Brian Viner: Ashes to Ashes – it's a year to celebrate Botham's miracle and Strauss's majesty

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Last week in this space I looked forward to the significant sporting anniversaries and birthdays that might cause us a little reflection in the first six months of 2011.

Today, the focus shifts to the second six months of the year, starting with the 50th birthday of Carl Lewis on 1 July. On 4 July it will be 30 years since John McEnroe ended Bjorn Borg's hegemony at Wimbledon, and four days later comes the 50th anniversary of an event now unimaginable: an all-British ladies singles final at Wimbledon (in which Angela Mortimer beat Christine Truman). On 10 July it will be 60 years since another memorable sporting triumph for Britain: boxer Randolph Turpin became the first Brit of the 20th century to win the world middleweight title, sensationally beating the great Sugar Ray Robinson.

Also in July, it will 30 years since an Englishman at least as pugnacious as Turpin, Ian Botham, enjoyed the most remarkable Test match of a remarkable career, first clubbing 149 not out off the Australian bowlers at Headingley, then the following day taking the first Aussie wicket, though it was Bob Willis, with his famous figures of 8 for 43, who finished off Australia for 111. England thus became only the second Test team in history to win after following on, levelling what would become known as "Botham's Ashes". Yet if there is a living all-rounder even more illustrious than Sir Ian Botham it is Sir Garfield Sobers, who gets three-quarters of the way to his century on 28 July. On the 31st, Evonne Cawley, who as Miss Goolagong played havoc with the hormones of thousands of adolescent boys, turns 60.

Into August, when it will be 75 years since the black American Jesse Owens shattered Nazi illusions of white supremacy, winning four gold medals at the Berlin Olympics. Venturing somewhat further back into the mists of time, on 7 August, 1711, Queen Anne attended the race meeting at Ascot, earning it the prefix "Royal" that it has boasted ever since.

On 11 August it will be 20 years since a little-known American golfer, having driven through the night to claim his place as a late replacement for Nick Price, won the USPGA at Crooked Stick, Indiana. The following day a rather better-behaved American sportsman than John Daly, Pete Sampras, turns 40. He was just two days old when the 1971 British Lions drew their fourth Test against New Zealand, 14-14 in Auckland, to ensure one of the most stirring of series wins.

On 20 August the boxing promoter Don King hits 80, but not as hard as Sugar Ray Robinson hit Randolph Turpin in their re-match, 50 years ago on 12 September. On 16 September, one of the finest rugby union full-backs, Andy Irvine, the late Bill McLaren's choice in an all-time XV, turns 60.

October brings a more poignant birthday; on the first of the month, the great Duncan Edwards, just 21 when he died following the Munich air crash yet already deserving of the adjective "great", would have been 75. And a couple of days later marks the 200th anniversary of the first inter-county women's cricket match. For the record, it was Hampshire v Surrey. Also for the record, since it's Merseyside derby weekend, Ian Rush grew up an Evertonian. So did Robbie Fowler, Steve McManaman, Michael Owen and Jamie Carragher. But it is Rush's boyhood allegiance that really hurts us Everton fans; he scored 25 goals in derby matches, including two FA Cup finals. Anyway, I for one won't be wishing him a happy 50th on 20 October.

On 8 November it will be 125 years since Fred Archer, 13-times champion Flat jockey, ended his own life, with a gun, aged just 29. A century and two days later, the man who in 1933 had broken Archer's record of 246 winners in a season, Sir Gordon Richards, died at the more acceptable age of 82.

On 12 November the former gymnast Nadia Comaneci, who took the entire sporting world by storm at the 1976 Olympics, scoring seven perfect 10s, turns 50, possibly with a cartwheel. She is four days younger, and rather substantially slighter, than Franklin Roy Bruno.

December brings a big birthday for Sir Geoff Hurst – he'll be 70 on the eighth – and also a notable anniversary for National Hunt racing. On 18 December 1971, at Nottingham, Stan Mellor achieved what some had thought impossible for a jump jockey, riding his 1,000th winner. A P McCoy, incidentally, has already ridden well over 3,000.

Speaking of feats once considered unthinkable, on 30 December it will be one year since England's cricketers retained the Ashes by crushing Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the second of what would be three Test victories by margins of more than an innings. Not so long ago, anyone predicting such a thing would have been suspected of taking drugs. And so to the penultimate landmark sporting birthday of 2011: disgraced sprinter Ben Johnson reaches 50 on 30 December.

Finally, on the last day of the year, comes a birthday that will get plenty of publicity, yet will have scarcely any significance. Sir Alex Ferguson 70, immediate prospects of retirement nil!

Few rewarded in record numbers

The Last Word's 2010 Christmas Quiz attracted a record number of entries, but only about 10 per cent of entrants got every question right, for which I congratulate myself but also those of you I couldn't fox. The winner, his labours rewarded with 365 bottles of Spitfire Ale kindly donated by master brewers Shepherd Neame, is Ewan Paton of Bristol. He clinched victory with his suggested advertising slogan for Spitfire Ale... "Remember the Few... with a few". So congratulations to him, but thanks to everyone who entered. The answers can be found at www.independent.co.uk/sport or by sending me a stamped addressed envelope, c/o The Independent Sports Desk, 2 Derry St, London W8 5HF.

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