Miller recounts Ashes glory
Going into the 1978-79 Ashes, Geoff Miller was by no means perceived as a match-winning bowler.
A steady off-spinner with an excellent first-class record, the 26-year-old had performed admirably during his 14-Test career, collecting 17 wickets at an average of 38.47.
However, in an age where England were trying to replace the legendary Derek Underwood, while boasting a seam attack consisting of Ian Botham, Bob Willis and Chris Old, Miller’s name was far from the first on the team sheet.
Heading into the series, England’s hopes of claiming victory over Australia, who were weakened by several players refusing international honours in favour of Kerry Packer’s World Series of Cricket, were pinned on their quick men.
But Miller, who is now ECB national selector, had not read the script and produced several high-class performances, claiming 23 wickets as England enjoyed a 5-1 success.
“At that stage, I never felt particularly settled in the side prior to the Tests,” Miller told ecb.co.uk/video.
“I was only usually selected when the wicket was conducive for me to play; it wasn’t as though I was an automatic choice because I was the spinner.
“John Emburey and Phil Edmonds were also in the squad, so it was a question of who was going to play and whether there would be one or two spinners playing.
“But I had the confidence of knowing I was bowling decently when I went out there, so I was delighted with the way the series went.
“My 5-44 at Sydney was the highlight - they are my best bowling figures in international cricket - but I was also pleased with batting seven, which gave us good depth.”
Miller’s achievements are enhanced by the fact no touring spinner, for any international side, has since taken over 20 wickets in a successful series in Australia.
However, he revealed things could have been very different had it not been for a bizarre exchange with an umpire in one of the warm-up games.
“In the warm-up match at Adelaide, I appealed for a couple of lbws and the umpire said not out because he couldn’t see, Miller added. “I had a very slanted run-up so I was blocking his view.
“He also said he would be umpiring a couple of the Tests, so I changed my run-up and went straighter.
“That meant I inadvertently created drift, so I became much more dangerous because I was beating the bat on both sides.
“The Australians had a reputation of not playing off-spinners too well and it worked for me. I got a few wickets and bowled as well as I ever had.”
Despite his own contributions, Miller believes the main reason for England's success was the inspirational captaincy of Mike Brearley.
“We won 5-1, but the games were much closer than that to be fair,” he said. “But Mike Brearley was a fantastic captain, who worked out the opposition and the strengths of his own side.
“His man-management was also brilliant in terms of the psychology. Everything he put into it worked.”
Since that triumph, England have emerged victorious from a tour Down Under just once, in 1986-87.
But many, including Miller, believe they have a great chance of retaining the urn in the upcoming series which starts in Brisbane on November 25.
“Trips to Australia are fantastic - it is a wonderful place to tour. The humour is very similar to ours and it’s a real drive to be successful there.
“I don’t see why we can’t be successful again - we have turned the corner with a motivated side and we’re a quality side.
“We have performed well for the last two years and there is no reason why we can’t continue that.”