Third Cornhill Test



At The Oval, July 8, 9, 10, 12, 13. Drawn. Though left drawn after a highly unprepossessing last day, a result which gave England a 1-0 win in the series, the third and final Test had, like its predecessors, its share of excitement and drama. Notable was the batting of Botham, Lamb and Kapil Dev, and a cruel injury to Gavaskar, who took no further part in the match after a stroke by Botham broke a bone in his left shin on the first day.

Despite their captain's absence, and in the face of a huge total, India batted boldly and with a good deal of character, avoiding the follow-on, albeit with seven wickets down. The match then died a lingering death on the fifth day with England delaying their declaration until India were right out of contention and not asking batsmen who were under pressure for their places to sacrifice their wickets.

While India were unchanged, England brought back Allott and omitted Miller, opting for four seam bowlers rather than the variety of an extra spinner. In the event, a mild pitch offered negligible help to anyone although, having been under water less than a week earlier, it had its hazards on the first morning when Cook and Tavaré figured in their second successive century opening stand. This was a good example of sensible batting providing a platform for pyrotechnics later. As the pitch became more straightforward under hot sunshine, Botham and Lamb provided entertainment of the highest quality in a partnership which had added 144 in 28 overs by the end of the day. Crucially, it also brought about Gavaskar's injury when Botham, forcing Shastri off the back foot, struck him a fearsome blow as he fielded close in at silly-point.

Lamb was run out after completing his maiden Test century, but Botham went on, with increasing power and majesty, to his highest score at this level and to one of the fastest double-centuries in Test history. When he reached 200 off 220 balls in 268 minutes, it was the third fastest by an Englishman, after Hammond (240 minutes) and Compton (245 minutes). In terms of balls received, it may have been the fastest ever. The Indians found it virtually impossible to bowl to him as he drove with rare ferocity, one straight 6 off Doshi leaving its mark for posterity in the shape of a hole in the pavilion roof. When he was caught, off his controversial reverse sweep, he had hit four 6s and nineteen 4s.

Inevitably there was a sense of anti-climax after his departure, and poor light prevented a logical England declaration before the close of the second day, with Randall falling 5 short of his second century of the series. India then counter-attacked spiritedly, Shastri, Viswanath and Patil making half-centuries of varying nature and, after 42 overs had been lost to bad light on the fourth morning, Kapil Dev crashing 97 from 93 balls. Kirmani batted sensibly in support of Kapil Dev, and the pair added a record 130 for India's sixth wicket, beating the 105 made by Hazare and Phadkar at Leeds in 1952. Though lacking Botham's discipline, Kapil Dev's was a hugely entertaining innings, played in adversity, and included two 6s and fourteen 4s; by the time he was caught from a stroke aimed at taking him to three figures, India had virtually avoided the follow-on.

When they were all out, 184 behind, Kapil still had enough energy left to produce a testing, high-class piece of new-ball bowling which bothered England, even though the pitch was at its mildest. He removed the unlucky Cook and the last day was highly academic, not dissimilar to many seen in India during the previous winter, but accepted rather more decorously there than by a small but noisy Oval crowd.

The total attendance was 26,348, the receipts £121,678.

© John Wisden & Co