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The Best of Tests: Ian Botham, Bob Willis turn around odds of 500-1 in 1981 Ashes at Headingley

England's Ian Botham

Test cricket mirrors life. The ebbs and flows of the format have given birth to some of the most breath-taking cricketing epics. A Cricket World Series, The Best of Tests, highlights the finest of these spectacles.


Match Summary

ENG 174/10, 356/10 (87.3)

AUS 401/9dec, 111/10 (36.1)

Result - England won by 18 runs

Player of the Match - Sir Ian Botham


There was a lot going on behind the scenes before the England cricket team brought back the spotlight on the game with a sensational 18-run victory against Australia in the third Test of the 1981 Ashes, popularly known as Botham's Ashes.

England had lost the first match of the series while drawing second one. Their regular captain Mike Brearley had broken his arm in a provincial game in Pakistan and Ian Botham had been sacked from captaincy. Geoffrey Boycott put on the leadership hat in the absence of Brearley.

Australia posted a 401-run score in the first innings and bowled out England for just 174. Following on, England were still behind by 122 runs and 5 wickets down in the second innings when Ian Botham came out to bat.

Odds of 500-1 appeared on the big screen and the fate of the match looked all but sealed.

Botham swung his willow without a worry in the world and scored his first 50 runs through edges and slogs. However, the execution kept improving as the knock went on and Botham ultimately finished on 149 not out from just 148 deliveries, including 27 fours and a six.

Botham was well assisted by the half-century from Graham Dilley as the duo put on 117 runs for the 8th wicket and gave Australia a 130-run target to win.

The Aussies were going well at 56-1 before Bob Willis turned up and shook the Aussie batting line up. With a barrage of short deliveries, Willis claimed 8/43 as England won by 18 runs.

This was only the second time that a team following on had won a Test match. The series was dubbed as Botham's Ashes and he undoubtedly put in one of the best performances ever, but the spell from Bob Willis too was second to none.


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