Third Cornhill Test


Jack Bannister

A stoppage of 48 minutes for bad light and rain after tea on the fifth day tantalisingly denied both sides the opportunity of winning a match which fluctuated throughout on a dry, brown pitch. Needing 236 to register a record third successive victory over England, who would then have equalled their worst losing streak of eight successive Tests, established in 1921, India ended 62 runs short with five wickets in hand.

In deciding to revert to five specialist batsmen, England made five changes, including one enforced by Dilley's reporting unfit on the morning of the game with a tooth abscess. Benson and Radford made their Test débuts, while Foster, Gower, and Edmonds returned. The changes brought the number of players used by England in the three-match series to 19, compared with 13 by India, who reverted to the side which won at Lord's, Amarnath and Chetan Sharma having recovered after injury.

Gatting won the toss and batted, but superb swing bowling by Kapil Dev sent back Gooch and Athey in seven balls without a run on the board. Although Gower hit a brilliant 49 off 81 deliveries in 112 minutes, when he was out at 88, Gatting was the last front-line batsman left. Moreover, Gatting was dependent on a brittle-looking middle-lower order to extract maximum benefit from first use of a wearing pitch. Yet the next four partnerships added 96, 94, 49 and 40 with the captain playing an unbeaten innings of 183 in 387 minutes. Gatting faced 294 balls and hit two sixes and 20 fours in a demonstration of technique and character which forced Kapil Dev into a less positive approach than he had shown in the previous two Tests.

England's total of 390 should have ensured a crucial first-innings lead on a pitch which was unreliable in bounce and, although slow in pace, became more helpful to seam and spin bowlers alike as the game progressed. Such a pitch was hardly satisfactory for a five-day game. But Foster alone, among a disappointing trio of faster bowlers, threatened consistently to take wickets. This, combined with a surprising under-use of Emburey, who did not bowl on the third day until the 62nd over, allowed India also to reach 390. It was the first time both innings had finished level in a Test match since New Zealand and Pakistan, 402 each at Auckland, and West Indies and Australia, 428 each at Kingston, accomplished the feat in February 1973. Amarnath and Azharuddin, with 79 and 64 respectively, came nearest to a major innings, but it was India's batting depth which denied England any advantage after three days, other than that of bowling last.

In England's second innings, their first five batsmen all established themselves, but none played a decisive innings. Hostile seam bowling by Chetan Sharma more than compensated for Kapil's absence with a back injury by inducing a mid-innings collapse which reduced the home side from 152 for two to 190 for seven in 15 overs. His six wickets gave him ten for 188 in the match, making him only the fourth Indian to take ten wickets in a match against England, and India were left a minimum of 84 overs in which to win.

For the second time in the match, Gavaskar and Srikkanth punished Foster and Radford, each conceding 17 runs from their first three overs. They put on 58 in 39 minutes, but once Edmonds came on to bowl to the worn Pavilion end, India's confident progress was checked. He had Srikkanth caught, sweeping, and almost an hour later broke through with three of the four wickets to fall in 38 deliveries for four runs. A score of 126 for five off 55 overs at the tea interval promised an exciting last session, with England holding a slight advantage, but the weather's intervention snuffed out India's chance of victory.

Azharuddin held firm against Gatting's attacking fields in the 18 overs after the final resumption, and his unbeaten 29 in 37 overs, together with More's 31 in 36, denied England a win they could have achieved had they bowled better in the first innings - and still might have achieved had Emburey been used more judiciously in both innings.

The Man of the Match was Gatting. The attendance for the five days was 42,750 with takings of £248,323.

© John Wisden & Co