Botham, Ian (Ashes 1981)

Or Ian Terence Botham.  Or Beefy.  Or Guy the Gorilla.  Or Sir Ian.

Throughout his test career, this man was the business.  He started in 1977 with 2 test matches against the old enemy, at Trent Bridge and then Headingley, during which he made 25 runs and took one catch AND took 10 wickets (two 5 wicket innings) for 202 runs.  England won the Ashes 3-0 – including the two games in which he played.  ITB had already made his mark on Ashes history.

But of course this is an 80’s blog, so enough about the 70’s, what did our (my) hero do in the 80’s?  Well his first 80’s series was the 1979/80 non-Ashes-post-Packer series.  It was a good job that the Ashes weren’t up for grabs as England played poorly and the series ended 3-0 for Australia.  Of course ITB wasn’t poor, taking 19 wickets for just under 20 and scoring 187 at 37.4 in the 3 tests.  On the way home from Australia, England played a single test in India and won the game by 10 wickets.  ITB was in the thick of the action, scoring 114 not out in the English first innings and then taking a total of 13 Indian wickets at 8.15.

Next up, back to back series v West Indies with Botham as Captain Calamitous.  A 1-0 defeat in the summer of 1980 was followed by a 2-0 reversal in the West Indies during winter 1980/81.  Of course next up during Sir Ian’s brief tenure as England Captain were the first two tests against Australia in summer 1981.  Things went from bad to worse as Australia went one up in the six match series and Botham lost the captaincy.  Things, it could be argued, weren’t going that much better under Mike Brearley as at close of play on day 3 England were 6 for one, following on some 221 runs behind.  On day 4 things quickly got even worse as ITB joined Geoffrey Boycott at the crease with England 105-5, still 122 behind.  When Botham had finished his work (149 not out), ably assisted by Graham Dilley (54) and Chris Old (29), the Aussies were set 130 to win.  That they fell 18 runs short was in truth down to Bob Willis’s blast of 8-43, however Botham’s all out assault on that Monday meant that the tourists were never quite in control of their faculties for the rest of the summer.

At Edgbaston in the fourth test, with the series score 1-1, the stakes were high, even if the run totals weren’t.  Needing just 151 to win in their second innings, Australia were coasting at 105-5 until Botham polished off the innings with a 5 wicket blast for just one run in 28 balls.  He scooped his second Man of the Match award and the circus set off for Old Trafford.  England were in the ascendancy in the series and momentum was with them.  Botham’s contribution cannot possibly be under estimated.

And so to Manchester.  England’s first innings score of 231, featuring the grand total of zero from ITB was looking thin until Australia were bowled out for just 130 in just 30 overs.  England finished the second day on 70-1 and things were set for a huge total.  That they managed to get to 404 is down again to that man.  After the good start given to them by Boycott and Tavare (Gooch fell with the score on 7) England were in a spot of trouble at 104-5 when Brearley was removed by the Marsh-Alderman combination.  With the limpet like Tavare at the other end, Botham let all hell loose scoring 118 in just over 2 hours from 102 balls including 6 sixes.  When he fell with the score on 253, the platform was set for Knott and Emburey to stretch the lead to 505.  Allan Border’s stubborn resistance meant that the Aussies managed to get to 402 – but in the final analysis they were 103 runs short, England had won the series and the Ashes with a game left to play and Botham, misfit captain in the first two tests, had scooped his third consecutive Man of the Match award.

The sixth test at The Oval was, predictably a draw, but of course by then the series was over.  Botham’s full series analysis shows that despite two ‘lost’ tests when he scored a total of 34 runs and took 6 wickets, overall he was England’s top batsman with 399 runs at 36.27 and took more Aussie wickets even than Bob Willis, with 34 at just 20.58 – oh, and he took 12 catches (wicket keeper Bob Taylor only took 13).

So that was it, Ian Botham’s contribution to the 1981 Ashes.  Of course it was much more than mere cricket.  In that summer of Royal Weddings and Adam Ant’s number one hits, Ian Botham ensured his place in the Nation’s consciousness, for then, for now and forever more.

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