First Cornhill Test


John Callaghan

Toss: West Indies. Test debuts: England - G.A.Hick, M.R.Ramprakash, S.L.Watkin.

England gained their first home victory over West Indies since 1969, when Illingworth's team also won at Headingley. In addition to Gooch, the outstanding batsman, and Defreitas, the most successful bowler, they possessed a greater discipline in testing conditions, and this eventually enabled them to outplay their opponents, in their 100th encounter.

Gooch gloriously confirmed his standing on the international stage. His decisive, unbeaten 154 in the second innings was the product of seven and a half hours of careful application. Unyielding concentration carried him through three interruptions for rain on the fourth day, and mental toughness enabled him to survive a series of disasters at the other end. In 331 deliveries, England's captain collected eighteen fours and scored two thirds of his side's runs from the bat as they built on a lead of 25; and he became the first England opener to carry his bat through a completed innings since G. Boycott finished with 99 not out, in a total of 215, against Australia at Perth in 1979-80. Three other England batsmen had achieved the feat, among them Sir Leonard Hutton, the only one previously to do so in England; coincidentally, West Indies were on the receiving end of his unbeaten double-hundred at The Oval in 1950. Gooch's innings also gave him a full set of Test hundreds on each of England's six international grounds.

Although no praise could be too lavish for Gooch, Defreitas, too, took a prominent role. His match figures of eight for 93 rewarded admirable control and impressive accuracy. Inevitably, as 40 wickets fell for only 785 runs, the pitch attracted a good deal of comment, not all favourable, and batting was never comfortable. The ball moved off the seam and the bounce became a shade variable towards the end; but the damp weather played a part, and far too many batsmen got out to strokes which reflected anxiety about what the ball might do, rather than what it actually did. There was also, at times, some high-class bowling, notably from Ambrose, and three players were run out during the first two innings. As Gooch eventually demonstrated, it was possible to score runs with a sound technique. But it was not a pitch for the flamboyant strokeplayer, and West Indies lost largely because they failed to appreciate this point. Significantly, it was the tenth successive Test on the ground to produce a positive result.

England included three newcomers to Test cricket in Hick, Ramprakash and Watkin. The last-mentioned was initially cover for Pringle, who was concerned about a back strain, but when this cleared up Watkin played instead of Lewis, who had reported feeling ill shortly before the start. England also left out Illingworth, the left-arm spinner. Haynes overcame his earlier back trouble to open for West Indies, and his presence was all the more valuable in view of the long-term injury to his regular partner, Greenidge.

Influenced by the thick cloud cover and a misty atmosphere, Richards elected to put England in, and he had no cause for regret when his bowlers dismissed them for 198, England failing to reach 200 for the seventh time in nine innings at Headingley. The pattern of the first day was set by Atherton, recently appointed deputy to Gooch, when he was bowled playing back to Patterson. Hick was given a thorough testing in his first innings for his adopted country, and eventually got out aiming at a wide delivery, while Lamb also lacked conviction. Gooch, though not at his best, attacked Marshall, but was undone by a quicker delivery from him. Marshall looked the pick of the West Indian pace quartet before limping off with a hamstring strain and three of England's top five batsmen to his credit. The good impression made by Ramprakash, and Smith's readiness to wrest the initiative, gave England visions of a recovery, until Ambrose ran out Smith by a fraction with a superb throw from third man. His 54 was made from 88 balls, and he hit seven fours as well as gaining a five from overthrows.

The batsmen had to contend with poor light at times, with near darkness removing 26 overs from the schedule, and conditions remained much the same on the second day, when the tables were neatly turned. Pringle and Defreitas bowled tightly to compensate for the wayward Malcolm, and Ramprakash excelled in the field. He dived acrobatically to his right in the covers to catch Simmons, and then swooped to throw down the stumps at the bowler's end as Hooper attempted an apparently reasonable single. Hick held two catches at second slip, and the third débutant, Watkin, could also celebrate, as he claimed Haynes's wicket with his fourteenth ball in Test cricket. The West Indian batsmen were not blameless, however; Richards's poor judgment in turning down a straightforward third run left Richardson stranded. Nor could he hold together the bottom half of the innings, being caught steering the fifth ball of the third day to slip. His 98-ball 73, containing two sixes and seven fours in just over two hours, was his highest Test score on the ground, but he must have been disappointed, none the less, by the manner of his dismissal.

Despite their unexpected first-innings lead, England plunged into crisis as Ambrose struck some crippling blows. Twice he was on a hat-trick, with Lamb and Smith departing first ball, and he picked up the first six wickets while the scoreboard lurched to 124. Mixing short-pitched bowling with accurate yorkers, Ambrose made full use of his 6ft 7 in, and kept the ball around the line of the off stump. Though Hick may have been slightly unfortunate in being bowled off bat and pad, he never really established himself, but Ramprakash, sharing a fourth-wicket stand of 78 with his captain, again showed promise. When rain brought an early finish, England had a lead of only 168 with four wickets in hand. The support Gooch needed was to come from Pringle, who stood firm while 98 runs were added for the seventh wicket. The Essex all-rounder used his height and reach to get well forward, thus frustrating Ambrose, and occasionally he added a well-timed stroke off his legs for good measure. Richards may have erred in not using Marshall at the start of the day.

When Gooch finally ran out of partners, England had 277 runs at their backs, and West Indian anxiety was reflected in an extravagant cut by Simmons, who dragged the first ball from Defreitas into his stumps. England could even afford a rare error by Ramprakash on the last day - he missed a very hard chance offered by Haynes- as West Indies crumbled under pressure. Richards sacrificed his wicket with a wild stroke against Watkin, and while Richardson played an innings of quality, hitting eleven fours in his 68 from 141 balls, the West Indian batsmen generally could not control their aggressive streak. Though Watkin bowled too many half-volleys, no-one had the self-discipline to wait for the less risky scoring opportunity. West Indies swished away their faint hopes as Defreitas and Pringle nagged away at them, supported by good catching, and despite a flourish from Dujon, the long-awaited triumph came without undue alarm.

Man of the Match: G. A. Gooch. Attendance: 46,325; receipts £565,000.

Close of play: First day, England 174-7 ( D. R. Pringle 6*, P. A. J. DeFreitas 13*); Second day, West Indies 166-8 ( I. V. A. Richards 73*, C. A. Walsh 1*); Third Day, England 143-6 ( G. A. Gooch 82*, D. R. Pringle 10*); Fourth day, West Indies 11-1 ( D. L. Haynes 3*, R. B. Richardson 8*).

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