Fourth Cornhill Test


Graham Otway

At Birmingham, July 23, 24, 25, 27, 28. Drawn. A placid Edgbaston pitch looked certain to produce a draw from the time Pakistan dealt comfortably with Gatting's decision to bowl first after winning the toss. The match, however, suddenly sprang to life after lunch on the final day, with England going close to achieving a remarkable victory.

An incisive spell of fast bowling from Foster, supported well by Botham, brought a swift and unexpected end to Pakistan's second innings and left England with the difficult, but not impossible, target of 124 from the last eighteen overs. Given a brisk start by Broad, who made 30 of an opening stand of 37 in five overs, England should have levelled the series. However, Pakistan were able to harness the talents of Imran Khan and Wasim Akram throughout the run-chase, and without the one-day restrictions on short-pitched bowling and wides, or of fielding circles, England were kept in check as wickets fell. In the end they were just 15 runs short of their goal.

Both captains later agreed that England, with their vast experience of one-day cricket, should have achieved victory; but it was Gatting himself who had to field a great deal of criticism, some of it particularly unsavoury in the tabloid press, on the first two days. He had assumed that, with Birmingham suffering as badly as elsewhere during the prolonged spell of wet weather, a greener than normal pitch might respond to his bowlers early in the match.

It was surprising, therefore, that England chose to omit Radford from their twelve, at a time when he was the leading wicket-taker in the County Championship, and opted instead to play two spinners. This left England a pace bowler short, and Pakistan cashed in by reaching 250 for three by stumps on the first day. It was occupied throughout by Mudassar Nazar, who scored his ninth Test century, mainly in the company of Javed Miandad. Miandad made the most of being dropped at slip by Botham when 15 and scored 75 in a third-wicket partnership of 135.

Rain and bad light delayed the start of the second day until 1.25 p.m. and there were several stoppages during the afternoon, one of which attracted particular attention. Umpires Whitehead and Meyer emerged from the pavilion, only to be left standing alone on the square, waiting to restart the game, while the England team remained in their dressing-room. It later emerged that no player was keeping a lookout, and while blame was later apportioned in several directions, England's absence was not well received. As it turned out, the light again deteriorated and the umpires, to the bemusement of the crowd, returned to their own quarters with England still nowhere in sight.

In between the interruptions, Dilley slowed down the Pakistan advance by taking the wickets of Mudassar, after almost seven hours, Malik and Imran in the space of four overs on the way to only his second five-wicket return in Test cricket. But the tourists were then allowed to reach 439. Botham dropped Salim Yousuf when he was 4 and the wicket-keeper went on to score 91, his highest in fifteen Tests.

England's response on the third day was dominated by an opening stand of 119 between Broad and Robinson. The innings faltered in the middle as Imran, extracting more from the pitch than any bowler previously, worked his way towards his 21st Test haul of five wickets or more; but Gatting, either side of the rest day, silenced some of his critics with a fighting 124. He batted for 6 hours 39 minutes, hit sixteen fours, and with help from Emburey and Foster, earned his side an 82-run advantage.

Just under an hour was left of the fourth day when Pakistan began their second innings. There had been nothing to suggest that anything other than a draw would be achieved, and by lunch on the fifth day (74 for one) they had all but erased the arrears. Foster, however, sent a shiver of panic through the Pakistan dressing-room as Shoaib, Mansoor and Miandad were dismissed in quick succession. Botham lifted England's hopes further with an acrobatic return catch to account for Malik and followed up by bowling Ijaz. But a crucial break of thirteen minutes for bad light and a stubborn innings of 37 from Imran kept England in the field until the start of the final hour.

England's pursuit of their target after the departure of Broad was hampered by these run-outs. Athey was involved, though not wholly to blame, in all of them, and in the later stages of the innings he could manage only 14 runs in seven overs - a disappointing performance that was to cost him his place in the Fifth Test.

With poor weather dominating the first four days, the attendance was just 42,500 with receipts totaling £287,080. Thankfully, there was no repetition of the crowd trouble which had marred the one-day international between the two sides at Edgbaston in May. The match profits, however, were considerably reduced by the necessity of having a large police and stewarding presence on the ground throughout the five days.

Man of the Match: M. W. Gatting.

Close of play: First day, Pakistan 250-3 (Mudassar Nazar 102*, Salim Malik 13*); Second day, England 18-0 (B. C. Broad 14*, R. T. Robinson 2*); Third day, England 273-5 (M. W. Gatting 35*, I. T. Botham 16*); Fourth day, Pakistan 38-0 (Mudassar Nazar 6*, Shoaib Mohammad 32*).

© John Wisden & Co