While looking into Pakistan vs England 2020 schedule in the coming month, I just got a flashback of 30-35 years back, how England team used to be. 1986 was a year of despair of the English cricketers, and only couple of victories down under towards the end of the year avoided them becoming the ‘sick man’ of the cricketing fraternity. Yet, at the beginning of the year there was lot of optimism. Following their 3-1 success the previous summer against a depleted Aussie side, the Englishmen went to WI hoping to give Viv Richards’ team a scare or two. They had no idea about the things to come. Mike Gating had his nose broken, Ian Bothammade the headlines in the tabloids, for his love affair with a Barbados beauty queen; and in the field, England followed one humiliating defeat after another.
Things hardly improved during the summer. Following the Lord’s defeat against India, Mike Gatting replaced Gower as skipper. But there was little change of fortune. The 2-0 defeat at the hands of the Indians (this series will be discussed later in the India part) was followed by 1-0 reversal against NZ. The return of Ian Botham (He was banned early in the summer on disciplinary ground) in the final test at Oval against NZ bolstered the fledging moral of the side. The team did lot better in the Ashes tour, and it was Botham who started the things off with a century at Gabba.
Bowling first, after winning the toss, the inexperienced Aussie attack failed to exploit the favorable conditions properly. Botham (138), Athey (76) and Gatting (61) helped the tourists reach a highly respectable 456. In reply, a number of home players got going, but the highest score was only 56, as Dilley of Kent, bowled his hearts out taking 5/68. Botham played his part also with the ball, picking up couple of late wickets to restrict the Aussies to 248 all out. Following on, Geoff Marsh scored a brave hundred, but spinner Emburey took 5 wickets as England won by 7 wickets.
After couple of high scoring draws at WACA and the Adelaide Oval, England thrashed their rivals on the boxing-day test match at MCG. The capacity crowd on the first day saw Australia bowled out for only 141. With Dilley injured, his replacement Gladstone Small stole the show, taking 5/48. Botham was there too, taking 5/41. Dean Jones’ brave 59 went in vain. Chris Broad (112) scored his 3 rd century of the series, as England took a sizeable lead. The England spinners did the rest as mike Gatting’s team won by an innings and 14 runs. Australia won the exciting last test at SCG to restore some pride, but England retained their Ashes.
However, England failed to build on this success, in fact, for the remainder of decade, they won only one more test match, against the lowly Sri-Lankans, at the Oval in 1988.