1985 revisited: Ellison hero of a sunlit summer

Last time England won the urn at home Kent's yeoman swung the day

Finally, by the middle of August they called on Richard Ellison. It is fashionable now to deride the Australian tourists of that year as undistinguished, but the fact was that a six-match series was delicately, excruciatingly poised at 1-1 with two matches to play. The more salient fact is that it was the last time England won the Ashes on home turf, regaining them after their loss in 1982-83.

Ellison was an affable, robustly built swing bowler from Kent, who invariably verged on the burly, and had been educated at Tonbridge, alma mater of one Colin Cowdrey. He had a distinctive mop of thick curly hair and a moustache which was not much less luxuriant.

He was a splendidly talented cricketer, a natural player of ball games, though there was the hint even then that it was all so much fun to him. This was his moment in the sun. It was brief but it was decisive. Ellison's intervention was as imperishable as any in the history of the great contest. At Edgbaston in the Fifth Test he took 6 for 77 and 4 for 27, at The Oval in the decisive Sixth Test 2 for 35 and 5 for 46, 17 wickets in two matches.

"During pre-season at Canterbury the nets had got wet," he recalled last week. "It was decided they were good enough but first ball I went over on my right ankle and did the ligaments. I was out for six weeks. The key thing about this is that I then got really fit, with lots of swimming and running. My confidence was high and the ball was swinging and I remember saying to David Gower, who was England captain, after a Benson and Hedges Cup match that I was going to make them pick me. Which wasn't the sort of thing I would normally say."

The selectors had already run the gamut of Norman Cowans, Paul Allott, Neil Foster, Jonathan Agnew and Arnie Sidebottom. The only constant was Ian Botham. Now for Edgbaston alongside Ellison they plumped for Les Taylor of Leicestershire.

Ellison remembers that apart from his fitness drive - he eschewed ale and forsook his trencherman's habits awhile as well - he changed his approach. "I did try to run in more. I didn't sprint in but I tried to pump my arms more and get my feet going."

There were other heroes that summer, and like Ellison not all of them were the usual suspects. Gower, of course, was. He scored 732 runs and three hundreds and did not even top England's Test batting averages. Mike Gatting did. But both of them were above 80. Then there was the Nottinghamshire batsman Tim Robinson, playing for England in England for the first time. He scored 175 in the First Test, which they won, and 148 at Edgbaston.

Ellison might so easily have pulled out because of a debilitating heavy cold. The backroom staff (one, the physio Bernard Thomas, in those days) left the decision to him.

"Not much happened on the first day but the following morning it all kicked off and I got a bit of luck," he said. "We set plans to Allan Border and he chipped one round the corner. You have to remember that Border was the rock on which their batting was built. Kepler Wessels chased a wide one and although the tail wagged a bit we finished them off on the third morning, after which carnage ensued."

Anybody who assumes that the present-day Australians invented quick scoring to nail opponents by giving the bowlers more time should have been around 20 years ago. England scored 595 for 5 in 134 overs, or 4.5 an over. Ponting et al, eat your hearts out.

In Australia's second innings, one simple moment embodied the fact that this was Ellison's time. Fielding at long leg, he called for a sun hat, something he would never usually do because a sun hat had immense difficulty fitting over the curls. He squeezed it into place and the very next ball caught Andrew Hilditch hooking (something of a regular occurrence that summer).

Ellison then sprang into the attack and took 4 for 1 in 15 balls, bowling Border with a beauty which nipped back late through the gate. Australia fought back and moaned like crazy when Wayne Phillips was adjudged caught after driving the ball on to Allan Lamb's boot, from where it looped to Gower's hands. But 2-1 it was.

England knew then that there was no way back for the tourists. Ellison was again in control. He liked Gower's laissez faire approach to captaincy and the ball was boomeranging for him. At The Oval, he got Border again, caught at slip by Botham ("that was more straightforward but he took a couple of stunners") and with another Gower century England won by an innings for the second successive match.

And that was about that. The next summer, at the age of 26, the Ashes hero played his 10th and final Test.

He is a now cricket master at Millfield School in Somerset. There is still plenty of both hair and 'tache. "I was an English bowler in English conditions. I probably should have made sure that I stayed fitter, but I have no regrets. I wouldn't do many things differently. I was just glad to have made a contribution in a period of time."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power