Headingley 1981, Oval 2005

by Harry on September 6, 2005

Via Norm, a piece by Mike Brearley, who understands why cricket is thrilling and why this test series in particular has been so gripping. But he perpetuates a myth about Headingley 1981, that I want to kill. He says:

The comparison is no doubt indecent, but nevertheless valid: people remember where they were on the last day at Headingley, 1981, just as those of us who are old enough remember where we were when we heard of John F Kennedy’s assassination, or the death of Diana, Princess of Wales.

Well, I do remember where I was on the last day of Headingley 1981. But that is incidental. What I really remember is where I was in the final session of the Saturday when first Dilley, and then Botham, truned a hopeless situation into one in which you started to fantasize about what eventually happened. I suspect Brearley remembers the last day better because, though he never says it, it was a day when a captain won a match.

Anyway, if you’ve got a TV, watch it tomorrow [or the day after, if you are reading this on Tuesday — thanks Chris] for Benaud. If you have a ticket, or can steal one, go for Warne. And pity the rest of us.



Chris Bertram 09.06.05 at 3:49 pm

It being Tuesday, I expect I’ll wait until the day after tomorrow Harry. But I know what you mean.


Harry 09.06.05 at 3:51 pm

Its even earlier on Tuesday here. I must be willing the time to pass.


Peter Briffa 09.06.05 at 5:14 pm

Let’s not start another myth, Harry. Dilley and Botham had their hour of mayhem on a Monday.

Still, it was twenty-five years ago.


dsquared 09.06.05 at 5:15 pm

Rain, rain, beautiful rain. Cobblers to this John Arlott stuff, all I want to see is four days of dispiriting drizzle then a pointless Monday knockabout on a lifeless pitch.


Peter Briffa 09.06.05 at 5:16 pm

Let’s not create another myth. Dilley and Botham had their hour of mayhem on the Monday.

Still, it was twenty-five years ago.


harry b 09.06.05 at 5:34 pm

Peter, having proved elsewhere in the post that I don’t know what day it is today, I think no-one should take my memory about the name of the day seriously.

It felt like a Saturday — I’d just finished my A-levels and every day felt like Saturday for several weeks.


Ben Alpers 09.06.05 at 6:01 pm

I’m an American and even I remember where I was during Headingley, 1981. I was spending the summer in England, working on an archaelogical dig in York. Most of those working with me were Brits, who were completely caught up in the match.

I’m a lifelong baseball fan, and the pleasures of cricket are not unlike the pleasures of baseball (and it’s not just a matter of both games being played with bats and balls).

I can’t say I follow cricket much from afar, but when I’m in the UK, and there’s a test match on, I’ll always watch it on TV or listen on the radio. And Headingley has everything to do with that.


Vish Subramanian 09.06.05 at 6:41 pm

Its nice to see the English go ga-ga over some very good cricket – but this “finest in living memory” stuff goes too far. Can I nominate Australia-in-India 2001, which was as spectacular as this series (with the sad exception of being only best-of-3). Plus, Laxman’s 281 surpasses any of the fine batting performances in this series.


Offshore Pundit 09.06.05 at 6:59 pm

Isn’t it time that we had something to say about those two Aussie “white sox”, Dennis Lillee and Rodney Marsh who should been called for chucking”.

The loss at Headingly must up have upset them somewhat but the blow would have been softened somewhat because they had backed England at tea on the fourth day at 500-1.

Lillee won £5,000, but said he spent it on a return trip and accommodation to the Gold Coast for the coach driver who placed the bet.

The matter was never properly investigated by the spineless ACB and the pair were so “loveable” that the mejia and therefore the Australian public let them off.

But the fact of the matter is that the pair ratted on their team mates and Australian fans. Australia should never have lost that game but with two players clearly “distracted” they never had a chance.

In any event I cannot recall their “runner” ever having come forward.

They should have been banned for life.


cs 09.06.05 at 7:11 pm

Ah, to this day, whenever Australia face a chase, someone somewhere in my vicinity always says “remember Headingly”.

Go Warnie!


derrida derider 09.06.05 at 10:01 pm

I agree with vish – that 2001 series in India was really something. It was only made possible by pitches specially prepared for the home side, but that’s OK – everybody does that these days (we gave the Indians greentops when they last visited Australia). But really for aussies and poms the Ashes is always the series that really matters, even at times when either or neither team has been at top standard.

I still favour us to win this match, unless the bloody poms manage to specially prepare their weather for the home side, as dsquared is trying to do. The English team have played to their best, whereas our lot have been below their usual standard for a lot of the time – they must come good soon.

But of course that’s what I said before the last match.


nick 09.06.05 at 11:37 pm

I definitely remember Willis skittling the Aussies on the last day at Headingley, yes. But not the previous days, strangely. I was seven years old at the time.

Anyway, another weekend of 5am starts for me. I don’t mind losing terrestrial coverage, but if Sky tries to take away Test Match Special next time round, I may well have to take action.


John Isbell 09.07.05 at 12:34 am

Thanks for the memories. Botham at slip is how I picture him.


strewelpeter 09.07.05 at 5:48 am

I have very fond memories of that series.

Growing up in Ireland, outside of some particular small social circles, in the 60’s and 70’s it was a complete aberration and even slightly dangerous to watch cricket at all. I had extra reason as my Father used to enjoy watching it on TV, I have memories of him sitting in on sunny Sunday afternoons with the blinds closed watching cricket through a ridiculously noisy signal. At that time anything that my Father liked was anathema to me so I was with the majority opinion that this game was some sort of incomprehensible, demented imperialist joke.
Then I started working in a TV repair shop and it turned out that the guy I was working for was a cricket fanatic. Our normal routine was to do our bench work in the workshop in the mornings and do our house calls in the afternoons. When summer came around the routine changed for every second week and we were brought in early and all calls were to be finished by midday at which point we were locked into the workshop and the serious business of sitting down to watch the cricket began. My fellow apprentice was a diehard gaelic football fan from a distinguished footballing family, he resisted strongly and we hatched cunning plans to reorganise this forced leisure more into the kind of thing we were good at, which was more along the lines of driving around the countryside eyeing up girls, smoking joints, listening to the likes of Morrison, Dylan, the Clash and Costello and endlessly discussing the horses we were backing and the books we were reading, Midnights Children was a favourite as it and the music from then still remain. Luckily for us our plans to get out and enjoy the sunshine were foiled, our boss was a complete psycho whose involvement in the religious groups Opus Dei gave him some strange sense of duty to educate us in the path of the righteous, which for him cricket was a essential part of. Lucky also that this was 1981 and Brearly, Botham, Willis and Co. treated us to one of the great sporting summers of all time. Lucky also that cricket was all I caught from my increasingly nutty boss and now I can look forward to this weekend when myself and my now elderly Father, still divided by the deep chasm of religion, will savour together the sport and the speculation, the tension and the rain, Warne’s amazing spin and my attempts to spin some arbitrage out of Betfair’s markets.

If you have got this far through my reminiscences you might want to know who I’ll be supporting, we will be neutral on the side of england, just like in the war :)


chris y 09.07.05 at 5:49 am

Don’t know about Lillee’s action (I don’t remember any questions at the time), but Marsh had every right to chuck, especially if he was standing back.

Best series? how long is living memory? West Indies in England, 1963, will do me.


tom lynch 09.07.05 at 7:01 am

This series has been more thrilling than India 2001, for my money. The matches have been closer, and gone down to the last day.

Taking nothing away from Laxman’s innings – I clearly remember cursing him in disbelief at the time.


Eleanor 09.07.05 at 10:17 am

I agree, Tom. And it’s so great to see everyone getting enthused about it — that is to say, that we’ve once again got a side that’s really worth enthusing about. This series has been so enjoyable that I almost don’t care who wins. (NB “almost”.) Now, if we can just get the next four years’ terrestrial TV rights back…


rachel 09.07.05 at 2:22 pm

‘Truning’ is one of those weird cricket things, like googlies, right?


Offshore Pundit 09.07.05 at 6:19 pm

Don’t know about Lillee’s action (I don’t remember any questions at the time), but Marsh had every right to chuck, especially if he was standing back.” – I meant “chuck” in the sense of throwing the game. It’s a play on words.


plebian 09.08.05 at 5:15 am

Yeah, but the chances of Lillian Marsh throwing an Ashes game for a joke bet are next to zero.


dsquared 09.08.05 at 5:45 am

With England winning the toss, batting and now at 78-0 I will see my earlier prayer for rain and raise by suggesting to Michael Vaughan that the under-arm daisy cutter is a much overlooked addition to the bowling arsenal.


Chris Corrigan 09.08.05 at 12:30 pm

Vish and Tom…2001 was outstanding for the turnaround and the fact that Aus hadn’t lost a Test match in 15 straight or so until Laxman pounded away their hopes and Harbhajan Singh took his hattrick (don’t forget that!).

Having said that THIS series has been five games, all of which mattered and the last three of which have been as nailbiting as you can get from Test cricket. If the rain holds off, the prospects of England playing for a draw seem intriguing.

(And all of this I gladley put above even the various ties of the Proteas in World Cup play. Two tournaments in a row they tie a match and drop out…)


Chris Corrigan 09.08.05 at 12:31 pm

dsquared…your pun on the “much overlooked” daisycutter had me spitting my tea this morning. My monitor is now clean. Thank you.

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