Such was the magnitude of his emergence on the international cricket scene, it was too much for one mere human’s spine. Hence why everyone wrote off the chances of Dennis Lillee returning to cricket when he broke down with a stress fracture.
But Lillee’s determination to say “fuck you” to these doubters (among many others down the line, no doubt), saw him go around with his torso in plaster for a while, before returning to decimate England in the 1974-5 Ashes series.
In Jeff Thomson and Rod Marsh, he found the perfect partners in crime: one to scare the batsmen shitless from the other end, the other to glove all the nicks he drew batsmen into playing (and conspire with against captains).
355 Test wickets taken with that distinctive action aside, Lillee’s also remembered for his crazy non-bowling antics on and off the field:
- Using an aluminium bat against England in1979, before hurling it halfway around the world when Mike Brearley got upset and grassed him up to the umpires.
- Betting with Rod Marsh on some match at Headingley in 1981 where the seemingly possible had to happen for his wager to pay off. Oh yeah, they were also playing in said match.
- Having a school playground-style fight with Javed Miandad out in the middle at the WACA in the same year. He claimed that Miandad started it.
- Suggesting that some matches should be arranged where profits went to the players, since they weren’t really making much of a living from the game. This idea eventually got to Kerry Packer, and evolved into World Series Cricket, which changed the nature of cricket forever. Nice one, Dennis.
T’Ashes Hero Moment
Taking 31 wickets at 17.67 on the 1972 Ashes tour to England made everyone aware of his quality, but saying that he put that wager on the Headingly Test because the odds were “stupid for a two horse race” does cut it close.
When I ask my mum about former Kent gloveman Alan Knott, she does a pretty convincing rendition of his stretching and crouching routine. Ask her what watching Chris Tavaré bat in a Test match was like and I’m told of the torture which would involve him scoring one run every ten overs. She cites him as the reason that my parents went off of watching cricket in the eighties.
Naturally a #3, the England selectors had him opening the batting, on the basis that there wasn’t any other option. Henceforth, he was paired off with Geoff Boycott, like in some sort of buddy cop movie, except without the action sequences. This must have resulted in some slow, but steady (but mainly slow) starts to innings.
A lot of batsmen develop some sort of reputation through the shot for which they are most known for, such as Tendulkar’s on-drive, Ponting’s pull and Robin Smith’s cut. Tavaré, on the other hand, earned notoriety for his masterful back foot defensive, or leaving leaving the ball well alone before strolling to square leg between deliveries. A Test strike rate of 30.60 makes modern slowcoaches like Rahul Dravid’s batting seem like you want to strap yourselves in for a jump to lightspeed.
And yet this makes him Gideon Haigh’s favourite cricketer, which goes to show that cricket isn’t just all about hitting boundaries and taking wickets.
T’Ashes Hero Moment
A heroic contribution of 28 runs to a partnership of 149 with Ian Botham at Old Trafford in 1981. While Botham hooked and flayed the Australian bowlers to all corners, Tavare provided the equivalent of water drip torture at the other end. In total he faced 289 deliveries for his 78, compared to Botham’s more revered knock of 118 off 102.
Long before the likes of Kepler Wessels came along, Billy Murdoch was the first cricketer (well, him and John Ferris) to play Test cricket for two nations. Not to mention, some time before everyone had heard of Kerry Packer or Dennis Lillee, he was involved in a players strike, refusing to play unless they received a greater share of the takings on the gate.
Controversies aside, Murdoch is regarded as one of the finest batsmen of his generation, superior to all but W.G. Grace in the eyes of many.
Furthermore, like many Australians after him, he rose to the occasion when playing in England. A century in 1880 was followed by a mammoth 211 in 1884, the first double century scored in a Test match. Impressive, non?
T’Ashes Hero Moment
Scoring the first Test double century is pretty good, but that’s small fry compared to captaining the Australia side which defeated England at the Oval in 1882, which heralded the mock obituary for English cricket in The Sporting Times, thus creating the cricketing legend that is the Ashes.
This makes Murdoch perhaps the second most notorious Australian called Murdoch, just behind that guy who controls the media and took live cricket from free-to-air television and got Sir Ian Botham in as a commentator.
Lord Harris was only the second person to captain England in Test cricket. He also did virtually everything that could be done at Kent, playing for forty years, captaining them and being President/Secretary.
Harris captained England in four Tests, but I feel that his actions off the field are what make him a notable moustachioed cricketer of the past.
He chaired the meeting which led to the creation of what is now the modern ICC (then the Imperial Cricket Conference) in 1909, as well as a meeting between representatives at the Oval in 1926 which led to the introduction of the West Indies, New Zealand and India into the Test cricketing sphere.
T’Ashes Hero Moment
Captaining England to an Ashes victory in 1884. He didn’t really contribute with bat or ball.
Such was his role in Australia’s recent dominance, that Cricket Australia award their player of the year with a medal with his name on it.
One of few Australians to come out of the 1981 Ashes with his reputation enhanced, Border spent the first half of the eighties accumulating runs in the middle order. After the West Indies caused Kim Hughes to run off crying like a schoolgirl who’d been called fat, he was made captain, leading Australia to several defeats, notably the home Ashes series in 1986-7.
Now I’m not sure if Border’s some kind of wizard, or if he did some kind of deal with the devil which involved his soul, but when he had his team agree that this sort of defeat would never happen again, he was damn right. England haven’t won an Ashes series in Australia since, nor have they come out of one looking like they could have.
Further evidence of Border’s skills in wizardry comes in the form of the Chennai Test from 1986, where he tricked Dean Jones into scoring 210 runs, despite having chundered his entire body weight during the innings, by suggesting that he wasn’t a real Australian.
Was also Australia’s leading run scorer in Test cricket until that angry little imp Ricky Ponting overtook him recently.
T’Ashes Hero Moment
Not really a moment, but Australia went on a streak 18 Tests without losing against England under his leadership. He also scored an unbeaten double hundred during this period, pretty badass.
The whole idea of this thing came from my bemoaning the lack of moustaches in this Ashes series, and KP just had to go and ruin it.
Good on him for supporting Movember though, and coincidentally, he happened to score 158 runs against Australia, which secured the draw at the Oval in 2005.
This meant England won the Ashes for the first time in beards. Worthy of the T’Ashes Hero title.
Cricket’s changed a fair bit over the years, with the one bouncer rule, TV umpires and limited overs matches to name but a few. But the most heinous of changes which has occurred is that of facial hair. Besides the likes of Mohammad Yousuf and Hashim Amla keeping the beardy torch held aloft, the moustachioed cricketer has been hunted and shaven to virtual extinction.
Therefore, I took it upon myself to celebrate the cricketing moustache, and this led to ‘T’Ashes Heroes’. Over the next few weeks, in the run up to the start of the first Test in Brisbane, Mental Disintegration will be profiling several English and Australian cricketers of yesteryear, each of whom achieved different things on the field, but are united by their dedication to hairy upper lips.
Of course, the main reason behind this series is in fact my way of showing support for Movember. Movember runs events throughout the month to raise awareness of prostate cancer – the number one cancer affecting men, and challenges folk to grow ‘taches to act as the foundation’s ribbon. Unfortunately, I seem to be unable to cultivate a convincing moustache, and whilst I continue to struggle in this area, I thought I’d try something a bit different.