August 1985 was an exciting time for sport in Birmingham and the West Midlands.
The Second City was in the throes of delivering an audacious bid to host the 1992 Olympic Games. Birmingham City were about to return to the top flight after winning promotion courtesy of the goals of Wayne Clarke and the goalkeeping of David Seaman. The Belfry was preparing to host the Ryder Cup for the first time.
On several fronts there was great anticipation – which was to met by rather different fortunes.
At The Belfry, all went brilliantly. Europe beat USA to win the Ryder Cup for the first time since 1957, Sam Torrance clinching victory with a 22-foot putt which triggered scenes of celebration that would enter golfing folklore.
The series was very tight. Then the Edgbaston Effect kicked in – and it lurched spectacularly England’s way with victory by an innings and 118 runs.Brian Halford
But Blues went straight back down (their final home game, against Arsenal attracting just 6,234) and Barcelona secured the ’92 Olympics. It transpired that the recruitment of white witches ‘Morgana’ and ‘Merlin’ (Dot and Reg to their friends) to cast an Olympic spell on the city of Birmingham was not enough to swing the Games Committee.
For sporting excellence in August 1985, however, Edgbaston was the place to be. And happily, the excellence came from England’s cricketers, in the Ashes.
Unusually, the Edgbaston Ashes date arrived late in the series. The teams arrived in Birmingham for the fifth of six Tests, locked at 1-1. England had won the first, at Leeds, by five wickets and Australia the second, at Lord’s by four wickets. Draws at Trent Bridge and Old Trafford followed to bring the series to Birmingham all square and with England in with a real chance of reclaiming the urn.
The series was very tight. Then the Edgbaston Effect kicked in – and it lurched spectacularly England’s way with victory by an innings and 118 runs.
For two rain-affected days, the contest remained tight. Australia batted first and closed Day Two on 335 for eight. On Saturday, in front of a raucous and delighted crowd, came the lurch. Day Three ended: Australia 335 all out, England 355 for one with Tim Robinson on 140 and David Gower on 169.
What a Saturday for England’s fans – and the Blues followers amongst them had even more to celebrate with news that Robert Hopkins had scored the only goal of the game to give them victory in their season-opener at home to West Ham. Sadly, their season peaked that day.
On Monday, England’s second-wicket pair took their stand to 331 (Robinson 148, Gower 215) and that was far from the end of the Aussies’ torment. Mike Gatting filled his boots with a 127-ball century and Ian Botham provided the party piece. With the luxury of going in at 572 for four, Botham proceeded to smite his first ball, from young fast-bowler Craig McDermott, into the crowd at the Birmingham End on his way to perhaps the most memorable 18 (seven balls) in Test history.
After England declared on 595 for five, Australia needed to bat for four sessions to save the game. Despite some assistance from the weather, they failed after Richard Ellison destroyed their top order with a spell of four wickets for one run in 15 balls.
The Aussie were broken (they also lost the final Test, at The Oval, by an innings) and within the Edgbaston hammering came a notable farewell. Ten years earlier, Jeff Thomson had blown England away in the 1975 Edgbaston Test. This time his figures were 19-1-101-1, his lone wicket that of Graham Gooch.
In ’75 Thomson dismissed Gooch for a duck. This time the moustachioed one was his 200th Test wicket and his last as Thommo bowed out of Test cricket forever.