Heroes of 1981 mourn Dilley

MEMBERS of England’s legendary 1981 Ashes-winning side have lined up to pay tribute to fast bowler Graham Dilley, who died yesterday aged 52 following a short illness.

Dilley represented his country in 41 Tests and 36 one-day internationals between 1979 and 1989, but will be best remembered for the part he played in England’s remarkable victory over Australia in the third Test of the series affectionately remembered as ‘Botham’s Ashes’.

His contribution of 56 to a 117-run partnership with Ian Botham, who went on to make a brutal 149, helped England to an improbable 18-run victory after the home side had been staring down the barrel of a seemingly inevitable innings defeat.

Botham recalled the conversation the pair had when they came to the crease that famous afternoon: “‘Let’s have some fun’ – ­ those were the exact words and they’ve been quoted many times.

“But I have many, many fond memories of him. I remember he ran into bowl his first ball in the Caribbean and the heel fell off his boot – and typical Graham – he’d only brought one pair with him, so there was panic.

“He was a fantastic cricketer and had a lot of talent. He was plagued with injuries in his neck and knees, which probably stopped him playing a lot more for England. But on his day he was as good as most.”

Dilley, instantly recognisable due to his trademark shock of blonde hair and distinctive side-on action, took 138 Test wickets at an average of 29.76 and another former England team-mate Chris Old remembers him as one of the fastest bowlers this country has ever produced.

“He had a long run-up, but it was a nice flowing run and he put everything in when he got to the crease. But it looked good and he worked very hard on it,” said Old.

“Before the Australia series we were in the West Indies which was his first trip abroad. At that stage he was as quick as most of their bowlers and he really rattled their cages.

“I played quite a bit against him when he was with Kent and he was seriously quick. But as he got older he learnt to swing the ball, cut his pace and became more accurate. But he was always aggressive.”

After retiring, Dilley moved into coaching. He enjoyed spells as England assistant coach and England women’s bowling coach, before becoming head cricket coach at Loughborough University.

ECB managing director Hugh Morris added: “As well as being a bowler of the highest class, Graham made an immense contribution to our game as a coach – and his ability to impart his knowledge and wisdom to future generations of young cricketers will be sorely missed.”