The last time England smiled at Old Trafford against Australia was way back in 1981. Since then Manchester has been a happy hunting ground for Australia. Even when they came close to lose a Test in 2005, in a nervy-affair, Australia prevailed.
However, England is also on a good run at the venue having not lost any of its previous 11 Tests (W9 D2) since a defeat to Pakistan in 2001, where Inzamam-ul-Haq, Saqlain Mushtaq, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis ensured a great comeback after that defeat at Lord’s in the first Test.
Who else but Ian Botham made England smile at Manchester against their arch-rivals.
It was the fifth Test after the epic encounter at Edgbaston and as it turned out, it was a must-win for Australia to survive in this series as they were trailing by 2-1.
Despite the greenish-tinch on the wicket and overcast skies above, Mike Brearley decided to bat fast and were in all sorts of trouble against Dennis Lillee and Terry Alderman.
Chris Tavare’s 69 off 293 balls helped to glue the batting line-up, but the rest stayed at the wicket for a shorter period. At 175 for 9, Australia thought of ending the innings below 200. Sadly, Paul Allot and Bob Willis put up a defiant resistance, which frustrated a fiery Lillee. 56 runs were added for the last wicket and England ended at 231 – a fighting total given the nature of the deck.
Bob Willis, Paul Allott and Ian Bothan rolled through the Australian batting line-up. Had Queensland’s Martin Kent not showed the courage to stand against the pace and movement of English bowlers, the total might not have reached 130. Kent would play his final Test at the Oval and would not feature anymore.
Moreover, Australia scored at a rate of 4.28 runs per over, but such an attacking intent backfired as an amalgamation of caution and aggression was the order of the day.
England’s reply in the second innings was scratchy until Ian Botham decided to show his class when England were reeling at 104 for 5.
It was one hell of a swashbuckling innings where Botham cut the Australian attack into pieces like a butcher. Powerful strokes all over the ground, especially the cuts through offside and square of the wicket were an indication of a player who had no fear and anxiety about facing the fury of Lillee and Alderman. Then Alan Knott and John Emburey added insult to the injury by scoring half-centuries. The match went out of Australia’s control.
It was impossible to chase down 506 in the fourth innings. At least they could salvage a draw to keep the sixth Test alive.
Graham Yallop and Allan Border gave them hope on Day 5. Yallop and Border notched up hundreds, while Rod Marsh and Dennis Lille tried their level best to support Border, who was not willing to give up so easily.
Willis, Allott, Botham and Emburey maintained their persistence.
Border was left stranded not out at 123 as the English pacers and spinners targeted the rest – Australia lost by 103 runs and the Ashes.
Ian Botham was the match of the match.
England have the Botham of the modern era.
Perhaps, he might break the Manchester-jinx this time around. After that mind-blowing hundred at Leeds, Stokes is already in the zone, where is capable of achieving the most impossible targets. In simpler words, he is in the mode of Ian Botham 1981. And for which, England can dream big of retaining the Ashes.