Life after the Ashes

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

As a fresh generation of stars prepare to make their own moments of history, Will Hawkes tracks down the heroes from series past to ask which contests and controversies have remained with them, and what they have been doing since drawing stumps on their careers


1989: Jack Russell

Then: England's man of the series in the home side's dismal summer

Now: Professional artist

Rarely can English cricket have endured a more dismal summer, but Jack Russell has more reason than most to remember 1989 with fondness. Russell played all six Ashes Tests, and is one of the few Englishmen to come out of that 4-0 clobbering with credit. He was named England's man of the series, having scored his maiden first-class ton in a losing cause at Old Trafford.

Not that all Russell's memories of that series – during which England used 29 players – are good. "It was chaos in the England camp because you didn't know who was going to be sat next to you for the next Test match," Russell says. "You didn't even know if you were going to be there. It was like Waterloo Station, people coming and going. The selection policy was terrible and smacked of panic. There was no solidity."

Australia, under captain Allan Border, were perfectly placed to take advantage of a shambolic England, having decided after defeat in 1986-7 that they needed to get tough. "They never spoke to us," says Russell. "The only person who ever spoke to me, as I passed him going down the steps at Lord's, was my Gloucestershire team-mate Terry Alderman, who said, 'Alright Jack' under his breath so nobody could hear it.

"They never socialised. If they had done, I would have found out that Merv Hughes is just a big softie – it was hard to tell on the field because half the time he was trying to kill me!"

At least Russell had art to distract his attention from the carnage. In 1987, he had started sketching after he got bored waiting for play to re-start in a county game at Worcester. "I stormed out of the changing room one day and said, 'I'm going to teach myself to paint,'" he says. "'If Rembrandt can do it, why can't I?' I thought.

"But I had to work at it. When I started, nine canvasses out of 10 would go in the bin. It didn't come easy."

When he retired in 2004 he took up painting full-time. Now he has a gallery in Chipping Sodbury, Gloucestershire. "I'm a bit of a loner, so painting suits me," he says. "I like the solitude of it.

"Hopefully in a couple of hundred years' time my pictures will still be here. When I was a kid I used to go round the graveyard and look at the headstones – 'Well, who's he, what did he do?' I wanted to leave something behind."

Jack Russell has painted a set of limited edition Sky+HD boxes for the 2009 Ashes Series. For information go to www.sky.com/jackrussell

1968: Derek Underwood

Then: Bowled England to an unlikely victory at The Oval

Now: MCC president and works for artificial pitches company

It is an unforgettable image. Ten England fielders, gathered around the bat, are facing with palms held out imploringly towards the umpire, whose finger is already on its way upwards. The Australian batsman, John Inverarity, has turned to leave the crease. The place was The Oval, the year 1968 and the bowler was Derek Underwood, who had just ensured that England completed one of the most remarkable victories in that or any era of Test cricket.

"We were steadily winning the Test match and then at lunchtime a huge, torrential storm broke over The Oval and it became a lake," says Underwood. "Most of us thought we would never play again but Colin Cowdrey thought we would and, sure enough, eventually out we went.

"But we didn't get a wicket for ages: the wicket did very little. Then Basil D'Oliveira got Barry Jarman out, we got people up around the bat, we created pressure and we crept home with three minutes to spare."

Underwood played in an era when both England and Australia were strong. "It was a very competitive contest," he says. "People sometimes look back at cricket in the past and think that it was pretty friendly but it could not have been more competitive. We had to give as good as we got, and we duly did.

"There was no better challenge than playing Australia. They're the old enemy. It is the most meaningful competition of them all."

The Kent spinner retired in 1987 and has worked for Club Turf ever since. "I've been very pleased that, having played professionally for 26 seasons, I've been able to stay involved in cricket," he says.

This year he is president of the MCC. "I'm concerned about the welfare of the spinner in modern cricket," he says. "We're trying to help the development of spinners."

His role with the MCC has given him great optimism for the future of the game and, indeed, for England's chances this summer. "I think England have got a good chance. It pleases me that we've got [Graeme] Swann and we mustn't forget Monty [Panesar]. I think he is the best bowler on a turning wicket in the country. There's every indication that cricket is booming. It's an exciting time for the game."

1981: Chris Old

Then: Partnered Ian Botham during his Headingley innings

Now: Cricket coach having recently sold his restaurant

Sometimes it can be hard to believe the evidence of your own eyes and ears. Just ask Chris Old, the Yorkshireman who played a key role in England's truly famous win at Headingley in 1981, sharing a partnership of 67 with Ian Botham during the latter's crucial second-innings knock.

"I can remember driving down the motorway to Sheffield the next day and hearing on the radio that we'd won – and I thought 'No, we didn't win that, we can't have done'," he said. "It hadn't hit home. It was only later on, in the evening, that I began to realise that, yeah, we had won."

Old's role during that partnership was to keep Botham calm, he says. "We'd got the field spread and it would have been ridiculous getting out caught in the deep trying to hit every ball for four or six," he said. "If Ian belted one for four, I'd say, 'Come on, keep working on it, just pick it out.'

"I thought we could win. The balance of power had changed. Panic was setting in for the Australians. The captain [Kim Hughes] wasn't setting the field, there were three or four of them doing it. There were two or three people talking at the same time and people moving in all directions. I thought: 'If we get a decent lead here, we've got a very good chance.'"

He was right, of course – England won by 18 runs – but it was to prove a last hurrah for Old, whose Test career ended two weeks later. Then, in 1985, he retired from first-class cricket after a spell with Warwickshire. "I had no plans for retirement," he says. "I got by: somebody I'd met had started a hospitality company, and I still played minor county cricket."

Old went through two or three jobs before, in 1998, he opened a fish restaurant in Cornwall with his second wife. "We'd moved down to Cornwall but we couldn't find any jobs so we decided to look at other ways to employ ourselves," he says. They sold the restaurant this year. "It was hard work," Old says. "This time of year, in particular, is very hard. From July onwards, it's seven days a week, 12 to 14 hours a day. I'm 60 now and it was getting harder and harder to keep going."

He is a coach now for Chance To Shine, a scheme that aims to bring competitive cricket back to the country's state schools. "We teach the kids how to catch, how to hit a ball," he says. "We're trying to make it fun: hopefully we can encourage kids to go on with cricket, through local clubs. It is a great scheme."

1993: Tim May

Then: Australian spinner who took 21 wickets in the series

Now: International players' representative

Tim May can remember exactly where he was when Shane Warne bamboozled Mike Gatting with the "Ball of the Century": looking on from the Australian balcony at Old Trafford, annoyed that he hadn't been picked to play in that first match of the 1993 Ashes. "The selectors got it wrong," he says. "That was a track that was suited to spin, as Shane proved. I was in good form coming up to that match and I should have played. When Shane actually bowled his first ball, I was half-dozing on the balcony and it was only when we saw a replay on the TV screen that we saw what a good ball it was."

Despite his omission for Old Trafford, May would go on to have a memorable summer, taking 21 wickets as he and Warne terrorised the English batsmen. "The pitches that summer were very, very dry," he said. "When you've got a guy like Warne in your side, well, that makes it easier.

"We had a great collection of blokes: the selection philosophy then was to consider the team dynamic. The English crowds really appreciated the Australian team – at times we felt like we were playing a home series. It was thoroughly enjoyable."

Sixteen years on, May is based in Austin, Texas, from where he carries out his duties as chief executive of the Federation of International Cricketers' Associations (FICA). "My wife is American and when we got married we had an agreement that we'd live in my country for a certain number of years and then move to the States," he says. "I agreed, fully expecting her to fall in love with Australia – but on the dot of the agreed time, she tapped me on the shoulder and said 'The family is moving!'"

May, who held the same post with the Australian Cricketers' Association until his move to the States in 2005, says there are three major issues facing FICA. "The key ones are player burn-out, the direction of the game and the security of players.

"The relationship between FICA and the ICC's executive board, also, is a constant battle. There are some countries, such as India, that don't recognise player associations. They make life a lot tougher and it's out of step with the times. After all, there's no game without the players."

2005: Gary Pratt

Then: England's substitute fielder who ran out Ricky Ponting

Now: Property developer and minor counties cricketer

Ricky Ponting may have lost the Ashes as captain in 2005, but if his team-mates had played as well as he did then Australia would surely have won. The Tasmanian saved the Old Trafford Test with a magnificent 156 on the final day and was well set in his side's second innings in the next match, at Trent Bridge, when one of that summer's most memorable moments occurred.

Gary Pratt was the man who ran out Ponting for 48 and, in the process, struck a vital blow for England. "It was just one of those things – everything clicked," Pratt says. "I was caught up in the moment. It was like every other time you pick the ball up and throw it – if it hits, it's a bonus, if it doesn't... well, you don't expect it to. But it did. It was chaotic afterwards. It was a massive moment. He was playing quite well and we were struggling to get him out. It was amazing. I was pretty chuffed."

Ponting, infuriated at England's use of substitute fielders, directed a rant at the home balcony on his way back to the dressing room. "I didn't know anything about that until we came off at the end of the day's play," says Pratt. "It was funny, because that was one of the only occasions when England had a really good reason to have a 12th man on, what with Simon Jones being in hospital."

Durham released Pratt, 27, in 2006 and he now plies his trade in minor county cricket with Cumberland. "I enjoy it. It's a lot more relaxed," he says. "I'd love to get back into the first-class game, though."

In the meantime, he has gone into property development in Bishop Auckland after a spell managing a storage company. "I'm selling up my share in the storage business," he says. "It's a good time to go into property development up north. You can pick up properties for £40,000 or £50,000 a piece. I want to get a portfolio together and go from there."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
Oscar Pistorius is led out of court in Pretoria. Pistorius received a five-year prison sentence for culpable homicide by judge Thokozile Masipais for the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp
voicesThokozile Masipa simply had no choice but to jail the athlete
Arts and Entertainment
Sister Cristina Scuccia sings 'Like a Virgin' in Venice
music

Like Madonna, Sister Cristina Scuccia's video is also set in Venice

Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004
music

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

News
i100
Life and Style
The Tinder app has around 10 million users worldwide

techThe original free dating app will remain the same, developers say

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album