Third Cornhill Test


David Field

Toss: India.

Gower's sublime strokeplay, unwavering determination and considerable stamina throughout the final day erased India's chances of squaring the series, though their hopes were high when they enforced the follow-on after scoring their third-best score of all time. England thus won 1-0 to complete their first unbeaten Test season at home since 1979, having beaten New Zealand by the same margin earlier in the summer. The six-hour tour de force was Gower's sixteenth hundred in Tests and his fourth on the Kennington ground; with Shastri and Kapil Dev he brought the tally of centuries scored by the two teams to fifteen, a record for a three-match series. But while Gower's innings was conclusive in saving the game, Gooch had also continued his record-breaking summer, unchecked by a lightweight Indian attack never capable of marrying its industry to quality and penetration.

This time when Azharuddin won the toss, he needed no persuasion to take first use of an outstanding batting pitch. India had decided against the attacking option of an extra bowler, and at the same time preferred the lively Wassan to Kumble's sharp leg-spin. Just before the toss Lewis suffered a migraine attack during outfield practice, and Williams, the Middlesex seamer, was thrust into his first Test after being named twelfth man.

While Lewis sought rest and aspirin in the plush dressing-rooms of the new stand flanking the pavilion, Shastri settled in to give England their own headache. Gooch, who had lost the toss for the fifth time in six Tests, went through his tactical repertoire but found the tall, upright opener moulding a solid percentage game; playing permanently straight, waiting to punish the wayward delivery, and progressing to his tenth Test hundred and highest Test score. England's main strike bowler, Malcolm, looked jaded, but Williams moved the ball more than anyone else and was rewarded with Azharuddin's wicket just as the Indian captain was threatening to post his fourth hundred in as many Tests. The dependable Fraser was once more England's prime bowler on a day which began with Russell claiming two acrobatic catches in little more than an hour, and ended with India in undisputed command at 324 for four; Shastri 135 not out. It was a neat reversal of fortunes from Lord's and Old Trafford, where the touring team had been completely overrun in the field on the first day.

England had to keep India to a score of 450 or less to retain any hope of victory. But by tea on the second day, their concern was a salvage the match. India had already passed their previous highest total of 510 in England, made at Leeds in 1967, and they marched on to their biggest score against England in either country. The campaign was carried on by Kapil Dev, who added 110 with Shastri until Malcolm had the vice-captain caught at first slip for 187, after 561 minutes and 435 balls, including 23 fours. Kapil, meanwhile, used the wide open space of the playing area to his advantage and resisted the risky shots in the air which England might have expected. After the slowest of his seven Test hundreds - taking 130 balls - he was stumped off Hemmings twelve balls later, having struck sixteen fours, and a late flourish from the pugnacious More enabled India to declare at 606 for nine.

The target of 407 to avoid the follow-on was ultimately beyond England. A rare failure from Atherton that evening brought in Williams as night-watchman, but after he had contributed a useful 38 in 72 minutes, the rock-solid Gooch, understandably unadventurous, then had to watch his middle order being summarily dispatched. However, Smith's resourceful half-century and spirited batting from Russell promised a lifeline until Gooch was caught, mis-sweeping Hirwani, for 85 after five and a half hours. His first 5 runs had taken him past Zaheer Abbas's record aggregate of 583 in a three-match series, but he was still 4 short of D. G. Bradman's total of 974 in an English summer. Once Russell had been wastefully run out by a direct hit from Wassan on the fourth morning, England were prepared for the worst, although Hemmings, helped in a last-wicket stand of 41 by Malcolm, seized the opportunity to score his second Test fifty before England were dismissed for 340.

When Gooch and Atherton returned to center stage, India were soon to regret their lack of firepower. Azharuddin limped off with a sore heel and Shastri, taking over the reins, was to spurn the second new ball, instead keeping Hirwani's leg-breaks probing away into the footmarks in a marathon - and largely unrewarded - 59 consecutive overs from the Vauxhall End. Gooch quickly scored the 5 runs he needed to pass Bradman (though he had taken four more innings) and the opening pair collected their third stand of a hundred in as many Tests. They were poised to make it a third double-century partnership when Gooch, after 225 minutes, was superbly caught, one-handed at backward short leg by Vengsarkar, off the bowling of Hirwani. Joined now by Gower, who was soon displaying some dazzling shots, Atherton advanced to 86, surviving a chance to backward square leg only to fall lbw to Kapil Dev after 5 hours 40 minutes of defensive endeavour. Morris failed to capitalise on a chance to impress the selectors, but for two hours Lamb was under little pressure in making 52 and England saved the match comfortably. Thanks to Gower's elegant, day-long guidance, they finished 211 ahead with six wickets in reserve. His unbeaten 157, from 271 balls and graced with 21 boundaries, provided a satisfying climax to his 109th Test, and convinced spectators that the former captain would, after all, be in the England team to tour Australia.

Man of the Match: R. J. Shastri. Attendance: 55,405; receipts £681,400.

Men of the Series: England- G. A. Gooch; India- M. Azharuddin.

Close of play: First day, India 324-4 ( R. J. Shastri 135*, M. Prabhakar 20*); Second day, England 36-1 ( G. A. Gooch 5*, N. F. Williams 15*); Third day, England 293-7 ( R. C. Russell 34*, E. E. Hemmings 26*); Fourth day, England 215-1 ( M. A. Atherton 71*, D. I. Gower 32*).

© John Wisden & Co