No. 20

Harper runs out Gooch

A burst of athleticism in the MCC bicentenary Test makes Lord's gasp

Rob Steen

May 3, 2009

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Graham Gooch is dismissed after scoring 333, England v India, 1st Test, Lord's, July 27, 1990
Gooch: too slow for the cat-man © Getty Images

London, 20 August 1987

Lord's, 1987, and the MCC Bicentenary celebrations are in full swing. MCC v Rest of the World, a Who's Who of contemporary titans lacking only Ian Botham, Martin Crowe, and Viv Richards. National loyalties, for once, are lowermost: Malcolm Marshall dismisses Jeff Dujon; Ravi Shastri ejects Sunny Gavaskar. A strictly festive "Test", Wisden would describe it as "a game rather than a contest". Full houses revel

Before rain ruins the final day, the G-Men reign: Graham Gooch, Gordon Greenidge, Mike Gatting, and Gavaskar all make centuries. It is a piece of fielding legerdemain by the least celebrated participant, though, that glues itself most indelibly to the memory.

Moustache snarling, Gooch, on 117, faces up to a flighted offbreak from Roger Harper, the lofty Guyanese who has already pulled off a blinding catch to unseat Greenidge. That, though, was merely the appetiser.

Gooch moves a couple of paces down the track, driving crisp and straight. In a single, feline movement, typical of a cat-man to whom fielding is as natural as thinking, Harper gathers and fires the ball back. Carried by momentum, Gooch is still out of his crease, has not even considered reclaiming it, when leather topples timber. The gallery is momentarily confused (did we really see what we think we just saw?), then takes a collective deep breath, and roars in awe. Even the victim smiles. Has an England batsman's exit at HQ ever inspired such hometown pleasure?

Rob Steen is a sportswriter and senior lecturer in sports journalism at the University of Brighton. This article was first published in the print version of Cricinfo Magazine

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Rob Steen Rob Steen is a sportswriter and senior lecturer in sports journalism at the University of Brighton, whose books include biographies of Desmond Haynes and David Gower (Cricket Society Literary Award winner) and 500-1 - The Miracle of Headingley '81. His investigation for the Wisden Cricketer, "Whatever Happened to the Black Cricketer?", won the UK section of the 2005 EU Journalism Award "For diversity, against discrimination". His latest book, Floodlights and Touchlines: A History of Spectator Sport, will be published in the summer of 2014

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