A Conversation for Classic Sporting Moments

Headingly '81

Post 1

The Ghost of Polidari

England playing appallingly and already behind in the Ashes, Botham sacked as captain and without a decent game for some time, and England forced to follow on....

When Botham picked up his bat and strode onto the pitch the game was as good as over, bookies had stopped taking bets on Australia winning and runs were still needed to make them bat again. Hey, if it was runs you wanted.....

The innings Botham put together turned him into the legend he now is in the minds of England cricket supporters. His 149 not out was thrilling to watch, full of courage, character and sheer unadulterated aggression. The way he played was electric and you could see it surge through the rest of the England team (Grahame Dilley making 50!). By the time the last man was out the whole ground was buzzing...

But that wasn't the end of it - even with Botham's innings Australia still only needed 129 to win, easily gettable. Stand up the man with the perm! Bob Willis had the longest run up in the history of the game (so it seemed to me at the time, and looking back still seems to). Every ball he bowled took an age from when he started his run up to the time the ball left his hands, and every one had the entire crowd behind him. In the end Australia were bowled out for 111 and Willis had taken 8 for 43.

At the time I was an impressionable 12 year old who wasn't really into sport, but the atmosphere generated by this match turned me into a cricket lover (watching only, I'm afraid) and I'll always try and watch England's matches now. And on top of that Ian Botham became my first true sporting hero. Lots of people call cricket boring because it lasts 5 days, but when it clicks no sport can generate the prolonged excitement that it can simply because after five days every single ball can mean the difference between winning and losing.

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