Great Uncle Bimbo’s Sporting Memories #1

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Davidd and I are 57 years old in a couple of months’ time and during those years we have watched some great sporting events. Today, we are starting a new series of posts where we will recall our memories of those events featuring some of our greatest heroes. We have lived through England winning the World Cup (we were a little young, though), Muhammad Ali’s greatest fights, Stoke City winning the League Cup and Botham’s Ashes. Some great times and even more great memories which we hope to share with you during the coming months. Today we would like to share our memories off

During the summer of 1981, England’s cricket team were under the cosh, facing an Australian team who were all over us. It is often overlooked just how awful England were in the first half of that summer. They lost a dreadful first Test at Trent Bridge, and collected a draw at Lord’s, after which Ian Botham, who bagged a pair there, stood down as captain after receiving a sitting silence from the England supporters.

So when they moved on to Headingley and were dismissed for 174 – 227 runs behind the Australians – and immediately lost the wicket of Graham Gooch for a duck as they followed on, Leeds was a grim place to be. That Saturday night the scoreboard flashed up those famous odds, 500-1, for England to win. All that the spectators could manage that day was derisive laughter. “Here we go again,” people thought.

Can we ever hear or read too much about Headingley 1981? Never!

Monday, 20th July 1981 was the feast day of the greatest cricketer this country produced in the second half of the last century. It was not Botham’s finest innings – that came two Tests later, at Old Trafford – but it is the performance that made him immortal as the man who single-handedly beat the Aussies.

Even that phrase is not the literal truth. Bob Willis played a fairly significant role, taking 8 for 43 on that final afternoon, as he ran in, hypnotised, from the Kirkstall Lane End, with a point to prove – he was nearly dropped after Lord’s. But legends are not hammered into shape on the anvil of cold facts. Count them if you like – Botham took six first-innings wickets, a half-century in England’s feeble total of 174, and then that 149 not out. No, legends are made by men who know no fear.

In the midsummer of his career Botham was as fearless a cricketer as any who ever lived. ‘Leonine’ was the adjective Christopher Martin-Jenkins used to describe that brutal innings as a nation watched in amazement on BBC Two. Quite right. He roared that day, and the Aussies cowered.

The following day amazement became disbelief. Australia required only 130 to win, and had laid 56 bricks along that road when their second wicket fell. Willis then enjoyed his own feast day, and when the players skipped from the field it was hard for anybody to take it all in.

It still is to this day!

That was the day the brokers stopped trading on the Stock Exchange so that the City could watch impossible events unfold 240 miles north. It is a day that all who lived through it can remember, whether they were there or not. Davidd and I could not believe it and had to watch the Nine O’clock News just to make sure we were not dreaming about a day unparalleled in cricket history.

Don Bradman was once the king of Headingley. The Don made 334 there in 1930, and another 304 four years later. But even kings must bend the knee. The ground belongs to Ian Botham because he changed a game, and a series, and, by altering the course of a tumultuous summer, became a national hero.

No England cricketer has ever known the glory that Botham knew in 1981 and no England cricketer ever will again!

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Great Uncle Bimbo

I was given to The Bearkeeper on the 24th October 1960 in St Catherine’s Hospital when I was presented to him as a “birth” day present. I came home with him and have been with him ever since. We grew up together and, unlike many other people, he has never decided he was too old to have a teddy bear. I am the oldest bear here at Jammy Toast.


17 Comments on “Great Uncle Bimbo’s Sporting Memories #1”

  1. I was getting excited about the start of the New Football Season and then I remembered I am a Fucking Pigeon with no Concept of Football.

  2. I always remember Richie Benaud’s commentary when Botham hit a massive six and he said: “Don’t bother looking for that, let alone chasing it.”

  3. Supremacy is all about Perspective. Big Eared Larry is always telling me he is from a Superior Race. Yep. All I can see is a Fucking Donkey.

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