England v Pakistan, First Cornhill Test

England win overshadowed by bouncer debate


England players gather round Iqbal Qasim after he was struck by a Bob Willis bouncer, England v Pakistan, 1st Test, Leeds, June 6, 1978
England players gather round Iqbal Qasim after he was struck by a Bob Willis bouncer © PA Photos
Enlarge
Related Links

This convincing victory was accomplished in only twenty hours, four minutes playing time, and contained notable displays from Old, Radley, Gower, and Botham. Old performed the extremely rare feat of taking four wickets in five balls, and the three batsmen - all of whom were uncapped a year earlier - played ideal innings to suit England's situation. Radley and Botham made centuries in contrasting moods and, in between Gower's 58 was one of the most auspicious beginnings in recent years. The satisfaction at these achievements was overshadowed, though, by a distressing incident on the fourth and last morning.

Pakistan had used Iqbal Qasim as a nightwatchman on Saturday evening after following on, and when play resumed on the Monday, Willis, with a stiff breeze behind him, gave Qasim at least three lifting balls, including one in his first over which flew narrowly over the batsman's head. These failed to unsettle the defiant left-hander and, at 12.10, Willis went round the wicket. From this new angle he immediately hurled in another bumper which leapt from the pitch, forced its way between Qasim's hands, and struck him in the mouth. Fortunately he was not severely hurt, but he was led from the pitch bleeding freely and needed two stitches in his lip. The ramifications of this ball continued into the second Test.

Brearley, who had had to withdraw from the winter tour after breaking his arm in Pakistan, returned to lead England, but Boycott withdrew the day before the match, having failed to recover from the thumb injury received in the Prudential game the previous week. Wood replaced him. Hendrick was twelfth man for the three Tests, having filled a similar role in the Prudential matches.

Boycott's absence meant that England fielded an usually inexperienced batting line-up, but the newer players were enabled to succeed without being confronted by Pakistan's spearhead, Sarfraz Nawaz, who strained his ribs while batting and bowled only six undemanding overs. The margin between the sides was emphasised by shifts in the weather pattern. Pakistan twice batted in overcast conditions - clouds arriving just before Old's historic spell - while England's batsmen operated in sunshine.

The match began encouragingly for Pakistan. Their openers played their shots and the game ran for them until Botham's second ball. Sadiq was caught on the boundary hooking Old and they lunched at 81 for two. Mohsin had played some exquisite shots, but became the victim of an exceptionally hostile spell from Willis which put Pakistan on the downward path. Willis had softened up Pakistan- he was warned by umpire Bird for excessive bumpers and for running on the pitch - when Old struck. He had been bowling for seventy-five minutes since lunch before devastating the later batsmen in his nineteenth over. During this over Pakistan went from 125 for five to 126 for nine in five balls. Old was twice on a hat-trick, being denied this prize first by a no-ball and then by Liaqat's straight bat. Wasim Raja and Qasim, the first and third victims, were caught behind, Qasim giving Taylor a low chance that the wicket-keeper plucked off the turf at full stretch. Wasim Bari, the second wicket, played inside an off-cutter, and the fourth man, Sikander, who must have been taking his leisure a few moments before bustling out, edged low to second slip. The over, which read 0 w w nb w w 1 in the book, was a supreme example of straight bowling with the ball being moved just enough to find uncertain edges. M. J. C. Allom, in 1930 at Christchurch, and K. Cranston, against South Africa at Leeds in 1947, also took four wickets in an over, Allom's including a hat-trick.

Sarfraz watched all this from Old's end before ending the excitement. He lifted Pakistan to 161 for nine when bad light halted the game, virtually for the day, just before tea. Old quickly wrapped up the innings on the second morning, recording his best Test figures.

England passed 100 for the loss of only Wood. Radley and Brearley batted capably until, in a moment of aberration, Brearley went for a second to long-leg and failed. The quality of the batting was immediately raised when Gower nonchalantly pulled his first ball in Tests - a long-hop from Liaqat- for four. Though badly missed when 15 by Liaqat at mid-on off Mudassar, Gower played with the assurance of a Test veteran, hitting the ball off his legs and past cover with cultured, firm strokes for the bulk of his nine 4s. He caught Radley in the fifties, having given him a start of one hundred minutes, but then surrendered to an uncharacteristic, wild swing.

Radley chugged steadfastly on and completed his second consecutive Test century at the start of Saturday's play before being the first victim of a useful spell from Sikander. He batted five hours ten minutes, hitting eleven 4s. Sikander's two wickets merely cleared the way for Botham, who hit the ball with immense force, turning the screw firmly on an attack that toiled bravely but lacked menace. Botham's hundred came in three hours ten minutes and contained eleven 4s; his stand with the reliable Miller added 122.

England declared at tea 287 runs ahead, and the Pakistan openers batted with commendable freedom for almost two hours until Mudassar was bowled in the penultimate over of the day, bringing in Qasim.

Following Qasim's retirement on Monday, Sadiq, clearly unsettled by the injury, was lbw in the next over. Still Pakistan fought, with Mohsin, for the second time in the game, and Javed Miandad each playing some flowing strokes. Yet there was no real suggestion of permanence, even though they reached 176 for two just before lunch. Miandad was then caught sweeping and, after a break when it rained, Haroon and Wasim Raja were both bowled by balls that came into them. The later batsmen were unable to combat Edmonds and Miller on a pitch now taking spin freely, and the new ball after tea ended the match.

After the game, Pakistan's manager, Mahmood Hussain, described Willis's tactics when bowling at Qasim as "unfair", adding: "The umpires should not have allowed him to bowl like that. Brearley is well aware that the man who was hit is a lower-order batsman and it was a clear infringement of the Playing Conditions." These state: "Captains must instruct their players that the fast, short-pitched ball should at no time be directed at non-recognised batsmen."

Brearley defended his policy by observing: "Anyone who takes a bat in his hand accepts a certain amount of risk and a nightwatchman expects to be treated like a batsman. Qasim looked a competent defensive player to us and I know that he has batted for a long time in various parts of the world. There are difficulties in distinguishing between bumpers and ordinary short balls that lift, and I would not accept that Willis bowled that many bumpers, and the line dividing batsmen from non-recognised batsmen is also difficult to gauge."

Between the first two Tests the controversy was debated at all levels of cricket. The TCCB issued two statements the core of which was that they "bitterly regretted" the incident, reminded Brearley of his responsibilities, and encouraged the captains to exchange lists of non-recognised batsmen.

Though there was some justice in Brearley's view that Qasim was blunting England's attack, it did seem that he was interpreting the Playing Conditions too loosely. The early bumpers were as potentially dangerous as the one that injured Qasim, and the whole performance was unnecessarily ruthless, especially as England were so dominant and there were two days left.

Before the weekend there had been a milder issue, when Wasim Bari complained that England's middle-order batsmen had run up and down the pitch and that the umpires had warned the batsmen several times each.

Old was the sponsor's Man of the Match; the receipts were £38,250 from an attendance of 28,500.

© John Wisden & Co