Cricket: My top five memories of the 1997 Ashes series

In a moment of melancholia over the recent fortunes of the Aussie XI, nostalgic reminiscences of the 1997 Ashes series have offered some solace. So, in the spirit of Hornby, I list my top five moments from the 1997 Ashes series.

No 5: The Net

Bat-twirling calisthenics devotee Alec Stewart is facing the scary wayward Devon Malcolm in the Edgbaston nets. I am directly behind the net at Stewart’s end. Devon’s thunderbolts have Stewart (and me) jumping and hopping all over the place. Alec looks around seemingly hoping to see a batting luminary such as Dennis Amiss, Colin Cowdrey or Geoff Boycott. He wants to pick somebody’s cricket brain about his increasingly uncertain footwork. Sadly for Stewart, he only has me as a soundboard for technical batting advice.
“G’day mate, I was wondering if you could please keep an eye on my back foot?”
“Sure no problem Alec”, I reply with astonishment and some pride.
For the next five minutes or so, I advise Stewart about the position of his back foot in relation to the stumps. By the end of the net session, he is playing scything cut shots, ducking with surety and generally using the crease like an Ian Chappell. Stewart went on to score 18 and 40 not out in the Birmingham Test. He owes me.

No 4: The Spell

I have just walked through The Long Room at Lord’s. Portraits of Miller and Bradman hang on the wall. The tour guide announces there might be some tickets for sale for the first three days of the Test. I leave the tour immediately and procure the much-coveted tickets. The first day is washed out. In the two hours of play on the second day, McGrath knocks over Butcher, Atherton and Stewart (who shoulders arms and obviously didn’t benefit from my batting wisdom at Birmingham). On the third day, the metronomic and unerringly accurate McGrath goes on to take 8/38. What a master class of seam bowling from the famed Pavilion End.

No 3: The Twin Centuries

At Old Trafford, Taylor wins the toss, gambles and decides to bat on a shocking looking track. The wicket has an incongruous green and brown appearance. Seam and spin are sure to prosper here. SR Waugh comes in (red handkerchief hanging out of his trouser pocket) at about 3/40 in each innings. At 3/40, you back Waugh to play a really valuable knock. At 3/400, you don’t. In the first innings, he is 9th out for 108. In the second dig, he is 8th out for 116. Both centuries are full of skill, courage and forceful straight drives in the trying batting conditions. In the second dig, Waugh bats with an injured bottom hand. He tries really hard not to show the pain. Given the conditions and state of the match, these are two of the best hundreds I’ve seen in Tests.

No 2: The Photo

During the tour, a few of us befriend Jim Wilson of Channel 7. Jim gives us the tip to head to the Black Orchid in Nottingham (a cracker of a city with a nightlife to boot). What an evening. We chat and imbibe with Heals et al. Good blokes. In the early hours of the morning, I share a rum and coke with my cricketing hero at the time, SR Waugh. I get a photo with the Great Man to commemorate the night and the tour. I still have the photo and it’s a prized possession.

No 1: The Sheds

The Australian touring party are cock-a-hoop after just demolishing England by an innings and 61 runs at Headingley. I am chatting with Jim Wilson and a couple of other punters near the door to the Aussie dressing room. We could hardly hear ourselves think because of the raucous goings on inside the Aussie sheds.
Jim says, “You’ll probably never get a chance like this again.”
We approach the stewards guarding the room that contains our cricketing heroes. Jim organises for us to go in and stand a respectful distance from the celebratory mayhem. We are transfixed watching our beer-soaked, flag-draped baggy-greened heroes (and Errol Alcott) in a state of unabashed delirium. Thanks Jim. To this day, I can’t believe we were ever in there.

Comments

  1. Love your work, Sneak. I thought I was there in 1997 but didn’t share any of these sensational highlights. Bit disappointed that my unerring accuracy with pips, cores and other fruit matter into the bin at the front of the Fox Stand didn’t feature! Probably your 6th choice.

  2. Malcolm Ashwood says:

    Stumbled upon this , PJF brilliant and yes a tad jealous ! We’ll played , Sir

  3. Luke Reynolds says:

    Wow. So many awesome experiences there. Like Rulebook, a bit jealous. Watched Steve Waugh’s twin tons at Old Trafford in their entirety on the TV. Wonderful knocks. Sharing a Rum and Coke with the great man would have been fantastic. Did I mention being a bit jealous…?

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