Lead-up to the series
Both England and Australia begun this series at a low ebb. England had lost 5-0 against the West Indies the previous year, then lost 2-0 and 1-0 to India and New Zealand respectively during the England summer. Australia, during the same period, had lost two series against New Zealand (2-1 and 1-0) and drew two series against India. While Australia had emerged with a drawn series from their tour of India, they had struggled against India at home the previous season and India had been unlucky not to have won the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne.
Considering the losses that both teams had sustained, it was only natural that many felt this series was merely a battle for Test cricket's Wooden spoon. Australia had managed a tie in Madras and many commentators felt that Australia's batting had strengthened somewhat. The performances of Victorian batsmen Dean Jones and the new opening pair of David Boon and Geoff Marsh had been noted. Young NSW all-rounder, Stephen Waugh, was also beginning to make his presence felt, although certainly not to the level that many expected him. The bowling was still problematic, although Bruce Reid had begun to perform well.
When England began their tour in October 1986, they were immediately in trouble as they lost against Queensland by 5 wickets. They especially had trouble with Dirk Tazelaar, a tall, left arm bowler, who took 4/34 in the first innings. England's batsmen seemed hopelessly out of form, although Ian Botham managed to hit an ominous 86 off 67 balls, including eleven fours and four sixes - one six shattering a window at long-off. When fielding, England's woes continued, with many catches dropped despite some effective bowling.
A morale boosting 5 wicket victory against South Australia followed. Allan Lamb and tour debutant James Whitaker hit centuries while spinner John Emburey found form. It also marked the end of a depressing run of fourteen losses for the England team at first class level (including Test and tour matches). Parkinson, another left-arm fast bowler, took 5/87 in England's first innings. Experts began to question England's vulnerability against left arm quicks.
The tour then began to fall apart again with an embarrassing performance against Western Australia. Rain ensured the match ended in a draw, but England would have easily lost had the rain stayed away. Five catches were dropped in the first innings as Australian opener Geoff Marsh scored 124 in 345 minutes. Two left-arm quicks, Chris Matthews and Bruce Reid, took four wickets each as England collapsed for 152. Marsh then batted 246 minutes for his 63 in the second innings as Western Australia looked for a declaration. The match ended with England 6 for 153 and desperately avoided defeat. David Gower, a very important member of the England lineup, had been dismissed for a zero in both innings. Captain Mike Gatting, vice captain Allan Lamb and backup opener Wilf Slack had also been dismissed for zero once each during the match.
Australia therefore approached the 1st Test as clear favourites. Martin Johnson of The Independent wrote that the English team "had only three things wrong with them - can't bat, can't bowl, can't field". Australia selected two left arm fast bowlers - Bruce Reid and Chris Matthews (both from Western Australia) - to take advantage of the clear problem the English batsmen had with this sort of bowling.
1st Test, 14 November 1986 – 19 November 1986
England won by 7 wickets
England's achievement in winning this match, especially against the backdrop of their early tour form, was remarkable. For Australia, with such high hopes against the "old enemy", the loss was depressing and indicated yet again that Australia's young side still had a long way to go before they could be competitive.
England's first innings was dominated by Ian Botham's 138 off 174 balls. He was especially severe on Australian Bowler Merv Hughes, playing in only his second Test. Important also were the return to form of Gower (51) and Captain Gatting (61). A rain-shortened first day meant that Australia was 1-33 by the start of day 3. Australia's first innings was effectively ended by Kent seamer Graham Dilley, although all the bowlers were effective in either taking wickets or restricting runs. Geoff Marsh continued his good form from the previous tour match, scoring 56 in 205 minutes.
Unfortunately for Australia, their first innings fell 8 runs short of avoiding the follow-on. Their second innings was dominated by Marsh's 110 off 392 minutes (by the end of this innings, Marsh had batted 1188 minutes - nearly 20 hours - in four innings against England). England's bowling was dominated by Emburey's 5/80, who conceded fewer than 2 runs per over. Australia was bowled out for 282 and England easily knocked off the runs required for a well-deserved victory.
|England||456||&||77/3||England won by 7 wickets|
2nd Test, 28 November 1986 – 3 December 1986
|England||592/8 dec.||&||199/9 dec.||Match Drawn|
3rd Test, 12 December 1986 – 16 December 1986
|Australia||514/5 dec.||&||201/3 dec.||Match Drawn|
4th Test, 26 December 1986 – 28 December 1986
England won by an innings and 14 runs
The embarrassing failure of Australia in losing this match so completely also marked their 14th Test in succession without a victory. By any statistical analysis, Australia had reached their all-time historic "low" when the match ended. Having reached this point, the only way for Australia was up. Chris Broad became the third English batsman, after Jack Hobbs and Wally Hammond, to score hundreds in three consecutive Ashes Tests. Allan Border later criticised the Australian selectors for picking a team with only four specialist batsmen - Border says he wanted to pick Greg Ritchie but was overruled.
|Australia||141||&||194||England won by an innings and 14 runs|
5th Test, 10 January 1987 – 15 January 1987
Australia won by 55 runs
This match will always be remembered as "Taylor's match". When the team for the Test was announced, the Australian selectors had included the name of Peter Taylor from NSW. Thinking that a mistake in names had been made, the Australian media besieged the home of the talented young NSW opener Mark Taylor, thinking that he had been selected to play his first Test. Although history shows that Mark Taylor had a substantial Test career later on, the selectors had made no mistake in the name. NSW off-spinner Peter Taylor had impressed some selectors (especially Greg Chappell) with his all-round abilities during the previous season's Sheffield Shield final. He was noted as an off-spinner who really spun the ball and a number of the wickets he took during the test match were attributed to his 'loop' (the deceptive flight of a heavily spun cricket ball) and bounce from his unusual but high bowling action. Considering Peter Taylor's limited first-class experience, the selection was risky. Given the state of Australian cricket at this point, and the fact that the Ashes had already been lost, such a selection could be considered desperate. The selection was so shocking that the media quickly dubbed him "Peter Who?", and he became something of a celebrity leading up to the match. Spectators voiced their opinion too on the first day of the match. "Aussie Selectors couldn't pick Bill Lawry's Nose" declared one banner. No doubt these same spectators would have been cheering 5 days later as this unlikely player received the man of the match award.
The Australian first innings was dominated by Jones' 184 not out - his first century of the season and only his second Test century. Jones was lucky not to be out for 5, as video replays seemed to indicate that he had been caught behind. Australia managed 343 in the first innings, with Jones featuring in some very important late-wicket partnerships.
Given the dominance of England's batting throughout the season and the limited nature of Australia's bowling, both sides were stunned as England stuttered to 3/17 in their first innings, with Merv Hughes finally providing the venom he had been promising. Hughes, still inexperienced at this point, was one of the players the selectors stuck with despite his poor form. England recovered somewhat through the strokeplay of Gower and an almost embarrassing 69 from John Emburey (who kept falling over when playing the sweep shot). But it was debutant Peter Taylor taking 6/78 off 26 overs that ran through the middle order, including the dangerous Ian Botham.
Australia's second innings began badly again, then recovered slightly while Jones and Border were batting, then slumped again to 7/145. Steve Waugh (73) partered Peter Taylor (42) in a 98 run partnership that, in the end, proved to be match-winning. Waugh, still potentially "the next big thing" and in front of his home crowd, was an attractive stroke-maker while Taylor, on the other hand, had little natural strokeplay but relied upon his concentration. John Emburey, the English Off Spinner, was taking every advantage of the wearing pitch with 7/78 off 46 overs.
With 320 to win on a wearing pitch, England applied themselves against the inexperienced Australian attack and aimed for victory. Gatting, out for 0 in the first innings, took England to 5/233, but was out caught and bowled to All-rounder Steve Waugh for 96. With the pitch getting worse, England put off thoughts of victory and worked to draw the match. John Emburey batted for over an hour for his 22, but was clean bowled in the penultimate over to a Peter Sleep leg-spinner that kept low. This gave Australia its first victory in 14 Tests. Peter Sleep finished with 5/72 - his only 5 wicket haul in Tests.
|Australia||343||&||251||Australia won by 55 runs|
Benson & Hedges Perth Challenge
The Benson & Hedges Perth Challenge was a one-off one-day international tournament held at the WACA Ground, Perth in late December 1986 and early January 1987. It was part of the celebrations marking Australia's defence of the America's Cup yachting competition which was taking place simultaneously in nearby Fremantle.
Australia, England, Pakistan and the West Indies were the competitors. The games were played over a league basis and in coloured clothing, with Pakistan beating the West Indies in the first match under the new WACA floodlights. In England's victory over Australia, Ian Botham hit 26 runs off one over. England then inflicted a defeat over the then-dominant West Indies before beating Pakistan in a "dress rehearsal" of the final. Australia had a miserable tournament, losing all three games and being bowled out for a mere 91 in its game against the West Indies. Australian batsman Dean Jones did have a fine tournament, however, hitting back-to-back centuries. In the final, England comfortably beat Pakistan with 9.5 overs to spare.
- Final - WACA, 7 January 1987
- England 167/5 beat Pakistan 166/9 by five wickets
Benson & Hedges World Series Cup
The 1987 World Series Cup triangular tournament featured Australia, England and the West Indies, with games played at five venues:
Each team played a total of eight games to reach the best of three final. Australia had a significantly better time than they had in the Perth Challenge, winning five of their eight qualifying games to top the group, ahead of England, with the West Indies eliminated. However, England rounded off their successful tour with a convincing 2-0 victory in the final series.
- 1st Final - MCG, 8 February 1987
- England 172/4 beat Australia 171/8 by six wickets
- 2nd Final - SCG, 11 February 1987
- England 187/9 beat Australia 179/8 by 8 runs
- Grand Slam: England in Australia, 1986-87 by Christopher Martin-Jenkins, ISBN 0-671-65512-4 
- England in Australia, 1986-87 by John Thicknesse, from the Wisden Cricketers' Almanack 1988, ISBN 0-947766-10-3
|List of Ashes series|
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|Non-Ashes Australia v England Test series|
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