Headingley stirs the memory
Take a glance at the history books and you could be forgiven for wondering if Headingley is capable of hosting anything other than a remarkable Ashes Test.
The story of this famous ground is littered with memorable contests, from Don Bradman’s two triple centuries in the 1930s, to Geoff Boycott’s 100th hundred and Botham’s Ashes.
Bradman stands tallest among those who have graced the Headingley turf, having scored a scarcely believeable 963 runs in just four Tests at an average of 192.
The 334 he made in 1934 on his first Test appearance at the ground included 309 runs in a day, and he followed that up with 304 four years later.
Bradman, however, reckoned the 1938 Ashes Test at Headingley to be the best Test he played in. He defied bad light to hit 103 in a first-innings total of 242, before England collapsed from 60 without loss to 123 all out. Australia overcame a top-order wobble and the looming storms to overhaul a target of 105 to win.
1948 saw Bradman lead his ‘Invincibles’ to another stunning victory, the man himself contributing an unbeaten 173 to a final-day pursuit of 404 on the back of a second-wicket stand of 301 with Arthur Morris in barely three and a half hours.
Yorkshire’s very own Fred Trueman was the hero in 1961, when he claimed 5-0 with his fast-breaks en route to match figures of 11-88 and an eight-wicket success for England.
He consoled Richie Benaud, whom he dismissed in both innings, in inimitable style: “Don’t worry, sunshine. It would have knocked over even a half-decent batsman.”
In possibly the only match to be named after a fungus - the 1972 Ashes contest became known as the ‘Fusarium Test’ after a parasite killed the grass on the pitch - Derek Underwood wrote his name into Headingley folklore.
The slow left-armer wreaked havoc by claiming 10 wickets in the match as England won with more than two days to spare - and had to fend off accusations of a conspiracy against the Australians.
The 1975 Test is remembered for non-cricketing reasons. Vandals campaigning for the release off convicted robber George Davis broke into the ground ahead on the fourth evening and sabotaged the pitch with knives and oil, causing the match to be abandoned.
Boycott felt it was his destiny that he would score his 100th first-class century on his home ground, a feat he achieved in 1977 against Australia.
What made it so special was the fact he did in front of “my people, my Yorkshire", and it should come as no surprise to learn that Boycott powered on to 191 in a match England won by an innings and 85 runs.
No mention of the Ashes is complete without reference to Ian Botham and the ‘miracle’ of Headingley 1981, when England - forced to follow on 290 runs behind - contrived to fashion a preposterous 18-run triumph.
They slipped to 135 for seven in the second innings and were on the verge of a resounding defeat, but Botham’s savage unbeaten unbeaten 149, allied to useful contributions from Graham Dilley and Chris Old, left Australia chasing 130 to win on the last day.
Cue Bob Willis’ demonic spell of 8-43 in 15.1 overs, sending England to a win which defied odds of 500-1 - and earned Australians Rod Marsh and Dennis Lillee a tidy profit.
England’s most recent Ashes memories of Headingley - from 2001 - feature Mark Butcher, whose 173 not out saw them chase down a target of 315 on the fifth day and end Australia’s hopes of a series whitewash.
Perhaps in keeping with the nature of this series, there is little to choose between England and Australia’s record at the ground: Australia boast eight wins to England’s seven, while a further eight matches have been drawn.
If the Australia players came in for their fair share of verbals from a boisterous Edgbaston crowd, they can expect more of the same in Leeds.
The Western Terrace may be no more, but those inhabiting the West Stand come Friday are sure to give Ricky Ponting and company a typically Yorkshire welcome.
England-Australia Headingley records
England wins: 7
Australia wins: 8
England - Highest total: 533; Lowest total: 87
Australia - Highest total: 653 for four dec; Lowest total: 103
1909: Australia won by 126 runs
1921: Australia won by 219 runs
1938: Australia won by five wickets
1948: Australia won by seven wickets
1956: England won by an innings and 42 runs
1961: England won by eight wickets
1964: Australia won by seven wickets
1972: England won by nine wickets
1977: England won by an innings and 85 runs
1981: England won by 18 runs
1985: England won by five wickets
1989: Australia won by 210 runs
1993: Australia won by an innings and 148 runs
1997: Australia won by an innings and 61 runs
2001: England won by six wickets
Last England victory: Aug 16-20, 2001
Australia 447 (RT Ponting 144, DR Martyn 118, ME Waugh 72, D Gough 5-103) & 176 for four dec (RT Ponting 72) lost to England 309 (AJ Stewart 76, GD McGrath 7-76) & 315 for four (MA Butcher 173*, N Hussain 55) by six wickets.
Last Australia victory: July 24-28, 1997
England 172 (JN Gillespie 7-37) & 268 (N Hussain 105, JP Crawley 72) lost to Australia 501 for nine dec (MTG Elliott 199, RT Ponting 127, PR Reiffel 54, D Gough 5-149) by an innings and 61 runs.