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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 November 2005, 07:18 GMT
Beefy at 50

England cricket legend Ian Botham is celebrating yet another half century - his 50th birthday.

Ian Botham
To beat them at home's great, but to beat them in Australia is better -beating them on the 1986 tour when we were written off was a great milestone
Ian Botham on the Ashes
And it is ironic the former all-rounder has to do it in Pakistan, where he is commentating on England's current tour.

For it was there in 1987 he made the infamous quip that Pakistan was the destination every mother-in-law should be sent on a month-long all-expenses-paid trip.

Although the remark earned Botham a 1,000 fine, it was typical of one of the game's larger-than-life characters.

The man cricket fans fondly call "Beefy" played 102 Tests for England spanning 15 years from his debut in 1977.

During that time he took 383 wickets, which remains an English record, and scored 5,200 runs.

In the one-day game he made 116 appearances, including two losing World Cup finals in 1979 and 1992.

And domestically he starred for Somerset, Worcestershire and Durham - as well as Queensland in Australia - in a career that lasted from 1974 until 1993. He scored 19,399 runs and took 1,172 wickets in 402 matches.

But bare statistics tell only half the story.

He was great fun to play with and is up there with the greats of English cricket
Mike Gatting

It was his match-winning exploits and size of personality that made him a firm favourite and he won universal acclaim for his efforts against Australia in 1981 in a series remembered as "Botham's Ashes".

He lost the captaincy after a pair in the second Test at Lord's but bounced back with a sensational performance next time out at Headingley.

With England staring an innings defeat square in the face, Botham took to the Australian attack with gusto and his unbeaten 149 helped turn the series, although he conceded it was "a bloody awful knock".

He said: "It was full of inside edges and balls flying all over the place, but any time you beat Australia is a great moment.

Ian Botham on a charity walk
Botham's charity walks have raised more than 5m for charity
"To beat them at home's great, but to beat them in Australia is better. Beating them on the 1986 tour when we were written off was a great milestone."

He saved his best for those wearing Baggy Green and notched a final Test five-wicket haul and ton on that tour Down Under - which had been the last time England had won the Ashes until this summer.

But it was the victorious series in 1981 for which he will be forever remembered and his 34 wickets and two centuries that summer helped him to win the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award.

"We were on tour in India at the time," recalled Botham.

"We wanted to celebrate but we didn't have any beer, although 20 crates soon turned up."

It did not take long for another legendary Botham night to get into full swing.

His colourful life off the field helped endear him to the public.

The best place for Ian's 50th is Pakistan, because he won't be able to get a drink!
Allan Lamb
As well as being a fixture on the back pages, he also featured on the front with less savoury headlines.

He entitled his autobiography "Don't Tell Kath", a tongue-in-cheek reference to the fact his long-suffering wife found out about most of his hell-raising touring antics in the tabloids.

While playing he started doing charity work, famously walking from John O'Groats to Land's End in aid of Leukemia Research in 1985. Seven further long-distance walks have seen him break the 4m barrier in money raised and in 1992 he was awarded an OBE.

And he will get his walking boots on again in October 2006 for another charity walk around Great Britain.

In addition he has had a spell as a team captain on BBC TV's A Question of Sport and has appeared in Christmas pantos, but cricket remains his main priority thanks to his career with BSkyB.

"These days I'm really enjoying the broadcasting," he added.

In December 2004, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the BBC Sport Personality of the Year Awards.

After all Botham has achieved he was unusually coy about his biggest highlight.

He said: "It would be difficult to pick out one moment because there are several milestones throughout your career, and not always to do with your sport.

"I've had so many great moments and I hope I've got many more to come.

"It's always good beating the Australians - and it's even better to beat them out there. But the Ashes is just one thing. Ask me for the biggest highlight when I'm lying on my deathbed - then I'll tell you."



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