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banner Monday, 13 August, 2001, 15:59 GMT 16:59 UK
Dilley's Oscar performance
Graham Dilley
Dilley scored a half century in support of Botham
BBC Sport Online's Steve Beauchampe talks to former England bowler Graham Dilley about the Headingley Ashes Test of 1981.

If there was a cricketing equivalent of the Best Supporting Actor Oscar, then 1981's recipient would undoubtedly have been Graham Dilley.

As Ian Botham and Bob Willis salvaged England's summer with joint-match winning performances against Australia in the third Test at Headingley, Kent paceman Dilley's batting and catching played a part.

With England already 1-0 down in the series, Dilley's two for 78 in Australia's first innings 401 and 13 in England's miserable 174 were forgettable contributions.

As England, following on, slipped to 135 for seven in came Dilley at No.9 to join Botham for what should have been an early finish.

Have a swing

"The game was over and we'd lost, time to pack your bags and go home," said Dilley.

"Skipper Mike Brearley gave me no instructions so I asked Ian what we should do.

"The pitch was very difficult and he said that we wouldn't survive long just blocking, so we might as well have a swing if the ball was in the right area."

Facing Dennis Lillee and Terry Alderman (who between them had already taken 14 wickets in the match) as well as Geoff Lawson, only a fool, Rod Marsh or Lillee himself, would have bet against Australia.

Soon Botham was going like a Japanese bullet train with Dilley matching him.

"I might even have outscored him, but to be honest we weren't really counting the runs.

Ian Botham
Botham told Dilley to have a swing

"I still wasn't confident though as you were never really in on that pitch and needed a lot of luck just to survive and frankly, Australia's 401 should have been a winning score."

After a stand of 117, Dilley and his stumps finally perished to Alderman.

His 56 came from just 75 balls and including nine fours - but still England were only 25 runs ahead.

"Back in the dressing room the atmosphere had changed from our being 100% certain of defeat to 90% sure, but that change was significant as we'd at least put up a fight and ensured that they'd have to bat again," he said.

Chris Old joined Botham to add a further 67 for the ninth wicket before Willis, despite making only two, stuck around long enough to help Botham add a further 37 before becoming Alderman's sixth victim.

Botham remained unbeaten on 149, 114 of them in boundaries, with England's lead 129. "At 50 runs on we thought we might embarrass them by taking a couple of wickets," recalls Dilley.

"But when the lead reached 100, particularly on that pitch, we started thinking victory was just possible - unlikely, but possible."

Australia made a reasonable start, reaching 56 for one, before, as Dilley recalls, Willis switched ends and things started happening.


Brearley, seeing I was under it, exclaimed 'Oh, God, it's Picker'
  Graham Dilley

"Suddenly it was 58 for three and the ball was behaving badly, leaping around all over the place and we knew we were going to win," he said.

"The change happened very quickly, but it wasn't just getting the wickets, it was the manner in which we took them, not bad shots or run outs, just unplayable deliveries."

Then 58 for three soon became 68 for six but big hitting wicketkeeper Rod Marsh was still at the crease - until he hooked Willis to the deep fine leg boundary.

"I can't remember much about the ball coming towards me, but I remember taking the catch and then checking how close I was to the rope," said Dilley.

"Some players ran towards Bob but the some of the slips came over to me.

Kent 2nd XI

"Botham arrives and the first thing he tells me is that as it was in the air Brearley seeing that I was under it, exclaimed 'Oh, God it's Picker'. I thought, thanks Ian!"

Willis finished with eight for 43, England winning by 18 runs, but Dilley has mixed memories of the match.

"I was picked as a bowler but hadn't performed with the ball all series so I knew this would be my last game," he said.

"If it had been me taking eight wickets then it would have been the best thing ever, but as it was two weeks later I was bowling for Kent Second XI against The Army, while Botham was taking five for 11 in the fourth Test at Edgbaston."

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