Cricket: Stunning debut by Botham Jnr

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The Independent Online
Liam Botham yesterday took five wickets in a first-class debut that put his famous father in the shade. The 19-year-old son of the former all-rounder, Ian, was pitched in for a surprise first appearance by injury- hit Hampshire against Middlesex at Portsmouth and the medium pacer celebrated by dismissing Mike Gatting, the former England captain, with his seventh delivery in professional cricket.

Botham then had John Carr out to his 18th ball and returned later to polish off the Middlesex resistance by dismissing Richard Johnson, Ricky Fay and Phil Tufnell.

His father's first-class debut for Somerset against Lancashire at Taunton in 1974 was far less auspicious. Then aged 18, Botham Snr made 13 in his only innings before being caught by the present England coach, David Lloyd. He bowled three overs for 15 runs and took one catch to dismiss Jack Simmons.

Yesterday Middlesex, who had chosen to bat first, were all out for 199 in 60 overs with Botham Jnr claiming 5 for 67 in 15 overs. Hampshire closed at 105 for 4, a deficit of 94.

"There was an element of good fortune about some of those wickets, so I suppose people will say it's typical Botham luck," Botham said. "But they all count. My dad was accused of the same thing, though he liked to think he bowled people out.

"I have not spoken to my dad, but I will later. He did not know I would be playing because it was a last-minute job. Mike Gatting shook my hand before the start and wished me well, which was nice of him."

Gatting was caught at square leg by Matthew Keech for eight and left staring at the heavens as Botham was engulfed by his team-mates. "Liam seems to have a bit of Ian's flare, but he is his own man and determined to make his own way," Gatting said. "I have watched him grow up, so I wished him good luck at the start."

Botham almost missed out on his big day. He was in an overnight squad of 14 and reported to Portsmouth's United Services ground for pre-match practice. However, Kevan James and John Stephenson passed fitness tests and Botham drove back to Southampton to continue playing in a second XI match also against Middlesex.

When he arrived, there was a message for him to retrace his steps to Portsmouth where Stephenson's shoulder injury had worsened. A traffic jam held him up further and Botham arrived after acting captain Robin Smith had led his team out to field after losing the toss.

Botham's entrance was delayed until the end of the second over when he came on the field just as the Middlesex opener Jason Pooley was leaving it after being caught lbw. That made Middlesex 6 for 1 with Botham still tying up his shoelaces at mid-on when the third over began. Paul Weekes and Mark Ramprakash took the score to 36 before Weekes was lbw for 28.

The scene was set for Botham to make his entrance and he took a wicket with the first ball of his second over as Gatting turned a half-volley to square leg where Keech clutched the catch at the second attempt.

Botham was engulfed by his jubilant team-mates as Gatting trudged back to the pavilion - victim No 1 of a young man imbued with the tradition of "Beefy" performances.

n Surrey yesterday refused a request from the TCCB to omit Chris Lewis from their championship match with Warwickshire today. They had been asked to leave him out following disciplinary action against the player for reporting late for the Test against Pakistan on Sunday.

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