Second Test Match

Gavaskar's flawless exhibition

In normal circumstances, it is a dull match that sees only 23 wickets fall in a full five days, but the second Test, though an almost certain draw from lunch-time on the third day, will long be remembered for the batting of Gavaskar. In the longest innings ever played for India - 11 hours, 48 minutes - he gave a flawless exhibition of the defensive arts, batting chancelessly from the first ball of the third day until mid-morning on the fifth. His concentration was unwavering and his perfect balance and coordination in defence, plus the unerring selection and beautiful execution of his attacking strokes, made it a connoisseur's delight. Of his 21 4s, mostly through the covers off the front foot or between square leg and fine leg off his hip, all but one came from the middle of the bat.

Justification for Gavaskar's slowness lay in an England score of 400 which occupied two days and all but insured them against losing. To that end they played an extra batsman, Gatting, at the expense of a bowler, Emburey, from the side that lost the first Test, setting their sights no higher than a draw even before Willis, suffering from chest and stomach troubles, cried off on the morning of the match. He was replaced by Lever.

Gooch and Boycott gave the innings a buoyant start by scoring 84 in the first two hours after Fletcher had won the toss; but in the afternoon and evening Tavaré, dropping a dead bat even on half-volleys, consumed three hours making 22. Gower, after a shaky start against the left-arm spinners, played well to reach 50 in 101 minutes. Then he, too, gave best to Doshi and Shastri, spending 140 minutes adding 32 before Shastri had him lbw on the second morning with what, to the left-hander, was a perfect off-break which turned and hurried.

Half an hour later Fletcher, given out caught at the wicket when he swept at Shastri, so far forgot the standards expected of an England captain that he used his bat to cuff the stumps awry as he turned for the pavilion, sure he had not hit the ball. It was an unworthy reaction from someone who had been at pains to tell his team to accept the umpiring for what it was and he later wrote a letter of apology to the Indian Board. However, on balance England benefited from various questionable decisions in the match. A controlled 55 by Botham, and a positive ninth-wicket stand of 69 between Dilley and Taylor, took England to 400 just before the close.

Despite the slowness of the pitch, England might have put India under pressure by taking wickets early in their innings. But Srikkanth won the initiative with 65 off only 87 balls, and by the close the Indians were safe at 189 for one. Lever, rediscovering his in-swinger with the second new ball, took four wickets in eight overs next morning, but Gavaskar remained immovable. Only four and threequarter hours were left for England's second innings, when Boycott passed Cowdrey's world record of 188 Test innings, and a match watched by more than 200,000 petered to a draw.

© John Wisden & Co
 
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