Third Test

INDIA v ENGLAND 1992-93

Toss: England.

England became the first side to lose every game of a Test Series in India, despite the commanding century from Hick for which he and the England selectors had been waiting since he made his debut in the First Test of the 1991 series against West Indies. Hick knew that his performances on this tour might make or break his career after the disappointment of his baffling failure to bridge the gap between county and Test cricket. Pressure on him to live up to his undoubted but unproven potential was even greater because of the controversy over the omission of Gower. And when he arrived at the crease to play his 22nd Test innings, England, despite winning the toss and being able to select their first-choice batting order at last, were once again floundering in crisis at 58 for four. Gooch, Stewart, Smith and Gatting were out, Stewart through a run-out that appeared to sum up the divisions within the party after weeks of failure.

He and Atherton were considered rivals for the England captaincy after Gooch. Atherton had been Gooch's deputy in 1991, before missing the tour to New Zealand and the World Cup because of back surgery. He lost the job to Stewart, who was about to take over the side in Sri Lanka after Gooch's early departure from the tour. The uncertainty over the succession had created a dangerous undercurrent. There was a mix-up over a short single, and both were stranded at the bowler's end; it reflected little credit on either that their wait for umpire Venkataraghavan's decision was conducted in stony silence with a telling lack of eye contact. Morally and technically, Atherton, the non-striker, should have gone, as he initially responded to Stewart's call, and the batsmen had crossed before he thought better of it. But having been forced to sit out the previous two Tests, Atherton was in no mood to sacrifice his chance of an innings. The umpire decided that the conspicuously reluctant Stewart should depart.

It would not have been surprising, given the prevailing fatalistic mood of the party, had England simply folded there and then. Indeed, when Hick joined Atherton, the Indians must have felt that one more puff would bring the house down. But Hick survived the loss of his partner and Blakey two runs later when the board read 118 for six. Hick prospered in an excellent stand worth 93 with Lewis, followed by an unlikely one of 68 for the last wicket with Tufnell, who scored just two in 83 minutes. Ninety-nine overnight, Hick reached his maiden Test hundred, his 68th in first-class cricket, in the first over next day. After 501 minutes, 20 fours and a six, he was last man out for 178 of England's 347, a total that should have ensured a face-saving draw at least.

It did not because, once again, the Indian batsmen capitalised on some woeful bowling and fielding. Sidhu and Prabhakar put on 109 for the first wicket. On 174, Sidhu was picked up at silly point off Tufnell. In the next over, Kambli skied a simple catch to long-off and Defreitas made a hash of it. The spill instantly drained the England players of their last dregs of optimism. Kambli went on to make 224 on his home ground, his first Test century in only his third Test. Only 11 men have scored more in their maiden Test century, and it was the highest score ever for India against England. The third-wicket partnership with his Bombay schoolfriend Tendulkar produced 194 runs, a partnership that produced special home-town delight for the crowd. Kambli's was an innings of rare quality, full of daring strokeplay executed with a joyfulness that rippled round the ground. He batted nearly ten hours, faced 411 balls and hit 23 fours. It enabled his team to reach 591 and leave their opponents completely demoralised.

Chasing the 244 required to make India bat again, England immediately slumped to 34 for three. Prabhakar slipped out Stewart, Gooch and Atherton in an opening spell of three for 27 in eight overs from which the innings never recovered. Smith, Gatting and Hick made a fist of survival, but the pitch, now taking considerable turn, enabled the spinners to complete the job shortly after lunch on the fifth day.

At least the margin of England's defeat was an improvement on Madras. There India's victory by an innings and 22 runs was their biggest over England. Here they had to be content with scraping home by an innings and 15. Gooch indicated afterwards that he took full responsibility for the 3-0 defeat. In a highly charged press conference at the team's hotel he suggested that he was uncertain whether to carry on as captain for the summer ahead. The issue was unresolved until well after the Australians arrived in England in April. Azharuddin, on the other hand, who was being abused by the Indian media and several former Indian Test players as the series began, might have allowed himself a quiet chuckle. His position, at one time considered untenable, had suddenly become unassailable.

Man of the Match: G. A. Hick. Man of the Series: A. Kumble

Close of play: First day, England 239-7 (G. A. Hick 99*, J. E. Emburey 5*); Second day, India 144-1 (N. S. Sidhu 69*, V. G. Kambli 20*), Third day, India 397-3 (V. G. Kambli 164*, M. Azharuddin 14*); Fourth day, England 108-3 (R. A. Smith 39*, M. W. Gatting 31*).

© John Wisden & Co