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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 November 2005, 07:19 GMT
Tributes to Botham at 50
Ian Botham

English cricket legend Ian Botham celebrates his 50th birthday on Thursday.

BBC Sport asked those who have known the former Somerset, Worcestershire, Durham and England all-rounder for their thoughts on the great man.

Mike Gatting, former England team-mate

Fifty is a great landmark for the old boy, especially as there were one or two who thought he might not make it! I hope he's got his own supply of fine wine over there in Pakistan to celebrate.

The game was never over when IT Botham was playing - he was always making something happen, was great fun to play with and is up there with the greats of English cricket.

Allan Border, former Australia captain

I suffered terribly at his hands in Tests for the best part of a decade. He was a phenomenon.

His impact on cricket went far beyond statistics. He kept Test cricket alive by playing the way he did.

Brian Close, former Somerset captain

Ian's a great lad and a great cricketer. He was very loyal, hard-working and never knew when to give in - an inspiration for English cricket.

I remember in his first year at Somerset, he ducked into an Andy Roberts bouncer when I was at the other end. This was in the days before helmets, but he just shook his head and got ready to play the next ball - he was a great character.

Dickie Bird, former international umpire

I umpired Ian's first Test match at Trent Bridge in 1977 [Botham took 5-74 in the first innings of the third Test against Australia] and he bowled magnificently.

I said then that he would have a great Test career. He was a tremendous all-rounder, a great competitor and, above all, a great character in many, many ways.

He was tremendous to be out on the field with and I have memories of Beefy I will treasure for the rest of my life. I hope he has a wonderful birthday. Fifty not out - keep going Both!

Andrew Flintoff, England all-rounder

I don't think my start with England was helped by being labelled 'the next Ian Botham' virtually from the moment I was first picked.

It was a tag I was given, but never something I've believed in at any stage. Some people believe we play in a similar manner and if that's the case, then great.

Allan Lamb, former England team-mate

The best place for Ian's 50th is Pakistan, because he won't be able to get a drink!

He was always fantastic to have in your team, was larger than life and a great character. He's up there with the England greats - his record speaks for itself.

What he's done for English cricket is fantastic. But he'd love to be knocked off his pedestal as England's best all-rounder by 'Freddie' Flintoff.

Steve Rhodes, former Worcestershire team-mate

When he came to Worcestershire, you could say he was bored with county cricket. But his arrival reignited his enthusiasm.

He instilled new belief in his team-mates with his never-say-die atttitude, sometimes when he wasn't even playing. He was out with a back injury for most of our Championship-winning season, but was still inspirational.

On the pitch, he oozed brilliance at times and was awesome for English cricket. Every sport needs superstars, and our sport doesn't get too many. But he was cricket's.

Simon Hughes, former Durham team-mate

As a cricketer, he had an aura, an intimidating presence on the field, shared only by his great friend Sir Viv Richards and Shane Warne.

The Australians were still in awe of him even during his last match, at Durham in July 1993.

Still convinced he was capable of virtually anything, he was sending down an assortment of phantom seamers and slow bouncers to the Australian openers.

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