The scorecard at Queen’s Park Oval tells the story of the 1994 demolition © Getty Images
The scorecard at Queen’s Park Oval tells the story of the 1994 demolition © Getty Images

Any team can have a collapse, but only England have turned it into a tradition. The first part of this series featured collapses triggered by Curtly Ambrose, Bruce Reid and Eddo Brandes; in part 2 Michael Jones looks back on three more collapses, with Ambrose featuring again.

It has been a rich couple of months for collapse fans. At Pune against Australia, India lost their last 7 wickets for 11 in the first innings, and their last 5 for 8 in the second; when the teams moved to Bengaluru the boot was on the other foot, and it was Australia whose last 6 added only 11. In the third match of their T20I series, Ireland, attempting to chase Afghanistan’s total of 233, had remained within touching distance of the required rate for most of the innings; then from needing 35 off the last 2 overs, they lost their last 5 wickets for 4 runs in 7 balls.

Then the County Championship started. The first round of matches brought joy for collapse connoisseurs: Warwickshire tumbled from 30 for 0 to 48 for 8, with their numbers 3 to 8 in the order (including two batsmen with over 11,000 Test runs between them) scoring 0, 0, 0, 6, 0 and 0. Gloucestershire crashed to 37 for 9 and Leicestershire 60 for 9, before last-wicket partnerships raised them to the relative heights of 61 and 81. Glamorgan found themselves at 26 for 6, with four of their first seven batsmen making ducks and only one reaching double-figures.

Pakistan have provided the most recent collapsing action: chasing 188 to take a 2-0 lead over West Indies, instead they slumped to 36 for 7, with only Sarfraz Ahmed and Mohammad Aamer leading a half-recovery to 81. In the third match of the series, 57 for 2 became 90 for 7, and again it was Aamer, this time in partnership with Yasir Shah, who led the recovery which enabled Yasir to bowl them to a 101-run victory.

Yet it is England who retain an ongoing love affair with the collapse; they are most probably the only team with both a Facebook group (the England Batting Collapse Appreciation Society) and Twitter account (@englandcollapse) celebrating their habit. Let us resume, then, the history of England collapses.

vs Pakistan, Leeds, 1992

A rarity among England collapses, in that they were already far enough ahead in the match to ensure that they would win anyway — but still an indicator of how frail their middle and lower order could be.

The first series between the two teams since the altercation between Mike Gatting and Shakoor Rana in Faisalabad was intended to rebuild relations between them, but in fact had the opposite effect: the visitors were unhappy with the appointment of umpires (using eight of them in five Tests hardly showed consistency), and subsequently with the decisions some of them made: Aaqib Javed was warned for bowling bouncers at Devon Malcolm, and Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis were accused of ball-tampering.

It probably did not help that Pakistan’s captain on the tour was Javed Miandad, of whom it was once said that he “could not look at a fire without wading in with a can of petrol”; some reckoned that Imran Khan would have been more conciliatory, but he had retired after the World Cup triumph a few months earlier.

The series started with a rain-affected draw at Edgbaston, where Miandad and Saleem Malik scored centuries for the visitors before Alec Stewart and Robin Smith did likewise for the home team; Stewart’s 190 remained his highest Test score.

Pakistan snatched a dramatic victory at Lord’s, where Wasim and Waqar, who had already starred with the ball, stitched together an unbeaten partnership of 46 to rescue their team from 95 for 8 to a two-wicket win.

At Old Trafford, Aamer Sohail made a double century and Pakistan topped 500, but England easily avoided the follow-on and the loss of a day’s play to rain ensured the match would be a draw. David Gower overtook Geoff Boycott to become England’s leading Test run-scorer — and Aaqib had an altercation with umpire Roy Palmer over the act of returning his sweater at the end of an over. Palmer had to extricate the sweater after it became tangled in his belt, but the bowler interpreted his manner as aggressive, and Miandad waded in; Wisden reported that the scene was reminiscent of Gatting’s face-off with Shakoor, “except that Shakoor shouted back, while Palmer retained the dignity of a patient policeman watching a family squabble”. Aaqib was fined, and Pakistan manager Intikhab Alam reprimanded for claiming that Palmer had thrown the sweater at Aaqib.

Thus the home team were still one down in the series when they travelled to Headingley. Seeing the pitch was most suited to seam, England dropped leg-spinner Ian Salisbury and the out-and-out fast Malcolm, and brought in Neil Mallender for Test debut to join Tim Munton, Chris Lewis and Derek Pringle: a collection of bowlers all around the middle-of-the-speed range with no option at either end. When Pakistan chose to bat first, the seam combination proved the right choice, although some of the batsmen contributed to their own demise with imprudent shot selection when the conditions called for caution; Sohail edged to slip to give Mallender his first Test wicket; then Asif Mujtaba and Rameez Raja both played on. Pringle accounted for Miandad, and when Inzamam-ul-Haq gave another slip catch off Munton the visitors were 80 for 5. Malik helped them recover to 165 for 8 by the end of an abridged first day, and Mushtaq Ahmed held on long enough to add 64 for the ninth wicket; the last two wickets fell quickly, leaving Pakistan all out for 197 with Malik running out of partners on 82*. Mallender took 3 wickets, the other seamers 2 each; Graeme Hick held 4 catches, causing Wisden to observe, somewhat uncharitably, that “Twenty-two catches in 11 Tests confirmed his status as one of the world’s finest slip fielders; England still awaited confirmation that he was a Test batsman.”

Gooch had already shown mastery of Headingley’s conditions in making 154* against the West Indian pace attack the previous year, and he resumed where he had left off. Michael Atherton made 76, and between them the openers took their side to within 29 of the opposition total before losing a wicket. Smith made 42, and another century partnership with Gooch took them to the commanding position of 270 for 1. Another team might have gone on to top 500 and win by an innings; England, faced with Waqar and Mushtaq, fell apart. Aaqib started the slide with the dismissal of Smith for 42; then Waqar trapped Stewart LBW. With the last ball before lunch, Mushtaq’s googly found the gap between Gooch’s bat and pad to bowl him for 135, leaving England 298 for 4 at the interval. After it, Gower kept everything out to finish unbeaten on 18, but the rest fell away: the last six batsmen in the order made 2 runs between them. Playing seven specialist batsmen (including Stewart as ’keeper) did not do them much good as Mark Ramprakash was LBW to Mushtaq for his third consecutive duck and Hick bowled by Waqar for a single. Waqar followed with the wickets of Lewis, Pringle and Mallender, then Mushtaq administered the finishing touch by dismissing Munton. Either side of the interval, England had lost their last 8 wickets for 28; Waqar finished with 5 wickets, Mushtaq 3.

England still had a lead of 123, although two hours earlier much more had appeared to be on the cards. Mallender picked off Sohail, Mujtaba and Miandad cheaply, and shortly before the close Rameez fell to Munton for 63; Pakistan finished the day 98 for 4, still 25 behind with their last two specialist batsmen at the crease.

On the fourth morning Malik repeated his first-innings role of attempting to raise the total to something respectable while his partners did their best to hold up an end. Inzamam and Wasim both hung around, but Pringle and Mallender prised out the tail, the latter taking 5 for 50 — match figures of 8 for 122; he could consider himself rather unlucky that he only played one more Test, particularly since over the following few years England gave more chances than he had to many players who performed worse. Malik was left high and dry on 84, two more than his first innings score, and Pakistan led by 98.

The chase may have looked a simple one, but soon proved otherwise as Waqar dismissed Atherton and Smith cheaply. Then came another flashpoint: Pakistan were convinced that Gooch had been run out, and replays confirmed their view; however, the third umpire was yet to make an appearance in Tests and their appeal was turned down. It did not help matters that the on-field official involved was Ken Palmer — brother of Roy, who had been at the centre of the incident with Aaqib in the previous match. Moin Khan’s reaction earned him a warning for dissent, and substitute Rashid Latif was fined. Mushtaq eventually had Gooch caught at silly point and Stewart edging to the keeper, but Gower and Mark Ramprakash scraped together the further 34 needed to take the home team over the line and level the series.

The final Test at the Oval saw two more England collapses — and this time they had not already made enough runs to be safe before the collapsing started.In the first innings it was Wasim who tore through them, finishing with 6 for 67 as the last 7 wickets fell for 25. Four half-centuries and a 49 in Pakistan’s reply gave them a lead of 173; from 92 for 5 in the second innings, Lewis hung around long enough to help Smith add 61, but then came the next collapse, with the last 5 going down for 21. Smith finished unbeaten on 84, but the last four batsmen in the order had scored only 12 between them — in the aggregate of three consecutive innings. With the visitors requiring only 2 runs to win, Ramprakash was given the first over; he started with a wide, then Sohail hit the first legal delivery for four to seal a 2-1 series win. By scoring 5 off 1 ball, Pakistan recorded a run rate of 30 per over — unsurprisingly, the highest in a Test innings.

vs India, Gwalior, 1993

England’s 1992-93 tour of India was one they would probably prefer to forget. The problems started before the team set out: Gower — their all time leading run-scorer — was omitted from the squad; Richard Blakey was preferred to Jack Russell as wicketkeeper; and 40-year-old John Emburey was recalled as soon as his ban for taking part in the ‘rebel’ tour to South Africa had expired. MCC called a meeting to vote on a motion of no confidence in the selectors; the motion was carried at the meeting itself, but defeated by postal ballot.

The tour had started relatively promisingly, as the visitors snatched a four-wicket win off the last ball of the first ODI at Jaipur despite Vinod Kambli making a century on his 21st birthday, but the hosts struck back immediately with victory by 5 wickets in the second. All 3 Tests were played in between the second and third ODIs; India won the first by 8 wickets, the second and third by an innings.

Keith Fletcher, the England manager, had taken a reconnaissance mission to Johannesburg to see India play, and reported his verdict on Anil Kumble: “I didn’t see him turn a single ball from leg to off. I don’t believe we will have much problem with him.” Perhaps Fletcher had overlooked that failure on the unforgiving pitches of South Africa is not much of an indicator of how an Indian spinner will fare in home conditions against an opposition with a track record of struggling there: Kumble took 21 wickets in the series at an average of just under 20, while Mohammad Azharuddin at Kolkata, Sachin Tendulkar at Chennai and Kambli at Mumbai pummelled England with the bat.

The scorecards would have made even more miserable reading for the visitors without the performance of Hick: he finished the series with the most runs (315 — including 178 in a total of 347 at Mumbai, which was to remain his career best), most wickets (8) and most catches (5) for his team. There was not much competition for the wickets: none of the specialist bowlers took more than 4, and in 3 matches they only took 28 in total.

Surprisingly, they bounced back from the humiliation of the Tests to take the lead in the ODI series: Paul Jarvis took 5 for 35 to seal a 48-run win at Bangalore; then, in a shortened match at Jamshedpur, Neil Fairbrother, batting with a runner, made an unbeaten 53 — no one else on either team managed half that — to take them home by 6 wickets, although they remained concerned by the behaviour of the crowd: missiles had been thrown at the players, including a metal bolt which narrowly missed Malcolm.

Thus the fifth match of the series, at Gwalior, commenced with the visitors 3-1 ahead. After Azhar chose to let England bat first, Smith and Stewart put together a century opening partnership. Then Smith added a further 53 with Hick for the second wicket and 73 with Fairbrother for the third. They had reached 246 for 3 before Smith finally fell, LBW to Javagal Srinath for a 145-ball 129. Then the dominoes tumbled: Manoj Prabhakar trapped Chris Lewis in front; Gooch and Dermot Reeve were both run out; Srinath claimed Blakey for a duck; and Prabhakar finished the innings by cleaning up Jarvis and Malcolm. England had lost their last 7 wickets for 10, in only 20 balls.

The visitors put themselves back on top by dismissing Prabhakar and Kambli with only 4 runs on the board, but Sidhu and Azhar turned the innings around with a partnership of 175 for the third wicket. Then India decided to join in the fun with a collapse of their own. Malcolm broke the partnership with the wicket of Azharuddin, Jarvis bowled Tendulkar, Ajay Sharma was run out without scoring, Kapil Dev and Kiran More also fell cheaply, and the hosts had slipped from the apparent safety of 179 for 2 to the rather more precarious 205 for 7. Sidhu was still there, though, and in Kumble he finally found a partner who would stay with him: they added an unbroken 52 to steer their team home by 3 wickets, the opener finishing with 134*. Extra police had been brought in after the crowd trouble at Jamshedpur, but they failed to prevent the behaviour being repeated; this time Stewart was hit by a piece of concrete, the thrower not identified.

The final match of the series was played the following day at the same venue; a century from Hick guided England to 267 for 4 off 48 overs, but after the home team’s reply got off to a slow start, Azharuddin hammered 95* from 63 balls to seal victory by 4 wickets and draw the series 3-3.

The India tour over, England continued to Sri Lanka, where they fared no better: they lost the one-off Test and both ODIs. It was their first encounter with Muttiah Muralitharan, who would be responsible for many an England collapse over the following 18 years.

vs West Indies, Port of Spain, 1994

After the two ‘blackwash’ series of the mid-1980s, in subsequent years England had at least managed to compete with West Indies on something approaching level terms. In the 1989-90 series in the Caribbean, the visitors had gone 1-0 up and come close to making it 2-0 before losing the last 2 Tests comprehensively.

In 1991 they had achieved their first home victory in the Wisden Trophy for more than two decades, lost the third and fourth Tests but struck back in the fifth; this time it was the opposition who collapsed, losing their last 7 wickets for 18, 6 of them to Phil Tufnell, as England enforced the follow-on — something which would have been unthinkable only a few years earlier — and went on to level the series. It was the first time since 1973-74 that they had avoided a series defeat to West Indies. They might have hoped, then, that the following away series in 1993-94 would at least be competitive. For the first 3 matches at least, it proved otherwise.

The first Test, at Kingston, started promisingly for the visitors, with a century opening partnership between Atherton and Stewart, but that was as good as it got. They lost their last 7 wickets for 62; Keith Arthurton scored a century in reply, backed up by 95* from Jimmy Adams and 83 for Brian Lara, West Indies took a first innings lead of 173 and went on to seal victory by eight wickets.

At Georgetown, England began by losing Stewart and Ramprakash with only 2 runs on the board; Atherton made 144, but Lara topped that with 167 and Adams 137 in the home team’s reply, and they won by an innings. Curtly Ambrose took 4 wickets in each innings; he was just getting started.

Faced with a 0-2 deficit when the teams arrived at Port of Spain, England initially gave some hope that they might succeed in reducing it: Richie Richardson and Lara steered the hosts to 158 for 1 before both were dismissed on the same score and the innings declined to 252, with Chris Lewis and Angus Fraser taking 4 wickets apiece. At 115 for 4 in reply, the visitors were on the back-foot, but Graham Thorpe added 52 for the fifth wicket with Hick and 82 for the sixth with Russell; Thorpe fell to Ambrose for 86, but the tail steered them to 328 and a lead of 76 — Ambrose taking 5 for 60.

West Indies still trailed when they lost their third wicket in the second innings, but Arthurton and Adams hauled them back into the match with a partnership of 80. Andy Caddick pegged them back to 167 for 6, only 91 ahead, but Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Kenny Benjamin frustrated the visitors further, and the last 4 wickets more than doubled the lead; Caddick finished with 6 for 65.

England needed 194 to win: certainly not a trivial target, but a gettable one — or so it might have seemed. 15 overs remained that evening, then another full day.

Gower, who had recently made the transition from the pitch to the commentary box, remarked as Ambrose limbered up before the start of the innings “I don’t think anyone really knows what’s going to happen”, and certainly no one could have predicted what did.

Ambrose tore in for the first ball; it was an in-swinger that hit Atherton in front. The Antiguan roared an appeal, Steve Bucknor raised his finger, the England captain was gone for a golden duck and the visitors were 0 for 1.

Ramprakash came in at number 3, turned the fifth ball of the over towards long-leg, completed one run, started for a second then stopped. By the time they realised the run was not available, both batsmen were stuck in the middle of the pitch; although Courtney Walsh’s throw was off target, Junior Murray had all the time in the world to collect it and take the bails off, with Ramprakash the batsman to go. 1 for 2.

Smith safely blocked the last ball of the over. Stewart survived an LBW shout off Walsh; then picked up two thanks to a mis-field by Richardson, causing Gower to observe “for the first time this innings, the runs overtake the wickets.” A single rounded off the second over, then it was Ambrose’s turn again. His first ball deflected off Stewart’s pad past the slips, and the batsmen took a leg-bye; the second beat Smith’s attempt at a forward defensive and flattened the leg stump. 5 for 3.

Hick had dropped two catches earlier in the day, which may have been playing on his mind: he seemed nervous at the crease and dashed for a risky single off his first ball. A direct hit would probably have seen the end of Stewart, but Arthurton at cover failed to collect the ball cleanly. The rest of the over brought two more singles. Srinivas Venkataraghavan turned down an LBW appeal by Walsh against Hick, who profited from another Arthurton mis-field to collect the first boundary of the innings from the next ball. Stewart even hit Ambrose for four, albeit from an edge through the slips, and they reached the end of the sixth over without being separated, albeit with Hick looking uncomfortable against both fast bowlers: 18 for 3.

Stewart hit the first ball of Ambrose’s fourth over through cover. Richardson collected it inside the boundary and they ran three. The next was outside off, Hick edged it and Murray took the catch: 21 for 4. Stewart and Hick had added 16; it would be the highest partnership of the innings.

Stewart attempted to keep the scoreboard, if not quite ticking over, then at least showing the occasional movement, and a flick for four took his score to 18. Two balls later Ambrose removed his off-stump, and England were 26 for 5.

Ian Salisbury was sent in as night-watchman, although at the rate wickets were falling, expecting him to survive another 6 overs to the close seemed over-optimistic. Thorpe took a single in the next over, leaving Salisbury in Walsh’s sights. The first ball he faced hit him on the knee-roll but was missing leg; he poked the next straight to Lara at slip. After seeing his partner claim 4 wickets, Walsh was not to be denied his own part in the action, reducing the visitors to 27 for 6.

Walsh’s first ball to Russell glanced off his thigh and narrowly missed the stumps; Murray also missed it, and 4 leg-byes were added to the total. A rare full-toss from Ambrose was flicked away for four by Russell; two overs later the England keeper took a blow to his hand, tried to fend off the next ball and gave a catch to the substitute Phil Simmons in the slips. 37 for 7, and Ambrose had 5 for 21 from 7 overs.

A little light relief — not that England could afford such distractions — came when a spectator was seen waving a sign reading BOYCOTT PAD UP NOW; the former England opener, now in the commentary box, replied that he would only do so if Carl Hooper was bowling, rather than Ambrose. He had faced more than his share of West Indian fast bowling in his playing days, including the opening over from Michael Holding in 1981 in which the first 5 balls either beat him or battered him before the sixth bowled him.

Back in 1994, Thorpe had already been roughed up by a barrage from Walsh, and finally had his stumps rearranged to become Ambrose’s sixth victim of the innings. Stumps were drawn one ball early with England 40 for 8, which gave the media plenty of opportunities to point out that their lowest ever Test total was 45, against Australia in 1887. On that occasion they still managed to win the match, which, record or no record, certainly was not going to happen this time. The attempt to keep themselves out of the record books was the only thing left to play for on the final morning, with the result of the match and the series a foregone conclusion.

Caddick was the new batsman the next morning, and survived the last ball of Ambrose’s interrupted over. Lewis took a couple of twos off Walsh to steer England towards the avoidance of an unwanted record. Caddick added a single off Ambrose, then in the next over he edged Walsh to slip: at 45 for 9, they had avoided beating their lowest total, but could still equal it.

The wicket had fallen to the last ball of the over, so the number 11, Fraser, did not have to face; Lewis kept out the next over from Ambrose, managing a single off the last ball to keep the strike and haul them past the record. If there were any sarcastic cheers for the ‘milestone’, they did not last long: Lewis flailed at the next ball from Walsh and was caught at fine-leg. All out for 46, both match and series gone up in smoke. Even by England’s usual low standards, they had hit rock bottom: set 194 runs to win, they lost by 147.

In between the third and fourth Tests, England were soundly beaten by a Board XI that was well below Test standard; all the more remarkable, then, that they bounced back to record aa historic victory in the fourth Test, and fought back in the face of a world record to earn first-innings parity and a comfortable draw in the fifth. The series was still lost 1-3, but at least some pride had been salvaged.