ARCHIVE ON 4: THE 1981 ASHES (320kbs-m4a/130mb/57mins)
BBC Radio 4 broadcast: 17th June 2018
In 1981 Mike Brearley - 39 years old, retired and greying - took over the England team in the middle of a six-match series, already one-nil down against the Australians. His predecessor as captain was still in the side, but the side had not won a game for a year and that captain's poor performances were partly to blame. On his first two days back Australia ran up another huge total and Brearley's own side collapsed. Amidst baying newspaper headlines England were 500 - 1 against winning the game.
Yet Brearley's team achieved a victory to rival any in sport, which galvanised the nation and saw many who had never been interested in cricket before glued to the events on the pitch as Ian Botham led the team to the front pages.
Brearley himself goes back to the archives to tell the inside story of what remains one of the most remarkable summers of sport there has ever been. As the Royal wedding, the rise of the SDP and the inner city riots all came and went, the cricket united the nation. We hear from the players of both sides including Botham, Border, Willis and Lillee, as well as the memories of Sam Mendes, Donald Trelford, Scyld Berry and Gideon Haigh.