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Peter Willey is now better known as an international umpire, but for 22 Tests in the early 1980s, he was a doughty presence in England's middle order.
July 8, 2005
Peter Willey is now better known as an international umpire, but for 22 Tests in the early 1980s, he was a doughty presence in England's middle order, taking on the might of Australia and West Indies with his chest-on batting stance. Cricinfo spoke to him about his role in two of the most amazing Ashes Tests of all time - Headingley and Edgbaston 1981
I will always remember the last morning of the Headingley Test, running out onto the ground in such an atmosphere that there were goose pimples on my arms. It was absolutely fantastic when Bob Willis had his amazing spell, ending up with eight wickets. It was the first Test I played in that we won, so it was an amazing occasion.
Botham's knock was one of those innings where he just went for it and I suppose he could have got out any time. We were all thinking that he couldn't carry on the way he was batting. Even when they needed 130, we didn't expect to win. If you'd read it in a book you have thought it was Roy of the Rovers stuff, which it was. I drove home that night, I had a sponsored car with my name on the side, and people were tooting as I went down the motorway. It was just great for the country.
The stories about the Aussies having the champagne on ice are all true, they were ready to celebrate. It was all in their room and I think we ended up drinking it, which was even better. Then of course we went to Edgbaston and it wasn't an easy pitch to play on. I think Mike Brearley was going to ask me to bowl in the last innings, as the pitch was turning quite a bit, but he decided to give Both a go and of course he took 5 for 1. It was marvellous but unfortunately after that game I got left out.
I was disappointed to be left out especially at Old Trafford when Both got another hundred in no time at all. But I was just happy to play for England against anyone and I can always say I played in two of the most talked-about Tests of all time.
Brearley just had a way of handling pressure - and especially Botham. When he took over it allowed Botham to express himself again and it paid off. When he was captain, the team struggled a bit, and he felt he couldn't always go out and play his own way, but then he was allowed to do what he did best - just play cricket.
Even after the Headingley and Edgbaston Tests there was a feeling that he couldn't go on - not even the great Garry Sobers could change that many games - but Both just had a brilliant spell of three or four games when he could do nothing wrong. After being slated and being at rock-bottom following his pair at Lord's it was just magnificent to see him come back. He had the strength of character to do it and it came off for him. I've never seen anything that has competed with 1981 for a single-handed turnaround of a series.
I don't think one person could beat this Australian side like Botham managed in '81. They are a superb side, but if our bowlers can stay fit and bowl to their full ability, and if we can get enough runs, we can give them a contest. With good weather, good pitches and both teams playing to their potential I think we could have a great series and it is going to be marvellous to watch.
I played 22 Tests and only won three - Headingley and Edgbaston in 1981, and Headingley in 85 - and to be involved in those games is something you will always remember. People always bring it up and come over with old scorecards saying "are you the Peter Willey that played there?" and it's marvellous to be able to say I was.
Peter Willey was speaking to Andrew McGlashan
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