Fifth Test Match

West Indies v India

With the series still open after the fourth Test, the final encounter was extended to six days. It was largely due to dropped catches on both sides that the final Test failed to yield a result despite the added time. The match was hard-fought, in a manner befitting the deciding Test of an interesting series. The pitch was a vast improvement on the one used for the second Test on the same ground. It yielded turn, but it turned slowly. The tendency of the ball to keep low was again apparent, although less so than in the second Test.

Winning the toss, India progressed precariously to a total of 360 which, from their point of view ,was not good enough for a six-day Test. Gavaskar held the innings together for almost six hours forty minutes and scored 124. There was a vital partnership of 122 runs for the fourth wicket between him and Sardesai, who seemed to have lost his touch, and batted sketchily for the first 50 of his 75 runs. He and India were lucky that a catch from a mistimed square-cut, when he was only four, was dropped at third slip. Even then, it took a brave tail-end recovery led by Venkataraghavan, who made 51, to give India a respectable total.

Though the Indian bowling maintained high levels of guile and accuracy, West Indies always looked like taking a big lead. Kanhai, foolishly run out, and Lloyd failed to make substantial contributions, but Lewis again proved hard to dislodge and, furthermore, batted with greater authority than in his previous innings. Davis made the most of an escape at 29 to score another century and Sobers scored a superb hundred, although the Indians, judging by their reactions, seemed to believe that he was caught and bowled by Bedi, when 34. Runs had, however, to be fought for and Bedi toiled gallantly on the third day, during which he sent down 42 overs. It was only towards the evening that the Indian spinners seemed to tire and Foster was able to cut loose. On the fourth day, the Jamaican all-rounder played powerfully off the back foot and West Indies gained a lead of 166. Foster was desperately unlucky to miss a well-deserved century by only one run.

India, who began their second innings with about two hours left on the fourth day, were kept in the fight by Gavaskar's vigil of eight hours and fifty minutes, in which he scored 220. The second highest score in India's innings of 427 was 54 by Wadekar. Sardesai, Viswanath and Jaisimha also made a stand, thus enabling India to bat well into the last morning. Jaisimha, however, had three escapes on the final morning and had the first of these chances been held, West Indies might have bowled out India in sufficient time to give themselves a chance. With the pitch now turning substantially, Noreiga claimed five wickets for 129 runs. Most of these runs went to Gavaskar who, even late in his innings, had enough stamina left to run down the wicket and drive. What heightened the merit of his epic innings was the fact that he was suffering from severe toothache.

The clock was put further against the West Indies by a shower which extended the lunch interval by twenty minutes. Ultimately, West Indies had to make 262 in two hours, thirty-five minutes. Although Lloyd, who came in at number three, struck the ball often and with thunderous power, West Indies' hopes seemed lost when Sobers, entering at number five, with the score at 50, was bowled first ball by a rank shooter. Foster left after a partnership of 51 and Holford was sixth out at 114, in the second of the last 20 overs. West Indies put up the shutters immediately, but Wadekar did not call on his spinners and turn to attack till only 12 overs were left. Venkataraghavan bowled menacingly as soon as he was brought on and Lloyd, who had made 64, and Davis were removed in successive overs. The last three batsmen, however, had only nine balls to negotiate. The ninth-wicket pair, Lewis and Dowe saw West Indies through, but one was left with the impression that India might have snatched another win had Wadekar not delayed the final offensive.

© John Wisden & Co