Edgbaston witnessed the fine debut of David Gower, English cricket’s golden child, during Pakistan’s tour in the long hot summer of ’78. His elegance at the crease would remain unmatched in years to come.
Coming to the crease to face Pakistan’s no-mark left-arm seam bowler, Liaqat Ali, doesn’t sound the most exacting starting point from which a Test career might flourish, does it? Especially when that player went on to play 117 Tests, and captain England to an Ashes win. And the situation was made even more straightforward, because the tourists were already on the ropes after making only 164 in their first innings, with England on 102-2.
These were the days when England had a good side but, Botham apart, not so much joie de vivre in their play. When the aristocratic figure of David Ivon Gower (King’s School, Canterbury and University College, London) joined the ever-reliable Clive Radley (School of Hard Knocks and University of Life) few knew something special was about to happen.
Gower went on to make 58. His innings started with a first-ball four, pulled imperiously off the bowling of Liaqat. It was a stroke of such attacking and even shocking brilliance – especially coming as it did in an era when a decent day at the cricket meant ‘piling on’ 200-3 at close of play – that it sticks in the memory of all who saw it.
Whilst making the runs he did (8,231 Test runs at an average of 44.25), in the manner he did (18 centuries, highest score of 215 v Australia at Birmingham in 1985), a different, better way of playing was established. Gower, such was his élan, also took a single Test wicket by snaring none other than Kapil Dev, India’s superstar of the day. He didn’t do things by half. And he was the greatest fielder who couldn’t throw of all time.
First published in 2009