England v India at Lord’s, 1990
Graham Gooch scored his legendary triple-century against India at Lord’s in 1990. John Thicknesse wrote a report on that memorable Test match, which first appeared in the 1991 edition of Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack.
The Indians, and especially their captain, Mohammad Azharuddin, had small reason to think so by the end, but the First Test was as brilliant a match as the players could hope to take part in, or spectators to watch. England’s winning margin made it look one-sided; and no-one would dispute that, from lunch on the first day, when they were 82 for one after being put in, England were in control until the end. Certainly England’s win, inspired by Gooch’s historic innings of 333 and 123, which broke all kinds of records, was the result of a powerful performance by his team, and following the victory over New Zealand in the last Test of the previous series, it provided the first instance of England winning successive Tests since 1985.
Yet it would not have been the match it was without the vibrant batting of the tourists. Shastri and Azharuddin made splendid hundreds of contrasting styles, and Kapil Dev struck a high-velocity 77 not out, jauntily rounded off with four successive sixes to limit England’s lead to 199 and thus save the follow-on. Each was straight-driven off Hemmings’s offspin into the building works that throughout the season masqueraded as the Nursery End. When India were challenged by Gooch’s second declaration to make 472 to win, or bat seven hours on a crusting pitch to draw, it was possible retrospectively to see that they were fighting a losing battle once Fraser and Malcolm had dismissed their openers in eight overs on the fourth evening.
Such was the depth of their batting, however, and the dash and artistry with which Vengsarkar and Azharuddin batted on the last morning as they put on 51 at four an over, that it was not until the former was caught at the wicket, trying not to play an offbreak, that it became obvious there could be only one result. When Azharuddin followed 20 minutes later, superbly caught at third slip as he tried to turn a straight ball into the leg side, India’s spirit cracked, and the score, at one stage 114 for three, was eroded to 181 for eight. A flourish by the last two wickets added 43 and so raised the match aggregate to 1,603, two runs more than the previous record for the ground, established in England’s 1930 classic with Australia.
In similar conditions of pitch and outfield, true and fast respectively, Bradman had scored 254 in that Test, Woodfull 155, Duleepsinhiji 173 and Chapman 121. What, if anything, could be inferred from the fact that in 1990 the average scoring-rate was 4.08 per over, whereas in the four-day Test of 1930 it had been 3.16? A different lbw law, favouring the modern bowler, and the swing to heavier bats, supposedly, favouring the batsmen – Gooch hit seven sixes with a three-pound Stuart Surridge Grand Prix Turbo – left too many imponderables for the question to be answered.
Of England’s winning team against New Zealand at Edgbaston, Fairbrother and Small were dropped, while Stewart was put out of the reckoning by an injured back. They were replaced by Gower, returning after seven Tests, Morris of Derbyshire, a new cap, and Fraser, recovered at last from a rib injury suffered while in the Caribbean. Gower, debatably given out caught at point in the first innings, was outshone, while through no fault of his own, Morris faced only 21 balls. The 6ft 5in Fraser, however, played a leading part. Figures of five for 104 and three for 39 were due reward for his accuracy, bounce and movement at a lively pace. By using Shastri to open the batting, India made room to play the 17-year-old Bombay student, Tendulkar, who in England’s second innings brought off as wonderful an outfield catch as Lord’s has seen, holding Lamb’s straight drive one-handed at knee height after hurtling more than 30 yards from wide long-off to a point behind the bowler.
At close of play on the first day, when England were 359 for two, Azharuddin tried to justify his decision to field by pointing out that had More, the wicketkeeper, held a routine chance when Gooch was 36, the score would have been 61 for two after 90 minutes’ play. But 653 for four declared, with hundreds also from Lamb (in 276 minutes and 187 balls) and Smith (194 minutes, 155 balls), painted the picture truly. Azharuddin had made a bad misjudgment, and England made the most of it. Gooch, sharing with his vice-captain, Lamb, an all-wicket England v India record of 308, went on to make in 627 minutes (485 balls, three sixes, 43 fours) the highest score at Lord’s, the third-highest by an Englishman in Tests, and the sixth-highest Test score overall before being bowled by medium-pacer Prabhakar, missing an off-drive. He was just 32 runs short of the world record of 365 not out, scored by Sir Garfield Sobers for West Indies against Pakistan in 1957-58.
Shastri, who made his hundred in 246 minutes and 184 balls, absorbed England’s fast bowling like a born Test opener, only to mistime an on-drive off Hemmings. By contrast, Azharuddin dazzled. Not a few strokes early in his innings would have been hard to excuse had they cost him his wicket; but his luck held, and a capacity Saturday crowd was treated to a rare exhibition of audacious, wristy strokeplay which, with 20 fours, took him into three figures off only 88 balls. At close of play that day, when he was 117 not out, a draw looked the likeliest result. In Monday’s third over, however, Azharuddin was bowled by Hemmings with an offbreak that turned up the slope to hit leg stump as he was framing an expansive back-foot stroke through extra cover.
Just 40 minutes later, when Fraser dismissed More and Sharma in three balls, India were 430 for nine, needing 24 to save the follow-on. Kapil Dev watched Hirwani survive the last ball of Fraser’s over, played the first two of Hemmings’s defensively, then ripped into the next four and drove each one for six. Three of them were enormous, clattering the scaffolding, one was simply big; all were magnificent. With the very next delivery, Fraser had Hirwani lbw. India had scored 78 in 15.1 overs, and the devil-may-care Kapil had become the first man to hit four sixes running in a Test. It was an unexpected way to save a follow-on.
Gooch, flicking Kapil Dev off his toes to the 65-yard Tavern boundary, at once set the tempo of England’s 218-minute second innings, in which runs came at five an over. When he was out with the score 204, caught at extra cover after hitting four sixes and 13 fours in 148 minutes and 113 balls, he had beaten Greg Chappell’s previous aggregate record for a Test by 76 runs. With Atherton, he had established a new record for England’s first wicket against India. Answering in kind, India reached 57 for two in 56 minutes by the close and, despite the early loss of Manjrekar on the last morning, they were still batting as though they believed they had a winning chance at noon. Then, from the Nursery End, Hemmings caught Vengsarkar in two minds with a ball that pitched narrowly outside off stump. At the last moment the batsman decided not to play it, but it hurried through and brushed his gloves, heralding the final chapter of a memorable Test. Fittingly it was Gooch who brought proceedings to a close midway through the sun-baked afternoon, flattening the middle stump at the bowler’s end to run out Sharma from mid-on.
Man of the Match: G. A. Gooch. Attendance: 60,924; receipts £919,500.
Close of play: First day, England 359-2 (G. A. Gooch 194*, A. J. Lamb 104*); Second day, India 48-0 (R. J. Shastri 27*, N. S. Sidhu 20*); Third day, India 376-6 (M. Azharuddin 117*, Kapil Dev 14*); Fourth day, India 57-2 (S. V. Manjrekar 29*, D. B. Vengsarkar 14*).