No. 2: Ian Botham, India v England, Bombay, 1979-80
When Ian Botham landed in India in February 1980 for the one-off Test to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of the Indian board, he was at the height of his powers. Still only 25 years old, in the two-and-a-half years since his Test debut he had taken by storm a cricket world in need of good news after the schism caused by World Series Cricket.
In 23 Tests he had scored 1095 runs at 35.32 and taken 122 wickets at 19.22. With a self confidence and an attitude to match his performances, he seemed almost unstoppable. England arrived with their, and captain Mike Brearley's, reputation dented by a 30- defeat in a short tour of Australia, but Botham had emerged unscathed. He scored a hundred in the final Test at Melbourne and had taken 19 wickets at 19.52 overall.
Three days before the start of the Bombay Test, Botham had signalled his intent by winning a double-wicket competition, partnered by Graham Gooch, in front of 50,000 at the Wankhede. When the Test began, he continued where he left off. Indian won the toss and batted, but the conditions were made for Botham. Fearing the double spin attack of Derek Underwood and John Emburey, the groundsman had left the pitch far grassier than usual - that part of the plan worked as Underwood only bowled a handful of overs while Emburey didn't bowl at all. But the extra grass, allied to humid, overcast weather, was just what Botham wanted.
His first spell was lively but he beat the bat regularly without finding the edge. He returned just before lunch to claim the prized wicket of Sunil Gavaskar, and in the first over of his third spell removed Sandeep Patil and Kapil Dev, polishing off the innings just before the close to finish with 6 for 58.
The next day was a rest day, caused by a total eclipse, and when the match resumed England were reduced to 58 for 5, unable to cope against a moving ball. Enter Botham. In two hours 26 minutes he smacked 114, sweeping the spinners superbly, adding 171 for the sixth wicket with Bob Taylor. Thanks to the pair of them, England took a first-innings lead of 54 where a deficit had earlier seemed more than likely. It was the third time that Botham had scored a hundred and taken a five-for. It was to get even better.
When India batted again on the third day, Botham bowled unchanged from just before lunch to the close - four-and-a-half hours - to end the day with 6 for 48. He swung and bounced the ball more than any other bowler, and he added a seventh wicket with the first ball of the fourth day, a diving catch by Taylor to give him a world record ten for the match. Botham's match figures of 13 for 106 would have been remarkable; his hundred on top made his performance almost superhuman.
What he said at the time
A bored Botham on amusing himself back at the hotel after the fourth day's play. "I set Crash (journalist Chris Lander) and Deadly (Underwood) a challenge: standing on the table, they had to drink some brandy, eat a tandoori chicken and read a passage from the Gideon Bible at the same time. They failed miserably." Botham, who successfully took them on at his own challenge, grabbed a wicket in the first over the next day.
How the media reported it
"Few English allrounders have ever have so dominated a game of cricket at this level," gushed The Times. "His performance, in both skill and stamina, was remarkable," was Wisden's review of the match.
This was a watershed. Botham returned home to take over the captaincy from Mike Brearley, and his form plummeted. In the next 12 Tests he played, he managed 276 runs at 13.14 and 35 wickets at 33.08, and sacked after the Lord's Test of 1981, 16 months after his Bombay triumph, he only retained his place in the XI on the request of the returning Mike Brearley. Of course, Botham's heroics against Australia later that summer are part of cricket's history, and although there were many more glory days, he went into a slow decline ... but was still feared and greatly respected as an opponent on the reputation of what he had achieved early in his career.