Act 6: In Which The Sun Always Shines

Test 908: England v Australia at The Oval, Aug 27th-Sep 1st 1981.
Match Drawn

The sun always shines at the Oval,And
The summer in golden repose,
The evening still light, and the days are still bright,
As expectation grows.

The sun always shines at the Oval,
It dried out the track for the bats,
This memorable tie was now dead as a contest,
And more of a record of stats.

Border’s 100 and Boycott’s 100,
And Lillee’s seven for,
And Wellham’s 100, and Botham’s six,
And countless others more.

The sun always shines on the Oval,
On Botham, on England, on all,
The sun always shines on the Oval,
On the greatest test series of all?

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Act 5: In Which The Light Shines Brightly.

Test 907: England v Australia at Manchester, Aug 13th-17th 1981
England won by 103 runs

The cracks now splits,
Weakness apparent,
Division now riven,
Australia down.

Tormentor in chief Botham
Has just one more card to play.

And what a card!
And what a hand!
One hundred and eighteen!
Thirteen fours, six sixes.

A brutal demolition,
Of Lillee, of Alderman,
Of Australia,
Of the Ashes,
And England win. Oh, England win.

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Act 4: In Which The Full Height of Heroism Is Revealed

Test 906 – England v. Australia, 4th Test, July 30-Aug 2 1981
England won by 29 runs

They came to Leeds with desperate hope,
The left Leeds in elation,
A hero risen, decked in white,
To represent the nation.

In Birmingham he rose again,
With ball instead of bat,
But Botham was the man again,
There’s little doubting that.

He didn’t hit a fifty,
Then nor did anyone,
And wickets in the first innings,
He mustered only one.

Yet greatness shows when needed most,
And England were in trouble,
Then 5 for 1 off 28,
Australia were rubble.

And suddenly this playing ‘Both’,
Was made again Colossus,
Two tests Australia looked to win,
He’d forced them into losses.

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And Breathe

Test 905. England v. Australia at Leeds, 16th-21st July 1981.
England won by 18 runs.

500/1 on the Saturday,
England were down and were out.
They were following on, and the Ashes were gone,
To the bookies there was little doubt.

It was 6/1 and Gooch had gone,
As the Sunday was taken for rest,
How the rally would happen, if the rally would happen,
Was anyone’s unlikely guess.

But Boycott was Boycott, and Boycott dug in,
And opened a think chink of light,
It opened for Botham, who came to the wicket,
From doing all wrong, everything went right.

He crashed and he walloped with eager contempt,
He battered Australia’s best,
He led England right up to three fifty-six,
And seized full control of the test.

The shadowed Australia needed 130 to win,
Looked in control of the battle of wills,
But the wheels came off when they’d got 56,
As they suffered the battle of Willis.

He got Chappell, then Hughes, and then Yallop, then Dyson,
And wasn’t done with just the four,
He got Marsh and then Lawson, and Lillee and Bright,
He couldn’t have done any more.

So England had done it, and England had won it,
And England had come from the brink,
And England were in it, and England could win it,
And England all went for a drink.

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Act 2: In Which England Lose A Captain and Draw A Game

Test 904 – England v. Australia at Lord’s, July 2nd-7th, 1981
Match Drawn

“Botham must go,” howled the red top press,
And go he did, for a duck.
‘Botham must go’ went the mood of the crowd,
Down on form and down on his luck.

Out went his middle stump, not a run yet,
As England crept up to their score,
Three hundred eleven (Graham Dilley got seven
and Willey a good deal more).

With the ball, then, could Botham yet impact the test,
He did but Australia led,
With no huge contributions, they had many a nuisance,
Lillee’s 40 just nudged them ahead.

In the second dig Boycott and Gower scored runs,
As England declared it looked right,
But still not their captain, as Superman Botham,
Was bowled out first ball by Ray Bright.

Australia wobbled and lost early wickets,
And at one point were seventeen for three,
Then they called on their plentiful grit and resolve,
And held on with ease after tea.

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Act 1: In Which Australia Smell Blood

Test 902 – England v. Australia at Nottingham, June 18th-21st 1981
Australia won by 4 wickets

The Ashes is a drama
With as many acts as games,
It makes heroes out of cricketers,
And giants out of names.

At Trent Bridge back in 81,
The giants shrunk a little,
Too much time finding what went wrong,
Too little in the middle.

And England were not blown away,
Nor Botham’s captaincy,
Australia just wore them down,
With grim efficiency.

The pressure was in Botham’s head,
And writ large in his play,
As catches spilled on to the turf,
On first and second day.

It was hardly a test to remember,
A green top made treacherous batting,
Only Allan Border looked comfortable,
And to a lesser extent so did Gatting.

But Australia won, as Australia do,
They never let up on a chance,
With Botham on trial and England in pieces,
The drama, at 1-0, advanced.

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In Bloom

Test 902 – West Indies v. England at Kingston, April 10th-15th, 1981
Match Drawn

This could be the tale of Graham Gooch,
And his stiff upper lip,
His refusal to bow down to Colin Croft,
And stubborn English grit.

It could the story of captain Clive Lloyd,
A faultless reliable bat,
But he has been that now for many a year,
So where is the drama in that?

For this was the making of one David Gower,
A veritable coming of age,
From delicate, budding, youthful flower,
To commander of the stage.

He gave a chance, just one chance mind,
When dropped on twenty nine,
But he dug in his heels and gutted it out,
Making not just runs but time.

It was so un-Gower-like, yet that itself,
Gower-like became redefined,
Adding the hardness, resistance and steel,
Adding the strength of mind.

The pictures were there, and he still struck a six,
A controlled, almost brush stroke of power,
The West Indians toiled, and paid total respect,
They just couldn’t better our Gower.

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