With dynamic England all-rounder Ben Stokes’ tenuous Australian tour chances getting a boost over the weekend after it was revealed he was defending two gay men from homophobic abuse when he was arrested following a drunken brawl, Monday Memories recounts the most influential individual series display by an all-rounder (or arguably any player that isn’t Don Bradman, for that matter) in Ashes history.
England were trailing 1-0 after two matches of the 1981 series on home soil when the brash, brilliant Ian ‘Beefy’ Botham took the Ashes by the scruff of the neck.
In the third Test at Headingley, the hosts were in a seemingly hopeless position following-on after incurring a first-innings deficit of 227. But Botham – who took 6/95 and scored 50 in the respective sides’ first digs – blasted 149 not out from 148 balls to give England a glimmer of hope.
Bob Willis’ 8/43 saw Australia sensationally dismissed for 111 in the fourth innings, handed England a famous series-turning 18-run victory.
Botham then virtually won the fourth Test at Edgbaston on his own when Australia were chasing a modest 151 for victory. An astonishing spell of 5 wickets for just one run decimated the tourists from 5/114 to 121 all out.
The charismatic ‘Beefy’ claimed his third straight man-of-the-match award in the series-sealing win in the fifth Test at Old Trafford, despite being dismissed for a golden duck in the first innings. He notched five wickets for the match and hit a sizzling 118 off 102 in England’s second innings to spearhead the 103-run triumph.
For good measure, Botham snared a 10-wicket bag in the drawn sixth Test at The Oval.
England had secured their third straight series success over their archrivals 3-1, but the 1981 series was destined to forever be known as ‘Botham’s Ashes’.