It was the poisoned chalice, the hospital pass, the hot potato that no one dared to hold, at least until that big Preston lad came along. So here they are, ladies and gentlemen, in chronological order: the 10 greatest ‘New Bothams’.
10) DEREK PRINGLE
England Test debut: 1982
30 Tests (70 wickets; 1 fifty) 44 ODIs (44 wickets; 0 fifties)
Broad of beam and the first English Test cricketer to sport an earring, Pringle had the physique and the rebellious streak to fill Botham’s shoes, and was duly thrown into an Ashes tour in 1982/83 before he’d sobered up from Cambridge. Indeed, the classical education didn’t quite match up with the burly image. He later bowled usefully alongside Beefy in the 1992 World Cup.
9) PHIL DEFREITAS
England Test debut: 1986
44 Tests (140 wickets; 4 fifties) 103 ODIs (115 wickets; 1 fifty)
DeFreitas was measured for the crown after the 1986/87 Ashes tour, when pundits figured that if the young pup could survive three months as Botham’s room-mate, he was capable of anything. At his best, Daffy’s away-swingers and proud top-lip appendage evoked the Beefster somewhere near his pomp. One stunning knock at Adelaide in 1994/95 left us wondering what might have been, but though that 95-ball 88 led to a great England victory, the innings remained his highest Test score.
8) DAVID CAPEL
England Test debut: 1987
15 Tests (21 wickets; 2 fifties) 23 ODIs (17 wickets; 1 fifty)
A plucky fifty against Imran and Wasim on debut promised much, but Capes never quite shook the backhanded ‘plucky’ compliment, and after 15 Tests he was dispensed with. It was harsh treatment on a good cricketer who would go on to take over 500 first-class wickets and make over 12,000 runs. Clean-bowling Viv Richards at Barbados in 1990 hinted at a Beefy-esque love of the big moment; being hit out of the park by Gordon Greenidge a week later in Antigua kept the excitement in perspective.
7) CHRIS LEWIS
England Test debut: 1990
32 Tests (93 wickets; 1 hundred, 4 fifties) 53 ODIs (66 wickets; 0 fifties)
Could have been a contender. On the good days he bowled fast and straight with a beautifully fluid action, fielded like no other English cricketer and struck the ball with freedom and power. But the good days were just too infrequent, and the sweet memories – clean-bowling Sachin at Lord’s, smashing a century at Chennai, a key role in the 1992 World Cup – were eventually lost underneath a pile of ill-advised trysts, from nude magazine shoots, to getting sunstroke on England duty, to iffy excuses for being late. That he later found himself in a prison cell in Sutton serving time after a cocaine trafficking bust makes for a sad footnote.
6) DERMOT REEVE
England Test debut: 1993
3 Tests (2 wickets; 1 fifty) 29 ODIs (20 wickets; 0 fifties)
Another member of the 1992 World Cup squad, Dermot Reeve fancied himself as a new Botham. Something rotten. However, 20 wickets and 291 runs from 29 ODIs speaks for itself. But as Warwickshire’s club captain in the Nineties, he was something of a phenomenon. Later he turned to other stimulants, and a career as a fabulously erratic TV commentator.
5) DARREN GOUGH
England Test debut: 1994
58 Tests (229 wickets; 2 fifties) 159 ODIs (235 wickets; 0 fifties)
Today we know him as the sequin-flaunting Barnsley boy of Saturday night hoofing. But for what seemed at least six minutes in 1994, Darren Gough was not merely England’s best fast-bowling hope in a generation; on the back of a riotous half-century on debut against New Zealand in 1994 and some inspired thwacking at Sydney later that winter, Goughie was being proclaimed as Ian Botham reincarnate. If the Eighties were Botham’s, then the Nineties, as much as they belonged to any Englishman, were Dazzler’s. But after that knock at Sydney, he never made another fifty in his Test career.
4) CRAIG WHITE
England Test debut: 1994
30 Tests (59 wickets; 1 hundred, 5 fifties) 51 ODIs (65 wickets; 1 fifty)
Craig White’s career with England can be split in to two categories. The ‘Sleepy’ period, 1994-1997, as a defensive back-up bowler and chippy No.6. And the ‘Wheels’ era of 2000-2002, when Chalky found another gear, sent down some rapid spells (bowling Lara around his legs in 2000), and smacked it about with the bat. His body gave way midway through an Ashes series in Australia, but for two fiery years he had given a damn good impression of a charismatic international allrounder. Beefy has had worse pretenders. Many.
3) DOMINIC CORK
England Test debut: 1995
37 Tests (131 wickets; 3 fifties) 32 ODIs (41 wickets; 0 fifties)
He certainly had the ego; he may even have had the big-match temperament. Indeed, for a couple of years in the mid-Nineties, around the time that Cork was cutting the West Indians to pieces – something Botham never quite managed – it appeared that England may have finally found their man. But Cork’s ebullience couldn’t disguise his limitations with the bat at Test level, and with the ball in foreign conditions he couldn’t find the late movement that had first got people talking. A good England career that certainly had its moments came to an end in 2002.
2) BEN HOLLIOAKE
England Test debut: 1999
2 Tests (4 wickets; 0 fifties) 20 ODIs (8 wickets; 2 fifties)
Ben Hollioake was just 19 when he first strolled out to bat for England. Even then, in 1997, this willowy Anglo-Australian was already a dangerous cricketer, a supremely clean ball-striker and a bowler with a strong, high action whose natural athleticism spoke of great things for the future. And at Lord’s that day, against Australia in the final ODI of the pre-Ashes series, the teenager would play one of the great cameo innings in the history of the old ground. His 63 that day featured a languid six against Warne, some upright drives against McGrath and enough sprinkling of class to leave us intrigued, and two months later he was in the Test team.
But Ben Hollioake would not get to fulfil his promise. On the night of March 23, 2002, in Perth, Western Australia, he lost control of his Porsche as he drove back from a family meal. It span off the road and straight into a wall. He died, aged just 24 years and 132 days. He was the youngest English Test cricketer to die. At his funeral, Alec Stewart described Ben as the most naturally gifted cricketer that he had ever played with.
Just watch this video of him batting on debut and then remind yourself that HE WAS NINETEEN. Extraordinary.
1) ANDREW FLINTOFF
England Test debut: 1998
79 Tests (226 wickets; 5 hundreds, 26 fifties) 141 ODIs (169 wickets; 3 hundreds, 18 fifties)
It started meekly with a scratchy 17 and a pair, and finished hobbling on one leg, with just a bullet arm to call upon. But for four years between 2003 to 2006 Flintoff justified his place in England’s Test team on batting or bowling alone. And to truly complete his march to greatness it hadn’t even been enough to scalp Australia in a Man of the Series performance; in order to end our obsessive quest for the ‘New Botham’, it had fallen on Flintoff to make the game loveable again, and in 2005 Fred did just that. He changed the perception of cricket in this country. He took it onto another plane, just as Botham had 24 years before him. It just wouldn’t be the same today without them.