Every time an Ashes series approaches, the memories come flooding back for Darren Gough. Joyous and bittersweet, moments that were the pinnacle of his career and others of physical pain.
Twice Gough toured Australia, just as England are about to do, and one of the fastest bowlers of his era certainly packed a lot in.
His trip Down Under in the winter of 1994-95 ended prematurely when he broke his foot during a one-day match that punctuated the Test series.
Darren Gough (left) and Mark Butcher grab a stump as a souvenir as England clinch victory over Australia in the fourth Ashes Test in Melbourne in 1998
Gough bowls Stuart MacGill as part of his hat-trick in the fifth Test at Sydney in January 1999 – the Yorkshireman was the only England bowler to claim an Ashes hat-trick in the 20th century
Gough made a big impact Down Under for England on his two tours of Australia in the 1990s
Gough returned to Heathrow on crutches but at least he got to meet his newborn son, Liam, a little earlier than anticipated.
In a sign either of his X-factor with the ball or England’s general impotence – or a bit of both – Gough was still his team’s leading wicket-taker, with 20, even though he missed the final two Tests.
That series ended up 3-1 to Australia, the same scoreline as the 1998-99 tour in which the Yorkshireman played in all five Tests and produced some iconic moments.
In the fourth Test at Melbourne, Australia were 130 for three chasing 175 for victory and a 3-0 series lead.
Gough’s hat-trick at the SCG in 1999 – Ian Healy is caught behind (left), Stuart MacGill is bowled (middle) and Colin Miller suffers the same fate (right)
John Crawley runs in to celebrate with Gough (left) after his outswinger bowled Miller for 0
But they collapsed and though Dean Headley did most of the damage it was Gough who bowled Stuart MacGill and then trapped Glenn McGrath LBW two ball later to clinch an unlikely 12 run win.
The image of Gough grabbing a stump and waving it above his head became famous – a memory of a time when England Test wins in Australia were scarce indeed.
In the fifth Test in Sydney, Gough became the only Englishman to take an Ashes hat-trick in the 20th century, his perfect outswinger to knock over Colin Miller’s off-stump sending the Barmy Army into rapture.
‘Dazzler’ certainly lived up to his nickname against Australia, with even their greatest players acknowledging Gough’s abilities.
‘I was made an honorary Australian!’ beams Gough as he sits down with Sportsmail.
‘I still get it from Shane Warne, who still says in every interview he does that the only player from the 1990s who would have got in their team was Darren Gough. So I take that as a huge, huge compliment.
‘I was lucky enough to play there on two full tours. The first time I went there I did my knee so wasn’t able to play in the final Tests and I came home.
‘My other Tests there, I have great memories. I got man of the match and took a hat-trick over there and managed to win… one Test!
‘They were great in that period of time between 1994 and 2002 – that Australian team was as good as it gets.
‘I look back now and, yes, I was desperate to win an Ashes but it was never happening in that period.
Darren Gough and Harry Judd pictured at the Booking.com T20 Pavilion at Totteridge and Millhillian Cricket Club in north London
Gough celebrates the wicket of Justin Langer at Brisbane in 1998 – one of 21 wickets that series
Mark Ramprakash (left) and Mark Butcher (right) mob Gough after a wicket at Adelaide in 1998
‘Same for Alec Stewart, Michael Atherton, Nasser Hussain, Graham Hick, none of us won an Ashes because that Australian team was so dominant.
‘They had Steve Waugh, Mark Waugh, Mark Taylor, Michael Slater, Craig McDermott, Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie, Warne, Ricky Ponting coming in.
‘They were so good from back to front, we were never going to beat them.’
The upcoming Ashes tour takes place against the backdrop of a Covid pandemic that has seen most of Australia in strict lockdown for the last 18 months.
The venue for the fifth and final Test next month remains up in the air with authorities in Western Australia insisting the players and support staff go through 14 days of quarantine before playing in Perth.
Travelling England fans are barred and there was already a compromise to get the series to happen at all with the families of the England players eventually permitted inside the Covid bubble.
Shane Warne, seen celebrating an Ashes hat-trick in 1994, held Gough in the highest esteem
Gough, who has been made Yorkshire’s new director of cricket since this interview, can’t imagine what the marathon Aussie tours of his time would have been like under such circumstances.
‘Our tours were longer. I went out in 1994 when my wife was six weeks away from giving birth and I saw my son when he was eight weeks old and that’s only because I got injured,’ he says.
‘That was difficult, it was an 18-week tour I think. Now the guys fly in and fly out if they have got a Test.
‘I think what makes it difficult is the bubbles and what England have had to experience over the last 18 months has been very hard on the players.
‘I think they have done a kind of deal where they are in a bubble but it’s a hotel where they can walk around freely and they have a swimming pool and a spa and restaurants so the players can mix.
England are preparing for the start of another Ashes series, with the first Test next week
‘So it’s different to what it could have been and fair play to England for sticking to their guns and saying, ‘listen, we aren’t coming unless we get some sort of leeway’ and fair play to Australia for agreeing to it because they’ve been so strict in the last couple of years.
‘I have a sister-in-law in Brisbane and it’s been really hard work for everyone involved. So well done everyone for getting the Ashes on.’
England begin the series as underdogs, as they normally do in Australia, but Gough has a feeling that life in the Covid bubble could foster a bunker mentality that powers them to a shock win.
Gough (third left) pictured celebrating a wicket against Pakistan in Karachi in 2000 – the Test that concluded in an England win in near darkness
‘The best tour I ever did in terms of feeling closest to my team-mates was in Sri Lanka and Pakistan in 2000-2001,’ he says.
‘There were a lot of political things going on and we were stuck to our hotel and the team spirit was amazing because we spent so much time together on an evening in the team room.
‘Darts, ping pong, snooker, pool, cards, the odd drink now and again even though we were in Pakistan because we were sponsored by Carlsberg Tetley at the time.
‘That was a great tour and the best winter I ever had, I was closer to my team-mates than I had ever been.’
Booking.com is the official accommodation booking partner of the ICC T20 World Cup.