The twin collapses at Brisbane last week reminded English cricket supporters of a certain age of some dark days in the past. The 1990s, and in particular the surrender at Melbourne in 1990, were recalled as examples of an era where England were more than likely to wilt under any kind of pressure. But the 1980s also featured some incredible displays of English catastrophes, the foundations built in the sand for the decade that followed.
1980: West Indies (126/3 to 150 all out)
The West Indies in the 1980s; a terrifying thought even now. Four pacemen, startled English batsmen, broken bones and 5-0 drubbings, the decade of West Indian domination was as painful to watch for English supporters, as it must have been to play in. Rather fitting then that the first entry of England collapses should involve carnage at the hands of the West Indians.
England trailed 1-0 going into the third Test at Old Trafford, a match in which Clive Lloyd shocked experts by winning the toss and inserting England on what looked like a good pitch. At 126/3 the decision seemed questionable, as Brian Rose and Mike Gatting led an England recovery from 35/3. But then the wheels fell off in spectacular style.
The final seven wickets could only muster 24 runs between them and were wiped out in 55 minutes of chaos, involving "...the most hideous array of self-inflicted errors seen for years on this historic ground," in the words of the Daily Mirror's Peter Laker. The incomparable Malcolm Marshall took 3/0 in ten balls, as panic spread throughout the England team, Alan Knott's run out symptomatic of the anxiety felt by the home team. Ian Botham's team would recover - making 391/7 in the second innings - but there would be many more collapso cricket tales to come during the 1980s for an England side that at times could rival the Watership Down crew for getting caught in the headlights.
1981: West Indies (110/2 to 178 all out and 103/3 to 169 all out)
As with Brisbane 2013, this was an unfortunate case of two for the price of one. England chose to field, mainly due to the fact that the pitch had been tampered with by Trinidadian protesters angry at the exclusion of wicketkeeper Deryck Murray, damp patches and holes created on the wicket by intruders the night before the match. Greenidge and Haynes shrugged off this minor problem though, putting on 168 for the first wicket, and as the West Indies amassed 426/9, it was time for England to face the chin music and dance.
"There's no way at all we should lose," declared a bullish Ian Botham at the end of day two, words that would come back to haunt him. At 110/2 first time round all looked fine, although when playing the West Indies you always had an inkling that one wicket could bring eight. Colin Croft, or the Lancashire reject as Pat Gibson chose to call him in the Daily Express, ripped through England's flimsy batting line-up taking 5/40, and when medium-pacer Larry Gomes even managed to take a wicket - Paul Downton on debut - England's misery was complete.
Naturally, Clive Lloyd hesitated for all of two seconds before making England follow-on. Again England reached a reasonable position, but a moment of madness by Botham was the beginning of the end. With just four overs to go until the new ball, Beefy was unable to resist having a dart at the bowling of his good friend Viv Richards, his wicket the first of six to fall for just 35 runs. The innings and 79-runs defeat was bad enough, but Botham was now under attack from all angles; the press labelling him Captain Madness and inventing headlines like Rock-Botham, with the Caribbean crowds entertaining him with ditties such as "Botham's bridge is falling down". The pressure was building.
1982: Australia (181/3 to 216 all out)
Captain Botham was gone by the end of the second Test of the 1981 Ashes, and we all know how that series ended up. By the time England travelled to Australia in 1982 to defend the urn, Bob Willis was skipper and, you'll be surprised to hear this, not all was going swimmingly. 1-0 down in the series after two Tests, Willis won the toss at Adelaide and gambled on putting Australia in, hoping to extract any early life out of the pitch on day one, a la Gower in 1989 and Hussain in 2002. It soon became apparent that Willis' ploy had seriously backfired: Australia scored 438, and now all England had to play for was the draw.
All looked good with David Gower (60) and Allan Lamb (82) putting England into a strong position, only for the last seven wickets to fall for 35 runs (viewable here 41 seconds in) in the space of 87 balls, Jeff Thomson finishing things off with 3/2 in just eleven deliveries. The Australians piled in to England, questioning whether this was the worst English team to have visited Australia, with the injured Dennis Lillee claiming that "Some of Bob Willis's players looked shell-shocked and shattered". Some things never change. Whether Greg Chappell warned Eddie Hemmings’ that his arm might be broken cannot be confirmed though.
England fared slightly better in the second innings when following-on, but the damage had been done. Australia went 2-0 up, and although England sneaked home at Melbourne right at the death, a draw in Sydney saw the Ashes back in Australian hands. A little over a year later, Willis' reign as captain came to an end, but not before some more England collapses to rival the others that had gone before.
1983: New Zealand (175/3 to 225 all out)
When England lost their last seven first-innings wickets for just 50 runs against New Zealand at Headingley, you could have been forgiven if the name Richard Hadlee immediately popped into your head. But the chief destroyer of England's batting was not the tourists' star performer; in fact, Lance Cairns entered the Test match with a dressing-down from his skipper still ringing in his ears.
"Geoff (Howarth) took me aside during our last game at Birmingham and politely told me that I needed to pull my finger out," said Cairns, after his 7/74 had decimated England's innings. Registering Test-best figures for a New Zealander against England, Cairns ripped the heart out of the middle order, at one point bowling a 23.2 over spell which spanned 202 minutes. The mayhem started when Cairns nipped a counter-attacking Botham innings in the bud, the rest of England line-up folding meekly to Cairns' swing bowling.
Cairns would end the match with ten wickets and the man of the match award, as New Zealand claimed their first Test win in England. And although England won that series 3-1, a Hadlee-inspired New Zealand would gain revenge in the return series, taking England to the cleaners in Christchurch, in a Test match so embarrassing from an English point of view that I have previously written about it here for therapeutic reasons.
1984: Pakistan (90/1 to 182 all out and 63/2 to 159 all out)
Some collapses are understandable, even if at the time the frustration still floods every part of your body. England's problems against wrist-spin did not only exist on and after June 4 1993, as Pakistan's Abdul Qadir regularly mesmerised English opponents years previously, his 16 Tests against England bringing him 82 wickets at 24.98. So when the great spinner started working his magic during the first Test in Karachi, there was a degree of inevitability about the whole situation.
From 90/1, England lost three wickets for eighteen runs in 35-balls, before Gower and Botham steadied the ship. But once Qadir removed Botham on day two, the flow of English batsmen to and from the pavilion was regular, Qadir ending with impressive figures of 31-12-74-5. England conceded a first innings lead of 95, though at 63/2 second time around hope began to make an appearance in the away dressing room.
Qadir began to tie the visitors into knots once more, and although he only ended with 3/59, the Pakistani spinner had caused enough panic in the English ranks to instigate a spineless display which saw England dismissed for just 159 after at one stage being 121/4. To compound the feeling of disappointment, Pakistan reached their target of 65 with just three wickets to spare, Nick Cook taking 5/18, as Pakistan won their first home Test against England.
"England's batsmen read Abdul Qadir's leg breaks, googlies, top-spinners and flippers about as well as they read Urdu," noted Pat Gibson. Harsh perhaps, but probably a fair assessment. It would certainly not be the last time that the paths of Qadir and England would cross, more of which later.
1986: India (102 all out and 128 all out)
1985 would be a marvellous year for David Gower and his England team. A 2-1 win in India was followed up by a home Ashes triumph, leaving me with no option to skip this twelve-month period; I could include the 403/3 to 464 all out innings at the Oval in the Ashes, but by that time the Aussie goose was well and truly cooked, and it is hard to get angry or experience any level of wry humour towards an innings during a match that England won.
What a difference a year makes though. After a 5-0 hammering in the Caribbean, England then proceeded to lose at Lord's against India - including a second innings slide of 108/3 to 180 all out - leading to the dismissal of Gower and the appointment of Mike Gatting as England captain. The new regime hardly got off to the greatest of starts, however, as England crumbled to a seventh consecutive Test defeat, the loss at Headingley competing with an ever expanding list for the most humiliating England Test match of the decade.
In truth, India had the better of the batting conditions on day one, and the Headingley strip was not the greatest, but the lack of technique and application shown by the English batsmen indicated a team at the lowest ebb imaginable. In just 45.1 overs, England were dismissed for 102, a slight recovery from 71/8, as Madan Lal, a 35-year-old medium pacer plucked from Lancashire League club Ashton-under-Lyne took 3/18, and Roger Binny 5/40, only Bill Athey's knock of 32 in over two hours showing any real resistance.
Set a target of 408 (stop laughing), England did at least exceed their first innings total, yet their 279-run defeat was frankly appalling. As ever, a lot of soul searching followed, with suggestions ranging from the mad in a recall for Dennis Amiss at 43, to the sensible in the establishment of a England cricket manager. But the most telling remark came from the Daily Mirror's Paul Weaver: "The trouble is there is no confidence or self-belief in this side". It was hard to disagree.
1987: Pakistan (22/0 to 94/8, and 23/0 to 130 all out)
And so to another case of England in a spin. Abdul Qadir was again England's nemesis, his array of tricks too much for the bamboozled tourists in Lahore, bowling 37 overs straight off and finishing with 9/56 (the best bowling figures in an innings against England) in the first innings, and following this up with 4/45. The innings and 87 runs defeat was not unexpected, yet the sub-standard quality of England's batting left a lot to be desired.
During and after the Test, England had made a lot of noise about the poor umpiring decisions they felt they had been on the wrong end of, Chris Broad famously refusing to leave the crease after being given out, with Peter Lush openly admitting that tensions were running high: "But if they (the players) think they are competing on unequal terms they won't want to come back. We cannot go on like this". Tory MP Terry Dicks also chucked in his opinion about the Pakistani umpires: "What they have been doing is unsporting and a disgrace to international cricket. It is sheer, downright dishonesty".
The mistrust and suspicion amongst the England party grew and grew, so much so that the Gatting-Rana affair in Faisalabad was a ticking time bomb waiting to explode. Relations between the countries broke down, and it would be 2000 before England toured Pakistan again. But this should take nothing away from the magic of Qadir; bad decisions or not, the man was a genius with a cricket ball in his hand, especially when facing England, and the sad fact is that the visiting batsmen simply didn't have any answers to the questions Qadir was posing.
1988: West Indies (135 all out and 93 all out)
"How much longer can we put up with this?" The headline on the back page of the Daily Express neatly summed up the feelings of all England supporters after yet another abysmal Test innings, the latest episode appearing right in the middle of the summer of four captains. Bowled out for just 135 in 60.2 overs, England were unable to cope with the West Indian attack, failing to reach 200 for the 13th time in the last 25 innings against the visitors. "England put on a performance yesterday that was as abject and miserable as the Manchester weather, " wrote Colin Bateman. There was plenty more of the same to follow.
Believe it or not, England even managed to surpass their first day horror show, dismissed for 93 - Malcolm Marshall taking 7/22, including 5/12 on the final day - as England lost their last seven wickets for 20 runs in ten overs of cricket so dispiriting that you seriously contemplated whether they would ever win a Test again – the innings and 156 run defeat at Old Trafford was their sixteenth match without victory, a run that would eventually stretch to 18.
Of course the England selectors didn’t panic, only changing the captain – Chris Cowdrey replacing Emburey – and in total making just the 7 (SEVEN) changes for the Headingley Test. Unsurprisingly, England lost again and were on to captain number four by the end of the series. Surely rock bottom had been reached? Read on.
1989: Australia (23/0 to 158/7, and 10/0 to 59/6)
I could quite easily have chosen the first Test debacle at Headingley - the first day of hurt amongst many more to follow up until 2005 - but Rob Smyth covered that in his Joy of Six England batting collapses. So instead, let's take a look at the Old Trafford Test in that series, the match in which Australia reclaimed the Ashes, and capped off a terrible decade for English cricket.
Again this was a Test in which England gave us a double dose of reality. Despite winning the toss, England subsided to 158/7 on day one, Botham in particular guilty of losing his head when attempting to launch a Trevor Hohns delivery out of Manchester. A superb century from Robin Smith managed to drag the score to 260, but Australia's 447 highlighted England's inadequacies, and once more put Gower's men under the cosh.
The top order were to fail miserably again, reduced to 59/6 in a little over two hours playing time, Wisden noting that Australia "had destroyed what last quivering remnants of morale might have remained in the English dressing-room". Jack Russell and John Emburey restored some pride with a stand of 142, but a target of 78 was knocked off with no hassle by the Australians, and as David Boon hit the winning runs off Nick Cook, I closed my eyes and wanted to forget that this had ever happened.
Sometimes I look back on 1989 and chuckle at the unbelievable ineptitude of English cricket, although at the time it was a hideous period to support England. On the final day of this Test, a rebel South African tour party was announced led by Mike Gatting, and featuring some of my other Ashes heroes in Chris Broad, Bill Athey, Graham Dilley, Richard Ellison and Tim Robinson. It's little wonder that such a disorganised rabble were put to the sword that summer, and these final two collapses at Old Trafford, along with similarly average efforts at Trent Bridge and the Oval, neatly rounded off a turbulent year and decade for the national team.