Just under five years after being hit for 25 runs in an over by Andy Roberts, Ian Botham scored 24 off New Zealand’s Derek Stirling at The Oval on August 25, 1986. Prakash Govindasreenivasan has more.
England were chasing the game from the outset. Having drawn the first Test at Lord’s and conceded the second at Nottingham, thanks to Richard Hadlee’s ten-wicket haul in the match, England were in desperate need of a victory in the final Test to level the series.
Their cause, however, was not helped by the weather at The Oval. Skipper Mike Gatting won the toss and elected to field in overcast conditions, hoping his bowlers could run through the Kiwi line-up and give his batsmen time to pave the way for a big win. The bowlers started well with Ian Botham equalling Dennis Lillee’s record of 355 Test wickets when the former dismissed Bruce Edgar with his first delivery of the game. Botham then had Jeff Crowe plumb in front and cricket had its highest wicket-taker. The truncated first day was historic and it belonged to Botham. However, bad light and rain ruined England’s momentum. Only 58 overs were bowled on the first day, with New Zealand finishing on 142 for four. John Wright, unbeaten on 63, had Evan Gray for company.
The New Zealand batsmen dropped the anchor on the following day and were happy to score at just over two runs per over and frustrate the home side. They lost three quick wickets but scored 67 from 31 overs. In the second session, Wright brought up his fifth Test century after having batted for over six hours for this feat. He soon perished for 119 but New Zealand were not done yet. They finished the second day on 257 for eight, with debutant wicketkeeper Tony Blain and Derek Stirling in the middle.
On the third day, England’s innings began after New Zealand were bowled out for 287. Skipper Gatting and David Gower took the onus of bringing back England in the game upon themselves and displayed marvellous batting. Such was their determination that the skies cleared and sun was out, bringing hope to the home camp. Both batsmen played their strokes and kept the scoreboard ticking. Such was their dominance that the visitors began to panic. So much that, Hadlee unleashed a barrage of bouncers to Gower and was duly warned by umpire Dickie Bird. When the day ended, England were seven runs short of the New Zealand total at 281 for three with Gower batting on 129 and Gatting on 86.
Rain and bad light returned after a silent weekend to ruin England’s hard work. Only a little over an hour of play was possible, but in that brief period the home side managed to amass a 100-run first innings lead.
The 24-run over
While batting on 20, Botham hooked a bouncer from Stirling and failed to time it well. However, wicketkeeper Blain failed to latch on to it and Botham made the visitors pay for their costly mistake. The next over saw Botham get into the fifth gear. The over started with a boundary, followed it up with a big six and repeated the action in the next two balls to take 20 runs from the first four balls. Stirling managed a dot ball in the fifth delivery, but the final ball fetched another four. As many as 24 runs were taken from the over, just one short of what Andy Roberts managed in 1980, coincidently off Botham’s bowling.
Botham’s onslaught against Stirling helped England swiftly go past the New Zealand total. He was in a ferocious frame of mind and did not even spare Hadlee. The Kiwi fast bowler conceded 20 runs in his first two overs with Botham slamming 17 off it. He brought up his half-century off just 32 balls.
Just when England looked like they could make a match of the situation, heavy rains came by. When the fourth day’s play ended, England had a 101-run lead. England’s faint hopes of pulling something off were quashed as rain ruined the final day. Only one over was bowled — by Botham — before the game ended in a draw. The series, thus, went New Zealand’s way despite Gower and Gatting’s grit and Botham’s counterattacking display of batting.
New Zealand 287 (John Wright 119; Graham Dilley 4 for 92, Ian Botham 3 for 75) and 7 for no loss (John Wright 7*) drew with England 388 for 5 decl. (David Gower 131, Mike Gatting 121; Ewan Chatfield 3 for 73).