Derby, 1997: If Australia Arrived In The Heartbreak Hotel > Cricket News, cricinfo, mobilecric, cricbuzz, livescore and more
Cricket news - Derby, 1997: When Australia checked in at the heartbreak hotel
A beleaguered English team, a dramatic run-chase, a one-wicket win, and a bunch of shocked Australian visitors. Not to forget a feisty batsman's day of redemption, an Australian captain under pressure and the best spinner in the world failing to get the job done. We're not talking about Ben Stokes, Headingley or Nathan Lyon for a change though even if all those elements were integral to the spectacle of Leeds.
We're instead embarking on a trip down miracle lane to the time an unfashionable Derbyshire team beat the mighty Australians in the summer of 1997. It was some win too. An unsung Derbyshire, galvanised and inspired by Dean Jones, chased down all of 371 in less than 69 overs against a bowling attack led by Shane Warne, who ended up with a seven-wicket haul. And the man who led the way without quite finishing it off in Stokes's fashion was Chris Adams. The combative right-hander would go on to play 5 Tests and 5 ODIs for England subsequently, but his 103-ball 91, which included an assault on Warne, who at times bowled with a cap and sunglasses on, was his finest hour.
"Just to have guys like (Glenn) McGrath, (Shane) Warne, Mark and Steve Waugh on the field at Derby for three days is what the county, the members and supporters remember. When a team of young, dynamic players could then beat them, it was really special," Adams recalls to Cricbuzz as an Usman Khawaja-led Australia prepare to take on Derbyshire in a tour match after having suffered a similar defeat as their predecessors from 22 years ago albeit in a Test match.
"Derbyshire's had precious few big days in their history. I managed to win two major trophies there, which were great but that day when we beat the Australians was up there as the most memorable day in the club's history," the former England batsman adds.
Derbyshire have only five titles to show in their chequered history in county cricket. They won the championships in 1936 for the only time, the Natwest Trophy in 1981, the Sunday League title in 1990, the Benson & Hedges Cup in 1993 and the second division county title in 2012. And it's no surprise that their win over Mark Taylor & Co. finds a special mention in their history timeline board that welcomes you to the County ground in Derby.
Adams though recalls there having been a positive air around the county team back in 1997 with the arrival of Jones as captain the previous year alongside fellow Australian Les Stillman, who was appointed as coach. Derbyshire had finished second in the county championships in 1996 and beaten India by 10 wickets in a tour match. They also had a few Test-quality cricketers in the mix in addition to skipper Jones. The likes of Dominic Cork and Devon Malcolm were part of the England setup while Philip Defreitas was still around and did play against the Australians.
"Kim Barnett had compiled and built a really strong team. Our success the previous year was all down to Dean and his approach as captain. It was difficult as a batsman for Derbyshire. Historically, our pitches were green, grassy and bowler-friendly. We produced the odd exceptional fast bowler like Dominic Cork and Devon Malcolm. We grew up playing a certain style, which was pretty aggressive and positive and I positioned myself as a young player who was scoring some attractive runs," says Adams.
With this being Australia's final practice game before the opening Test at Edgbaston, there was considerable attention on the happenings at Derby, with the game being telecast live on Sky Sports, who had arrived with a full-strength commentary team, which had everyone from Bob Willis to Ian Botham. For Adams, there was a lot at stake on a personal level as well.
"They had begun a sort of media interest in me the previous season, about perhaps me potentially playing for England at some point. It was a big occasion for me with Australia playing on our county ground with the game on Sky. It was a chance to show people what I might be able to do."
It was understandably a game of some importance for Jones too. Here he was four years removed from his final international appearance, with many in Australia convinced that the selectors pulled the plug on his Test and ODI career too prematurely, and captaining a traditionally unfancied county team against his former teammates.
"It was a big game for him. It was like he was hosting a lot of his old mates who'd come to play but he also wanted to impress them. He's a feisty, full-on competitor and loves winning. I think that was the only time I played a tour match where our team was geared up and galvanised to really believe that we could go and win the game. Often occasions tour games are played at a low intensity. It's about giving some match time to the tourists really. But Dean really wanted to win this and he was up for it."
Australia batted first and declared their first innings at 362/6 with Greg Blewett scoring a breezy century loaded with elegant cover drives. But the moment that stands out for Adams from that innings, apart from getting to see his idol Steve Waugh bat, is how an under-fire Taylor was dropped at slip by Jones.
"Dean was aware of the question marks of whether Mark was worth his place in the team. As soon as he dropped it, he sort of jokingly said, 'this could be the turning point for him' and he got some runs later in the match. It was probably the drop that got him back in form." Taylor was out cheaply regardless but went on to score 63 in the second innings before notching up a century in the first Test in Birmingham a week later.
Derbyshire replied with 257/9 with young opener Michael May top-scoring with 67. It was a knock, according to Adams, where May got under the Aussies' skin with his unconventional technique.
"His right foot used to go to leg-stump and he would wait for the short ball and upper cut it over thirdman. The Aussies had quite a bit of fun with Michael, bowling short at him. And he kept sort of carving it over the slips, and eventually they put thirdman in. They got stuck into him but it didn't bother him at all. It became his moment, which he'll remember forever." May ironically shifted base to Australia soon after and is a health and safety officer in Melbourne.
With all eyes and cameras on him, the first innings was a misadventure for Adams. He was adjudged out lbw by umpire Vanburn Holder off a flipper from Warne, even though he insists that the ball never even hit his pad but went to the fine-leg boundary off his bat. Adams continued arguing with the umpire for a while and then also exchanged words with the Australian fielders before walking off disgruntledly.
"It wasn't my finest hour by any means. I set off running and as I look up, the umpire raises his finger and drops it very quickly. I had a moment of confusion, considering the ball didn't even touch my pad. The Aussies are going 'On your bike mate'. And I said, 'I hit that Vanny.' And he said, 'I know but I've given you out'. I walked past 12 Australians having a drink and I said something and got volleyed by all of them and I waved my bat and it all looked horrible on Sky." Adams was fined for his dissent.
It only made him doubly motivated when it was his turn to bat again. A ton from Michael Bevan had helped Australia set the hosts a sizeable target of 371 on the third and final day. And with McGrath rested and Jason Gillespie expected to be kept fresh for the Test, the bowling was to be shouldered by Warne and reserve pacer Brendon Julian. And though Adams reveals to have not been too concerned about Julian on what was a flat wicket on a hot day in Derby, he had also conjured up a plan for Warne.
"Shane was at his peak of his powers and could get wickets bowling on the M1. Dean said to me something that took me by surprise. He asked me 'how do you play an off-spinner?' I said I run down the wicket, get to the pitch of the ball and hit him over mid-on. He said that's how you play Shane Warne. I was like OK. He said play him the same way like he's an off-spinner. Hit him over wide mid-on. And it worked."
Adams' 16 fours included quite a few off Warne over or through the on-side field. When he wasn't lifting them over the mid-wicket fielder, he was punching balls off the back-foot past him. The openers had played their role with a brisk start, and by lunch-time, Derbyshire were well on track. Adams though admits that the conditions were very much in his team's favour.
"It was a gloriously hot day, the outfield was like glass, it was lightning. If you pierced the inner ring it was a boundary. At the time Derby was perhaps one of the biggest surface areas in England, which meant loads of areas to score runs. And Dean had said, we have a decent crowd in, got nothing to lose, so let's entertain them. What he didn't want us to do was block and play out for a draw. A draw against Australia doesn't count for anything. He set us up to just go out and give it our all. My adrenaline was really flying after the first innings and in that mind-set you delivery a fully committed bat to every ball. There's no stick or twist."
The Aussies weren't sticking or twisting either with Taylor setting aggressive fields throughout, as Adams recalls, with the belief that they could knock out the hosts. At 191-1 though, Derbyshire seemed to be getting there at a canter. Like he would go on to do many more times in his career, Warne then turned the match around with a flurry of wickets, including that of Adams who holed out to substitute fielder McGrath on the fence while trying another "biggie".
Sensing the nerves in the Derbyshire ranks, the Aussies were getting mouthy as Adams remembers but with nothing too personal. "Little things like you'd walk out to bat and as you're taking guard, one of them from cover would say, 'Who's this guy? Never heard of him' to someone in the slips, who would reply, 'never heard of him either'."
When Defreitas and Jones left in quick succession, the home team still needed 28 to win with two wickets in hand, and 11 to get when young Kevin Dean joined Paul Aldred for the final wicket. By this time, there was an added incentive on the cards that enhanced the intensity of the contest.
"Somebody had mentioned that the ECB had a reasonable win bonus for anybody who beat the Aussies. It all started to get real, and we were thinking we're going to get a few quid if we win this and that just increased the intensity in the dressing-room." Eventually, it came down to 21-year-old Dean scoring a boundary off Julian for the winning runs - his calling card for years to come - and Adams feels it was a fitting finish.
"Two home-grown Derbyshire lads, not the fashionable ones and not guys who'd have played for England, doing the job and getting us over the line." Unlike the tradition at the time, Adams reveals there was no ground invasion but just immense elation all around Derby for the historic occasion. He also recalls the Aussies having been gracious in defeat, and even joined the Derby boys for a few beers despite having to immediately leave for Birmingham to prepare for the Ashes opener.
Incidentally the night before our chat, Adams and Warne had indulged in an exchange on Twitter over a Matt Prior post. "Chris, you were nothing but a club cricketer! So don't even bore us with your dribble as no one is interested or cares in what you have to say..." Warne had tweeted in response to Adams agreeing with Prior's views about Aussie sentiments. The lead architect of arguably Derbyshire's most awe-inducing achievement though laughs off Warne's comments as "just Twitter banter". He talks about having always had immense respect for the legendary leggie and like all of Derbyshire, does remember his battle against him and the eventual outcome from that May afternoon rather fondly.
"I am sitting here at the age of 49, remembering going out to bat against him. In the great context of cricket, he was a much better cricketer than me. But it's my right to go out and play as well as I could and if I did, then I had a day like that, which fortunately I can remember. He had way more better days than me, so he's forgotten it. But history will record it as the only time we beat Australia."
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