Defining Moments – Ian Botham – The Miracle Test

1981 would represent a watermark in the career of one of the greatest Englishmen ever to play the game of cricket. Ian Terrence Botham had enjoyed a rapid rise to fame, he Debuted for Somerset in 1974 at the tender age of 19 and soon began his rise through the ranks. He made his England Test debut in 1977 at the age of 22 in the third test against Australia. He would finish the first Innings with impressive bowling figures of 5-74.

Botham grew into his role in the England test side with aplomb, a hard and fast bowler and a hard hitting batsman his swashbuckling side with the bat emerged as well as his skill with the ball. In the 1978 series against Pakistan he scored two centuries his series average over 70 runs. With the ball he was equally impressive and in the second test he notched up incredible bowling figures of 8-34 in the second innings.

He became a staple of the England team and often its best performer and in 1980 Botham became the first man in history to claim 10 wickets in a match and score a century. He was rewarded for his form with the Captaincy in 1980. After that a decline began in Botham of unprecedented levels. His form fell off and the team won none of the 12 games in charge, even though 10 of those games were against the world’s best team of the day in the West Indies, to win 0 of these games was still an embarrassment.

It all came to a head in the 1981 ashes series. Australia took the first test by 4 wickets after an uninspired England notched 185 in their two innings with Botham notching 1 and 33 in his two innings. He was uninspired with the ball also but the peak of the rage came after Botham record a duck in both innings of the second test and managed only three wickets with the ball. England survived with a draw on account of the good old english weather but it was clear the Aussies had their number. The press were relentless in their pursuit of Botham who had become tabloid fodder during his rise to fame calling for him to resign or for the ECB to sack him.
There was a 9 day gap between the end of the second test and the start of the third test at Headingly.

Botham stepped down between the second and third tests and the inspirational Mike Brearley was given the captaincy.

With the pressure of captaincy on his shoulders Botham began to show some signs of his old self in the first innings of the Third test with bowling figures of 6-95 but he was the bright spark in a poor team performance and the Australians put on 401-9 dec in their first innings. England weren’t at the races with the bat either a half century managing 174 with Botham top scoring with 50. Australia forced England to Follow on and at the beginning of the fourth day England were being offered odds of 500-1 to win the test and with good reason. No team had followed on to win in the whole 20th century leading into this game, the weather was constantly interrupting play and Australia’s lead was 227.

England’s effort in the follow on was uninspiring also, Graham Gooch was removed for a duck and Brearley, Gower and Gatting all departed for less than 25 between them. Only Geoff Boycott managed a respectable 46 and Peter Willey managed 33. When Botham came to the crease England were in danger of being embarrassed but what happened over the next two days was to defy all logic and reason. While the team around him were cautious, trying to protect their wicket Botham, with nothing to lose and everything to gain set about after the Australian bowlers with an incredible knock that would eventually reach 149 not out before he ran out of partners early on the morning on the fifth day.

Somehow had a lead of 130 but the Australians were still the heavy favorites, it was a low target and one the Australians should have made minced meat of. Botham had given his team a lifeline it just needed someone else to pick it up. Enter Bob Willis with an incredible spell of bowling. Willis picked up the ball with a remarkable 8-43 and the australians were skittled for just 110. The result was a miracle and its catalyst was man of the match I.T. Botham.

With the series squared the Australians were hurting and England came from behind to win the next two tests and take an unassailable 3-1 win in the series. Botham would enjoy other highlight moments throughout the series but these would forever be known as Botham’s ashes and that day in Headingly the Miracle test. Botham would play test cricket until 1992 scoring 5200 and taking a then record 383 test wickets. He is without doubt one of the greatest Englishmen to ever play the game and arguably the greatest all rounder England have ever had.