The unlikely Ashes heroes who can inspire Paine's men
It's three decades to the day since David Boon swept away years of Ashes pain at Old Trafford
From his vantage point at the non-striker's end of the Old Trafford pitch, Mark Taylor's memory of batting partner David Boon's epoch-defining sweep shot remains as clear as if it had happened earlier this week.
For Nick Cook, the England bowler who sent down that historic delivery and was standing but a few feet from Taylor as history unfurled, the memory has faded to nothing, and for similar reasons as to why Taylor's is pin sharp.
It's 30 years today since Australia regained the Ashes in Britain despite being written off as having no hope in the six-Test campaign that also included three ODIs and 26 auxiliary fixtures in an epic tour stretching across more than four months.
The culmination of that bold 1989 mission, to wrest back the urn on British turf for the first time in 55 years, was Boon's exquisitely executed sweep shot off Cook's bowling that rifled to the square leg boundary and secured a nine-wicket win.
Chasing a nominal victory target of 78 to secure an unassailable 3-0 lead in the fourth Test of the series, Ashes rookie Taylor had knocked a ball from left-arm spinner Cook behind square leg to level scores midway through the fifth day.
Then, it was as much the nature of the winning moment that immediately followed that ensures it remains etched in the opener's mind.
"Being out in the middle was very special," Taylor told cricket.com.au on the eve of the anniversary.
"I remember batting with Boonie as we got close to the target and thinking 'will I get the chance to hit the runs, or will he?'
"I wasn't nervous about it, but all of a sudden when you get close to that milestone moment - when the winning runs are going to get hit - you just want to get it done.
"So when Boonie was facing Nick Cook I was thinking 'I just hope he hits a four or does something here' because you start to get a little bit anxious.
"And then Boonie swept him, and I remember thinking 'I don't recall Boonie ever playing a sweep' - before or after that, to be totally honest."
Taylor's next memory was embracing his batting partner – a member of Allan Border's outfit that had been hammered 3-1 by the arch-foe in England four years earlier – on the dry and expansive Old Trafford wicket block.
He then recalls glancing up to the visitors' dressing room balcony where seemingly every other member of the 17-man touring party, as well as coach Bob Simpson, were similarly dancing about and hugging one another.
"That's when you're thinking to yourself 'this is why I play the game'," Taylor said.
The unabashed euphoria was understandable given that the previous Australia team to have taken back the Ashes by beating the enemy on their own patch boasted Bradman, Ponsford, Woodfull, McCabe, Oldfield, Grimmett and O'Reilly.
When Border's 1989 iteration landed in England in early May 1989, the British press openly scoffed at the chances of that deed being replicated on the basis of unknown upstarts at the experienced skipper's disposal.
Players like Taylor, Ian Healy and Trevor Hohns who bore no Ashes pedigree, and others such as Stephen Waugh, Dean Jones, Geoff Marsh, Geoff Lawson, Merv Hughes and Terry Alderman who had been tried but proved unsuccessful in earlier quests.
As Waugh - currently part of the men's team touring party whose bid to defend the Ashes begins at Edgbaston later today - remembers it, the shared sense of achievement was heightened by the collective derision heaped upon Border's boys.
"That's etched in my memory, Boonie playing that sweep shot and every one of us on the balcony jumping up and embracing each other," Waugh recalled this week.
"We were realising a dream because we were the complete underdog in that series, and then to win it so comprehensively it was almost like a graduation day for us.
"We had won as a team, and got through some of the tough years.
"We had played an incredible series and I remember being in the change rooms at Old Trafford for hours and hours, and the guys being in the showers and singing the team song.
"It was a memorable time, we stayed there into the night just soaking it up because we really didn’t expect to win when we started off on that tour."
The reason that Cook, who was playing in his first Test of the series and who lives on in internet perpetuity for his unwitting part in a vignette of Australian sporting folklore, holds no memory is not so much because it's been suppressed by denial.
Rather, it's because that entire summer became one to forget, not only for the extraordinary total of 29 England players who took the field across six Tests, but also for a disillusioned and ultimately angry British public.
Cook remembers being called up for his Ashes debut by legendary ex-England manager Mickey Stewart to provide some penetration with his orthodox spin, and a morale boost for a team that would have been 3-0 down at Old Trafford but for the intervention of rain at Edgbaston in the third Test three weeks earlier.
Cook had claimed 5-76 for Northamptonshire in the tour game that preceded the second Test at Lord's, and it was felt his presence on and off the field might yield something of a fillip for David Gower's already disheartened group.
But no sooner had Cook entered the England dressing room than it fractured into myriad pieces.
It was revealed that multiple members of the already struggling side – ex-England captain Mike Gatting, Chris Broad, John Emburey, Graeme Dilley, Kim Barnett, Tim Robinson, Neil Foster and Paul Jarvis – were among 15 players had signed to take part in a rebel tour to South Africa, still ostracised from world sport because of its race-based apartheid laws.
Gatting was banned for three years by the England and Wales Cricket Board for leading the rebels, and most of his maligned team never again represented their country.
"I played in the last three Tests of that series that we ended up losing four-nil, and when you talk about a sliding doors moment for both teams, the England dressing room was a bloody revolving door," Cook, now a first-class umpire who officiated in last week's Australia intra-squad practice match in Southampton, told cricket.com.au.
"In those days, we used to meet up on the Wednesday because the Test match started on the Thursday.
"But within ten minutes of me getting into the rooms in Manchester, four of the lads said 'oh well, this is going to be my last Test match because I've just signed to go to South Africa'.
"So the dressing room was a pretty deflated place anyway.
"The Australians were on a roll, and you couldn't have had two teams more polar opposite when it came to confidence and cohesion.
"In 1989, a lot of county cricket was played on really green, seaming decks, and so pace bowlers could land it on a beach towel pretty much and it would be on a good enough spot.
"The batsmen's techniques got all scrambled as a result, then you came to play Test cricket on pretty good decks and our bowlers couldn't get enough balls in the right spots.
"Plus our batsmen's techniques were woefully exposed by good old-fashioned line, length, aggressive bowling from the Australians.
"As for that day when Boonie hit the winning runs, I can't remember anything about it.
"If it wasn't me bowling it would have been somebody else, so I don't even give it a moment's thought."
Taylor has always believed that the 'worst Australia team to arrive in England' epithet that was purportedly used by the British media to describe Border's squad was never seriously applied.
He pointed out that young, increasingly confident team had beaten the then-mighty West Indies at the SCG and got the best of a drawn Test against the undisputed world champions in Adelaide earlier in 1989, signalling they were clearly on the rise.
But neither did he foresee at the time, as he celebrated with Boon in the August afternoon sunshine, that the drought-breaking Ashes win would herald a golden age of Australian cricket that stretched almost two decades.
"As a young player, you don't think that far ahead," said Taylor who was 24 on that famous day, and went on to play a further 98 Tests including 50 as captain.
"You just feel like you've achieved something that you knew you had the ability to achieve.
"We felt that we were a pretty good side, and those winning runs that Boonie hit at Old Trafford showed the world that we were a lot better side than some people thought we were.
"Looking back on that whole 1989 Ashes campaign, I still think it was the most enjoyable tour I went on."
Waugh had been part of the 1987 World Cup win that history suggests was the turning point for Australia men's cricket after some dark and divisive days during the 1980s.
Yet he describes that 1989 Ashes tour as an equally significant event, not only for the result it yielded but also for the powerful message it sent to the nation's cricket fans, some of whom were disillusioned and dispirited by events of years earlier.
For that reason, he believes the current team led by Tim Paine has the chance to create a similar legacy in the upcoming series after four unsuccessful Ashes sojourns to England since Waugh last led a successful tilt in 2001.
"We knew we'd developed as a side, and that a lot of players had developed individually," Waugh recalled of that celebrated 1989 tour.
"It was a defining moment for Australian cricket, a moment that we could forge a real identity for that team.
"And there's similar opportunities for this team now, to put a line in the sand and say 'okay, this is the way we're going to play cricket' and then to move on from that point.
"To achieve what we did 30 years ago, and build a platform from where we launched to become a really successful cricket side."
2019 Qantas Ashes Tour of England
Australia squad: Tim Paine (c), Cameron Bancroft, Pat Cummins, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Michael Neser, James Pattinson, Peter Siddle, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner.
England squad: Joe Root (c), Moeen Ali, Jimmy Anderson, Jofra Archer, Jonny Bairstow, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Joe Denly, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes (vc), Olly Stone, Chris Woakes.
Tour match: Australians v Worcestershire, August 7-9
Second Test: August 14-18,Lord's
Third Test: August 22-26, Headingley
Tour match: Australians v Derbyshire, August 29-31
Fourth Test: September 4-8, Old Trafford
Fifth Test: September 12-16, The Oval