Ian Botham

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Ian Botham : biography

24 November 1955 –

The next day, Saturday, was a disaster for England: Gooch was out in the first over of the day, and although Boycott and Brearley then attempted to dig in, they were both out before lunch. None of the other batsmen got going at all with the exception of Botham who top scored with 50 — his first half century since his first Test as captain 13 matches earlier. England were all out in the third session for 174. Australia enforced the follow-on and piled on the pressure; Gooch was out for 0 on his third ball of the first over caught by Terry Alderman off the bowling of Dennis Lillee. By the close, England had struggled to just 6 for 1, still 221 behind Australia.

By all accounts, both teams’ players thought Australia would win the match; indeed the England team had enjoyed a raucous barbecue chez Botham on the Saturday evening, such was their lack of faith in a positive result. Sunday 19 July was a rest-day and the newspapers roasted the lamentable England performance. Morale was not improved by Ladbrokes offering odds of 500–1 against England winning the match, as displayed on the Headingley electronic scoreboard! Controversially, the Australian wicket-keeper Rod Marsh and opening bowler Dennis Lillee both placed bets on England to win, later claiming that 500–1 were silly (if not incredible) odds on any two-horse race.

On the Monday morning 500–1 odds began to look somewhat more ungenerous as first Brearley, then David Gower and Mike Gatting all fell cheaply reducing England to 41 for 4. Boycott was still anchored at the other end however, and he and Peter Willey added 50 runs before lunch. In the afternoon, Willey was out for 33 and England were still in deep trouble at 105 for 5 when Botham went in to bat. Matters did not improve as first Geoff Boycott and then Bob Taylor were quickly dismissed. At 135 for 7 an innings defeat looked almost certain.

When Graham Dilley joined him at the crease, Botham reportedly said, "Right then, let’s have a bit of fun…". With able support from Dilley (56) and Chris Old (29), Botham hit out and by the close of play was 145 not out with Bob Willis hanging on at the other end on 1 not out. England’s lead was just 124 but there remained some glimmer of hope. On the final day’s play there was time for just four more runs from Botham before Willis was out and Botham was left on 149 not out. Wisden rated this innings as the 4th best of all time.

Botham batting at [[Trent Bridge, 1983]] Willis’ far greater contribution was with the ball. After Botham took the first wicket, Willis skittled Australia out for just 111, finishing with figures of 8 for 43 – rated by Wisden as the 7th best bowling performance of all time. England had won by just 18 runs. It was only the second time in history that a team following-on had won a Test match.

The next Test match, at Edgbaston, looked almost as hopeless, if not hapless, from England’s point of view. In a low scoring match (no-one made a score over 48), Australia needed 151 to win. At 105–5, things looked a little worrying for them, but an Australian win still seemed the most likely result. Botham then took 5 wickets for only 1 run in 28 balls to give England victory by 29 runs. Later, Brearley said that Botham had not wanted to bowl and had to be persuaded to do so.BBC video "Botham’s Ashes" interview with Mike Brearley

The Old Trafford Test was less of a turnaround and more of a team effort than the previous two Tests, but Botham again was England’s hero hitting yet another century in what Lillee claimed to be a better innings than his Headingley heroics. Botham had joined Chris Tavaré with the score at 104–5. Botham then scored 118 in a partnership of 149 before he was dismissed. He hit six sixes in this innings, three off Lillee’s bowling, two of them in the same over. Remarkably, even though he seemed to take his eye off the ball while hooking some fearsome Lillee bouncers, his sheer power and strength carried the ball over the boundary rope. In total Botham batted for 5 hours shorter than Tavaré and yet scored 40 more runs. England won that match, then drew the last one at The Oval (Botham taking 6 wickets in the first innings), and thereby winning the series 3–1. Hardly surprisingly, Botham was named Man of the Series, scoring 399 runs and taking 34 wickets.

Publications

Charity walks

Botham has been a prodigious fundraiser for charitable causes, undertaking a total of 12 long-distance charity walks. His first, in 1985, was a 900-mile trek from John o’ Groats to Land’s End. His efforts were inspired after a visit to Taunton’s Musgrove Park Hospital whilst receiving treatment for a broken toe; when he took a wrong turn into a children’s ward, he was devastated to learn that some of the children had only weeks to live, and why. Since then, his efforts have raised more than £12 million for charity, with Leukaemia Research among the causes to benefit.