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Allan Border's greatest knocks in defeat

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Roar Guru
17th June, 2022
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Although the Aussies lost the Ashes series in 1981, Allan Border returned home with his head high after showing the pundits that he could handle the moving ball. He had already proved himself in the sub-continent conditions during the 1979-80 season.

But he still needed to prove himself against the fearsome pace battery of WI, and that’s precisely what he did at the Adelaide Oval in the next Aus summer.

78 & 126 (against WI at the Adelaide Oval in Jan-Feb 1982)

For almost two decades prior to their 1995 success in the Caribbean, the Aussies failed to win a single Test series against the Windies; and for most part they didn’t have any chance.

Still, they did come very close in 1982; after the heroics of Kim Hughes and Lillee at the MCG, the second Test ended in a draw. But, despite the brilliance of AB, WI won at Adelaide to level the series.

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After Clive Lloyd decided to field first, his fast bowlers, Michael Holding and Andy Roberts, wasted no time in making inroads to the Aus batting line up. Border came to the wicket with the scoreboard reading 4-17. The Border-Chappell partnership provided the Aus fans with their only joy of the day.

The skipper fell to Holding for 61; but Border carried on. The home side finished the day at 6-204, Border 78*; it was tough going for the Aussies.

However any hopes of Aus reaching a 300-plus score ended early on the second day as Roberts had Border caught behind; he failed to add to his overnight score. The Aussies managed a score of 238.

The Aus bowlers had done well in the series. Apart from Lillee and the other quickies, off-spinner Bruce Yardley had become the surprise package of the season. Australia fancied their chances after restricting the tourists to 4-92.

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Greenidge, Haynes & Richards were all gone, but it was Larry Gomes who stole the show. While he couldn’t match his more illustrious teammates in stroke-making, he was a great accumulator of runs and had plenty of patience. Besides, he always enjoyed batting in Aus.

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His unbeaten 124 ensured a 151-run lead for the Windies. The odds were against the home side, but the brilliance of Border gave them a chance. This time he came in at 2-35, and then defied the world’s best bowling attack for more than five and a half hours to score 126.

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236 on the final day was a tricky task and Thommo provided an early joy by dismissing Haynes for 4. But Greendige and Richards reached fifties; and skipper Lloyd, who became very adept in playing the captain’s knock in the second half of his career, took his side to a five-wicket win with a quick-fire 77 not out.

So, at the end, Border’s MOM effort wasn’t enough to secure the series for Australia.

62 not out (second innings against England at MCG in Dec. 1982)

The 10,000 crowd who went to the MCG for the final day of the match took a risk. It could’ve been just one delivery, as Aus started the day on 9-255, still 37 runs short of the victory target. As the two Queenslanders, Allan Border and Jeff Thomson went out to bat, there was more hope than expectation among the home fans.

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Yet, at the end they saw one of the greatest drama in Ashes history as it became a case of ‘so near, yet so far’ for the home team.

Realistically, it should have been over the previous evening. Norman Cowans, in the middle of the bowling spell of his life, had run thorough the Aussie middle order, in the process rekindled the Poms’ Ashes hopes.

A fourth-wicket century stand between Kim Hughes and David Hookes had initially kept the Aussies in the chase, but then it was all Cowans. And when he trapped Rodney Hogg LBW to claim his sixth victim of the innings, the home side was still 74 runs shy.

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In came Thommo to join AB, and it was at this stage that Bob Willis made a tactical error. He made no attempt to put pressure on Border, and tried just to get Thomson out. This is exactly what Border needed.

It seems hard to believe, but less than 12 months after his heroics against the best fast bowlers in the world, Border was playing here to save his place in the Test team. A dramatic slump in his batting form had seen him score just one fifty (55 not out at Karachi) over nine Tests.

After Ian Botham dismissed him for 2 in the first innings, there was genuine concern for his international future.

It was Willis’ tactics to concentrate totally on Thomson that gave Border the opportunity to slowly find his form. A few well-timed pushes were followed by some more authentic drives and he finished the day 44 not out. Thomson, at the other end, finished on 8 not out.

Allan Border

(Credit: Ben Radford/Allsport via Getty Images)

What happened the next day has become a part of Ashes folklore. Border completed his fifty, Thommo started to look more confident, and the home fans raised their voices as the target became smaller. After defying the England bowling for more than two hours, the Aus last-wicket pair just needed a boundary.

It was Botham who was at the bowling crease. It was a half tracker, but somehow Thommo managed to edge it towards Chris Tavare at second slip. At the non-striker’s end, Border’s reactions changed rapidly. First, he thought that Thomson would hit it for four; then it was caught, dropped, and caught (by Miller) as England won by three runs.

A small side note: Ian Botham completed his Ashes double in just 22 Tests (a record) with the Thomson wicket.

98 (first innings against WI at St. John’s in April 1984)

While his 98 & 100 at Port of Spain saved Aus, here his effort just delayed the inevitable as the Caribbeans outplayed the Australians in every department of the game.

Kim Hughes won the toss and decided to bat, but his batters, except Border, looked hapless against the WI attack. It was fairly familiar story for Border in the mid-1980s – he came to the wicket 2 down for 14 and carried almost a lone hand.

A 124-run fifth-wicket stand between Border and Hookes briefly raised hopes, but then Eldine Baptiste, in a super spell, took three wickets, including the Aus VC, caught behind.

There was early joy for the Aussies on the second morning when Gordon Greenidge fell for a duck to Geoff Lawson. But it was short-lived, with Viv Richards at his majestic best in his innings of 178, and along with young Richie Richardson (154), gave the home side a massive lead. Joel Garner and Malcolm Marshall then did the rest.

152 not out (second innings against Sir Richard Hadlee at the Gabba in Nov, 1985)

This, in fact, was his highest Test score for a losing cause. After Hadlee took 9-52 to restrict Aus to 179, Martin Crowe alone scored more (188) to ensure a massive Kiwi lead. Then Hadlee & co. wasted no time in restricting the home side to 5-67.

The home side eventually suffered an innings defeat, but not before the two lefties, Greg Matthews and Allan Border, scored fine hundreds. While they couldn’t alter the outcome of the match, the pair restored some much-needed pride for their side.

Hadlee dismissed Matthews very late on the fourth day, but Border remained unconquered even as his team lost the match.

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