As England and Australia prepared for their Ashes clash at Edgbaston in July 1989, the United Kingdom was not experiencing a mellow time.

Industrial disputes were causing major disruption. The dockers were threatening an all-out strike in support of the rail workers. In the House of Commons, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and leader of the opposition Neil Kinnock clashed furiously, their rude, aggressive exchanges setting an appalling example of behaviour to youngsters everywhere.

It was an ugly period. And the fortunes of England’s cricket team mirrored those of the nation.

David Gower’s side arrived in Birmingham already 2-0 down in the Ashes series and having won just one of their previous 21 Tests. While Australia, under the inspirational leadership of Allan Border, were heading into a golden era, England were firmly in the doldrums.

The selectors did not know where to turn. For Edgbaston, they turned the clock back – to Chris Tavare for the first time in five years and to Ian Botham for the first time in two. It didn’t work. Only due to the appalling weather did England escape with a draw.

Early in the week of the match (this was the era in which Test players played for their counties right up to the eve of the Test), Botham warmed up with 11 wickets in the match for Worcestershire against Northamptonshire. At Hinckley, meanwhile, Geoff Humpage reined in his natural aggression to shepherd Warwickshire to a draw against Leicestershire with a skilful 55 in 75 overs. England could have done worse than select the under-rated Humpage, while Somerset opener Peter Roebuck was advocated by many, but neither was selected and a familiar tale of struggle was soon unfolding.

Australia piled up 424 – the only up-side for England being that, due to the bad weather, it took the Aussies until into the fourth day to build that total. It was an elongated marathon of an innings during which the dockers walked out, Aston Villa manager Graham Taylor returned from holiday armed with £2million to rebuild his squad, Warwick Alf departed for a holiday in Weston-super-Mare and Steffi Graf and Boris Becker secured a German double at Wimbledon.

When England finally went into bat, on the fourth morning, they had to make 20 wickets last five sessions – and even that, for a while, was a struggle. They slumped to 75 for five before Botham (how different from his role as glorious hero of England’s Edgbaston Ashes win eight years earlier) dug in for 46 in more than two and a half hours alongside Jack Russell (42, 147 minutes) and John Emburey (26, 78). Together, they soaked up enough time to make England safe.

The match petered to a close as the Aussies batted out a final session enlivened only by the thrill of watching Tim Curtis deliver his only three overs in Test cricket. Despite the dreary weather and England’s desperate fortunes, however, the enduring appeal of the Ashes at Edgbaston still kicked in – remarkably, the rain-soaked stalemate generated £683,372.