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man, so the following summer we appointed Mike Brearley as captain for the 1977 Ashes, which we won 3–0. That series was notable for the return of Geoff Boycott from selfimposed exile, and the debut of a young all-rounder named Ian Botham. By 1981 Botham had become a giant of Test cricket and was England captain. But after a poor start to that summer’s Ashes series, we replaced him as captain and reappointed Brearley. He seemed to inspire Botham, whose performances in the next three Tests made his legend and retained the Ashes. I never thought I would again see such euphoria about cricket as there was that summer – but I was wrong. I was present at The Oval in 2005 when England won back the Ashes after a thrilling series, and it was great to see cricket celebrated across the country.
My Ashes experiences have led to lifelong friendships with numerous Australians as well as England team-mates. I have already mentioned my close friendship with Bradman, but I also treasure my friendships with many other Aussies as well. Indeed I was thrilled when four of them (Arthur Morris, Neil Harvey, Alan Davidson and Ken Archer) flew over to England in July 2008 to attend my 90th birthday party. It was a long way for them to come, but I hope they enjoyed meeting up and sharing memories as much as I did.
As I said at the beginning, the Ashes have been a major part of my life, but I think they have been a special part of many of other lives too, not just those privileged to have taken part but also the millions who have been entertained. Cricket is fortunate to have an international contest which is the envy of all sports. The history of the Ashes is the most eventful sporting story of all, and there can be no better way to read about it than through the original words of Wisdenwhich make up this splendid anthology.
Woking, December 2008
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