David 'God' Gower scored nine centuries against Australia. Photo: Anthony Upton for the Telegraph
David Gower's WhatsApp picture shows him sitting in a Tiger Moth aircraft during his infamous flight midway through England's 1991 Tour match against Queensland. The flight cost him a pound. 1000 fine, but he laughs about it over dinner in Winchester. Gower has no regrets.
Besides, during Ash Summer, Gower has happier memories to relive. From 1981 to 1987 England won three of the four Ashes series and Gower played in all but one of the Tests during that lucky series. The middle series in 1985 was Gower's golden summer. As a skipper, he won three centuries to help England reclaim the urn.
After the first two out of six tests, the match was recorded with a score of 1-1. Gower scored 86 at Lords when Australia equalized and was in good shape when he arrived at Nottingham. Looking at the wicket, it was easy to make the decision to bat first.
“The wicket was straight,” Gower recalls. “The trick, of course, is not to miss.”
The test ended in a draw, but Gower's 166 points were a harbinger of what was to come.
On the night of 14 August, with the series still tied with only two Tests left, England hosted a team dinner. in Birmingham. “When I got up to address the troops, the usual suspects – [Ian] Botham and [Allan] Lamb – were throwing buns at me.” Gower decided that “if the mood is so good, let's just stop it.”
The interruption of rain meant that Australia would only be knocked out by 335 at the start of the third day. By the end of the day, England had already taken a 20-point lead, losing just one wicket; 215 Gower scored just 314 goals, his team 595 out of five claimed with 4.4 runs per over.
by his own admission, the zenith of Gower's career as a batsman and captain. Photo: Getty Images/Adrian Murrell
“I didn't make big speeches about what our plan is: we need to score four goals per over. It just happened – it was instinctive,” he says.
“I'm going through some footage when I pick up [spinner] Bob Holland. I know he wasn't Shane Warne, but if you overdo it, you can still miss – so throwing him into the stands a few times is nice. And it keeps everything in order. It's an early Bazball.”
Gower's team's performance gave more time. On the fourth evening, seamstress Richard Ellison exploited this in spectacular fashion, taking four wickets to cut Australia to 37 in five. One of them was Allan Border, an Australian skipper. As his rival trudged off, Gower thought “this will go our way.”
It rained all the next morning in Edgbaston, and whenever Gower looked out of the locker room, he saw Border giggling.< /p>
As a captain, Gower was never a dictator. He told his players, “If you have an idea and it's a good one, I'll steal it. If it's bad, try again.” When play finally resumed mid-afternoon, Gower began on the orthodox pitches; since Australia was unlikely to take the lead, Botham and Lamb advised him to gather the people around the bat.
Two of those close outfielders teamed up at Testa's defining moment and possibly in the summer. Wayne Phillips cut the ball offside, but the boot of Lamb, who was foolishly evading, bounced the ball to Gower himself. Australians have always disputed the legality of the wicket; Gower has no doubts. “It bounces off the top of his foot—bounces straight up. Thank you very much. Like this?” Less than an hour later, England were leading 2-1.
Gower's first challenge in the sixth and final Test at the Oval was one of his most important: win the toss and decide to bat first. His second task was to take advantage of this advantage. Reaching 20 for one, he scored 157 and shared three centuries with Graham Gooch; with every Gower flick or cover drive, so that a little more tension about England getting their urn back dissipated.
“If ever there was a good day to win, it was the first day of that game. So I rate my 150 points there more than my 200 points in Birmingham, because I got the feeling that if there is something “What you wanted on the first day of that game was to try and make it out of reach of Australia. I don't think I played any better than that. It was a perfect first day.”
Gower understandably has very fond memories of Ashes in 1985. Credit: Anthony Upton for the Telegraph.
With England securing a first inning lead with 233 runs, Gower had one final decision to make: whether or not to apply on. Allegedly, the return of the bat to Australia offered a tiny route back to the Ashes. Gower thought differently: “Push, keep pushing.”
On the fourth day, Allison and Botham secured England's second consecutive innings victory, just before the rain. “We had as much Bollinger Champagne as we could drink in a day,” Gower recalls. “As a captain, as a person, you have done something special – you can’t imagine better than this. So it's your absolute dream to be on Ashes, kind of like a comic book story.
But the Gower award was unlike any other comic book story. Before the 1985 series, Athol Angus, managing director of Wiggins Teape, the stationery company that sponsored Gower, promised Gower a bottle of port for every century he won.
What Gower didn't understand was that Angus was referring to a port before the First World War. “They're orange, not red, but the spirit holds them together so they're still very drinkable.” Three bottles remain unopened in his cellar.
Gower could never be accused of inconsistency in his approach. At Trent Bridge in 1989, with England already trailing 3-0 after four Tests, Australia's starting pair Mark Taylor and Jeff Marsh went undefeated for the entire first day.
Things improved slightly in the first session of the second day, with England taking a wicket, ending the starting stand at 329. In the mess hall at Trent Bridge, the sides sat cheek-to-cheek next to each other. “They have these lovely dining ladies who serve soup. I walked in and said, ladies, we need champagne. We took the gate. So, with Australia 370 for one, Gower had a glass of champagne at dinner.
It was not enough for him to cheer up the whole series. That summer, England used 29 players in a 4-0 victory over Australia and an impending rebellious tour. “The golden rule of the rebel tours is that the only person who doesn't know about them is the England captain,” muses Gower. “You realize that half of your team, whether you wanted to leave them or not – damn useless, whatever they are – is no longer available.”
Eighteen months later, at the age of just 33, Gower hit his last Test 100 in Sydney. Unusually for Gower, this century was fueled by anger. England were already losing 2-0, while Australia scored 518 points; Before their first opportunity, Gooch, now England captain, criticized his side. At a team meeting, frustrated by the approach of Gooch and head coach Mickey Stewart, Gower retorted, “I don't want to hear that we're shit.”
“It was a hundred, seized with anxiety,” Gower recalls. “I played great – although I say it myself – and when I picked up the bat, I thought it was good for me. It wasn't an act of rebellion – I just saw things differently. I wanted them to be more understanding, less rigid.” Gower's 123 points helped secure the tie, but especially after his flight in the Tiger Moth jet, crystallized the cultural differences between the two Gs.
> Gower and John Morris with the infamous Tiger Moth aircraft, for which many will remember him in Ashes 1990/91 despite his illustrious age in Sydney. Photo: Getty Images/Adrian Murrell
“Working out was like gardening for me. You do it once – you well think it was fun. But if someone says, go and do it again tomorrow – why, did I do it yesterday? I never intended to run a marathon – Graham could run marathons.”
After the tour, Gooch told Gower to run county runs and prove how much he wanted to play for England. Gower averaged 17.8 in his first five championship games. “It was one of those terrible ironies – the harder I tried, the worse it got … It was the most exhausting time in my life and career – it was terrible.”
This period provided Chris Cowdrey with material for his best man's speech after Gower was excluded from the 1992/93 tour of India: a decision so controversial that it led MCC members to vote no confidence in England's voters.
“He looked at the gaps in alphabetical order,” Gower chuckles. “A, B, Cs and Ds and so on… But no Gs!
“Epithets like Cavalier and Roundhead are just a label—it’s good in a way, because it gets to the heart of the problem but doesn’t reveal the nuances,” Gower muses. “Within 11 there is always room for different elements.” In his opinion, the cricket team needs both Goochs and Gowers.
And if his languid style could be a little annoying, Gower's consistency was underestimated. He excelled in both pace and spin. Unusually, he averaged more away than he did at home – averaging over 42 across all the continents he played on, even succeeding against an overbearing attack in the West Indies.
Seven people, including Gower himself, led him in at least three trials; Gower averaged over 40 points under each of them, and under Gooch, Roundhead, who didn't think he needed his beau, he skyrocketed to 54. Only two men—Jack Hobbs and Sachin Tendulkar—ever surpassed Gower's nine centuries against Australia.
He is confident England will have something to celebrate again this summer.
“England will win,” he says, predicting one rain-ruined draw and a home win by a 3:1. Just like in 1985? “It will do”.