Alex Higgins

Alex Higgins Alex ‘Hurricane’ Higgins, who died in July 24, 2010, aged 61, did as much as anyone to raise the popularity of snooker with his mercurial talent. Brilliant, if inconsistent, on the table, Higgins was a singularly graceless loser and frequently came into conflict with the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association because of his drunken, argumentitive, abusive, sometimes even violent, behaviour. Nevertheless, reflecting on his career at the time of his death, respected commentator Clive Everton said, ‘The public decides who its heroes are going to be, and Alex was one of them.’

Born in Belfast on March 18, 1949, started playing snooker, as a 12-year-old, in what he later referred to as the ‘dreaded’ Jam Pot, the billiard hall in the Donegall Road area of south Belfast. Just over a decade later, in 1972, he became, at the time, the youngest world champion ever, beating John Spencer 37-32 in the best-of-73 final at the Selly Park British Legion, Birmingham.

Higgins won the world championship again in 1982 and the penultimate frame of his semi-final against Jimmy White was one of the most memorable in the history of televised professional snooker. Trailing 14-15 and 0-59 in the best-of-31 match, with half a dozen reds remaining, Higgins produced a miraculous clearance of 69, despite running out of position time after time, to keep his hopes alive. Higgins swaggered back to his seat, raising a defiant index finger in the direction of the press box as he did so, and went on to win the match 16-15. Reflecting on footage of the penultimate frame, Jimmy White said, ‘I look like I’d been hit by a train.’

In the final, Higgins faced six-time world champion Ray Reardon. Higgins led 15-12, but Reardon drew level at 15-15, before Higgins produced some of his very best snooker, including a total clearance of 135 in the concluding frame, to win 18-15. The scenes of a tearful Higgins celebrating with his wife, Lynn, and his infant daughter, Lauren, helped changed the face of the game.

Alex Higgin’s unothodox shots

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Ian Botham

Ian Botham Knighted in 2007 for services to charity and cricket, Sir Ian Botham is widely regarded as one of the finest all-rounders in the history of cricket. Born in Oldfield, Cheshire on November 24, 1955, Botham made his first-class debut for Somerset against Lancashire in the County Championship in May, 1974, at the age of 18. He made his Test debut for England in the third Test against Australia at Trent Bridge, Nottingham in July, 1977 and just over two years and 21 matches later, on August 30, 1979, became the fastest player to score 1,000 runs and take 100 wickets in Test cricket.

A right-handed batsman and right-arm fast medium bowler, ‘Beefy’, as Botham was popularly known, scored an aggregate of 5,200 runs in Test cricket, at an average of 33.55, and took 383 wickets, at an average of 28.40. He achieved his highest Test score, 208, against India at the Kensington Oval, London on July 8, 1982 and his best bowling figures in a single innings, 8/34, against Pakistan at Lord’s, London on June 15, 1978.

However, Botham will always be best remembered for three match-winning performances, two with the bat and one with the ball, in the Ashes series in 1981, subsequently dubbed ‘Botham’s Ashes’. After losing the first Test at Trent Bridge and being out for a pair in the drawn second Test at Lord’s, Botham resigned the England captaincy and was replaced by his predecessor, Mike Brearley, who had been tempted out of retirement.

At Headingley, England followed on and were quoted at 500/1, at one point, to win the third Test. However, Botham produced a remarkable display of hitting, scoring an unbeaten 149, off just 148 deliveries, towards at second innings total of 356, setting Australia a total of 130 to win. In an inspired spell, England fast bowler Bob Willis produced figures of 8/43 in the second innings, reducing Australia to 111 all out, and the home team scored the unlikeliest of victories. In the fourth Test at Edgbaston, Botham took five wickets for one run in 28 balls, to put England 2-1 ahead in the six-match series, scored 118 in the second innings of the fifth Test at Old Trafford, which England also won, and took ten wickets in the drawn sixth Test at the Kensington Oval.

Ian Botham – Arrogance and Skill

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