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On this day: Ian Botham makes final first-class appearance

As the second Ashes Test continues, Sports Mole takes a look back at Ian Botham's career highlights, 20 years to the day that he made his first-class swan song.

Every now and then in sport a player comes along who propels his team to a different level, a player who can turn even an average team into challengers. For English cricket in the late 1970s through the 1980s that man was Sir Ian Botham.

Genuine all-rounders are very few and far between. Players who can score freely with the bat and then turn around to rough up opposition openers are priceless, and Botham was the best of those that England has ever seen.

However, all good things must come to an end and on July 19, 1993 Botham made his final appearance in a first-class cricket match for Durham against an Australian XI, leaving behind a string of records and memories for those who watched him.

Ian Botham in action on June 12, 1991© PA Photos

His first-class career spanned nearly two decades from his debut in 1974 to this day 20 years ago. Although he was hardly known as the hardest worker off the pitch, few could argue with the impression he made on it.

Three years after his first-class debut, Botham made his first Test appearance to begin what was a glittering England career. He immediately impressed in none other than an Ashes Test match.

With the ball he tore apart Australia, both at the top of the order and the tail, as the hosts took the match by seven wickets and would go on to win the series 3-0. Botham had achieved a five-for at the first time of asking and, despite not adding to his total in the second innings, had made his mark.

Botham relished the big stage, which in cricket does not get more monumental than the Ashes. By the time his 12 years of playing Ashes cricket had come to an end in 1989, he had become far and away England's highest wicket-taker in the great battle against the Australians. He has 148 wickets from 36 Tests, putting him behind three Australians in fourth overall.

Arguably, however, his finest single achievement came with the bat. He is only 20th on the run-scorers list, but in 1981 at Headingley he set up one of the greatest comebacks in Test history.

With England following on and on 135-7, Botham took it upon himself to put his side into the lead. A staggering 149(*) followed, which set the stage for Bob Willis to rip through the Aussie batsmen to hand England a memorable win. It also levelled the series and provided the momentum for a 3-1 win overall.

Sky commentator Ian Botham on August 9, 2009© PA Photos

Now a commentator for Sky Sports, Botham is positioned perfectly to watch England bowlers attempt to top his record of 383 Test wickets. So far, none has come close, although James Anderson - third on the list - is closing in.

"I've already told him that his next target should be 384, then 400 and maybe 450 – although he wasn't so keen on the last one when I mentioned it to him," Botham said of Anderson. However, in truth, his current 317 leaves a lot of work still to be done.

Although he did not take any wickets in his final appearance as Durham drew with the Australians, those present that day were able to pay tribute to arguably the greatest cricketer England has ever produced.

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