On August 30, 1979, Ian Botham reached the landmark of a thousand runs and a hundred wickets in Test cricket — faster than anyone had ever done before. It took Botham only 21 matches to complete the milestone and usurp Vinoo Mankad’s record. Karthik Parimal revisits the momentous Test that was neatly underlined by Botham’s towering presence.
Only two years into his Test career, Ian Terence Botham was surging his way ahead forcefully, his reputation on the big stage was on the ascendancy. When India toured England in the summer of 1979, he was on the verge of pocketing two milestones most all-rounders are fervently in search of — a double of 1000 Test runs and 100 wickets. The Indian personnel boasted of some good players and albeit that, considering Botham’s purple patch at the time, it was a given that the series would mark both his personal landmarks without any hindrances. In the end, it was only fitting that the milestones were brought off two of India’s finest players.
Scalp No 100
The four-match Test series saw India go down convincingly at Birmingham in the first fixture before fighting back in the next at Lord’s. In the first innings of that match, the Indians were bundled out for a paltry 96, thanks to Botham’s 10th five-wicket haul. During the second innings, a thick edge off Sunil Gavaskar’s willow flew low down to Mike Brearley at first slip and the latter, owing to brilliant reflexes, swooped on it and pouched it with his left hand. In only his 19th Test — two years and nine days after his debut — Botham had his hundredth victim and, at the time, was the fastest to the landmark. Despite the early debacle, India held on for a draw.
A thousand splendid runs
The third Test at Headingley ended in a draw, too, but Botham managed to light up one of the sombre days, not surprisingly, since the venue was his favourite. On a rain-interrupted first day, England trudged to 80 for four with Botham stranded on nine overnight. The next two days were completely washed away but on the fourth morning, he smashed the Indian bowling to all corners of the ground. It was an innings that put him tantalisingly close to the milestone. “Fortunately for those who waited from the first half of Thursday to Monday morning, that truly remarkable cricketer, Botham, produced an innings which featured hitting more powerful than anything seen by an Englishman since Dexter, It earned him the Man of the Match award, and the comment from adjudicator JC Laker that it was one of the finest Test innings in the last twenty years,” noted Wisden.
His knock comprised of 10 fours and five sixes and, by a margin of just one run, missed joining the elite list of batsmen who have scored a century before lunch in a Test. Nonetheless, he ended with his highest Test score (137) at the time at a strike-rate of over 90. He also fell three short of the landmark of a thousand Test runs and, as there wasn’t enough time for a second innings to ensure (India did not even complete their first innings), he had to wait for one more game.
On the first day of the Final Test at The Oval, at the fall of David Gower’s wicket, Botham walked out and knocked off the three runs required for the achievement by forcing India’s premier spinner Bishan Singh Bedi away backward of square. With that, Botham, in his 21st Test, became the quickest player to collect a double of 1000 runs and a hundred wickets, usurping Vinoo Mankad’s record (it took 23 matches for the Indian to achieve this feat). He was stumped on 38 in that innings as England folded for 305. However, that was not to be his only contribution in that Test. Botham’s heroics on the field in the coming days nullified the visitors’ charge and saved England the blushes, thereby helping them win the series.
The Indians in their first innings could muster only 202. Botham took four wickets — including that of top-order batsmen Gavaskar and Gundappa Viswanath — and also clung on to two catches, the second a ‘bizarre’ one. In Botham’s own words, penned in his autobiography Head On: “[Dilip] Vengsarkar had batted beautifully for three hours when he edged Bob Willis to the ‘keeper. David Bairstow, diving to his right, could only parry it goalkeeper-style. The ball ricocheted off Brear’s [Mike Brearley] boot as he stood at first slip and flew upwards, and with the burly figure of Bairstow scrambling down on me for a second go at it, I stuck up a hand and pouched it one-handed at slip.”
England then piled on the 103-run lead owing to a tenacious hundred from opener Geoffrey Boycott. The Yorkshire batsman also contributed in Botham’s run-out during the second innings when the latter was on nought, in a way avenging what transpired at Christchurch against New Zealand. With eight wickets down, the hosts declared on 334, thereby leaving India 438 to get on a crumbling pitch with little over a day remaining.
India’s chase caught the English off guard. An opening stand of 213 between Gavaskar and Chetan Chauhan ensued. After Chauhan’s departure, Vengsarkar walked in and dropped anchor. Gavaskar, on the other, kept drilling holes into the English attack, smashing 221 (21 fours), and took India closer to an epochal win. At tea, on the last day, the visitors were comfortably perched at 304 for one. Sixty-one runs later, Botham was in the limelight, yet again, albeit for a wrong reason this time — he dropped Vengsarkar on the boundary. Nonetheless, one run later, Vengsarkar presented Botham with another chance and this time the latter obliged. Then followed an Indian collapse, as Willis had Kapil Dev caught by Graham Gooch and Botham returned with the ball to dispose Gavaskar before finishing with three wickets. In the end, the Indians were left with nine runs to get and two wickets remaining. A draw was perhaps a fair result.
It capped off a momentous series for Botham who, with his willow and ball, romped his way into the annals of cricketing history. He was aptly announced Man of the Series for his 244 runs (average of 48.80) and 20 wickets in the four Test matches.
England 305 (Graham Gooch 79, Peter Willey 52; Srinivas Venkataraghavan 3 for 59, Kapil Dev 3 for 83) and 334 for 8 decl. (Geoffrey Boycott 125, David Bairstow 59; Karsan Ghavri 3 for 76) drew with India 202 (Gundappa Viswanath 62; Ian Botham 4 for 65, Mike Hendrick 3 for 38, Bob Willis 3 for 53) and 429 for 8 (Sunil Gavaskar 221, Chetan Chauhan 80, Dilip Vengsarkar 52; Ian Botham 3 for 97).
(Karthik Parimal, a Correspondent with CricketCountry, is a cricket aficionado and a worshipper of the game. He idolises Steve Waugh and can give up anything, absolutely anything, just to watch a Kumar Sangakkara cover drive. He can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/