August 29, 2000

Cornhill's Final Test

Cornhill Insurance

The Fifth Test Match against the West Indies at The Oval is the last to be sponsored by Cornhill Insurance, ending an era that began 23 summers ago on June 1, 1978 when England started their first sponsored home Test at Edgbaston, against Pakistan. Happily, the match produced an England victory and some fine individual performances. Ian Botham, then aged 22, scored a century. The moment, however, that will forever be linked with Cornhill's first Test was when the 21-year old David Gower, on his Test debut, nonchalantly pulled for four the first ball he faced, from left-arm seamer Liaqat Ali.

Gower recalls: "It was only after I had hit my first ball in Test cricket for four that I wondered: "Should I really have done that?". But I'm the sort of person who likes good omens, and that was the sort of start to a Test career that was ideal.

"Apart from that first ball moment, the personal memory that really stands out is when I stood on The Oval balcony in 1985, at the end of that series, holding aloft the replica of the Ashes Urn. That was special."

Cornhill's Corporate Communications Manager, Geoff Mayhew, says the Oval Test will be an emotional experience. "Cornhill's sponsorship of England cricket has been our major promotional tool. The business decision to end the sponsorship is the right decision, but there is sadness that it has come to an end. All I hope is that Cornhill's final series can end on a real high at The Oval."

The former England wicketkeeper Bob Taylor has worked in the Cornhill corporate hospitality area since 1986, except for a memorable few hours during that very summer. Says Taylor: "So many people keep reminding me of that day at Lord's in late July 1986 when I was called out of the Cornhill marquee to keep wicket as a substitute against New Zealand!

"I thought it was a wind-up at first. I knew Bruce French, the England wicket-keeper, had been hit on the head while batting but I was still amazed. By the time I had got some kit together, and got my gloves from the car, the New Zealand innings had already started.

"The reception I got was incredible. I was 45, and I had been retired for two years. I had also had half a glass of red wine in the Cornhill tent! I kept for 74 overs, until Bobby Parks of Hampshire arrived to take over at the lunch interval the next day, but by then I had also got to be introduced to The Queen on the field of play."

10 GREAT CORNHILL TESTS

1. 1979 England v India, The Oval (Gavaskar's 221 and India's great chase)
2. 1981 England v Australia, Headingley (The Botham and Willis Miracle)
3. 1981 England v Australia, Edgbaston (Botham Again!)
4. 1984 England v West Indies, Lord's (Greenidge-inspired last day chase)
5. 1992 England v Pakistan, Lord's (Wasim and Waqar win it, with bat and ball)
6. 1994 England v South Africa, The Oval (Malcolm's Match)
7. 1995 England v West Indies, Lord's (Cork's Great Debut)
8. 1998 England v South Africa, Headingley (The Last Morning Drama)
9. 2000 England v West Indies, Lord?s (The Greatest of Them All?)
10. 2000 England v West Indies, Headingley (The Two-day Triumph)

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