Ashes 2010: 74 – If Lillee don’t get you, Thommo must

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Ashes 100-1 Countdown: 74 Days Until The Ashes…

David Green’s blog The Reverse Sweep is a cracking read. You can follow him on Twitter @TheReverseSweep.

In 1976, the Sex Pistols appeared on the Today show hosted by Bill Grundy and the juggernaut that was Punk Rock revolutionised the music scene across the world and especially in the UK forever. However, a couple of years before, a very different revolution took place in the 1974/75 Ashes series in Australia.

A confident and experienced England team arrived expecting to successfully defend the Ashes, but their balloon of optimism was soon burst by an Australian side that more closely resembled a rock band than a cricket team. Ian Chappell’s team could certainly play cricket however and they did it in a ruthless and unforgiving fashion. They were fronted by a couple of tearaway fast bowlers in Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson.

“Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, if Lillee don’t get you Thommo must”

So read one of the banners adorning cricket grounds down under that summer. And boy was it accurate as Thomson took 33 wickets and Lillee 25 as England were simply blown away. Just over 40 years after Douglas Jardine’s masterly strategy of directing the ball at the Australian batsmen during the Bodyline series, Lillee and Thomson did something remarkably similar even if Chappell didn’t resort to Jardine’s now outlawed leg theory fields.

Actually more English batsmen suffered broken bones during this series, which was still in the days before helmets, than had their Australian counterparts 40 years before. There was no outcry this time of course, partly due to the jingoistic and baying nature of the Australian crowds, but also because of the ‘win at all costs’ mentality was now inbred into the game.

This new method of attack was certainly too much for England’s frail batting line-up, which included David ‘Bumble’ Lloyd. In the 1st test at Brisbane despite a courageous hundred from Tony Grieg, Australia won by a convincing margin of 166 runs with Thomson taking six for 46 and breaking the hands of Amiss and Edrich. This prompted England to recall the 42 year old veteran Colin Cowdrey for the second test. On arriving at the crease, Cowdrey went up to Thomson with his hand outstretched and said:

“I don’t believe we’ve met. My name’s Cowdrey”

Wonderful stuff and he duly played the two lightningly quick Australian bowlers as well as anyone in making 22 and 41, but England still lost heavily by nine wickets. The third test at Melbourne was in contrast a very close match, which ended on the fifth day with Australia just eight runs short of victory with two wickets in hand. The out of form England captain Mike Denness dropped himself for the fourth test but it didn’t help England’s slide as Australia won easily by 171 runs to secure the return of the Ashes. The script of the summer continued in the next test at Adelaide as despite 11 wickets for Derek Underwood, Australia cantered to a 163 run win.

England did manage to win the final test at Melbourne with Denness, having recaptured his form during the state matches, hitting 188 as England won by an innings. But just like England’s habit of winning dead rubber matches in the Australian dominated series’ of the nineties, this was a hollow victory given that Thomson didn’t play due to injury and Lillee only bowled six overs.

Australia’s team of larrikins went on to dominate briefly – even beating the West Indies 5-1 in Australia the following summer, before the World Series Cricket schism led to the premature break-up of the side. But make no mistake, the Australian team of 1974-75 was a seriously good side as the video below demonstrates.

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