ve got to go.”
So, he walked out doing that thing where he swung his arms. He got all the way to the middle and the Western Australia guys were going: “Beefy, anything you need?”
Because he didn’t have a bat. We just wanted to see how long it would take him to work it out. We were in the s--- anyway, so we thought: “Let’s have some fun with this.” It was only when he went to take guard that he realised, and then the 12th man raced out.
Gatting There was no point in saying to Beefy: “I want you in bed by 10pm every night.” You had to sit him down and treat him like a sensible human being. I said: “Our press blokes are going to be looking, their press blokes are going be looking. So you just look after the young bowlers, have your knock, a little bowl and then stand with us in the nets doing catching. Then, when the Test cricket starts, tell me what you want to play. Deal?” And he was fantastic.
Martin Johnson, Reporter
It had been a big year for Beefy in the press, even by his standards. On the West Indies tour, he was supposed to have broken a bed with Miss Barbados. Then there was the dope-smoking ban in the summer. I remember walking across the outfield in Brisbane just before the first Test when this guy ran up to me and said: “How’s Beefy going?” I said: “He’s been as good as gold, but he’s only got to fart and the whole of Fleet Street will be parachuted in.” The next thing I knew, that quote was on the back of the local paper!
Graham Morris, Photographer
Tom Byron [Botham’s agent in Australia] had decided that Beefy would be a megastar. He had white limousines waiting at airports, all sorts of ridiculous things. Crash [Chris Lander, reporter and Botham’s ghostwriter] and I went to the Natural History museum in Brisbane and talked them into lending us a stuffed six-foot alligator so that we could get him dressed up as Crocodile Dundee. Byron was just after his 10 per cent. And whatever Byron was doing, Beefy had had enough of it by the later stages of the tour. He was trying to play cricket for England and Byron had him opening supermarkets and kissing babies.
Stewart It was the war of the red-top tabloids, back then. One of them teed up four girls to go on holiday to lead the lads into difficult circumstances before the first Test. I couldn’t believe it. Someone from the press tipped me off, so I said: “No one goes downstairs.” I went down and met them and said: “You must be very affluent young ladies.” And they said: “No, it’s been paid for.”
Gatting The News of the World sent over these prostitutes and then you had Martin Johnson writing that we had only three problems: we couldn’t bat, bowl or field.
Johnson The warm-ups had been so bad that every Aussie current affairs show had people laughing off their chairs. At that stage, the chances of them winning the series seemed on a par with little green men landing from Mars. So, I took refuge in black humour. The Aussies picked up on it, and one paper devoted its entire front page to a demolition of the England cricket team, with a strapline at the bottom: “Turn to page 13 for more on the pathetic Poms.”
Stewart It was exaggerated how badly the warm-ups had gone. We struggled with illness in Perth and got caught on a sticky wicket up at Newcastle. But no one thought we had a chance. When we got to the Gabba, there was this official lunch where the chairman welcomed us and then finished up by saying he felt sorry for us. It was good motivation.
Gatting We had a team dinner the night before the first Test where Beefy spoke. He said: “Forget everything else, that was practice. On the 11 guys who go out there, I back us to win the Test.” Myself and Micky were going to say something but we didn’t need to after that.
Broad There were a lot of swear words and he was very serious. Up to that point, he had been Mr Socialite, but now we thought: “Wow, he means business”.
Gatting I was confident, too. We had the two best spinners in the world at that time, in John Emburey and Phil Edmonds. We had Botham and Gower, plus Lamby who, on his day, could be as destructive as anybody. Myself, Broady and Ath [Bill Athey] were just going to be blunting and making sure the guys behind us were never in at 10 for two.
Geoff Lawson, Australian fast bowler
I was coming back off my back injury. I was picked in the first Test squad, and then left as 12th man. The three seamers had nine Tests between them. There was a theory that England were vulnerable to left-arm quicks, as they had struggled against them in the build-up. Greg Chappell was in charge of selection and when he told me: “We’re going to give the young tyros a go”, I nearly fell off my chair. It was bizarre.
Gower Gatt came up to me on the morning of the match, and said: “Let’s change the batting order, I’ll go at No 3 and you go at No 5 instead of the other way around.” I hadn’t made a run on the tour, and in the first innings I nicked the first ball and was dropped by Craig Matthews at third slip. I went on to make 50, and once you get back on track, off you go. There were a lot of things Gatt did well, subtle things like that, which I should be grateful for.
Defreitas I felt so powerful just to be walking out on a cricket field with Ian Botham. He was batting at the other end when I came in. On my first ball, Merv Hughes bounced me. I flipped it off my nose down to fine-leg, and Merv said something to me. I looked at Botham and said: “I can’t believe it, he’s just really had a go at me.” Botham said: “Don’t worry, I’ll sort him out.” He was really smacking it around. He hit some big sixes off Greg Matthews, and he even hit me on the back with one straight drive. Being there and watching him take them on, without a helmet as well, it was surreal. These were things you dream about as a kid.
David Boon, Australian batsman
I can recall quite vividly up at the Gabba, Botham got a hundred and he panned Merv. I was at mid-off and Merv
said to me: “Where am I going to bowl to him?” I said: “Mate, you could try pitching it up”. Merv bounced him and it disappeared for another six.
Defreitas I think it was on the second evening, Botham dragged me along to the Australian dressing room for a beer. I sat between Lamby, Allan Border, Gower and Greg Ritchie and Boonie [David Boon]. They were just talking like it’s just a normal night out, having fun. I found it really strange, thinking: “Hang on a minute, we’re playing a Test match here.” But then you listened to what they were saying and how they talked, and that’s how you learn. We missed the coach, we came out of the room and we were looking around for a taxi. One of the older guys said: “The reason we do this – we go in just to show we’re not scared of them.”
Gower Moving into the opposition dressing room at the close of play is a very good thing. It was automatic in the late Seventies. Then, as we got into the Eighties, some of those guys who were new to Ashes tours found it hard to reconcile being abused on the field with going next door to have a chat and a beer with the bloke who had abused you.
Whereas I had got to know Border and the Chappells and all the rest of them on the ’79 tour. In ’79, I spent one night at the SCG from close of play till midnight, until the only two people left were myself and Ian Chappell. It was an interesting experience for a 22-year-old. Not only are you understanding the enemy, but you don’t then have this great angst if they call you a nasty word on the field. Even that first year, when Border and I were playing against each other for the first time, we’d have a little chat and a giggle.
Broad Coming in on the second morning [of the second Test] with 140-odd to my name was something that I had never experienced before. My main memory of this match is of Gower coming down the pitch and saying: “Don’t worry, you’ve got a hundred in a Test match, just play normally.” I thought I could play like I had the previous evening, and I was terrible. I got out for 162 and felt embarrassed walking off. Still, you’d take that!
Gatting I got some stick for not declaring earlier [in the second innings], but I was thinking in the context of the series. For one thing, Beefy wasn’t going to bowl, because he did an intercostal muscle in the first innings. And then, looking at it seriously, Adelaide was going to be flat. My view was that if you’re going to bowl out a Test side, you do it in a day – and we couldn’t do that, despite the way the pitch was cracking up. I still felt we’d be strongly placed going into Melbourne 1-0 up, especially as it was usually an interesting wicket. They often relaid it after the footie finals.
Peter West, cricket correspondent, from his book Clean Sweep
Dec 6: First day of match against Victoria, and a minor English hiccup which will give the Sundays something to write about. Mike Gatting is not on the scene when the toss is due.
Gower We’re at the MCG but there’s no sign of Gatt, he’s not answering the phone, and we’re getting to the stage where someone was going to have to toss up. So, I went down to see the umpires and the opposition captain. I named the team and said: “I think Mr Gatting will play but we just can’t find him at the moment. We’ll have to start without him.” The classic line, true or not, was that he was found with a half-eaten hamburger by the bed, the outstretched hand still clutching a bit of it. And when he does pitch up, he has a little bowl and picks up a hatful of wickets.
Gatting I slept in. That was travelling backwards and forwards and all sorts of things, but also the previous night I was speaking at a benefit dinner for the family of this guy – he played at a grade club in New South Wales – who had lost his life in a skiing accident. I possibly should have been in bed, but I thought it was one of those things you do. At the Christmas panto, the press gave me a giant alarm clock.
‘I think Mr Gatting will play, we just can’t find him’
Touch of genius: Ian Botham hooks the ball for another boundary on his way to 138 against Australia at the Gabba
Against all odds: The England team celebrate their remarkable seven-wicket win at the Gabba in the first Test; (right) Dean Jones of Australia drives as Allan Lamb of England takes evasive action during the second Test in Perth
England tour party for the 1986-87 Ashes
Back row, from left Laurie Brown (physio). Bruce French Retired in 1995. Now England’s wicket-keeping coach. Wilf Slack Died, aged 34, in 1989 after collapsing during a match in Gambia. Phillip Defreitas Retired in 2005. Now a cricket coach. Chris Broad Played just 15 more Tests. Now an ICC match referee. James Whitaker Did not appear in another Test. Now England’s chairman of selectors. Gladstone Small Became a director of the Professional Cricketers’ Association. Jack Richards Retired aged 30 and now runs a successful shipping company in the Netherlands. Bill Athey Retired in 2000 and is now head of cricket at Dulwich College in south London. Peter Austen (scorer)
Front row, from left Micky Stewart (team manager) Left England in 1992. Now has the pavilion at the Oval named in his honour. Neil Foster Retired in 1993 and qualified as a physiotherapist. Ian Botham Now divides his time between charity fund-raising and cricket punditry. Knighted in 2007.
David Gower Retired in 1993. Has anchored Sky TV’S cricket coverage for more than 20 years. Mike Gatting (captain) Sacked as captain in 1988 but played on until 1995. Served as MCC president between 2013-14. Peter Lush
(tour manager). John Emburey (vice-captain) Played cricket until 1997 before going into coaching. Diagnosed with skin cancer in 2014. Phil Edmonds Moved into business after leaving cricket, specifically mining and petroleum. Allan Lamb Retired in 1995. Now runs a corporate hospitality company and is busy on the after-dinner circuit. Graham Dilley Became a coach after retiring. Diagnosed with oesophageal cancer in 2011, he died a week later.
Off to a flier: Graham Dilley, who took five wickets in the first innings at the Gabba, is mobbed by his team-mates; (below) David Gower at the Christmas party