Ian Botham of England was the cult figure of the Ashes during the 1980s and probably had the most impact since Sir Don. He was the allrounder per excellence and was in the Ashes series winning team on 5 occasions , creating some impact on each of them.He made his debut in the 1977 ashes in England which the home side won 3-0. Botham had 2 five wicket hauls including Greg Chappell as his 1st test wicket. However it was the Ashes held in England in 1981 where Botham was the dominant player,who changed the momentum of the series with one astonishing century at Leeds. Australia, who were a strong team in that Ashes with Lillee, Marsh, Hughes, Border,Yallop ,Alderman amongst the main players in the ranks were leading the series 1-0 after 2 tests and soon England changed the captaincy by relieving an out of form Botham of his duties and handing it over to Mike Bearley which proved to be a masterstroke. In the Leeds test Botham rediscovered his batting touch scoring a good 50 in 1st innings and before that taking 6/95 in Australia’s 1st innings. However Australia was in dominant mood in the Leeds test having made England follow on with a 227 run lead and reduced them to 135/7 in 2nd innings. Before coming to the field for the 4th days play, the England team , resigned to their fate of losing the test and going down to a 0-2 deficit, had checked out of their hotel rooms. With the team in precarious situation and fast bowler Graham Dilley for company , Botham started hitting out in desperation, connected some shots, and soon the score began to move at galloping pace. Even Dilley gained in confidence, and the home crowd was treated to a fierce fightback by England. Botham was in murderous mood with nothing to lose, he totally massacred the Aussie pace attack of Lillee ,Alderman and Lawson to score a blistering 149 notout with 27 fours and 1 six. Dilley hit 56 and England managed to get their nose in front with a 130 run lead. The Leeds pitch by that time had enough wear and tear for the tall Bob Willis to run though the visitors batting with hostile pace bowling taking 8/43 to bowl out Australia for 111 and England won a sensational 18 run victory to square the series.
The next test was played at Birmingham with Australia getting another chance to forge ahead in the series as England were allout for 219 in 2nd inngs to set Australia a low target of 151 to win and the visitors looked in control at 104/4 when Botham came back for another spell and swiftly knocked off the Australian lower order in a sensational batting collapse with Australia losing their last 6 wickets for 17 runs and Botham taking 5 wickets for 1 run in that astounding spell of swing bowling. The Australia ,who were supposed to be leading 3-0 after 4 tests with two to play ,found themselves down 1-2 in the series due mainly to Botham’s Houdini acts.
In the 5th test a Manchester, England dominated and their chances of taking the series was boosted in 2nd innings by Botham’s rollicking 118 off 115 balls with 13 fours and 6 sixes which set up a huge 506 target for Australia in 4th innings and inspite of brilliant 100s from Yallop and Border ,the Aussies lost the test by 103 runs to lose the series 3-1 after the last test at Oval was drawn. Botham with 399 runs at 36 average with 2 hundreds and 34 wickets with 3 five wicket hauls ,was the dominant player of that 1981 series. Ashes 1981 was known as “Botham’s ashes”.
Big “beefy” Botham continued to dominate even in the next Ashes series in 1985 at home taking 31 wickets with his swing bowling in 6 tests and scoring 250 runs at 31 average. England again won by 3-1 margin. He had moderate successes in most Australian leg of the Ashes but played a dominant knock of 138 in the Ashes series in 1986-87,scoring 22 off one over from Merv Hughes and then took a match winning 5/41 at MCG to help England taking an unassailable 2-0 lead .England finally won that series 2-1 after not being the favourites.
Botham was a deadly fast medium bowler in swinging conditions and bowled with decent pace earlier in his career . He was an extremely hardhitting middleorder batsman with ability to grind out innings if required. In 32 Ashes test Botham scored 1486 runs at 28 average with 4 tons and took 128 wickets at 28 average and 56 strike rate with 7 five wicket hauls and twice 10 wickets in a match with best of 6/95.
Botham had strong impact in Ashes contests and hence a top Ashes legend.