Home > Features > Moments in history >

Richard Ellison: The swing bowler who was hailed as the next Ian Botham after the Ashes of 1985

Richard Ellison: The swing bowler who was hailed as the next Ian Botham after the Ashes of 1985

Richard Ellison © Getty Images

Richard Ellison, born September 21, 1959, was England’s Ashes hero in 1985 when, in the penultimate and last Tests, he swung the series in his side’s favour with his medium-fast bowling. Karthik Parimal looks back at the short career of this Kent cricketer.

Examples of players being earmarked for their performance in just one match, or in one series, are in abundance. If that epic is scripted at the Holy Grail, they tend to linger in public memory longer than usual. Richard Mark Ellison was one such player who, after a tremendous 1985 Ashes series, was hailed as the next Ian Botham. With a curly mop of hair and distinctive moustache, his bowling propelled him to a level of adoration reserved only for the most elite in England at the time. It hence comes as a surprise that he walked away with just 11 Test caps to his name.

Early life

Ellison was introduced to the sport via his family. Apparently, his great-grandfather had played against the Grace brothers and his grandfather captained the Derbyshire Second XI, that at the age of 60. His father, too, was a cricket enthusiast but passed away when Ellison was only eight. Nonetheless, he witnessed his son’s prowess when, at the age of seven, Ellison took eight wickets for three runs for Friars Preparatory School. After moving to Tonbridge School, his interest in other sports grew, but when he made the First XI of the cricket team, the rest were put on a backburner. It was here he met Alan Dixon, the coach Ellison credits for his rise as a swing bowler.

With Dixon’s recommendation, Ellison made his debut for Kent in 1981. In three years, his fast-medium bowling troubled enough batsmen at the domestic level to earn him a call-up for the national side. The English, staring at a whitewash against West Indies, were set for inevitable changes and, in the August of 1984 for the last Test at The Oval, Ellison made his debut. He took five wickets and with runs in the lower middle-order, looked a replica of Botham on the field. That performance helped retain his spot for the one-off Test against Sri Lanka during which, despite taking just one wicket with the ball, he made a brisk 41. Little did one expect it to be his highest Test score.

Richard Ellison: The swing bowler who was hailed as the next Ian Botham after the Ashes of 1985

The England playing XI for the Edgbaston Ashes Test in 1985 (standing from left): Paul Downton, John Emburey, Richard Ellison, Les Taylor, Phil Edmonds, Tim Robinson and Bernard Thomas (physio). Bottom row (from left) : Allan Lamb, Mike Gatting, David Gower, Ian Botham and Graham Gooch © Getty Images

The defining series

Later in 1984, Ellison was on board to tour the sub-continent, since Botham had been rested for the English winter. Having played three of the five Tests there, he took four for 66 at Delhi to help restrict India to a moderate first innings total — a game England eventually won by eight wickets. In the rest of his outings, he failed to pocket a single scalp. A few months later, when it was Australia’s turn to tour for the Ashes, he wasn’t the selectors’ first choice. With the series tied at 1-1, he was roped in for the fifth fixture at Edgbaston, but Ellison wasn’t a certainty even then, owing to cold. Nevertheless, he decided to carry on, despite being half-fit, for he was keen to make the best of what could possibly have been his only chance.

Richard Ellison: The swing bowler who was hailed as the next Ian Botham after the Ashes of 1985

Richard Ellison bowls Allan Border during the fifth Ashes Test in the 1985 series © Getty Images

English skipper David Gower won the toss and put Australia in to bat, a decision that copped criticism from the press when they reached 335. But Ellison’s six for 77 managed to hog a piece of the limelight. It was exactly the kind of spell that bolstered the hosts’ morale. Then, Gower thwacked 215, and centuries from Tim Robinson and Mike Gatting put Australia’s innings into perspective. England declared at 595 for five. When Australia’s second innings commenced, commotion ensued. Ellison took four wickets for just one run towards the end of the fourth day to leave their innings in complete disarray, thereby grabbing a ten-wicket haul. That performance was duly noted by Wisden as follows: “The Kent swing bowler fought off the debilitating effects of a heavy cold to capture ten for 79 in the match, be named as Man of the Match, and announce his coming-of-age as a Test bowler.”

At 36 for five, Wayne Phillips set out to repair the damage, but a freak dismissal ensured that defeat, by a margin of an innings and 118 runs, was conceded. In the sixth Test, played at The Oval, he bagged match figures of seven for 81 as England, yet again, won by an innings to reclaim the urn. For the next two decades, before Michael Vaughan’s troop came along, it would be England’s last home Ashes series victory. With that, many, like Wisden, believed, Ellison turned a corner, but sadly that wasn’t to be.

Decline and exit

Even as Ellison’s stature as a bowler grew post that Ashes, his batting form and physical fitness — a back problem — took a dip. After playing only four more times — three Tests against the West Indies and one against India — Ellison disappeared from the international stage. Back in the domestic arena, he claimed three for 27 and scored 29 in the 1986 Benson & Hedges Cup finals for Kent against Middlesex, but the match was lost by two runs. In 1988, he took 71 First-Class wickets. However, he was off the selectors’ charts by now.

After an incredible start to his career, little did one expect Ellison to feature in just 11 Tests and 35 wickets to his name. Also, in due course of time it became evident that he wasn’t as efficient when the sky was clear and the surface very flat. His 475 First-Class scalps made for a better reading but, in 1992, at the age of just 32, he called it quits from all forms of cricket, perhaps realising the fact that the chances of him donning the English flannels again were minimal. A rebel tour to South Africa was his last big outing, albeit it being unofficial.

Post cricket, Ellison took up the role of a Physical Education (PE) teacher at Millfield School in Somerset, simultaneously coaching their first XI.

(Karthik Parimal, a Correspondent with CricketCountry, is a cricket aficionado and a worshipper of the game. He idolises Steve Waugh and can give up anything, absolutely anything, just to watch a Kumar Sangakkara cover drive. He can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/karthik_parimal)

World T20 League 2014

Sep 17, 2014 (20:00 IST)   at Hyderabad

World T20 League 2014

Sep 18, 2014 (20:00 IST)   at Mohali

World T20 League 2014

Sep 19, 2014 (20:00 IST)   at Raipur

World T20 League 2014

Sep 20, 2014 (16:00 IST)   at Mohali

World T20 League 2014

Sep 20, 2014 (20:00 IST)   at Mohali

More

World T20 League 2014

Sep 16, 2014  at Raipur

Northern Knights won by 6 wkts

World T20 League 2014

Sep 16, 2014  at Raipur

Lahore Lions won by 55 runs

World T20 League 2014

Sep 14, 2014  at Raipur

Mumbai Indians won by 9 wkts

World T20 League 2014

Sep 14, 2014  at Raipur

Northern Knights won by 72 runs

World T20 League 2014

Sep 13, 2014  at Raipur

Lahore Lions won by 6 wkts

Photos

West Indies vs Bangladesh, 2nd Test at Gros Islet

Videos

Anderson plays golf with Jaguar competition winners

Northern Knights crush Mumbai Indians by 6 wickets in CLT20 2014 Qualifiers; Lahore Lions, Knights qualify

Hobart Hurricanes in CLT20 2014, Preview: Underdogs, who have their task cut out

Perth Scorchers in CLT20 2014 Preview: BBL champions start as underdogs

Jonty Rhodes — what if the famous leap to run-out Inzamam-ul-Haq hadn’t come off

Champions League T20 (CLT20) 2014: Lahore Lions’ fate mimics that of Pakistan

Bangladesh Bangladesh tour of West Indies 2014 Bangladesh vs West Indies Bangladesh vs West Indies 2014 Champions League T20 Champions League T20 2014 CLT20 CLT20 2014 Lahore Lions Mumbai Indians Northern Knights Southern Express West Indies West Indies vs Bangladesh West Indies vs Bangladesh 2014

West Indies humiliate Bangladesh by 296 runs in 2nd Test to register clean sweep

CLT20 2014 gets underway with Chennai Super Kings (CSK) taking on Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in opening clash

Martin Crowe suffers relapse of cancer

Sourav Ganguly showcases football skills, scores three goals

Mumbai Indians let down by batsmen in CLT20 2014: Kieron Pollard

CLT20 2014: Why Mumbai Indians failed to recreate the magic

Hobart Hurricanes in CLT20 2014, Preview: Underdogs, who have their task cut out

Test Cricket: Then and Now

Dolphins in CLT20 2014 Preview: South African champions can be a surprise package

Perth Scorchers in CLT20 2014 Preview: BBL champions start as underdogs

Fan of the Day

Suraj Gowda

Suraj Gowda

635 Posts | 7 Fans

Yuvraj Singh in Anupam Kher show

Official Xiaomi Redmi 1S back cover and screen protector now available on Flipkart, priced at Rs 469 and Rs 179 respectively

16 Fascinating Bollywood To Hollywood Dopplegangers

Apple rolls back iPhone 5S price drop in India

Kumkum Bhagya: Will Abhi bring Pragya back home?

Disney’s First Bollywood Remake of Rekha’s ‘Khoobsurat’

5 types of heart disease common in type 2 diabetics

5 natural sources of vitamin B9 you need in your diet

Ashutosh Gowariker: Nobody can take the remote from me when I’m watching Bigg Boss

Also on cricketcountry.com

Play Fantasy Cricket & Win

Cash Daily! Click here