No. 15 March 29, 2009

AB and Thommo fall short

They took it down to the wire; then the final, fatal stumble


Thomson c Miller via Tavare b Botham © Getty Images
 

Melbourne, 30 December 1982

It has long been said that Melbourne is one of the truly great sporting capitals of the world. On the penultimate day of 1982, 18,000 burghers streamed through the city and across Yarra Park to reach the grand Melbourne Cricket Ground to witness the conclusion to one of the greatest Ashes matches.

The gates had been flung open. Australia required just 37 runs to regain the game's oldest and most glittering prize. What's more, the last two batsmen were at the crease. It was possible the mob would see but one delivery.

Requiring 292 for victory, Australia were 218 for 9 when Jeff Thomson, once the world's fastest bowler, joined emerging champion Allan Border on the nerve-racking fourth day. By stumps they had advanced the score to 255. Hope springs eternal in the eager breast, and to a man the crowd was strong in its belief that Border and Thomson would somehow conjure the 37 needed for victory. And but for a desperate last throw of the dice by England's captain, Bob Willis, the bravura of Ian Botham, and the reflexes of offspinner Geoff Miller, the most improbable Australian victory would have been achieved.

Not even the new ball at 259 caused problems. But Thomson poked at the first delivery of Botham's 26th over and provided a straightforward catch to Chris Tavaré at second slip. Tavaré could only parry the chance, and Miller, fielding deeper at first slip, took a couple of quick strides and managed to complete a remarkable catch, the ball just 18 inches off the turf. England won by three runs and Willis dubbed Botham "golden bollocks".

Mike Coward is a cricket writer with The Australian. This article was first published in the print version of Cricinfo Magazine in 2007