Going into the third Test of Ashes in 1981, England were already one down and they very well knew that the Headingley Test, against their archrivals would define their careers.

It did, thanks to phenomenal performances by Bob Willis and Ian Botham, this Test would be remembered as one of the greatest of all time.

The dismal show in the first two Tests prompted the selectors to axe Botham as the captain, and returned Mike Brearley.

Once again it was a Test, in which Australia stamped their dominance. Winning the toss and batting first, Australia put on 401 on the board and bowled out England for 174. Following-on England ended the third day at six for one.

The following day was a rest day. Both, Australia and England were invited to the Botham barbecue in the village of Epworth, where they ate and drank.

English fast bowler Willis recalls, “We were in the local pub for Sunday lunch and then we checked out of our hotel because we were convinced the match would be over on the Monday.”

The English team feared of the follow-on and most thought that this could be the end of their career.

But then dawned the miracle day, it all began with Geoffrey Boycott’s defensive resistance, but wickets kept falling at the other end. They were five down for 105, when Botham walked out to bat. Very soon, they further crushed to 135 for seven and the defeat was within sights. At lunch, Ladbrokes had offered 500-1 odds on Australia losing the Test, and but then stepped up the man, who himself had checked out of his hotel. Botham went on to play an innings of lifetime, and remained unbeaten at 149 off just 148 balls. Graham Dilley (56) and Chris Old (29) provided him the much needed support as England finished with 356. Was it good enough?

Willis wreck

Australian openers walked out to chase 130 and Brearley, opened he bowling with Dilley and Botham. Willis, who was 32 then, was bowling against the wind and was getting tired. “Too old for that,” he moaned, but Brearley still refused to change ends.

Australia had reached 52 for one, and the victory was just 78 runs far, when Willis switched ends. The bowler recalls, “I wasn’t given the new ball and they reached 52-1. Then I switched ends and Brearley said: ‘Forget about no balls, just bowl as fast as you can’.”

With the score on 56, Willis charged in and bowled one short of good length. The ball rose to Trevor Chappell’s head and wicket-keeper Bob Taylor took the catch. That was the beginning of the wreckage. Botham, then took a brilliant slip catch off Willis to sent the Australian captain Kim Hughes back. Graham Yallop then received a nasty ball and Mike Gatting dived and caught at short-leg.

Opener John Dyson, who had scored 102 in the first innings, till then had batted with determination. He tried to hook, but gloved it straight to Taylor. Rod Marsh fell six runs later, when he pulled Willis but Dilley took a running catch at the fine-leg boundary.

Willis, then bowled a short of good length ball that moved away from Geoff Lawson, and the Australian pacer edged it to Taylor. Australia were 75 for eight!

Dennis Lillee, who had picked up seven wickets in the match, refused to accept the defeat and chose the way of death or glory. Willis kept bowling short and Lille played the upper cuts to his advantage.

With Lillee’s knock looking threatening, Gatting suggested Willis to bowl straight. Willis bowled on the middle stump and Lillee decided to drive, he was tad late on the stroke and the ball scooped in the air. Gatting ran in from mid-on and took a catch inches above the ground. A run later, Bright was cleaned up by Willis.

Australia were bowled out for 111, with Willis finishing with eight for 43 off his 15.1 overs. Inspired by this win, England won the next two Tests at Birmingham and Manchester, winning what was one of the greatest Ashes series, 3-1. Willis picked up a total of 29 wickets in the series, what is famously known as Botham’s Ashes.

This was the second time that a team had won after being asked to follow-on. The feat was repeated only once since then when VVS Laxman and Harbhajan Singh scripted the famous win in Kolkata in 2001. Australians have been at the receiving end on all three occasions.