On this day in 1981, England had only 151 runs to defend in the fourth Ashes Test at Country Cricket Stadium, Edgbaston. Australian captain Allan Border commenced the chase with Graham Yallop; and were looking good to finish the match to take lead of 2-1 in the series.
Mike Brearley led England had an unlikely hero who changed the course of the match with one destructive spell in the afternoon of August 2,1981.
The flamboyant Ian Botham, who started the 1981 historic Ashes being stripped from the captaincy ended up being hero as the series later named after him as “Botham’s Ashes.”
In the 1980s Ian Botham was not only the England greatest cricketer but also the leading sports personality. He made many head lines in the front page of news daily in the era of discreet footballers – before Paul Gascoigne and David Beckham- as his career surged improbable heights and bottomless depths.
In “Botham’s Ashes” the all rounder failed to instill his usual fear among the Australians. In the first two Tests neither he was able to contribute with the bat nor with the ball. Only a few wickets was not expected from the one of the best all rounder of all time Ian Botham. ECB snatched captaincy from Botham. That was enough to burn the wounded tiger inside. England was trailing the series by 1-0.
At, Headingley he fired with both the willow and red ball. First he rattled Australia picking up six wickets and scored 50 for England in the first innings. And finally, Botham looked composed with the bat, he decimated illustrative Aussie bowlers led by Dennis Lillee on the way to his blitzkrieg 149 before Bob Willis ran through the Australian batting line-up to level the series.
But, in the fourth Test Australia fought back well, floored England, and Botham once again slumped to inconsistency. He managed to score 26 and three in his two innings; and with the ball he took only one wicket in the first innings.
With mere 151 to defend, defeat was imminent. Nobody expected something epic would happen. But, Botham’s cricketing deeds was unpredictable as his character which made him entertaining figure in England if not in the world.
Just like the Headingly Test, Allan Border and Graham Yallop once again walked out to chase a low total of 151. Both the opener looked settled and victory seemed just a matter of time. Meanwhile, off-spinner John Embury removed the two set batsmen. Soon, Mike Brearley, who had one of the acute cricket brain that time, re-introduced Botham into the attack. What next happened was humdinger. Botham bowled one of the best spell Test cricket has ever seen. He wrecked havoc on Australian batting line with a magical bowling spell- 28 balls -1 run- 5 wickets.
Rodney Marsh was Botham’s first victim. Aussie wicketkeeper, could not read ball as it hit the middle stump. On the subsequent delivery Ray Bright was trapped LBW to a off stump delivery. Botham was on a hat trick, but he missed it. However, it did not take much time to topple the remaining three wickets. The third victim of Botham was Dennis Lillee who edged the outside off stump delivery to wicket keeper Bob Taylor while trying to slash the ball through point. Martin Kent showed some resistance but eventually fell to venomous in swinger of Botham. Terry Alderman who took eight wickets, which put Australia in a commanding position, had 6.54 average in 41 match came to bat at no.11; Botham landed a another lethal in swinger which rattled the leg stump of Alderman. England won the match with 30 runs. The fourth Test folded up within four days. Botham run plucking a wicket with joy as he produce another heroic performance in the afternoon at Edgbaston after tolerating criticism for off-form.
Legendry Botham later talking about the match said, “I had bowled well – fast and straight – but on that wicket it should not have been enough to make the Aussies crumble that way.”
“The only explanation I could find was that they had bottled out. The psychological edge that we – and I – had got over them at Headingley was proving an insuperable barrier for them.”