Graham Dilley 1959-2011 October 6, 2011

Dilley 'an unsung hero' - Border

Allan Border has described Graham Dilley as "one of the good guys" and a forgotten hero of England's 1981 Ashes triumph at Headingley. In a ten-year period Border played 12 Tests against Dilley, who has died at the age of 52, and whose pace and swing, Border said, made him a key man for England during the 1980s.

But it was for his batting in Leeds in 1981 that the Australians most remember Dilley. During one of the all-time great Test matches, Dilley and Ian Botham put together a 117-run partnership for the eighth wicket that gave England the lead after they followed on, and Bob Willis then demolished Australia as they chased 130.

"He's an unsung hero in the 'Botham Ashes', because without him at the other end, Australia [would have won] that game and Botham's heroics [gone] unnoticed, and history [been changed] changed subtly," Border told ESPNcricinfo. "He doesn't get the accolades, but Graham Dilley in that Headingley Test match was a big part of England getting the lead and Botham's heroics. I often said to him, 'You should cop more of the raps, mate!'

"He was a good quality fast bowler, swung the ball away and had real genuine pace. In the mid '80s he was at his best, although I played against him earlier than that, when he was a young tearaway with excellent pace.

"He was very easygoing - not your typical meathead fast bowler. He was a good man to sit down and have a drink with, and a very good competitor. I always enjoyed the contests and then the after-match, sitting down and reflecting on things over a beer. He was one of the good guys."

Against Australia, Dilley took 41 Test wickets at 32.90, and only the offspinner John Emburey claimed more victims for England during the 1986-87 Ashes, when Mike Gatting led his side to victory away from home. The leading run-scorer during that series was Dean Jones, who said Dilley was as quick as most bowlers of the current era.

"He was a quiet fella, but bowled good heat," Jones said. "He was underrated as a bowler at that time. In '86 with Gatting's team he had the new nut and was pretty well supported by Phil DeFreitas and Co, and Gladstone Small, but Dilley was the first guy to worry you. There are not too many guys who are quicker than him going around even now. But you wouldn't hear a bad word against him."

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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