No. 13 March 15, 2009

Beefy hits it into the confectionery stall

Botham's 149 was mostly all humpty, but one shot stood head and shoulders clear


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Leeds, July 20, 1981

It is one of the most iconic images of the decade, from one of the most iconic series of the decade. The sight of Ian Botham hitting Terry Alderman back over his head for six in the third Ashes Test of 1981 is the epitome of his resurgence in that series.

There he is, the great allrounder, freed from the shackles of captaincy, bearded, rejuvenated, inspired once more by his muse Mike Brearley. Botham's 149 not out in England's second innings, which turned round the match and the series, was a seat-of-the-pants job. "Let's give it some humpty," he said to Graham Dilley, one of his tail-end partners.

It was an unrefined innings, but this straight hit had power, beauty and technique. It was a clean, straight strike that showed Botham at his best, as a proper batsman with real skill, not a slogger with a three-pound bat - as a dwindling number of stuffed-shirt snobs tried to maintain.

As its accompaniment, it enjoys an equally iconic snatch of commentary from Richie Benaud: "Don't even bother looking for that. It's gone into the confectionery stall and out again." Confectionery? Who says that, even in 1981? It's pure Richie and enjoys pride of place in the large canon of Richie-isms that TV watchers of cricket in the UK have lapped up since God knows when.

This article was first published in the print version of Cricinfo Magazine