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'I've run you out, you ****'

The nadir of Geoff Boycott's brief time as England captain came when he was deliberately run out by one of his own side

Martin Williamson

February 9, 2013

Comments: 35 | Text size: A | A

Geoffrey Boycott prepares for his first Test as captain of England, Pakistan v England, Karachi, January 17, 1978
Geoff Boycott smiles ahead of his first Test England captain. Within a month it was all going wrong © Getty Images

It's a scenario we have probably all experienced in club cricket. Your side needs quick runs, but there's a guy in the middle who can't get the ball off the square. What do you do? You try and run him out, of course. But that's club cricket. Surely it doesn't happen at international level? Well, rarely, but it does.

The most infamous example of this sort at the highest level occurred on the fourth day of the second Test between New Zealand and England in Christchurch in February 1978. And the characters involved were two of the most stubborn in the game at the time - Geoff Boycott and Ian Botham.

England had travelled to New Zealand from a gruelling tour of Pakistan, and they did so without their captain, Mike Brearley, who had flown home after having his arm broken. In his place Boycott, who had only returned from a three-year self-imposed exile the summer before, took over the captaincy. It was a long-cherished ambition for him but he faced a tough job given his relationship with some team-mates was strained.

The first Test, in Wellington, had been a disaster that ended with England being bowled out for 64 when chasing a target of 137, handing the hosts their first win over England after 46 years of trying.

Boycott made 77 in England's first innings, but the manner in which he made it - it took seven hours and 22 minutes - impressed nobody. "He never attempted a scoring stroke off anything but the rankest long hops," wrote John Woodcock in the Times. "The effect this has is to depress the other batsmen infinitely more than the opposing bowlers. Boycott is an institution rather than an inspiration."

Don Mosey, in his book Boycott, noted that by the time the side reached Christchurch "the players were making no secret of their dislike of him... and the cricket correspondents largely despised him".

He was also struggling. Since arriving in New Zealand he had made 124 runs in six first-class innings outside the Tests and, Woodcock wrote, his batting had "become even more careworn and cautious", adding that he was "in danger of driving others to distraction rather than derring-do".

Also in the squad was Botham, the precocious 22-year-old allrounder who had made his Test debut in the same match in which Boycott had made his dramatic return the previous summer, but who had not played in any of the three Pakistan Tests after coming down with amoebic dysentery.

Botham bounced back in New Zealand, hitting his maiden hundred to get England out of a hole in the first innings in Christchurch - Boycott had made 8 and was also embroiled in an incident triggered by the dismissal of New Zealand opener Robert Anderson, who was bowled round his legs by a delivery from Phil Edmonds that bit out of the rough. Anderson waited for the umpire's decision, indicating he thought the ball had missed the stumps and that wicketkeeper Bob Taylor had knocked off the bails.

Mark Burgess, the New Zealand captain and the non-striker, made his views clear and there were some spirited exchanges. The crowd started jeering England and chanting "Cheats" and "All Poms are bastards." Asked at the close about the situation, Boycott did not mince his words. "It doesn't bother us… we only have to put up with it for another ten days. I don't see why foul-mouthed drunks should be allowed to drive people away from the game."

Although England took a lead of 183, their second innings did not start until the fourth afternoon, and quick runs were needed if they were to have enough time to bowl the New Zealanders out and in doing so level the series.

Brian Rose opened with Boycott and the pair set off at a funereal pace. In his book A Cricketing Hero Leo McKinstry wrote that as they prepared to head out, Rose said: "I suppose we're going to go out and slog it?" to which Boycott replied: "You play it your way, I'll play it mine."

When Rose fell for 7 England had crawled to 25 for 1 after 80 minutes. Boycott was all at sea, barely able to get the ball off the square. Pushing for quick runs was the last thing he needed or was likely to do.

Derek Randall came in to get things moving and was finding his feet when he was controversially run out by Ewen Chatfield while backing up. No warning was given, and England were livid. "New Zealand's reputation for fair play is in the gutter after the meanest act I have seen on a cricket field," was Pat Gibson's conclusion in the Daily Express.

Ian Botham apologises to Bob Taylor after running him out, New Zealand v England, 2nd Test, Christchurch, February 25, 1978
Ian Botham apologises to Bob Taylor after running him out in England's first innings. That was accidental unlike what followed © Getty Images

Botham was promoted to No. 4 by vice-captain Bob Willis with the aim of quick runs - and also with a specific order from Willis to "go and run the bugger [Boycott] out". Given the mental state of the tour party, it was a sentiment that probably echoed what they were all feeling.

Botham's first job was to let Chatfield know what he thought of his behaviour, and he then walked on to meet Boycott, who told him how he was struggling. Botham smiled and told him not to worry, and that he would sort it.

After 20 minutes the chance came. Botham called for the most improbable of singles, and by the time a bemused Boycott realised what was happening and tried to send his partner back, it was too late and Botham had run past him before he could regain his ground at the non-striker's end.

"He never stood a chance," admitted Botham. "What have you done, what have you done," Boycott muttered as it dawned on him he was out. Botham's response - allegedly, "I've run you out, you ****" - has gone down in folklore. "I couldn't look at him," Botham added. "I cracked up and had to go for a walk around the back of the umpire."

In his 1987 autobiography, Boycott barely mentions the incident, except to say: "Botham claims to have run me out deliberately, a story that gets bigger and more fanciful with every telling."

As captain, Boycott should have put the matter behind him, but at the close some 25 minutes later Botham said he returned to the pavilion to find Boycott sitting with a towel over his head. Team-mates said he had been muttering to himself, "What am I doing? Playing with children?"

Eventually Edmonds approached him: "Okay Boycs, what are we doing now?" From under his towel, Boycott replied: "You and Willis are in charge of this tour... you work it out."

That hostile atmosphere continued the following morning. Most people expected England, 279 ahead, to declare, but Boycott wanted to use the heavy roller to try to break the surface up a bit, and that meant batting on, even if only for one ball. There were heated discussions, and Boycott walked round the outfield agonising, before the sheer weight of his team's opinions won through. Fifteen minutes before the start he told Burgess that he had declared.

What the morning's antics did do was to wind Willis up, and he ripped through New Zealand's top order with 4 for 14. As for Botham, Boycott hadn't forgiven him, and refused to talk to him even when he was bowling, sending messages via other fielders. "Whoever was fielding at cover or mid-off would be sent over to me to say, 'Boycs wants to know if you want another slip', and I would respond 'That would be nice.' The fielder would trot over to Boycs and pass on the message."

England won the match with plenty to spare, bowling New Zealand out for 105.

Boycott and Botham continued to be team-mates for another three years, and for a spell in 1980 to 1981, roles were switched and Botham was Boycott's captain. Suffice to say neither, for entirely different reasons, succeeded in the role.

What happened next?

  • Boycott was not retained as captain for the following summer and a fit-again Brearley resumed. Writing in the Sunday Times in 1983, Brearley said that "when he took over after I broke my arm, [Boycott] won little except the recognition he was not the man to captain England"
  • The third Test in Auckland was drawn and so the series ended at 1-1. Boycott batted almost four hours for 54

Boycott Don Mosey (Penguin, 1986)
My Autobiography Geoff Boycott (Headline, 1987)
My Autobiography Ian Botham (Collins Willow, 1994)
Geoff Boycott: A Cricketing Hero Leo McKinstry (HarperCollinsWillow, 2005)

Martin Williamson is executive editor of ESPNcricinfo and managing editor of ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and Africa

RSS Feeds: Martin Williamson

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by EdwinD on (February 11, 2013, 11:15 GMT)

The clip from YouTube was added over the weekend - for some reason I was not able to add a comment prior - from the clip it's clear that Botham was too busy suppressing his laughter than to come out with the alleged comment that titles this article....quite misleading imo.

Posted by regofpicton on (February 11, 2013, 7:13 GMT)

I remmeber the incident, and it was very obvious! But i must say that, while i would prefer Botham in my team if things were going well, if things were going badly i would definitely want them both.

The modernl mystery with Boycott, who is an excellent judge, is that he is such a critic of slow batting.

And i do wonder if deliberate run-outs are not more common than we think, but we are decieved by the culprit's demeanour. I did notice that, when Taylor was run out in our second innings in the last test in Sri Lanka, Taylor was furious but Southee thought it a great joke. But then Southee is fairly inexperienced!!

Posted by KingOwl on (February 11, 2013, 0:48 GMT)

@crekeetman: A team which won 18.4% of the test matches they played is a weak team. You have mentioned a bunch of names. They are certainly talented cricketers. But India rarely won matches those days. In such a context, Gavaskar stood out, no doubt.

Posted by   on (February 10, 2013, 22:28 GMT)

@mikey76 - Lillee was never bowled anywhere near the 100mph mark - at best late 80's at his peak, but by 1981 was nearer late 70's to early 80's due to remodelling his action due to serious back injuries. He was a much better bowler after the injuries due to guile and a probing line on or just outside off stump. Without doubt one of the great fast bowlers action - much copied but never bettered :)

Posted by rienzied on (February 10, 2013, 14:53 GMT)

Deserved what he got... As much as liked Boycs, he wasn't a team player.

Posted by   on (February 10, 2013, 12:42 GMT)

There was the time, which Boycott still seethes at, when Dennis Amiss ran Boycott out...although that wasn't deliberate (despite what Boycott thinks)...and Amiss went on to get a big hundred. Boycott, in the dressing room, was moaning to the rest of the England team "they're my runs his scoring!". There's a lot of admire about Boycott; the runs he scored for England, his expert analysis of the game and a lot of common sense ideas for it, but that selfish streak did a lot of damage...but makes for good anecdotes.

Posted by David_Bofinger on (February 10, 2013, 11:59 GMT)

@yoohoo, are you saying Gavaskar was more like Allan Border?

Posted by creekeetman on (February 10, 2013, 10:51 GMT)

@PK... so true!

@yoohoo... you clearly don't know to much about cricket if you consider players like Dev, Bedi, Chandrasekhar, Venkat, Amarnath, Vengsarkar, Viswanath, Kirmani, Azharuddin to be "weak"... thats just of the top of my head, i'm sure there are others i don't remember off hand.

Posted by KingOwl on (February 10, 2013, 1:01 GMT)

Wow, I never knew Boycott was this kind of low life until now!

Posted by __PK on (February 9, 2013, 22:32 GMT)

Great story. I'd love to know exactly how much of it is unexaggerated. One thing that stands out to me is how little the NZ crowds' behaviour has improved since 1978.

Posted by yoohoo on (February 9, 2013, 20:05 GMT)

@BnH1985Fan - Not really a fair comparison. It is like comparing lara's contributions to victories to Pontings. Gavaskar played in a team that was mediocre and used to being beaten. For most of his career he was saving the blushes for the indian team. Only occasionally did his efforts result in victories, since the rest of the team was weak. Not so with boycott. He was part of a good/great english team.

Posted by mikey76 on (February 9, 2013, 17:44 GMT)

Electro_pap or whatever your name is. The defining image of the 81 ashes was Botham hooking Lillee's 100mph "red rocks" into the stands, no helmet. Just a ton of guts and talent. As long as Botham was around Aussies usually shrunk off into the background completely demoralised. Even when he was past his peak in the 91 World Cup he demolished Australia with his canny medium pace.

Posted by MiddleStump on (February 9, 2013, 16:47 GMT)

Good thinking by Willis. Too bad that Venkat did not order the same prescription to run out Gavaskar in the 75 World Cup. The cricket fraternity had to endure the worst batting performance in the history of the game when SMG thundered to 36 not out at the end of 60 overs.

Posted by K.A.K on (February 9, 2013, 15:20 GMT)

Simply superb writing about cricket's historical events. We should get more of these.

Posted by creekeetman on (February 9, 2013, 15:11 GMT)

@ BnH1985Fan.... good post.

Posted by BnH1985Fan on (February 9, 2013, 14:38 GMT)

Someone indicated Boycott and Gavaskar were selfish players and never really helped their team win. So I thought I'd ask 'statsguru'. Boycott played in 108 test matches of which his side won 35 (32%); in contrast Gavaskar's side won 18.4% in his 125 matches. Boycott averaged 54.6 with 10 centuries in wins (i.e. 45% of all his centuries have come in wins, and his average in games won is higher than his career average). Gavaskar averaged around 44 (compared to career average of 51), and scored 6 (out of 34) centuries in India's wins.

You decide who was 'better'.

Just one final caveat - cricket is a team sport, and the word team does not have an "I" in it!

Posted by Jonathan_E on (February 9, 2013, 13:22 GMT)

Re. Botham's record against Australia: Since when is "averaging 27 with the ball" merely "ordinary" for a guy who also scored four centuries against them?

Although it's also true that Botham's batting average against Australia was actually lower than his overall numbers. Through his entire career he was prone to early dismissals: and even in the legendary 1981 series, he made three ducks, two of them in the same match, and in fact only made three scores of significance - BUT they were the two centuries, and the first-innings 50 at Headingley. What Botham did not do was "a useful 30-40 even on a bad day".

Likewise, in the 1985 tour, he got two early 50s, and *that* little cameo where he hit his first two balls for six but was out for only 18: but was otherwise a failure with the bat, and far more consistent with the ball.

Story of the Beefy career in fact: his best batting position was 7, but England kept on promoting him to 6, and were batting-light as a result.

Posted by bumsonseats on (February 9, 2013, 12:28 GMT)

electric_loco_WAPS botham had no problems with the aussies during his time if you said the WI then you have a point. he ate the aussies for breakfast. did you not see or remember 81. 85. 86/7 these were the times they would tremble at his name either with bat or ball and i was lucky enough to have see most of it live. so my friend tell us of your enjoyable moments when botham came a cropper against the aussies. in his pomp he would run them ragged.

Posted by valleypf on (February 9, 2013, 11:26 GMT)

India_boy Doesn't time distort the memory? Botham averaged a very poor 29 with the bat and an ordinary 27 with the ball in all Tests against Australia. Good player and dangerous on his day and perhaps in the best 10 allrounders, but only just.

Posted by Slysta on (February 9, 2013, 10:59 GMT)

Gee whiz, electric, what on Earth are you talking about? Botham hurt us far more than we hurt him... sure, it was nice to send him packing in 1989, but he was well past his best by then. Edgbaston 1981? Headlingley 1981? Two matches we dominated until he snatched them away, and an Ashes loss the result. Or the Boxing Day Test 1982, when Border and Thomson so nearly pulled off a miracle for us, the 10th-wicket pair having made 70 of the 74 we needed for victory? Who took the final wicket for England when all looked lost at the death?

Posted by   on (February 9, 2013, 10:42 GMT)

Oh god!!! It's been more than 30 years, No use old discussing or basing them!! Simply both of them are legends!!!

Posted by mahjut on (February 9, 2013, 10:07 GMT)

For any who have not had a quick look at his bio... "As opener he saw his first task as scoring heavily enough to protect his teams against defeat [...] How valuable he was to England is shown by the fact that only 20 of his 108 Tests ended in defeat, mainly when he failed.""

Posted by Dannymania on (February 9, 2013, 10:06 GMT)

terrific,fantastic type up! Players like Boycott,Gavaskar..these players never ever put the team's interest first,before their own.Misbah is also the same type of player but he is a good captain which is a plus.Anyways,Test players should be more like Dravid than like others.Dravid was very defensive but he was still a very good ODI player as he played the ball mostly on merit.We have a problem(I am a Pakistani),that we have Azhar ali,Younis khan,Asad Shafiq and Misbah as our middle order.Younis khan and Asad Shafiq play the ball on merit but Misbah and especially Azhar Ali just play on and on without caring for the team's condition.

Posted by skilebow on (February 9, 2013, 9:30 GMT)

@electric_loco_WAP4 - Constant Ashes hammering?!! Are you feeling alright or do you genuinely know nothing about cricket?!

Posted by India_boy on (February 9, 2013, 9:29 GMT)

@electric...seriously??? Bots took 5 wkts and a century in the same inns. 5 times when nobody else has done it more than twice? I am a neutral but the best information of Bots that people have of him is beating the hell outta Oz whenever he wished!

Posted by landl47 on (February 9, 2013, 8:43 GMT)

@electric_loco_WAP4: Botham took part in 7 Ashes series and England won 5 of them.

Maybe you should stick to writing about subjects you know, if there are any.

Posted by electric_loco_WAP4 on (February 9, 2013, 6:58 GMT)

A very ordinary Botham showing his true colours.... I guess the prospect of facing upto Lillee and.....Thommo red 'rocks' hurled @ 100MPH do take a toll on sanity. Aah ,also to be on receiving end of constant Ashes hammerings doesn't help either...

Posted by   on (February 9, 2013, 6:37 GMT)

Have read the story couple of times, but never once in such depth. Thanks for writing it for us!

Posted by   on (February 9, 2013, 5:32 GMT)

For all his 'slow' cricket. Did Boycs have a good technique? What was his record against the Windies?

Posted by Sir.Ivor on (February 9, 2013, 5:14 GMT)

Geoff Boycott is an all time great. He may not have been charismatic like Gary Sobers but his greatness as a cricketer is not open to question. In those days, England were not very cohesive as a unit. I am talking about the fifties and the early sixties. There was the distinct class divide between the amateurs and the professionals. In fact even today, there is togetherness only when they are winning.That is possibly because they field teams of players of different nationalities or having origins other than in England.For all the re-integration of Kevin Pietersen into the England team after his publicised acrimony against Team England, it is worth hoping that this continues because Kevin is a wonderfully gifted cricketer.Ian Botham was poor captain as many may not know.But he was popular because he was a great all rounder when England cricket was pretty low in esteem. Boycott on the other hand was never popular. So in abusing Sir Geoffrey, Sir Ian had enhanced his popularity actually.

Posted by   on (February 9, 2013, 4:37 GMT)

During late 90's when Dravid was batting slowly in ODI's Boycott used to fume from the commentary box, that I time I never knew what kind of player he was.....

Posted by SpeedCricketThrills on (February 9, 2013, 4:10 GMT)

Interesting read. A watered down version of Boycott in Indian team at that time was Gavaskar. The two have many things in coomon in terms of temperament, on and off the field

Posted by   on (February 9, 2013, 3:19 GMT)

I recall Boycs was infamous for being selfish..wonder how code of conduct if existed would have applied to Botham for what he did. Very nice article.

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