A gritty Allan Border and determined Jeff Thomson looked on course to help Australia snatch a virtually impossible win on the final day of the 1982 Melbourne Test, before Geoff Miller, alert to the task, shattered all their hopes.
Two-nil down with two to play, England needed a victory at the MCG to stand any chance of retaining the urn.
A fiery spell from Middlesex tearaway Norman Cowans (6-77) looked to have all but sealed the win and left Australia on 218-9, needing a further 74 with only bonafide No.11 Jeff Thomson to keep Allan Border company.
England skipper Bob Willis gave up on Border, spreading the field far and wide, and focused on cutting down the dyed platinum blond figure of Thomson – a batsman not exactly known for his powers of concentration. But Thomson, cajoled by his famously determined partner, broke from character and dug deep as Border carried his side to within 37 runs of victory at stumps on day four.
Some 18,000 spectators, admitted free of charge, turned up next morning to see if Border and Thomson could achieve the impossible; and as Ian Botham began the 18th over of the day with just four more runs needed, it looked like they just might.
But with victory just a flash of a blade away, 18,000 hysterical dreamers were about to witness one of the most dramatic climaxes in Ashes history.
Botham bounded in, sending down an innocuous short and wide delivery, and the Aussie tailender could resist no longer, guiding the ball into the hands of Chris Tavaré at second slip, who spilled the simplest of chances and parried the ball into the air.
Quick as a flash, Geo ‘Dusty’ Miller, stood to Tavaré’s left, collected the rebound no more than two feet from the deck and wheeled away in celebration, with a pumped up Beefy in hot pursuit. England had snatched victory at the death. It remained the closest Ashes winning margin until Edgbaston in 2005.
First published in 2011