First Cornhill Test



At Lord's, June 5, 6, 7, 9, 10. India won by five wickets, their first Test victory at Lord's and only their second in 33 Tests in England. It was, in addition, England's sixth successive defeat since regaining the Ashes so comprehensively the previous season, and at the end of the match Gower was informed by the chairman of selectors, Mr P. B. H. May, that he had been relieved of the captaincy. Gatting, the vice-captain, was promoted to lead England in the next two Tests.

Gower's tenure began to look insecure on the third afternoon when, with Vengsarkar suffering from cramp in his left arm, India's last two wickets put on 77 runs in 25 overs. So ebbed England's prospects of victory. And when India's bowlers, Kapil Dev and Maninder Singh especially, exposed all manner of deficiencies in England's batting on the fourth day, Gower's fate was sealed. England could not even rely on the weather: when they batted, the cloud came down to encourage movement through the air and off the seam; when India batted, the cloud was high and the sun shone in approval of their batsmen's technique.

Yet by the end of the first day, England at 245 for five had overcome the disadvantage of being asked to bat on an overcast morning and the loss after lunch of three leading batsmen in the space of eleven balls from Chetan Sharma: Gower edging a lazy pull, Gatting bowled through a slow-closing gate, and Lamb well held low down at short leg as he pushed forward. Gooch, however, always looked in control. His square- and on-drives boomed with authority, and while his sixth Test hundred (316 minutes, 255 balls) was not his most commanding, it suited the circumstances. So, too, did Pringle's first fifty in a Test match. The Essex pair had added 147 when, five minutes before the close, Gooch was bowled by Chetan Sharma's nip-backer. His 114, from 280 balls, contained a 6 and twelve 4s.

Friday produced just 132 runs from 83 overs, light rain having delayed the start and interrupted the afternoon. Yet it was not a dull day. India's fielding was sharp, their bowling was nagging to a degree on an off-stump line, and they took all the honours in the first session as the English batsmen progressed to 271 for eight at lunch. Forty minutes later England were all out, having scored 49 from their last 33 overs. India began purposefully and were 83 for the loss of Srikkanth by stumps, Dilley and Ellison both having passed the bat a number of times and Pringle having bowled tidily.

Gavaskar looked determined to score the Test hundred that had eluded him at Lord's, so it came as a surprise when, in the second over of Saturday morning, he played at a ball well wide of him and was caught at third slip. Vengsarkar settled in and Amarnath set pulses racing with 14 from one over by Dilley. However, Emburey, beginning with four successive maiden overs, put on a brake and Edmonds reaped the reward when Amarnath tried to break free of the spinners' hold, only to find the tall figure of Pringle at mid-on.

The new ball, taken early in the afternoon, brought a flurry of runs from Azharuddin before Dilley cut short his bravura with a smart return catch off a back-foot drive. The collapse that followed might have stranded Vengsarkar short of his hundred. He was 81 when Pringle knocked over Chetan Sharma's off stump. Instead, More announced himself as a batsman of higher ranking than ten, Maninder (coming in when Vengsarkar was 95) proved equal to the occasion, and Vengsarkar, with a push for a single, became the first overseas batsman to score three hundreds in Test matches at Lord's - G. Boycott, D. C. S. Compton, J. H. Edrich, J. B. Hobbs and L. Hutton had done so for England. Off 170 balls in 266 minutes, his tenth Test century was one of classical elegance, charm and responsibility. Of the sixteen 4s in his unbeaten 126 (213 balls, 326 minutes) many came from handsome drives.

England had four overs before the close in which they scored 8 without loss. At 5.54 on Monday evening they were all out for 180, leaving India needing 134 to win on the last day. Lamb and Gatting made the most of the attacking fields which Kapil Dev maintained throughout the day, but only Downton showed the technique and the judgement that was required if England were to avoid defeat. Ellison might have been better attacking Maninder than defending when runs were just as important as minutes to England, but India's young left-arm spinner was able to bowl to a length and with a maturity which belied his twenty years. His figures - three for 9 from 20.4 overs - tell their own story.

In truth, though, England had been fighting off their heels from the morning session when Kapil Dev removed Gooch, Robinson and Gower for 1 run in nineteen balls. The next afternoon the Indian captain set the seal on a momentous match for his country by hitting Edmonds for 18 in one over; three 4s and the 6 over mid-wicket with which the game was won. There were other candidates for the Man of the Match award but it was appropriate that it went to Kapil Dev, for whom it was his first victory in 21 Tests as captain of India. There was no way, given India's performance at Lord's, that it would be his last.

The attendance for the match was 57,509, with takings of £455,184.

© John Wisden & Co