Sir Ian Botham

by Bernard Frei on March 06, 2019

Sir Ian Terence Botham, OBE was born in Heswall on November 24th 1955 and redefined ‘greatness’ as a sportsman during his career for England, Somerset, Worcestershire, Durham, notably in the early years of his career: the statistics were impressive enough - he scored fourteen Test centuries, took five wickets in an innings 27 times, 10 wickets in a match four times and held the world record for most Test wickets for several years - it was the manner in which he achieved these feats and the entertainment he provided to which spectators all over the world were drawn.

The Bothams moved to Yeovil with father Les’s job when Ian was two and he had started playing cricket at the age of four. Both of his parents were cricketers: the combination of the right genes and almost-obsessive practice from an early age were there. As a child Botham played cricket and football for his school, for the Boy’s Brigade, mostly against older boys, and for Yeovil Cricket Club, aged twelve, against men.

Aged thirteen, he was selected for Somerset Under-Fifteens and was offered a contract by the county before he was sixteen, which he accepted rather than that of Crystal Palace football club who offered him terms as an apprentice. He joined the ground staff at Lord’s in 1972 and continued to play for Somerset - the Under-25 team - and the county’s second eleven the following season. He made his first-eleven debut for Somerset, aged seventeen, at the end of the 1973 season in the John Player League.

Along with Viv Richards, Botham made his first-class debut at the start of the 1974 season against Lancashire. He took his first five-for in the County Championship against Leicestershire - 5 for 59 - which Somerset won by 179 runs. In eighteen first-class appearances in 1974 Botham made 441 runs and took 30 wickets and built on this in 1975, playing twenty two first-class matches, making 584 runs and taking sixty two wickets.

His progress continued in the 1976 season, in which he passed 1,000 first- class runs, made his first century for Somerset and was selected by England for two of the three one-day internationals against the West Indies. Earlier in the season Botham had taken 6 for 25 and 5 for 125 in the same match against Gloucestershire and made 167 not out in Somerset’s win over Nottinghamshire.

His form for Somerset in the first half of the 1977 season resulted in his full England debut in the Third Test at Trent Bridge against the visiting Australian side in July. His 5 for 74, aged twenty one, in Australia’s first innings remains one of the great debuts in Test history, which he followed in the Fourth Test at Headingley with 5-21, England taking a 3-0 series lead and regaining the Ashes. Botham was named Young Cricketer of the Year and one of Wisden’s five 1977 Cricketers of the Year.

On England’s 1977-78 tour of Pakistan and New Zealand Botham returned to the form he’d shown in the English summer of 1977 in the Second Test against New Zealand at Lancaster Park, won by England by 174 runs, Botham scoring 103 and 30 not out and taking five for 73 and three for 38. In the Third- and final Test Botham took five for 109 and scored 53 in the drawn series.

The two three-match series against Pakistan and New Zealand were repeated in the English summer of 1978, Botham instrumental in England’s win by an innings and 57 runs in the First Test at Edgbaston against Pakistan - Botham made 100 in the first innings - repeating this in the Second Test at Lords, making 108 and taking 8 for 34 in Pakistan’s second innings.

In the Second Test against New Zealand he took nine wickets in the match and 6 for 101 and 5 for 39 in the Third and final Test at Lord’s, England winning the series 3-0. The England tour of Australia in 1978-79 resulted in a 5-1 series win against the hosts, whose leading players were unavailable owing to World Series Cricket. Botham played in all six Tests and had an indifferent tour by his standards.

The summer of 1979 brought the Cricket World Cup to England, Botham being ever-present, but the hosts being defeated by the West Indies in the Final. Four Test matches followed against India and Botham took five for 70 and five for 35 in the first two Tests at Edgbaston and Lord’s. In the third Test at Headingley he scored a rapid 137 in a drawn match and the series went to England, 1-0, after a drawn game in the Fourth Test at the Oval.

England returned to Australia to play three Tests against a now-full-strength Australian side, who won 3-0, Botham taking 11 for 176 in the first match and scoring 119 not out in the third. In February 1980 in the Jubilee Test in Bombay to mark India’s fiftieth anniversary as a Test-playing country, Botham became the first player in Test history to score a century and take ten wickets in the same match, taking 6 for 58 and 7 for 48 and scoring 114 in England’s first innings. England won by ten wickets in four days.

Botham’s brief- and many argue misguided spell as England captain followed this match - Mike Brearley having retired from Test cricket - with the team unsuccessful in his twelve Tests in charge, albeit that nine of these were against the world’s outstanding team, the West Indies, who won the rain- affected 1980 series against England 1-0. Botham’s international batting and bowling form were both affected and his career-best 228 for Somerset in early season may have reflected the release he found in being excused captaincy duties.

He continued to struggle for form in the MCC’s winter tour to the West Indies, won by the hosts 2-0, and continued in this vein into the 1981 English summer, when he was sacked as captain at the end of the Second Test at Lord’s. The combination of relinquishing the captaincy and the return to Test cricket of Mike Brearley brought dramatic results immediately: Botham took 6 for 95 in Australia’s first innings in the Third Test at Headingley and scored 50 in England’s total of 174 in reply to Australia’s 401 for 9 declared.

England followed on and collapsed to 135 for 7 on the fourth day, the bookmakers offering 500 to 1 for an England win. Botham’s 149 not out gave England a lead of 129 and England’s eighteen-run win on the fifth day was the second time in history that a team following on had won a Test, Bob Willis taking 8 for 43.

Botham's five wickets for one run in a spell of twenty eight balls brought England victory by twenty nine runs in the Fourth Test at Edgbaston and in the Fifth at Old Trafford, he scored 118 to bring England a 3-1 series victory. In the drawn Fifth Test at The Oval Botham took six for 125 and four for 128. In the English summer of 1982, Botham averaged 44 with the bat and 23 with the ball in first-class cricket and made his highest Test score - 208 - against the visiting Indian side in the Third Test at The Oval, as well as 128 in the Second at Old Trafford.

Botham returned to captaincy, this time for Somerset, in 1983, and the county won the Natwest Trophy and finished second in the John Player League, Botham scoring 852 first-class runs at 40.57, including three centuries. England won the series against the visiting New Zealanders, Botham making 103 in the Fifth Test at Trent Bridge.

Botham’s fitness, primarily through a knee injury, was affected in the following winter’s tours of New Zealand and Pakistan and he returned to England prematurely. There followed a relatively-unproductive spell for Botham between 1984 and 1986, in which England played the West Indies in two series and lost both 5-0, the notable exception in the Second Test at Lord’s in 1984 in West Indies’ first innings, in which he took 8 for 103 and scored 81 in England’s second innings. In the English summer of 1985 England retained the Ashes against Australia in the six-Test series, Botham playing in all of the Tests and ending as England’s leading wicket-taker.

Botham left Somerset at the end of the 1986 season and joined Worcesteshire at the start of 1987. He played in four of the five Tests in his final MCC tour of Australia in 1986-87, in which he scored his last century (138 in the First-) and took his final five-for (5 for 41 in the Fourth) for England. Botham was injured for most of 1988 and returned at the start of the 1989 season, in which he was selected by England for three Tests, but made no impression. Another England recall took place for the Tests against the West Indies and Sri Lanka in 1991 and he and Worcestershire won the Benson Hedges Cup for the only time in their history.

Botham's final tour to Australia and New Zealand in 1991–92 included the World Cup in Australia in which he took four for 31 in ten overs against the hosts and scored 53 from 77 balls in an opening partnership with Gooch which brought England victory by eight wickets. Botham’s final England appearance came against Pakistan at Lord’s in the Second Test of 1992, the year he moved to Durham, in their first year in the County Championship.

He became Ian Botham OBE in the new year’s honours list for services to cricket and for his charity work. Botham retired from cricket midway through the 1993 season, his last match for Durham, against Australia, in July. In 102 Tests Botham scored 5,200 runs at 33.54, including fourteen centuries. His 383 wickets came at an average of 28.40. He took ten wickets in a match four times.

Numerous critics have pointed to the ‘two halves’ of Botham’s career, in the first of which he was supremely successful - reaching 1,000 Test runs and 100 wickets in record time, scoring thirteen of his fourteen centuries and taking twenty five of his twenty seven five-fors before the age of thirty - and in the second much less so. The back injury he incurred in 1980 is a reasonable explanation for this, notably for a fast-medium seam bowler and not simply that he ‘peaked’ as a cricketer so early on in his career.

He repeatedly echoed the sentiments of his first county captain, Brian Close, praising team mates and referring to the importance of cricket as a team game. Beyond cricket Botham played semi- and professional football for Yeovil and Scunthorpe between 1978 and 1985 and his fundraising activities, beginning in 1977, included his 900-mile walk in 1985 from John Groats to Land's End. He has raised more than £12 million for charity, with leukaemia research his focus. In 2003 he became the first-ever President of Bloodwise , a blood cancer charity.

In October 2007 he became Sir Ian Terence Botham, for services to Charity and to Cricket. Sir Ian continues to work in broadcasting, initially for the BBC, latterly for Sky Sports, as well as his activities in a variety of charity work.

Cherish the legacy of Sir Ian Botham by checking out the Vintage Sports English Cricket Collection which includes items such as the signed Sir Ian Botham cricket bat

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