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Three of the SCG’s most memorable Test moments

Kersi Meher-Homji Columnist

By Kersi Meher-Homji, Kersi Meher-Homji is a Roar Expert

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    The new year starts with a Sydney Test. I have not missed watching a Test at the SCG from 1970. Below is my personal choice of the three most memorable January Ashes Tests in Sydney.

    1987: When Peter ‘Who?’ became Peter ‘Wow!’
    England had retained the Ashes in 1986-87 by the time the final Test started in Sydney. Australia’s ultimate humiliation was losing the fourth Test in Melbourne by an innings in three days. Heads had to roll and new blood infused, so in came little-known off-spinner Peter Taylor in the side. “Peter Who?” headlined the daily newspapers.

    Peter Taylor entered the SCG gates determined to justify his selection and was not amused by a big banner in the former Hill area: “Aussie selectors couldn’t pick Bill Lawry’s nose”.

    Australia was struggling at 7/232 with only three minutes to go on the opening day. The new ball had just been taken when in came Taylor to bat. He survived and added 39 runs with Dean Jones (184 not out) the next morning as Australia totalled 343.

    England replied with 275, but Taylor silencing his critics with a 6/78 haul, including the prize scalps of Alan Lamb, David Gower and Ian Botham.

    In the second innings Taylor (42) added 98 runs with Steve Waugh (73), and the visitors were challenged to make 320 in 114 overs.

    They lost 5/102, with man of the match Peter Taylor dismissing Lamb and Botham off successive deliveries. The hat-trick was averted, but the Test came alive as skipper Mike Gatting played aggressively and England was 5/233.

    With 87 runs needed in 20 overs Waugh affected a breakthrough by dismissing Gatting for 96. Then the spinning Peters (Sleep and Taylor) combined to grab the last four wickets for seven runs in 11 spine-tingling minutes with only one over to spare.

    Australia won by 55 runs to end their barren run of 14 matches.

    1999: The MacGill magic
    England’s shock 12-run victory in the previous Melbourne Test had set the Ashes ablaze and galvanised spectator interest. Mark ‘Tubby’ Taylor became the first Australian captain to win all tosses in a five-Test series since Lindsay Hassett had done in 1953.

    The Test fluctuated wildly. Australia was on top at 5/319 (Mark Waugh scored 121 and Steve Waugh 96, adding 190 for the fourth wicket) minutes before stumps on the opening day, but they lost their last five wickets in 15 minutes as fast-medium bowler Darren Gough took the hat-trick. Gough became the first and only Englishman to perform a hat-trick in an Ashes Test in the 20th century.

    Stuart MacGill outshone Shane Warne as he usually does when the two master leg spinners perform in tandem. MacGill grabbed 5/57 against Warne’s 1/67 and England was bowled out for 220, a deficit of 102.

    The adventurous opening batsman Michael Slater slammed 123 runs out of Australia’s 184 in the second innings. This was 66.84 per cent of the team total, only fractionally behind Charles Bannerman’s 67.34 per cent domination in the inaugural Test in Melbourne in March 1877.

    There were four milestones in this exciting Test. Playing his farewell Test, Mark Taylor took his 157th catch to eclipse Allan Border’s record, Mark Waugh held his 100th catch in Test cricket and Glenn McGrath captured his 200th Test wicket.

    The much underrated Stuart MacGill also captured 12/107, the best Test figures on the SCG since Australian Charlie Turner’s 12/87 against England in February 1888.

    There was another twist on the third day when Australia collapsed for 184 despite Slater’s defiant century, Dean Headley (4/40) and Peter Such (5/81) being the destroyers.

    Needing 287 to win, England was cruising at 2/104 at stumps on Day 4. To make 183 more runs in two days with eight wickets in hand was an achievable target, but man of the match MacGill had different ideas. The visitors lost their last seven wickets for 84 measly runs as the MacGill magic captured 7/50. Australia won by 98 runs and their sixth successive Ashes series 3-1.

    2003: Steve’s century stops a nation
    Many had predicted the Sydney Ashes Test of January 2003 to be Steve Waugh’s swan song, but his epic last ball century on the second day not only prolonged his career by a year but stopped the nation for a few tantalising minutes.

    It was a moment of drama when strong men shed tears of joy.

    The final Test was not a thriller as England won comfortably after losing the Ashes 0-4, but the final over of the second day was right out of a soap opera when Steve needed five runs for his century off Richard Dawson.

    The first three were dot balls, but Steve took three runs off the fourth. Adam Gilchrist engineered a single from the next ball. Ultimately it came down to this: two runs needed for Steve’s ton off the last ball of the day.

    England made him wait, making psychological field changes. In a blur Steve drove the final ball of the day to the off for a four and reached his hundred as fans screamed in ecstasy.

    This moment has gone down in folklore. It produced a roar cricket historian David Frith had not heard in Sydney in his 52 years of cricket reporting. Patrons in pubs were chanting Steve’s name hours after his epic hundred.

    Kersi Meher-Homji
    Kersi Meher-Homji

    Kersi is an author of 13 cricket books including The Waugh Twins, Cricket's Great All-rounders,Six Appeal and Nervous Nineties. He writes regularly for Inside Cricket and other publications. He has recently finished his new book on Cricket's Conflicts and Controversies, with a foreword by Greg Chappell.

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    The Crowd Says (14)

    • January 4th 2018 @ 7:29am
      AR said | January 4th 2018 @ 7:29am | ! Report

      The Steve Waugh ton is genuinely one of *those moments* in Australian sport.

      Almost strange because we lost the match, and the ton didn’t turn the game or break any record.

      But it was still incredible – the build up, the noise (for me, on telly), the drama of Hussein’s stalling, the explosion of gratitude for a fading star. Great stuff.

    • January 4th 2018 @ 8:57am
      Duncan Smith said | January 4th 2018 @ 8:57am | ! Report

      Jeff Thomson 6-50 vs West Indies 74-75.
      Bob Holland goes through the West Indies in 84-85.
      Warne vs South Africa 1993.

      I’d put those up along with MacGill’s effort.

      • January 4th 2018 @ 10:08am
        Maggie said | January 4th 2018 @ 10:08am | ! Report

        The headline is misleading – the article is about memorable moments at SCG Ashes tests (relevant to today’s match). Your suggestions are all from non-Ashes test matches (as is the Lara innings suggested below). Otherwise Michael Clarke’s 329 not out against India would be up there as well.

        • January 4th 2018 @ 8:10pm
          Kersi Meher-homji said | January 4th 2018 @ 8:10pm | ! Report

          Maggie, I agree. My headline should have mentioned Ashes Tests. However, I have started the story mentioning Ashes. Thank you for your correction.

    • January 4th 2018 @ 9:23am
      Andrew Pengelly said | January 4th 2018 @ 9:23am | ! Report

      Brian’s Lara’s 270 odd, best innings ever!

    • Roar Guru

      January 4th 2018 @ 11:16am
      Anindya Dutta said | January 4th 2018 @ 11:16am | ! Report

      Lovely piece Kersi. Really enjoyed recalling those moments. Had almost forgotten Peter Taylor to be honest. And MacGill and how he suffered because of Warne’s presence will always remain one of Aussie cricket’s travesties.

    • January 4th 2018 @ 1:08pm
      paul said | January 4th 2018 @ 1:08pm | ! Report

      Not sure why the Ashes Test in 74/75 didn’t rate a mention? It was amazing watching Lille and Thompson bowling at express pace with the slips and keeper more than half way to the fence.

      Your comment about MacGill versus Warne is right on the money, Kersi. In any other era, MacGill would have been remembered as one of the great leggies of the game, but he really played in Warne’s shadow for most of his career, but clearly outshone him when they bowled together. 44 Tests for 208 wickets is a great return, way better than Benaud, for example. I bet there’s been time since he retired when our selectors wished he was born 10 years later!

    • January 4th 2018 @ 5:49pm
      Pope Paul VII said | January 4th 2018 @ 5:49pm | ! Report

      Atherton declaring when Hick was 98 was memorable.

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