20th July, 1981 was the day which witnessed one of the most influential Ashes innings were played by a legendary man Ian Botham. Botham was one of the greatest all rounders of the game and many of his achievements looked like straight from a movie script and the 1981’s 3rd Ashes Test was the biggest testimony of that.
The third Test match of the series was played at Headingley, Leeds. A test match which is known since as ‘Botham’s Test’ and 20th July can be easily called the ‘Botham’s Day’. At the beginning of the series, Ian Botham was leading the English side. But after a loss in the first Test and a draw in the second where he got a pair, the captaincy changed hands and Mike Brearley was brought back as captain.
Still, Australia were on the control for the first three days. Despite a 6/95 from Botham, they scored 401 in their first innings thanks to a John Dyson century and 89 from Kim Hughes. Then England first innings was wrapped up for 174 as Botham scored 50 with everyone else scoring less than 25. England were asked to follow on and at the end of day three, they were 6/1, looking down the barrel.
19th July was a rest day and teams met on 20th July and most of the fans and even some players thought only the formalities were left in the match. A couple of Australian players, Rod Marsh and Dennis Lillee put their bet on a 500-1 chance of England winning. Soon England were 135/7 and Graham Dilley joined Botham who apparently welcomed him saying ‘Let’s give it some Humpty’ and that’ what they did. They added 117 runs for the 8th wicket with Dilley scoring 56. Botham reached a wonderful hundred and remained not out with a 148-ball 149. It was one of the greatest Ashes innings although it gave England a lead of just 129.
Next day it was Bob Willis turn who took 8/43 to give England a Miraculous victory. This was only the second instance of a team winning a Test match after follow on post the 1894 Sydney Test where also England won against Australia. Since 1981 this happened only once in the famous Kolkata test match in 2001 where Australia were once again at the receiving end against India.