Ashes '89 stars went from zeros to heroes

In 1989 Australia toured England as massive outsiders but returned home 4-0 winners - the biggest away triumph since Bradman's 1948 Invincibles.

Ashes Urn in the change room.
Ashes Urn in the change room. Picture: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

They were labelled the worst team to arrive on English soil but five months later Allan Border's 1989 Ashes heroes had laid the foundations for almost 20 years of world dominance.

Much-maligned after one Test series win in five-and-a-half years and still reeling from losing on home soil to England 18 months earlier, Border's men landed in London to little fanfare and some withering assessments from the local media.

It was not much better back home with former Test great Jeff Thomson sticking the boot in.

In reference to the Castlemaine campaign that was sponsoring the team, the former pace star said he didn't give them a XXXX of a chance of coming home with the urn.

But against the odds Border's side pulled off a stunning 4-0 victory - matching the achievement of Don Bradman's 1948 Invincibles - a result that would've been even more comprehensive if not for the English weather.

Mark Taylor, Steve Waugh and Merv Hughes returned home as superstars and Border prevented a third successive series loss as skipper against England.

Taylor chalked up 839 runs for the series - second only to Bradman's record 974 in 1930 - and Waugh averaged almost 127, dispelling any doubts over his place in the team.

With the ball, the wholehearted Hughes ably supported the experienced Geoff Lawson and the outstanding Terry Alderman with the trio taking 89 of the 105 wickets that fell.

In addition to his bowling, Hughes managed to even endear himself to England fans with his larger than life approach on and off the field.

This even stretched to his face, replete with a froth-smothered moustache, adorning the sides of London buses in an enthusiastic endorsement of the sponsor's product.

But the burly Victorian and David Boon, who also enjoyed a stand-out series with the bat, almost found themselves on the plane home before a ball was bowled.

Australian officials, desperate for an end to England's recent dominance, were furious after Hughes quipped in an interview Boon had already clocked up his first half-century of the series by way of on-flight stubby consumption from Sydney.

But Lawson, who took 29 wickets in the series, said there was far more to Hughes than just being the life and soul of the change room.

"There is nothing pretentious about Merv, what you saw is what you got," Lawson told AAP.

"He had a bad knee in that series, but you would never have known it, he kept coming in and bowling fast.

"With the big moustache, people saw him as a pantomime villain, but he was a very smart cricketer, knew exactly what he was doing and loved it when the crowds starting having a go at him."

Such was the gulf between the two teams, Australia used just 12 players - and kept the same side for the final five of the six Tests.

In comparison, England selected 29 and by the fourth Test in Manchester - where the Ashes were lost - were engulfed in the controversy of the announcement of a rebel tour to South Africa led by former skipper Mike Gatting.

Border's side tasted just two defeats in 36 matches on a tour that finished with two matches in Copenhagen after two against The Netherlands in The Hague.

Undertaking such mammoth trips is unthinkable in the modern game, but Lawson said playing continuously was key to the team's success.

"Our theory was to not change a winning team," he said.

"It was a pretty fundamental theory, there wasn't that much thought put into it, it was just play what is in front of you.

"After winning in Leeds we were playing the next day against Lancashire and after we won at Old Trafford we played the next day against Notts.

"Can you imagine them doing that now?

"Australia chopped and changed and didn't win the last series over there because they dropped Mitchell Starc for the last Test at The Oval after retaining the Ashes.

"England is the best place in the world to play when the weather is good. It's not too hot, the wickets are soft and you are not playing on a piece of concrete like at the Adelaide Oval."

While Alderman received the plaudits for his 41 wickets, Lawson had one of the best Tests of his career at Old Trafford with nine wickets for the match.

"It was a great Test for me, I was named man of the match and we won the Ashes back, it doesn't get much better," he said.

"Terry was fantastic, he hardly had a day where he didn't bowl badly. We all took turns to take wickets.

"AB just had the confidence in no matter who he threw the ball to he was going to get a result."

After retaining the urn in Manchester, the ultimate humiliation was meted out on day one of the fifth at Trent Bridge as openers Taylor and Geoff Marsh batted the whole day to close on 0-301.

The pair added a further 28 runs on day two in what remains the highest opening stand in Ashes history as England were ground into submission en route to an innings and 180 run-defeat.

"We'd won the Ashes ... there was lots of turmoil in the England camp ... and we don't lose a wicket for the whole day," Lawson said.

"It was absolutely demoralising for them."


AAP