Sporting Bygones: Broad strokes put England on their way to magnificent annexing of Ashes

Of all the England cricket captains of recent memory, none has made more headlines than Mike Gatting, a man of whom it was once said that his appetite goes before him, and he happily accepts that his career was not without incident.

He was dismissed by "the ball of the century" when Shane Warne made his unforgettable Test debut; he had his nose flattened by Malcolm Marshall; he famously argued on the pitch with Pakistani umpire Shakoor Rana; he lost the England captaincy after an alleged dalliance with a barmaid; and he led a rebel tour to South Africa, describing protesters outside his hotel as "a few people singing and dancing".

But he also put himself at the pinnacle of the English game by leading an Ashes-winning tour of Australia in 1986-87, the last party from these shores to triumph against the oldest enemy.

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England have just returned to the land of the ice-cold beer under the leadership of Andrew Strauss, another Middlesex batsman, and – as Gatting will doubtless point out – they are facing the Ashes series in a far stronger position than was the case with his squad.

Now England are among the leading Test teams in the game; then they travelled on the back of a 5-0 defeat at the hands of the West Indies followed, even more depressingly, by series defeats on home soil by India and New Zealand.

England's start to the tour was hardly auspicious, defeat by five wickets at the hands of Queensland being their 14th first-class setback in successive matches.

The run was ended with a victory over South Australia in which Yorkshire-born James Whitaker and Allan Lamb scored morale-boosting centuries but standards slipped again for the final warm-up match and only rain prevented Western Australia claiming victory after Gatting, David Gower (twice), Lamb and Wilf Slack had all been dismissed for nought.

Given that background, England's success in the first Test in Brisbane was one of the great surprises in Ashes history. Ian Botham hit 138 and had excellent support from another Yorkshireman in Bill Athey, Gatting and Gower as England reached 456 in their first innings then Kent's Graham Dilley, at his peak one of England's finest fast bowlers, ripped through Australia's nervous batting order to claim 5-68.

Australia failed by just eight runs to avoid the follow-on and when they batted again John Emburey took advantage of a crumbling wicket to take 5-80 and England, with Chris Broad giving an indication of what lay ahead, glided to victory by seven wickets.

Broad, the father of Stuart who is now established as a key member of Strauss's England side, announced himself as a batsman of the highest quality when he made 162 in England's first innings of the second Test in Perth.

Gower made 136, wicket-keeper Jack Richards 133 – his only Test hundred – and Athey 96 as England piled up 592-8 declared but Allan Border's 125 steered his Australian side to 401 and the match ended in a draw.

Another draw – and another century for Broad – followed at Adelaide where it was Australia's turn to amass a huge first-innings total and the caravan moved on to Melbourne for the traditional Christmas Test and the moment Broad earned his place in cricketing history.

Botham and Gladstone Small laid the foundations, each taking five wickets as Australia were dismissed for 141 in their first innings and Nottinghamshire's Broad hammered home the advantage with 112 as England built up a lead of over 200. That century enabled Broad to become only the third English batsman, after Jack Hobbs and Walter Hammond, to record hundreds in three consecutive Ashes Tests.

Left-armer Phil Edmonds was England's best bowler with 3-45 as Australia were dismissed for 194 in their second innings and Gatting's England had secured the Ashes with one match of the series remaining.

With a little luck they could have retained their unbeaten record in Sydney where Small returned 5-75 in Australia's first innings and Emburey 7-78 in their second and Gatting looked like leading his side to a 3-0 success.

Needing 320 to win on a pitch beginning to turn, England appeared well set on 223-5 with Gatting still there on 96, Richards looking comfortable at the other end and the new ball gone.

Gatting recalls ruefully: "I smashed a long-hop from Steve Waugh but Dean Jones stopped it magnificently. The next ball I hit a leading edge straight back to Waugh."

England changed their priority from winning to drawing the match and looked to have achieved their aim as the penultimate over began but after batting for over an hour Emburey was beaten by a delivery from leg-spinner Peter Sleep which kept low and England were beaten by 55 runs.

That was not allowed to take any shine from their Ashes-winning performance over the series with Broad the unanimous choice as man of the series and Gatting joining a select group – including Leonard Hutton, Raymond Illingworth and Douglas Jardine – of England captains to have led their team to success in Australia.

ENGLAND'S 1986-87 ASHES GLORY

First Test (Brisbane) – England 456 (Botham 138, Athey 76, Gatting 61, Gower 51) & 77-3 (Broad 35no); Australia 248 (Matthews 56, Marsh 56; Dilley 5-68) & 282 (Marsh 110; Emburey 5-80). England won by 7 wkts.

Second Test (Perth) – England 592-8 dec (Broad 162, Gower 136, Richards 133, Athey 96; Reid 4-115) & 199-9 dec; Australia 401 (Border 125, S Waugh 71; Dilley 4-79) & 197-4 (Jones 69). Match drawn.

Third Test (Adelaide) – Australia 514-5 dec (Boon 103), Jones 93, S Waugh 79no, Border 70, Matthews 73no) & 201-3 dec (Border 100no); England 455 (Broad 116, Gatting 100, Athey 55; Reid 4-64) & 39-2. Match drawn.

Fourth Test (Melbourne) – Australia 141 (Jones 59; Botham 5-41, Small 5-48) & 194 (Marsh 60; Edmonds 3-45); England 349 (Broad 112; Reid 4-78). England won by an innings and 14 runs.

Fifth Test (Sydney) – Australia 343 (Jones 184no; Small 5-75) & 251 (S Waugh 73; Emburey 7-78); England 275 (Gower 72, Emburey 69; Taylor 6-78) & 264 (Gatting 96; Sleep 5-72). Australia won by 55 runs.