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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 July 2006, 06:18 GMT 07:18 UK
Headingley '81... 25 years on
By Oliver Brett
A personal memory of the 1981 Headingley Test

Botham transformed the match to re-ignite the 1981 series
Botham transformed the match to re-ignite the 1981 series

I had been warned not to expect much, that England would lose and that if the weather was a bit iffy we might not go anyway.

But in any case, a few days before my ninth birthday, I had eagerly accepted an offer from my Yorkshire cousins to stay a long weekend with them - and watch the fourth day of the Headingley Test against Australia.

We drove up the M1 on the rest day and, in grave tones, I was told exactly how terrible the situation was for England.

I was particularly upset I wouldn't see Graham Gooch bat. His century in Jamaica earlier in the year had made him an important role model for me, and he was the reason I became an Essex fan.

A cold, cloudy morning greeted us as we sat down at the Kirkstall Lane End and the scoreboard showed that Mike Brearley had lost his wicket somewhere between us parking the car and taking our seats.

Within half an hour, Terry Alderman - whose perfect white smile shone through the gloom - had removed David Gower and Mike Gatting to leave my cousins' father squirming in his seat with embarrassment.

Having dragged four boys across Yorkshire, the last thing he wanted was to put them off cricket for ever.

Graham Dilley's confidence was the catalyst for Botham's knock
Graham Dilley's confidence was the catalyst for Botham's knock

But the unavoidable truth was that England were heading for a calamitous innings defeat - we wouldn't even see Bob Willis bowling with his idiosyncratic run-up that we all copied that summer in gardens.

Finally, a partnership - Geoff Boycott and Peter Willey got stuck in and the sun even came out for a bit.

But when Willey was caught at fly slip - a detail I still remember - two further wickets fell and we even contemplated setting off back to the North York Moors.

Luckily, of course, we didn't and there was something in Graham Dilley's body language as he marched to the wicket to join Ian Botham that suggested entertainment would now be the order of the day.

After about half an hour of merry mayhem, we noticed some kids our age running along the boundary edge in front of the Western Terrace.

We quickly joined them, waiting for the next four to be laced through the field so we could throw it back at Kim Hughes or some other Australian fielder.

Fans celebrate on the final day, but by then I was back in London
Fans celebrate on the final day, but by then I was back in London

Although it was a Monday, the ground filled up fast and suddenly the glum expressions in the crowd during the morning had switched to the Aussies.

Botham, batting without a helmet, threw the bat at everything and the ball disappeared to all four corners of the ground.

Once Dilley was out, even Chris Old was able to smash a few fours. And at the other end Botham hit the straight six that, as Richie Benaud would inform us in the evening highlights, "went straight into the confectionery stall and out again".

When the day finally came to an end, the crowd - which seemed to have almost doubled since tea - surged onto the ground, even though there was still another day to go.

But when, 24 hours later, Willis routed the Aussies for 111 in an 18-run victory, I was not even watching on TV.

I had been sent on a train back to London and spent the entire afternoon clothes-shopping with my mother and sisters.

For the rest of the summer, however, I was feted like some sort of deity for having been lucky enough to see that day's cricket.

But it took many rainy or plain uneventful days at Lord's, Edgbaston or even back at Headingley for me to appreciate just how special that day had been.

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