Fourth Test Match


At Calcutta, January 1, 2, 3, 5, 6. Drawn. England had their best chance to date of levelling the series when a brisk, inventive 60 not out by Fletcher enabled him to leave his bowlers six hours to bowl India out a second time - or India to score 306 to win on a slow pitch with the ball keeping low. But on the last morning the smog from the nearby River Hooghlie, drifting like bonfire smoke into Eden Gardens, spared India 70 minutes of batting and took the pressure out of what could have been a tense last day. England might still have won had Gavaskar gone early; but after an anxious start, in which he survived two close lbws, he batted imperturbably through the day.

It was a fine match, watched on all five days by a notably well-behaved capacity crowd of 78,800. India made their first change of the series, preferring Yadav to Kirti Azad, who had taken only one wicket with his brisk off-spin. England, convinced it would not be another stalemate but in doubt as to which bowlers would be best suited to a suspect pitch, brought in Emburey for Lever, partly in deference to Underwood's known liking to be supported by another spinner.

Kapil Dev, after being firmly hooked for 4 by Boycott - who began with unfamiliar levity - produced his best bowling of the series as, settling into a relentless line around off stump, he had Boycott, Tavaré and, on the second morning, Gatting caught at the wicket off balls that left the bat. He finished with six for 91. England, having elected to bat, were content to let Doshi and Shastri dictate, but the 93 Fletcher and Botham added for the fifth wicket was the only stand of note. When the last five wickets fell for 32, the innings ended lamely at lunchtime on the second day.

Though Underwood hit Gavaskar's off stump through a defensive stroke, India looked well placed to take control when they were 105 for two at the close. Next morning, however, Underwood had Kapil Dev caught at slip, patting a late cut, just as he was threatening mayhem, and the innings fell apart. The crucial wicket was that of Vengsarkar, who, after a slow 50 in 267 minutes, was driving and hitting off his legs with graceful fluency and power when, on the stroke of lunch, he was adjudged caught at the wicket off the second new ball off a snick he thought had failed to carry.

England used the heavy roller in the hope of opening the cracks and breaking up the pitch. Boycott, pushing forward, was lbw to Madan Lal, but with a lead of 89 they spent the rest day hopeful that the ball's increasingly low bounce would make 250 out of range in India's second innings. India averaged 13.5 overs an hour, Doshi and Shastri justifying Gavaskar's faith in their ability to keep control to defensive fields. Gower had been tied down, but Fletcher cleverly restored the impetus Gooch had given the innings. The declaration came 40 minutes from the close, but the smog, Gavaskar and the pitch's failure to deteriorate ended all hopes of an England victory.

© John Wisden & Co