I watched a 30 year anniversary documentary last night about Botham and the 1981 Ashes series, which for people of my generation will always be the Ashes series. I was somehow relieved to see John Major, Elton John, Mick Jagger and Stephen Fry, among others, talking obsessively about it, just as I do. It is probably hard now to explain that a sporting event could have such a profund grip on national consciousness.
I thought the documentary ought to have mentioned Graham Dilley in the Headingley test, without whom Botham’s great innings could never have happened. Indeed my recollection is that it was a couple of sparkling cover drives from Dilley that sparked Botham into what I am sure, at the start, was just the idea of having some fun, rather than slowly grinding to grim defeat. Dilley eventually got out when caught at cover off a drive as truly hit as any ever was, just short of his fifty. With the Aussie attack visibly on the ropes I was hopeful that Chris Old, the hook nosed Yorkshireman with a reputation for really belting it, would also go to town, but he never really got going – after thirty years I remember him as having made 26, not sure how accurate that is, but I don’t want to change any particle of my memory of this particular occasion. But the genius, the aura of Botham!
Then the great Bob Willis and those knackered knees, which didn’t get mentioned last night either – sorry for the cavilling, it was a brilliant documentary.
I watched it all with my friend Martin on a tiny black and white TV, on a narrow boat on the Oxford canal, with Blenheim Palace shimmering in the heat haze. Our two lovely girlfriends were doing all the boating and loch opening work, and cooking the meals, while wearing very little and looking wonderful, while we drank wine and watched cricket. Aah, the days when such unabashed sexism was considered strange by nobody, how I miss them!!
It its thirty years since that Botham summer. Happy memories. A couple of weeks after the Headingley test, of course, we had the Charles/Diana wedding. The truckload of royal bilge that must be in preparation by the media will soon clear my nostalgia.