When Glenn McGrath arrived for his first tour of England in 1997, he had already established himself as a leading new-ball bowler thanks to a string of impressive performances over the previous two years.
But he had no experience of English conditions and England’s batsmen had seen nothing of him since their 1994-95 tour when, as a young bowler still finding his feet, he had taken just six wickets in the series at an average of 38. In the three-match Texaco Trophy series at the start of the tour he bowled creditably enough, but then in the first Test at Edgbaston he was made to toil through 32 overs, picking up 2 for 107 as Nasser Hussain and Graham Thorpe’s first innings partnership of 288 steered England towards a nine-wicket victory.
It would be very different at Lord’s. McGrath later recalled that conditions at Lord’s tended to be “tailor made for my bowling. If I could pick it up, put it in my pocket and take it anywhere in the world: happy days.” 20 June 1997 would be the first of many happy days at the Home of Cricket for him. Day one had been washed out, a factor that often seems to lead to great bowling performances at Lord’s. Australia had worked hard on bowling a fuller length after the debacle at Edgbaston and their practice paid a swift dividend. McGrath got the ball to nip around off the seam, moving it away from the batsmen, up the slope from the Pavilion end to have Mark Butcher caught at short-leg and Mike Atherton held low at slip. Alec Stewart then shouldered arms to one that came back into him and lost his off stump. England were 13 for 3.
Hussain and Thorpe again posted the biggest partnership of the innings, but this time it only reached 34 before Thorpe fell to Paul Reiffel. By then, further rain had already extended the innings into day three. McGrath soon had John Crawley caught behind and Hussain lbw. England were in desperate straits at 62 for 6 and McGrath had already earned his place on the Honours Board. Three more wickets as England collapsed to 77 all out earned him figures of 8 for 38 from a superbly disciplined and penetrative spell.
Although the match ended in a draw, England knew that only the weather had averted a crushing defeat. All the optimism engendered by their win at Edgbaston had gone. For the next ten years it became almost impossible to watch McGrath running in at an England batsman without expecting a wicket to fall at any moment.