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Beefy's Big Sri Lanka Walk: Allan Border reflects on old Ashes battles

Aussie legend Allan Border links up with Beefy and talks about going up against his old nemesis.

Beefy plays it cool with the help of Allan Border (left) and Steve Waugh

Allan Border never shirked an Ashes skirmish and the old rivalry was very much alive when he joined Sir Ian Botham on day six of Beefy's Big Sri Lanka Walk.

The former Australian captain is a veteran of many fundraising treks, including an epic 31-day hike from Sydney to Brisbane, but the 12-mile route from Ranna to Beliatta was his first - and it turns out, not his last - walk with his old sparring partner.

Undaunted by the experience, Border will be back for the final two legs culminating in Seenigama, home to the Sport for Life project run by the charity, Foundation of Goodness.

Botham walk powers on

"Beefy and I have had a great rivalry over many, many years," he reflected. "He got me out a lot of times during my career which still annoys me greatly!

"As a batsman you always fancied your chances against Beefy because he would attack you and you always got sucked into attacking back; sometimes I got the better of him, but not often!"


The first of many on-field battles took place in the Boxing Day Test of 1978 when Border made his debut and lasted until some 15 years later when Botham, by then playing for Durham, took on the touring Australian side of 1993.

In the first decade of his international career, Border ended up on the wrong end of four of five Ashes series - including 'Botham's Ashes' of 1981 - and admits it was a tough time for Australian cricket.

"I always like Beefy because he was one of those guys who, regardless of what had gone out on the field, he was the first guy in to come and sit in your dressing room, have a beer and chat about whatever," said Border, who scored 11,174 Test runs in 156 Tests.

"I really enjoyed his approach to the game; he was hard out in the field but once it turned 6pm we kicked back and enjoyed a good relationship. That was always the case, all of the way through, including 1981.

"I still get shivers about some of our performances in that series, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory a couple of times as we did. We fought back a little in 1982/83 at home [winning 2-1] but then England got the upper hand through 1985 and 1986/87.

Du Plessis praise for Sir Ian

"They had a very good side then and were well led by Mike Gatting - and Beefy was in his pomp in that period."


Border grabbed Australia by the bootlaces in 1989, though, and led Australia to a thumping 4-0 victory which was the first of eight consecutive series wins.

So what can the current team, who go into this winter's Ashes having lost three in a row, learn from the way that he galvanised his side back then?

"I'd probably got to a point in my own captaincy where something needed to change; we'd had some success in one-day cricket, winning the 1987 World Cup, but we still weren't really performing to any particular level in Test cricket. We didn't have rankings in those days but we would have been well down the list.

"It was a watershed moment for me. I'd been on two previous Ashes series to England and neither had gone well. I identified a couple of areas where I needed to strengthen up personally, as did the team, and I put that into place.

"We had a lot of young, unheralded cricketers in our squad and were met in England with headlines like 'worst Australian side ever', which was an immediate opportunity for me as captain to fire the boys up a little bit.

Waugh backs Cook

"After that, everything we touched turned to gold. It was one of those freakish periods that you dream about. We played as well as a cricket team could play. I'm really hopeful the same thing will happen to Australia in this series, especially as it's in our own back yard.

"We've got the talent to win this series, we've just got to find a way to harness it and learn how to win those big moments. We had periods this summer where we played well for two sessions and then had a horror third - and you just can't do that - whereas England know how to get the job done, which makes them very dangerous."


Ever the competitor, Border will be back on the road with Botham in the coming days - although he admits the prospect is daunting.

"I'm a bit psyched out at the moment with the pace at which Beefy walks," he said. "He's probably putting in eight-minute kms, which is quite extraordinary; for me, that's a jog.

"If you look down for two minutes, he's 200m ahead of you and you find yourself jogging to catch up and that's a hard process to maintain over three or four hours.

"It's going to be hard work but I'm looking forward to it in a perverse kind of way!"

Click on the video at the top of the page to here Border talk about Cook's captaincy, Mitchell Johnson's bowling and George Bailey's Ashes prospects - plus much more.

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