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Ashes heroes: Ian Botham

Ian Botham is one of the great figures of Ashes history, so much so that the 1981 England-Australia series is often referred to as 'Botham's Ashes'.

The all-rounder played a crucial role in England's miraculous victory at Headingley that summer and his feats have inspired generations of cricket fans as well as more recent Ashes heroes such as Andrew Flintoff and Ben Stokes.

WhatEngland v Australia, 1st Test
WhereEdgbaston, Birmingham
WhenFriday 16th June to Tuesday 20th June
How to watchSky Sports Cricket
OddsEngland 5/4, Draw 4/1, Australia 11/8

Devastating debut spell kicks off awesome Ashes career

It didn't take Ian Botham long to show off his big-match temperament when he made his Test debut against Australia in 1977 at the age of just 21. He took five wickets on day one at Trent Bridge, including the scalps of Aussie legends Greg Chappell, Doug Walters and Rodney Marsh, to set up a seven-wicket victory for England.

The Somerset tyro's second Ashes appearance got off to a less illustrious start as he was bowled for a duck by spinner Ray Bright at Headingley.

However, Australia swiftly learned they would struggle to keep the young all-rounder quiet for long as Botham roared back to take 5-21 in 11 overs, allowing England to enforce the follow-on before completing an innings victory in Leeds.

Headingley heroics spark stunning 1981 comeback

Botham's ability to bounce back from adversity reached its zenith four years later in the 1981 Ashes.

He started the summer as England captain but a defeat in the first Test in Nottingham was followed by a draw at Lord's, where the skipper was dismissed for a duck in both innings.

Mike Brearley took charge for the third Test at Headingley, where Australia soon grabbed control of the game, racking up 401-9 declared in the first innings despite Botham's 6-95.

Beefy top-scored with 50 in England's first innings of 174 but bookmakers at the Yorkshire venue were offering odds of 500/1 about a home win as England, made to follow on, crumbled to 135-7.

With nothing to lose Botham decided to have some fun, ably supported by tailenders Graham Dilley (56) and Chris Old (29). He cracked 27 fours and one six in a remarkable counter-attacking innings of 149 not out but, even so, Australia needed just 130 to take a 2-0 lead in the series.

Botham had opener Graeme Wood caught behind early on before Bob Willis took over. The fast bowler took eight wickets as Australia collapsed from 56-1 to 111 all out, leaving the incredulous England players to celebrate 'The Miracle of Headingley'.

Five-wicket burst in Birmingham enhances Beefy's legend

Botham's performance at Headingley was an impossible act to follow but the rejuvenated all-rounder gave it a good go.

The shell-shocked Aussies moved on to Edgbaston, where a low-scoring Test hung in the balance until day four, when the tourists recovered from 29-3 to reach 87-3, chasing a target of 151.

Spinner John Emburey got rid of set batsmen Graham Yallop and Allan Border before Botham finished the contest in extraordinary fashion, taking the last five Australian wickets for just one run.

In the fifth Test at Old Trafford, England secured the series victory thanks to another stunning rescue act from Botham with the bat.

He struck six sixes in a blistering knock of 118 off 102 balls, hauling his side from 104-5 to 404 all out in their second innings, and also took five wickets in the match to complete a hat-trick of Ashes Test victories – and three successive man-of-the-match awards.

Botham's Brisbane brilliance sets tone for surprise victory

While 1981 will always be remembered as the high point of Botham's career, his Test rivalry with Australia spanned 12 years, from 1977 to 1989, and featured many other glorious moments.

Beefy took 31 wickets in six matches when England won the 1985 Ashes series 3-1 on home soil and produced a match-winning innings in the first Test of the 1986/87 tour of Australia.

England had been expected to struggle Down Under but Botham set the tone for their surprise victory with his classy 138 in the series opener in Brisbane, hitting 22 runs off one over bowled by irate Aussie paceman Merv Hughes.

He had a quiet series with the ball by his own high standards but, despite struggling with a rib injury, picked up 5-41 in Melbourne, where England won the Boxing Day Test by an innings and 14 runs to seal the series. 

Botham's last three Ashes appearances came in England's disappointing 4-0 home defeat in 1989 but, three years later, he came up with one last magical performance against Australia at the 1992 World Cup.

After dismissing his old rival Allan Border, the England hero picked up three more quick wickets to finish with figures of 4-31 at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

Opening the batting, Botham struck 53 off 77 balls to lead England to a comfortable eight-wicket win and pick up yet another man-of-the-match award against the old enemy.

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