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   Monday, 23 December, 2002, 10:14 GMT
Small stands tall for England
Thrasy Petropoulos


If Duncan Fletcher is looking for a talisman ahead of the Melbourne Test, he may wish to know that Gladstone Small is in town hosting a supporters' tour.

Melbourne is the location of England's finest cricketing moment of the past 20 years.

It was there in 1986/87 that they last won the Ashes, where Elton John was pulled into the jacuzzi in the post-match celebrations.

Small was not expecting to play in the game, but ended it as Man of the Match.

England celebrates Ashes success in 1987
Melbourne was the scene of a memorable triumph

"I had been the net bowler on the tour and I set about my 12th man duties on the morning of the match, bowling to the batsmen in the nets and making sure the guys had enough drinks in the dressing room," Small recalls.

"Just then Mike Gatting came in to get his blazer for the toss. As he was walking out he turned to me and said, 'Oh by the way, Stoney, you're in the side. And if I win the toss we're bowling.'"

Graham Dilley had jarred a knee and although Ian Botham was returning to the side after missing the third Test, he was still hampered by torn intercostal muscles.

Australia were 1-0 down in the series and were promising revenge. Allan Border had said in his pre-match press conference that they would be attacking from the start.

It was in such circumstances that Small found himself on the MCG boundary, barely half an hour after being told by Gatting that he was playing.

"There were 70,000 Aussies in the ground, all merry with Christmas," Small remembers.

Gladstone Small enjoys a celebratory drink
Small became an instant England hero

"I went down to third man where they gave me their typical greeting. An orange flew past my ear. I looked round, waved and said, 'Right, I'm going to show these Aussies that this Pom can bowl.'"

With figures of five for 48, and two crucial wickets in the second innings - including a typically dogged Allan Border, he did just that.

Just for good measure he scored 21 not out at No 11 and took the catch that sealed England's Ashes victory.

Bowled out for 141 in their first innings, Australia had conceded a first-innings deficit of 208 after a hundred from Chris Broad, and were bowled out for 194 second time round.

The celebrations were long and boisterous, with Elton John shrugging off his soaking at the hands of Ian Botham and Allan Lamb and hosting a party that night.

It never occurred to us that we would lose the next eight Ashes series

Gladstone Small

And for Small, who had many friends in Melbourne after playing there in 1982/83 for Balwyn Cricket Club, they continued into the final Test, in Sydney, where he took another five-wicket haul.

"I knew all about Merv Hughes from my club days in Melbourne and enjoyed a bit of banter with him," Small said.

"He'd sledge his own mother if she was at the crease. He greeted me with a few choice words and I blew him a kiss.

"The ending could not have been better. Merv top-edged a sweep off Phil Edmonds which I caught at deep backward square leg.

"I wish I had held on to the match ball but in my excitement I threw it 200 miles into the air."

There was one final triumph for Small during that tour.

Not content with winning the Ashes and two one-day tournaments, he made off with an Australian girl called Lois who became his wife.

Beating the Aussies and stealing one of their maidens at the same time - now that's style.


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