Fifth Cornhill Test


David Field

Toss: England.

As Logie on-drove DeFreitas for the winning boundary nineteen minutes after tea on the fourth day, the flag of St George fluttered at half-mast on the pavilion roof, a sad symbol of England's failure to compete on the same plane as a formidable team re-emerging as the world's best. It was England's eighteenth successive Test without a victory. Nevertheless, Gooch, captaining England for the first time, could derive comfort from his own staunch batting and from England's commitment until lunch on the third day, when it was conceivable that they could have forced a winning position. From there, however, West Indies stepped firmly on the throttle and were uncatchable.

The days leading up to the match were a test of fortitude for the beleaguered England selectors. They had chosen a side containing two uncapped players in Barnett and Maynard, although the latter was intended as cover for Lamb, who was still struggling for fitness after his injury at Headingley. Athey and Gower were omitted; Small and Capel were recalled. But no sooner had the team been announced than Dilley withdrew with a stress problem in his right knee. His place was taken by DeFreitas, who had recently been the subject of disciplinary measures by his county. Next Cowdrey, the captain, and Barnett withdrew, suffering respectively from a foot and a hand injury. Finally, on the eve of the match, Lamb admitted defeat after a perfunctory fitness test. Bailey, the tall Northamptonshire batsman, was drafted in to make his Test début alongside Maynard. Gooch was named as the fourth England captain of the series in his 67th Test; only four men had played more matches before leading England for the first time. West Indies had Greenidge available again and Arthurton stood down. England left out Small.

Gooch, winning the toss, decided to bat first on a pitch containing bounce and reasonable pace. It did not, initially, disclose the movement it was to provide for the quicker bowlers. But in the eighth over, Gooch received an unplayable ball from Ambrose and immediately the inexperienced middle order was exposed. Maynard apart, they acquitted themselves commendably without threatening to usurp the authority of the West Indian bowlers. Curtis, having taken half an hour to get off the mark, delved into his reservoir of concentration to remain for two and a half hours and Bailey used his height to minimise the short ball. Their stand of 65 did much to dampen West Indies' firepower. Smith announced himself with a pull off Benjamin which almost carried for six, then settled down to bat for almost three and a half hours. But a rash stroke from Maynard broke the heart of the resistance and England ended the first day 203 for nine, dejected and vulnerable.

Next morning, Foster lifted their morale with a spectacular piece of fast bowling which removed West Indies' first five batsmen. On the hottest day of the series, he went to work from the Vauxhall End and the ultimate result was a small but significant first-innings lead of 22, England's first over West Indies in thirteen matches. As at Lord's England met a determined response from Logie and Dujon, who added 69 in 93 minutes, a stand elegantly stage-managed by Dujon. When Pringle had him lbw, shuffling across the crease, the next four wickets subsided for 28.

As their openers put on 50, England had cause to hope that an overdue victory in a summer of disillusion was within their compass. Alas, they lost Curtis, Bailey and Smith inside half an hour, Smith being lbw without offering a stroke. When Marshall dismissed Curtis, he increased to 35 his wickets for the series, surpassing the 34 of F. S. Trueman in 1963, the previous best in an England-West Indies rubber. It was also the premier achievement by a West Indian in any series, confirming Marshall's status as the world's leading strike bowler.

Gooch held centre stage on the Saturday, allying grim determination to his solid technique without ever finding his best touch or timing. Having entered the arena at five o'clock on Friday afternoon, he left it some 24 hours later, having batted through the innings and spent seven hours eight minutes over his 84. It was the longest he had batted without making a hundred; with the ball moving about disconcertingly, it was also an immense feat of concentration. Only Foster, as night-watchman, supported him with any vigour, striking a fearless 34 in 106 minutes (80 balls).

When Gooch led England out on Saturday evening with a disappointing lead of 224 to defend, it was amid an atmosphere of inevitability. Within seven balls, he was back in the pavilion having badly dislocated the third finger of his left hand in attempting to catch Haynes at first slip, ironically from a no-ball by DeFreitas. He took no further part and Pringle, in his eighteenth Test, took over. He was to discover the difficulty of setting a field for Greenidge at his attacking best. The West Indian vice-captain moved quickly and ruthlessly to his fifty before the close, to all intents and purposes closing the door on England. West Indies resumed on Monday needing another 154 with all their wickets in hand, although Richards was in hospital and could not have batted. Greenidge fell first ball after lunch, but by then Haynes was firmly entrenched and their twelfth century opening partnership had smoothed the path to victory in the only Test of the series not interrupted by the weather.

Man of the Match: P. J. L. Dujon. Attendance: 53,057; receipts: £652,413. Men of the Series: England - G. A. Gooch; West Indies - M. D. Marshall. Close of play: First day, England 203-9 (N. A. Foster 1*, J. H. Childs 0*); Second day, England 64-3 (G. A. Gooch 38*, N. A. Foster 1*);Third day, West Indies 71-0 (C. G. Greenidge 53*, D. L. Haynes 15*).

© John Wisden & Co