He might well have thought that this minor humiliation would be the only price he would have to pay. He was wrong. Suspension for two months by the Test Cricket and County Board was the verdict.
And so to Weston in the rain, the start of August and a bleak-seeming future. "I should be bloody fishing," he said. "Up in Scotland. Switch off the mayhem of this bloody sport. You know, it took me eight years to catch my first salmon." And, later, privately, his visitor would wonder how a man like Botham could be so patient.
Because the next morning when the rain had stopped in the little Avon town, he went in—against Worcestershire—and smashed an unbeaten 104 off just 65 balls. There were seven sixes—all right, home runs—and 10 fours in that total. "I haven't been away for two years on a desert island," said a happy Both.
That was on Aug. 4. On Aug. 10, it was Northamptonshire's bowling he set about, in a one-day game. He was unbeaten again, this time for 175, including an insane 13 sixes, a new record for the one-day format. It was one run short of a record for a highest score—but the innings had been interrupted for 10 minutes by a shower. He dumped sixes, The Mail recorded, "on to the tops of marquees, over ice-cream vans, into factories and, on one occasion, almost into the car park of the Dog and Duck public house."
A few days later he would watch England go down to New Zealand on TV. "He couldn't understand it," Peter Roebuck, his Somerset captain, said. "Why didn't somebody crack 'em over the top, cause a few waves, see if they panic?"
The call he now confidently awaited, to rejoin the national team, came the following Saturday. Next morning the switchboard at The Oval, the London stadium where another New Zealand match was being played, was jammed early, and even before the office opened, the ticket line stretched down the road. In Australia, where England will play for the Ashes again this winter, the news that Both might be back had the fans in a crazy ticket rush for games, some of which wouldn't be played until 1987.
When the third and final Test against New Zealand started on Aug. 22, the crowd gave Botham a noisy greeting when he came out with England to field, and a roar later when Gatting, his captain, called on him to bowl.
Bruce Edgar, at bat for New Zealand, now faced not only Botham but also an almost palpable wave of emotion from the crowd, and cricket buffs will debate for years the effect that had on him. First balls from fast bowlers tend to be just looseners, and this one was short and a little wide.
But Edgar poked at it, it snicked the edge of his bat and he was out. caught at close range. It was just 12:21 p.m. The crowd roared. Botham had now equaled Lillee's alltime record of 355 Test wickets—and Lillee was a pure bowler, not a batsman at all.
Just six minutes later Botham sent one down that cut in sharply and beat Jeff Crowe's bat. You could barely hear Both start to yell his triumph before a huge, happy roar began to well up again from the crowd as Lillee's record went.