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The miracle of Botham's Ashes

Roar Guru
1st June, 2009
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Roar Guru
1st June, 2009
11
2505 Reads

The Third Test of the 1981 Ashes series is one of the most remarkable games in the history of Anglo-Australian cricket. And it was all due to one man – Ian Terence Botham.

The Australians arrived in England for their ’81 Ashes tour with master batsman and captain Greg Chappell, who had decided to take a break from cricket due to family and business commitments. Kim Hughes led the tourists in Chappell’s absence.

Australia were 1-0 up after the First Test at Trent Bridge, thanks to Terry Alderman, who took 4/68 in England’s first innings, and then 5/62 in the second to help Australia win their first test at Trent Bridge since the ‘Invincibles’ Tour of 1948.

The Australians had much the better of the drawn Second Test, but the match was notable for Botham scoring a ‘pair’ and walking up to the Members Pavillion to be greeted with a silence that was deafening.

The English selectors decided to replace Botham as skipper and recalled Mike Brearley to the captaincy.

Then everything changed.

In the Third Test at Headingley, Australia made 401, and ripped through the English batting line-up to dismiss them for 174. Australian skipper Kim Hughes had no hesitation in asking England to follow on.

When England were 7/135 in their second innings, Dennis Lillee and Rod Marsh were so confident that England wouldn’t get up they waged money on the odds of 500-1 being posted by Ladbrokes of the chances of England doing the impossible.

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Botham, relieved of the captaincy, took his frustrations out on the Australian bowlers and made 149 not out and England made 356, which left the Australians a target of 130.

English fast bowler Bob Willis, sensing that his England Test career was under threat, bowled like a man inspired and took 8/43 to dismiss the Australians for 111.

It was only the second time in the history of Test cricket that a side that has followed on end up winning the game.

The Australians were so demoralised by the defeat at Headingley that they lost the next Test at Birmingham, with Botham taking 5/11 in the Australians second innings, and then followed up with another loss at Manchester.

Botham again played a key role for England scoring 118.

The Sixth Test at the Oval was drawn.

Australia lost the Ashes 3-1 and the 1981 Ashes series will forever be remembered as Botham’s Ashes.

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