Third Test Match


This time only nineteen wickets fell and it was dull. At the root of it lay the type of pitch that makes 450-500 the par first-innings score - and an over-rate that underlined how necessary it is to introduce a daily minimum. England managed just 13.06, which was nothing to be proud of, but that India, with only one bowler above medium pace, should be allowed to average 12.79 without interference from the umpires made a travesty of cricket; especially as Gavaskar was to admit afterwards that this was a preconceived policy, calculated to limit India's batting time once Gooch and Boycott had given England a solid foundation with a stand of 132 after Fletcher had again won the toss.

The day before the match the Indian board upheld England's objection to Mohammad Ghouse and substituted Swaroop Kishen, who had stood at Bombay. It excited some unfavourable comment in the local press, but the match itself was played in good spirit, produced batting records rather than controversy and, apart from the disregard of the torpid over-rates, was well umpired.

Of the records set, the most notable was by Boycott, who, on his way to equalling Hammond's and Cowdrey's tally of 22 Test hundreds for England, became, when 82, the most prolific of all Test batsmen, passing Sobers's 8,032 runs for West Indies. (Boycott needed 190 innings to Sobers's 160). For India, Shastri shared in two record partnerships against England - 128 for the eighth wicket with Kirmani and 104 for the ninth with Madan Lal - as India compiled their highest total against England in India.

For Tavaré, in his seventh Test match, there was an enterprising maiden hundred: under orders not to hang about he needed only 303 balls for his 149. Boycott's 105 came off 278 balls. However, the best batting was provided by the artistic Viswanath (107 of 200 balls) in his 74th successive Test for India, and by the mighty Botham who, with a declaration in the offing, clubbed 66 off 48 balls [including 50 in a Test-record 26 balls] with five 6s, three of them 30 yards beyond the line.

The match was shaped not only by the pitch and the over-rate but also by the reluctance of the ball to swing, which was unusual for Delhi and in sharp contrast to England's last two Tests there. Changes of ball were commonplace as, with the acquiescence of the umpires, both sides probed for one that swung. But of the dozen tried, no more than three fulfilled the bowlers' hopes and then only briefly. One of these was being used during the sole period in five days when either side was vulnerable: through a combination of careless strokes and determined England bowling, India sank to 254 for seven. But with India needing only another 23 to save the follow-on, Lever bowled four bad overs to give Kirmani and Shastri a footing. On so placid a pitch, though, England would have been hard pressed to win even if India had been obliged to bat again.

© John Wisden & Co