Miller caught in the MCG moment
Geoff Miller fondly recalls his part in one of the greatest Ashes contests in history - England’s three-run victory at Melbourne in the 1982 Boxing Day Test.
The tourists went into the penultimate match of the series 2-0 down, having lost at Brisbane and Adelaide, knowing only a win at the MCG would keep their hopes of retaining the urn alive.
What transpired was one of the closest Tests and most dramatic climaxes in memory as Australia’s last-wicket pair, Allan Border and Jeff Thomson, added 70 to take the hosts to within a whisker of victory.
Miller, who took the winning catch to dismiss Thomson on the final morning, believes he and his team-mates did not fully appreciate the thrilling nature of that game at the time.
“I don’t think you do," the national selector, who played in 34 Tests and 25 one-day internationals, told ecb.co.uk/video.
“You get caught up in the euphoria, the fact that you’ve won the Test match. And the pressure was so much at that stage, you sit in the changing room and think ‘thank goodness that’s over’.
“You don’t realise at the time the notoriety of the match itself, which was absolutely huge.”
The match was evenly poised at the midway point with Australia improving on the tourists’ 284 by three, despite Miller taking 3-44 from 15 overs.
England then defied a worsening pitch to set their hosts 292 for victory.
Australia were well placed at 171 for three when Miller had Kim Hughes caught behind to halt a 100-run alliance with David Hookes.
Miller is modest about the delivery.
“As normal with my bowling - fortuitous - I think it was an ordinary delivery,” he joked. “I think he went to lap it and got a glove on it and Bob Taylor took a terrific diving catch.
“That helped the cause, obviously, but it wasn’t particularly great bowling, it was just a bit of fortune really.”
Paceman Norman Cowans then came to the fore, taking his second-innings wicket tally to six to reduce the hosts to 218 for nine.
However, Border and Thomson added 37 by stumps to give Australia faint hope with another 37 required on the final day.
“We thought 'if they did that before the night before, there’s the possibility of them doing it again'. But we did know the new ball was due so that could have made a difference and again it did,” said Miller.
“It was nerve-wracking but at that time you didn’t look at it like that,” he added. “You just had to hold your nerve and we’d got some seasoned professionals in there, who were pretty good under pressure.”
The 10th-wicket partnership progressed in front of a considerable final-day crowd with Border farming the strike as much as possible. In all, the pair declined 29 comfortable singles.
They were made to regret this when Ian Botham found the edge of Thomson’s bat, sending the ball towards Chris Tavare and Miller at first and second slip respectively.
Miller picks up the story.
“It was the incident that won the Test match,” he recalled. “But it was a fascinating build-up to it because, as the ball wasn’t carrying, Bob Taylor - the wicketkeeper - said ‘look, we’re better off dropping something here as opposed to it not carrying to us, so we’d better move up a couple of yards’.
“So Bob moved up a couple of yards and Chris Tavare moved up a couple of yards and I just moved up one so hopefully, if something came, it came to hand as opposed to ground to hand.
“And that’s exactly what happened really, but we were too close to catch it and Chris did fantastically well.
“It zipped at him and he got a hand on it, but it also hit him on the shoulder as well, which took the pace off the ball, and everybody says ‘you dived full length and took an amazing catch’, but well - nothing of the sort.
“It just bounced back over him and I just took a couple of steps round and caught it.
"We felt then, obviously there was elation then but obviously there was work to do because we had to go through the whole thing again at Sydney.”
England could not repeat the win at the SCG, where a draw saw Australia regain the Ashes.