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Ten of the best tales from England, Australia and the biggest cricketing rivalry

Posted on November 10, 2014 by Selby There have been 0 comments

Maddest Ashes Stories: Ten of the best tales from England, Australia and the biggest cricketing rivalry

Wednesday will see the start of the 67th series of one sport's greatest rivalries.

The Ashes has a rich history of memorable moments as England and Australia tussle for the old urn - and this summer will be no different.

But the rivalry - in addition to long tours - have also brought out some of the oddest and hilarious stories as well.

We asked Gershon Portnoi - author of Ashes, Clashes and Bushy Taches, to give us his favourites and here's what has caught his eye.

 

1. GREAT BRAWLING MATE

In 1912, Aussie cricket officials gathered to pick the team for the fourth Ashes Test with their team trailing in the series.

One of the selectors, Peter McAlister, had a long running feud with captain Clem Hill and made several jibes at him during the meeting including describing him as “the worst captain in living memory.”

Hill stood up and informed McAlister, “You’ve been asking for a punch all night and I’ll give you one.” Incredibly, Hill lamped the selector before a brawl broke out, during which the skipper had to be stopped from throwing McAlister out of the third-floor window.

Even more incredibly, Hill kept his place in the team as captain. Let’s hope Michael Clarke isn’t reading this for inspiration.

 

2. NAKED AMBITION

When the Aussie opening batsmen warm up for the 2013 first Test at Trent Bridge, it’s a fair bet they won’t do it Geoff Marsh-style. In 1989, Marsh’s roommate David Boon was woken on the morning of the opening rubber at Headingley to the unusual sight of his naked team-mate standing in front of the mirror clad only in helmet and batting gloves while perfecting his er, straight bat technique.

 

3. BURGER KINGS

On the 1982/83 Ashes tour, Ian Botham hosted a party in his hotel room which consisted of the team “demolishing every bottle of booze we could lay our hands on.” “When we came round the next day (a day off I must add) we were rather taken aback to find the room was full of bits of uneaten cheeseburger,” says Beefy. “They were everywhere. [Bob] Willis had one enmeshed in his hair and when I woke up, someone politely inquired ‘Beefy, are you aware that there is a cheeseburger stuck in your ear?’”

 

4. MARSH GETS TROLLEYED

 

Getty17 Sep 1999: David Boon of Durham
17 Sep 1999: David Boon of Durham

 

It’s common knowledge that David Boon holds the Australian drinking record for a Sydney-to-London Ashes flight with a walrus moustache-soaking 52 cans of beer. What isn’t that well known is how Rod Marsh’s assault on the record ended a few years earlier. The wicket-keeper knocked back 45 cans but, unlike Boon who strolled off the plane seemingly as sober as the pilot, Marsh was comatose. So comatose that team-mates Dennis Lillee and Graeme Wood loaded him on to a luggage trolley and wheeled him through customs - the ‘nothing to declare’ side of course.

 

5. TR-UBBLE BATH

 

GettyJan 1986: Derek Randall of England
Jan 1986: Derek Randall of England

 

After a hard day in the Adelaide Oval field, Derek Randall ran himself a bath. All ready in his towel, Randall popped in to Ian Botham and Allan Lamb’s adjacent hotel room for a cup of tea. When he returned to his room, he realised he’d forgotten his key and strolled down to reception for a replacement - still in his towel of course.

As sopping wet hotel guests fled from the restaurant in front of him, he casually asked about the commotion. “Well,” said the receptionist. “Some stupid **** has left their bath water running and flooded the dining area!”

 

6. ROYALLY RUMBLED

There are few greater culture clashes than a coming together of a brash Australian cricketer and a member of the English aristocracy. When the Queen and Prince Philip were introduced to the Aussie cricket team at Lord's in 1981 an over excited Rodney Hogg bellowed to a team-mate: "Jeez, she hasn’t got bad legs for an old sheila, has she?"

 

7. FIGHTING TALK

As a visiting Ashes captain, one is expected to represent his country with honour - unless you're Allan Border, who arrived in England in 1993 and greeted journalists by telling them: “I am not talking to anyone in the British media. They are all pr**ks.”

England's 1911/12 skipper Johnny Douglas's diplomacy was not much better and his 'welcome' speech when the team arrived at Melbourne Town Hall is the stuff of legend. He said: “I hate speeches. As Bob Fitzsimmons once said: ‘I ain’t no bloomin’ orator, but I’ll fight any man in this blinkin’ country!’”

Which is pretty much what David Warner did 100 years later.

 

8. BRING ON THE RUNNER

Phil Tufnell's 1994-95 Ashes tour was badly affected by problems in his personal life to the point where he trashed his Perth hotel room and was carted off to a local psychiatric unit for evaluation.

“It was quite funny, really," says Tuffers. "They took me off to this bleeding nuthouse and this bloke comes in and says, ‘Tell me about your childhood’ and I think, ‘What am I doing here?’ So I just legged it out with all these blokes running after me. I got myself back to the hotel, got myself a beer, went into the team room and said, ‘Sorry about that, chaps, see you at breakfast tomorrow morning.’"

 

9. WG DIS-GRACE

 

Getty
Unhappy: WG Grace was unhappy with Billy Midwinter

 

For all his runs and facial hair, WG Grace was actually a bit of a thug. When he discovered that Australian Billy Midwinter, who he’d signed to play for Gloucestershire, hadn’t turned up for a county match at The Oval in 1878 and was instead at Lord’s playing for his country, Grace hit the roof and took a horse-drawn cab across the capital. He marched straight into the Lord's pavilion, dragged Midwinter out (in his batting pads) and took him to Kennington. The Aussies gave chase but Grace fought them off (literally) and Midwinter played for Gloucestershire.

 

10. HOSPITAL PASS

The 1932/33 series will always be remembered for England’s Bodyline tactics but it also deserves to be recalled for the heroics of English batsman Eddie Paynter. After being hospitalised with a high fever and acute tonsillitis during the decisive Brisbane fourth Test, Paynter listened to England’s struggles on a radio before ordering a taxi to the ground and walking out to bat to the astonishment of all present.

After overnighting at hospital he returned to guide England to a first-innings lead then retired to hospital again. The following day, England needed 160 to win the Ashes and Eddie once again threw off his hospital gown and returned to the Gabba in time to hit the six which clinched the urn.

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