English cricket team in Australia in 1986–87

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The England cricket team toured Australia in 1986/87, under the captaincy of Mike Gatting, and retained the Ashes with a 2–1 series win.

Lead-up to the series[edit]

Both England and Australia begun this series at a low ebb. England had lost 5–0 against the West Indies the previous year, then lost 2–0 and 1–0 to India and New Zealand respectively during the English summer. Australia, during the same period, had lost two series against New Zealand (2–1 and 1–0) and drew two series against India. While Australia had emerged with a drawn series from their tour of India, they had struggled against India at home the previous season and India had been unlucky not to have won the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne.

Considering the losses that both teams had sustained, it was only natural that many felt this series was merely a battle for Test cricket's Wooden spoon. Australia had managed a tie in Madras and many commentators felt that Australia's batting had strengthened somewhat. The performances of Victorian batsmen Dean Jones and the new opening pair of David Boon and Geoff Marsh had been noted. Young NSW all-rounder, Stephen Waugh, was also beginning to make his presence felt, although certainly not to the level that many expected him. The bowling was still problematic, although Bruce Reid had begun to perform well.

England began its tour at Brisbane in October 1986, losing the first game to Queensland by 5 wickets. Dirk Tazelaar, a tall, left arm bowler, took 4/34 in the first innings. England's batsmen were generally lacking form, though Ian Botham struck 86 off 67 balls, including eleven fours and four sixes – one six shattering a window at long-off. England's fielding was poor, with many catches dropped despite some effective bowling.

A morale boosting 5-wicket victory against South Australia followed. Allan Lamb and tour debutant James Whitaker hit centuries while spinner John Emburey found form. It also marked the end of a depressing run of fourteen losses for the England team (including Test and tour matches). Parkinson, another left-arm fast bowler, took 5/87 in England's first innings. Experts began to question England's vulnerability against left-arm fast bowling.

The next match, in Perth, resulted in an embarrassing performance against Western Australia. Rain ensured the match ended in a draw, but England would have easily lost had the rain stayed away. Five catches were dropped in the first innings as Australian opener Geoff Marsh scored 124 in 345 minutes. Two left-arm quicks, Chris Matthews and Bruce Reid, took four wickets each as England collapsed for 152. Marsh then batted 246 minutes for his 63 in the second innings as Western Australia looked for a declaration. The match ended with England 6 for 153. David Gower, a very important member of the England lineup, had been dismissed for a "duck" in both innings. Captain Mike Gatting, vice captain Allan Lamb and backup opener Wilf Slack had also been dismissed for zero once each during the match.

Australia therefore approached the first Test as clear favourites. Martin Johnson of The Independent wrote that the English team "had only three things wrong with them – can't bat, can't bowl, can't field". Australia selected two left-arm fast bowlers – Bruce Reid and Chris Matthews (both from Western Australia) – to take advantage of the clear problem the English batsmen had with this sort of bowling.

Test series[edit]

1st Test, 14 November 1986 – 19 November 1986[edit]

14–19 November 1986
456 (134 overs)
IT Botham 138 (174)
SR Waugh 3/76 (21 overs)
248 (104.4 overs)
GRJ Matthews 56* (115)
GR Dilley 5/68 (25.4 overs)
77/3 (22.3 overs)
BC Broad 35* (82)
MG Hughes 2/28 (5.3 overs)
282 (f/o) (116.5 overs)
GR Marsh 110 (311)
JE Emburey 5/80 (42.5 overs)
England won by 3 wickets
The Gabba, Brisbane
Umpires: AR Crafter (Aus) and MW Johnson (Aus)
Player of the match: IT Botham (Eng)
  • Australia won the toss and elected to field.
  • 17 November was taken as a rest day.

England's achievement in winning this match, especially against the backdrop of their early tour form, was remarkable. For Australia, with such high hopes against the "old enemy", the loss was depressing and indicated yet again that Australia's young side still had a long way to go before they could be competitive.

England's first innings was dominated by Ian Botham's 138 off 174 balls. He was especially severe on Australian Bowler Merv Hughes, playing in only his second Test. Important also were the return to form of Gower (51) and Captain Gatting (61). A rain-shortened first day meant that Australia was 1–33 by the start of day 3. Australia's first innings was effectively ended by Kent seamer Graham Dilley, although all the bowlers were effective in either taking wickets or restricting runs. Geoff Marsh continued his good form from the previous tour match, scoring 56 in 205 minutes.

Unfortunately for Australia, their first innings fell 8 runs short of avoiding the follow-on. Their second innings was dominated by Marsh's 110 off 392 minutes (by the end of this innings, Marsh had batted 1188 minutes – nearly 20 hours – in four innings against England). England's bowling was dominated by Emburey's 5/80, who conceded fewer than 2 runs per over. Australia was bowled out for 282 and England easily knocked off the runs required for a well-deserved victory.

2nd Test, 28 November 1986 – 3 December 1986[edit]

28 November – 3 December 1986
592/8d (170.1 overs)
BC Broad 162 (313)
BA Reid 4/115 (40 overs)
401 (134.4 overs)
AR Border 125 (282)
GR Dilley 4/79 (24.4 overs)
199/8d (53.3 overs)
MW Gatting 70 (129)
SR Waugh 5/69 (21.3 overs)
197/4 (97 overs)
DM Jones 69 (157)
PH Edmonds 1/25 (27 overs)
Match drawn
WACA Ground, Perth
Umpires: RA French (Aus) and PJ McConnell (Aus)
Player of the match: BC Broad (Eng)
  • England won the toss and elected to bat.
  • 1 December was taken as a rest day.

3rd Test, 12 December 1986 – 16 December 1986[edit]

12 – 16 December 1986
(5–day match)
514/5d (171 overs)
DC Boon 103 (274)
PH Edmonds 2/134 (52 overs)
455 (148.4 overs)
BC Broad 116 (263)
BA Reid 4/64 (28.4 overs)
201/3d (90 overs)
AR Border 100* (253)
PAJ DeFreitas 1/36 (16 overs)
39/2 (23 overs)
BC Broad 15* (69)
GRJ Matthews 1/10 (8 overs)
Match drawn
Adelaide Oval, Adelaide
Umpires: AR Crafter and SG Randell
Player of the match: AR Border (AUS)
  • Australia won the toss and elected to bat.
  • GC Dyer (AUS) and JJ Whitaker (ENG) made their Test debuts.

4th Test, 26 December 1986 – 28 December 1986[edit]

26 – 28 December 1986
(5–day match)
141 (54.4 overs)
DM Jones 59 (136)
IT Botham 5/41 (16 overs)
349 (120.5 overs)
BC Broad 112 (255)
BA Reid 4/78 (28 overs)
194 (73.4 overs)
GR Marsh 60 (142)
PH Edmonds 3/45 (19.4 overs)
England won by an innings and 14 runs
Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne
Umpires: AR Crafter and RA French
Player of the match: GC Small (ENG)
  • England won the toss and elected to field.
  • The match was scheduled for five days but completed in three.

The embarrassing failure of Australia in losing this match so completely also marked their 14th Test in succession without a victory. By any statistical analysis, Australia had reached their all-time historic "low" when the match ended. Having reached this point, the only way for Australia was up. Chris Broad became the third English batsman, after Jack Hobbs and Wally Hammond, to score hundreds in three consecutive Ashes Tests. Allan Border later criticised the Australian selectors for picking a team with only four specialist batsmen – Border says he wanted to pick Greg Ritchie but was overruled.[1]

5th Test, 10 January 1987 – 15 January 1987[edit]

10 – 15 January 1987
(5–day match)
343 (144.5 overs)
DM Jones 184* (421)
GC Small 5/75 (33 overs)
275 (94 overs)
DI Gower 72 (144)
PL Taylor 6/78 (26 overs)
251 (117 overs)
SR Waugh 73 (172)
JE Emburey 7/78 (46 overs)
264 (114 overs)
MW Gatting 96 (161)
PR Sleep 5/72 (35 overs)
Australia won by 55 runs
Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney
Umpires: PJ McConnell and SG Randell
Player of the match: PL Taylor (AUS)
  • Australia won the toss and elected to bat.
  • 13 January was taken as a rest day.
  • PL Taylor (AUS) made his Test debut.

This match will always be remembered as "Taylor's match". When the team for the Test was announced, the Australian selectors had included the name of Peter Taylor from NSW. Thinking that a mistake in names had been made, the Australian media besieged the home of the talented young NSW opener Mark Taylor, thinking that he had been selected to play his first Test. Although history shows that Mark Taylor had a substantial Test career later on, the selectors had made no mistake in the name. NSW off-spinner Peter Taylor had impressed some selectors (especially Greg Chappell) with his all-round abilities during the previous season's Sheffield Shield final. He was noted as an off-spinner who really spun the ball and a number of the wickets he took during the test match were attributed to his 'loop' (the deceptive flight of a heavily spun cricket ball) and bounce from his unusual but high bowling action. Considering Peter Taylor's limited first-class experience, the selection was risky. Given the state of Australian cricket at this point, and the fact that the Ashes had already been lost, such a selection could be considered desperate. The selection was so shocking that the media quickly dubbed him "Peter Who?", and he became something of a celebrity leading up to the match. Spectators voiced their opinion too on the first day of the match. "Aussie Selectors couldn't pick Bill Lawry's Nose" declared one banner. No doubt these same spectators would have been cheering 5 days later as this unlikely player received the man of the match award.

The Australian first innings was dominated by Jones' 184 not out – his first century of the season and only his second Test century. Jones was lucky not to be out for 5, as video replays seemed to indicate that he had been caught behind. Australia managed 343 in the first innings, with Jones featuring in some very important late-wicket partnerships.

Given the dominance of England's batting throughout the season and the limited nature of Australia's bowling, both sides were stunned as England stuttered to 3/17 in their first innings, with Merv Hughes finally providing the venom he had been promising. Hughes, still inexperienced at this point, was one of the players the selectors stuck with despite his poor form. England recovered somewhat through the strokeplay of Gower and an almost embarrassing 69 from John Emburey (who kept falling over when playing the sweep shot). But it was debutant Peter Taylor taking 6/78 off 26 overs that ran through the middle order, including the dangerous Ian Botham.

Australia's second innings began badly again, then recovered slightly while Jones and Border were batting, then slumped again to 7/145. Steve Waugh (73) partnered Peter Taylor (42) in a 98 run partnership that, in the end, proved to be match-winning. Waugh, still potentially "the next big thing" and in front of his home crowd, was an attractive stroke-maker while Taylor, on the other hand, had little natural strokeplay but relied upon his concentration. John Emburey, the English Off Spinner, was taking every advantage of the wearing pitch with 7/78 off 46 overs.

With 320 to win on a wearing pitch, England applied themselves against the inexperienced Australian attack and aimed for victory. Gatting, out for 0 in the first innings, took England to 5/233, but was out caught and bowled to All-rounder Steve Waugh for 96. With the pitch getting worse, England put off thoughts of victory and worked to draw the match. John Emburey batted for over an hour for his 22, but was clean bowled in the penultimate over to a Peter Sleep leg-spinner that kept low. This gave Australia its first victory in 14 Tests. Peter Sleep finished with 5/72 – his only 5 wicket haul in Tests.

One-day international challenge[edit]

The Benson & Hedges Perth Challenge was a one-off one-day international tournament held at the WACA Ground, Perth in late December 1986 and early January 1987. It was part of the celebrations marking Australia's defence of the America's Cup yachting competition which was taking place simultaneously in nearby Fremantle.

Australia, England, Pakistan and the West Indies were the competitors. The games were played over a league basis and in coloured clothing, with Pakistan beating the West Indies in the first match under the new WACA floodlights. In England's victory over Australia, Ian Botham hit 26 runs off one over. England then inflicted a defeat over the then-dominant West Indies before beating Pakistan in a "dress rehearsal" of the final. Australia had a miserable tournament, losing all three games and being bowled out for a mere 91 in its game against the West Indies. Australian batsman Dean Jones did have a fine tournament, however, hitting back-to-back centuries. In the final, England comfortably beat Pakistan with 9.5 overs to spare.

Team Played Won Lost Tied N/R Pts RR
 England 3 3 0 0 0 6 4.924
 Pakistan 3 2 1 0 0 4 4.685
 West Indies 3 1 2 0 0 2 4.193
 Australia 3 0 3 0 0 0 4.020


7 January 1987
166/9 (50 overs)
167/5 (40.1 overs)
Javed Miandad 77 (127)
GC Small 3/28 (10 overs)
MW Gatting 49 (72)
Wasim Akram 3/27 (10 overs)
England won by 5 wickets
WACA, Perth
Umpires: AR Crafter (Aus) and RA French (Aus)
Player of the match: Javed Miandad (Pak)
  • England won the toss and elected to field.

World Series Cup[edit]

The 1987 World Series Cup triangular tournament featured Australia, England and the West Indies, with games played at five venues:

  • Melbourne
  • Sydney
  • Adelaide
  • Brisbane
  • Devonport

Each team played a total of eight games to reach the best of three final. Australia had a significantly better time than they had in the Perth Challenge, winning five of their eight qualifying games to top the group, ahead of England, with the West Indies eliminated. However, England rounded off their successful tour with a convincing 2–0 victory in the final series.

Team Played Won Lost Tied N/R Pts RR
 Australia 8 5 3 0 0 10 4.404
 England 8 4 4 0 0 8 3.936
 West Indies 8 3 5 0 0 6 3.483
Player of the Series: IVA Richards (WIN)


8 February 1987
171/8 (44 overs)
172/4 (36 overs)
DM Jones 67 (107)
GR Dilley 3/32 (9 overs)
IT Botham 71 (52)
GRJ Matthews 3/27 (9 overs)
England won by 6 wickets
MCG, Melbourne
Umpires: PJ McConnell (Aus) and SG Randell (Aus)
  • England won the toss and elected to field.
11 February 1987
187/9 (50 overs)
179/8 (50 overs)
BC Broad 53 (87)
PL Taylor 2/29 (10 overs)
SP O'Donnell 40* (27)
IT Botham 3/26 (10 overs)
England won by 8 runs
SCG, Sydney
Umpires: AR Crafter (Aus) and RA French (Aus)
Player of the match: IT Botham (Eng)
  • England won the toss and elected to bat.
  • England won the best of 3-match series 2–0
    Player of the Series: IT Botham (Eng)

Historical context of the series[edit]

Despite his promising debut, Australian off-spinner Peter Taylor never dominated a Test match in the same way again. Apart from a score of 54 not out against Pakistan a few years later[2] and 87 against New Zealand in 1990,[3] Taylor's overall Test record was mediocre.

Chris Broad also suffered from lack of consistency after this series. Despite his wonderful run of centuries, he never again dominated a bowling attack the way he did during this tour. He scored 116 against Pakistan in the infamous December 1987 Test,[4] then 139 against Australia again in the Bicentenary Test match.[5] However, Broad eventually finished with just 1661 Test runs at an average of 39.54. His final Test was during the 1989 Ashes series, where he scored 18 and 20 at Lord's.

A number of other England players failed to live up to their potential from this series. Gladstone Small played only 17 Tests and took 55 wickets for an average of 34 runs. Young wicketkeeper Jack Richards found that the selectors preferred Bruce French when he returned to England. Richards retired before he turned 30, having played only 8 Tests. His 133 at Perth was his only Test century.

Philip DeFreitas, in his debut tour, eventually turned into an effective bowler for England, though he was never able to live up to the "Black Botham" tag that some had given him. Graham Dilley was another who served England well until his final Test in 1989.

A number of Australians were able to learn from this series and were able to transform themselves into better players as a result. David Boon's Test career was written off after this series. Dean Jones lived up to his promise, while Steve Waugh, after a long period of time, finally began to deliver on his ability and was one of Australia's most important players in the 1990s. Australia's bowlers, notably Geoff Lawson, Merv Hughes and Craig McDermott, all returned to form and were integral parts of future teams that defeated England in 1989, 1990–91, 1993, and 1994–95. Bruce Reid's performances improved markedly, but back injuries limited his Test career.

After this, England would not win an Ashes series for 18 years.

See also[edit]