RESULT: England won by 18 runs
A match that was pure ‘Boy’s Own’ stuff.
If one had to choose a single Test Match from the annals of cricket, this surely would be it.
England’s unbelievable victory - after following on - defied all logic.
It was the second such result in the history of Test cricket.
Adding to the surrealism were the sub-plots: Mike Brearley’s Messiah-like return as captain; Ian Botham, after handing back the crown, responding like a Colossus; Bob Willis, whose place seemed to be in jeopardy, bowling as if his life were at stake; some of the Australian team betting on an England victory at odds of 500/1 etc.
Having chosen to bat, Australia made an extremely healthy 401-9 declared, with Jack Dyson constructing a diligent 102 and half-centuries coming from Kim Hughes and Graham Yallop.
Botham, relieved of leadership responsibilities, captured 6-95. By the end of the third day, England had followed on, having fallen victim to the speedy varieties of Dennis Lillee, Geoff Lawson and Terry Alderman in their first innings of 174.
Botham’s 50 was the only score of respectability.
By late afternoon on the Monday, the fourth day, England were 135-7, still 92 behind, with Geoff Boycott, who made 46, already gone to a doubtful LBW decision.
Then came the incredible turnaround. Botham, forcefully supported by Graham Dilley, added 117 in 80 minutes, then 67 more in partnership with Chris Old and by the close was still there alongside last man Willis, with England 124 ahead.
On the final morning, Willis was out to Alderman, who claimed six wickets in the innings, leaving Botham with a magnificent 149 not out in England’s total of 356.
Needing 130 to win, Australia were still firm favourites. At 56-1, a sound start had been made.
Then Willis, changing ends to bowl into the wind, charged in like a man possessed to take 8-43, the best analysis of his career.
Australia were undone - all out for 111. The result was greeted with patriotic fervour throughout the land, eight days in advance of the Royal Wedding.
Records were broken throughout the match. Botham scored a century and took five wickets in an innings for the fourth time in Tests; both wicket-keepers set new marks, with Rodney Marsh overtaking Alan Knott’s 263 dismissals in Test and Bob Taylor passing JT Murray’s total of 1,270 catches in first-class cricket.
Lillee also became the leading wicket-taker in games between Australia and England, exceeding Hugh Trumble’s 141 and Brearley led the successful England captaincy table against Australia with his ninth victory - one more than WG Grace.