Bothamís Greatest Ashes Day
It was a day to live in the memory of every cricket fan privileged to have seen it, either live at the Headingley ground, or enraptured before the television, all the more wonderful because of the abject failure that preceded it.
England with Botham as captain lost the first test of the Ashes series, and scraped a draw in the second, the captain making a duck in both innings. Botham resigned, but chairman of selectors Alec Bedser undiplomatically said he would have been fired anyway. England seemed doomed to lose the third test, being played in Leeds: the Aussies scored 401 in their first knock; England managed just 174, with Beefy getting 50 of them. Forced to follow on, even with the Sunday rest day to recover, they slumped to 135 for 7, at which point fast bowler Graham Dilley joined Botham in the middle.
Faced with seemingly inevitable defeat, Botham could play without worry; legend has it he said to Dilley they should have some fun: Botham proceeded to score 100 in just 87 balls, ending the day on 145 made with power, timing, and a big grin. He hit Dennis Lillee, the most fearsome quick of his time, for two sixes in one over, big sixes too. A smiling Dilley joined in, showing ability and strength, eventually out for a creditable 56. Chris Old chipped in with 29. The Ashes clash changed that day: Australia suddenly wondered Ďwhat if?í The next day Bob Willis demolished them with 15 overs of snorting-bull hostility. For only the second time in history a test-side following on had won. The momentum was all Englandís. Three matches later ĎBothamís Ashesí were secured.
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