Two of the best cricket writers celebrate Ian Botham's 50th birthday in today's Times:
IAN BOTHAM is 50 today. Because he once said, with customary abandon and uncomplicated humour, that Pakistan would make as good a place as any to send your mother-in-law on a single ticket, it is a delicious irony that that is where he should be spending his birthday, commentating on the England cricket tour…writes John Woodcock...
IAN BOTHAM was to England cricket in the ten years after his first appearance in 1977 what Andrew Flintoff is to the present team and W. G. Grace was to the earliest England sides — the hub of the team, the inspiration, the big man, the one for whom no challenge seemed too big…writes Christopher Martin-Jenkins
If the natural heirs to the great British military heroes like Nelson, Wellington and Cochrane are now to be found instead in the world of sport, then Botham is up there with the best of them.
He ticked every box for national hero-worship: the never-say-die attitude, the larger-than-life personality, the ability to defy impossible odds with sheer force of will, the ability to inspire the mediocrities around him, and of course the deep flaws that generated so many tabloid headlines.
Sadly, England only managed a draw today in Faisalabad, but Happy Birthday anyway Beefy - the world would have been a measurably poorer place without your mighty mullet and miraculous victories.