Bengaluru, July 10: England are set to renew their rivalry with archrivals Australia in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 with the two sides set to meet each other in the second semifinal at Edgbaston on Thursday (July 11).
This is the perfect time to recall England legend Ian Botham's all-round classic in the 1992 World Cup tie against Australia on March 5 at the Sydney Cricket Ground on March 5.
Botham was 36 then and certainly past his prime. His overweight look didn't give the same impression about the match-winning cricketer he was known to be. The man was still a member of the English World Cup squad that had headed Down Under in the hunt for the country's first-ever crown. He had missed the previous World Cup in the sub-continent and the 1992 edition was his last.
England were playing New Zealand in an away series just before the World Cup that year. Botham was not part of the initial squad, though he was called up for the final Test in Wellington after some players pulled out because of injury and got his 100th game. And then a 79-ball 73 as the opener in the ODI series against the Kiwis raised his rating as a pinch-hitter in the WC that followed.
Botham hadn't tasted much of a success in the first few matches of the World Cup but then as the fixture against old foes Australia neared, the man too neared his vintage self. The cricketer, who always loved punching the Australians just like Viv Richards loved to do against the Englishmen, had also made a cheeky remark about the Australia-England league game scheduled in Melbourne.
He asked with a mischievous grin: "What would be better than to beat the Aussies in front of 100,000 convicts?" The target was Australia's past and it had even touched the political circles. A week before the England-Australia game, the then Australian prime minister Paul Keating emphasised in his speech before the Queen about Australia's independence. The tension was growing.
But for Botham, the only thing that had mattered on the day was his all-round ability. Allan Border won the toss and took first use of the wicket in a match that Australia had to win to remain in the race for the semifinals. They were placed well at 145 for four after opener Tom Moody made 51 but from then onwards, it was all Botham. The home team lost their remaining six wickets for 26 runs and of those, Botham took as many as four in a span of seven balls to finish with four for 31, his career-best bowling figures in ODIs.
Botham was still not done. He then came out to open with his captain Graham Gooch and made 53 off 77 balls as the duo put up a score of 107 while chasing a moderate target of 172. Australia were thumped by eight wickets and it almost ended their run to defend the trophy they had won defeating the very England in 1987.
Botham was well past his prime in the tournament and his only fifty and the best bowling had come in that one game in which he finished as the man of the match. He even made the local journalists, who had mocked him as "pot-bellied yobbo" after his "convicts" remark, now praise him.
Even Border felt compelled to say: "Botham is the ultimate competitor. He saves his best for us."