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The captain’s knocks: Part 2

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Roar Guru
3rd December, 2019

In the first part of this two-part article I described five knocks from yesteryear. Here are five more captain’s knocks from four Subcontinental teams plus Zimbabwe.

Imran Khan: 136 against Australia, Adelaide, 1989
With Pakistan 1-0 down in the series, the tourists made an impressive start on the first morning, racing to 1-91 before losing two quick wickets prior to lunch. The middle order disappointed, and in the end they were restricted to 257 all out. For the Aussies, spinner Peter Taylor was disappointing but the quickies did an excellent job, with Carl Rackemann taking 4-40.

In reply the home side reached 341, with Dean Jones smashing 116.

The Aussie lead of 84 was useful rather than imposing in good batting conditions, yet roughly an hour later it seemed the lead would become decisive as the Pakistan top order collapsed to 4-21. The top four all perished to the hostile pace of Merv Hughes.

At this stage Javed Miandad joined his skipper. Miandad came at six because of an injury and it was clear Pakistan’s best batsman was struggling. When he became Hughes’s fifth victim early on the fourth morning it came as a no surprise to anyone. The Pakistan were 5-90, effectively 6/5 as Wasim Akram joined Imran. Saleem Malik, another top-order batsman, was injured, so Akram got a promotion in the batting line-up.

Most people at the ground were expecting a mid-afternoon finish, yet the Pakistanis finished the day with a sizeable lead as they reached 7-357 before the close. The recovery was made possible only by the brilliant batting from Khan and Akram. The 191-run stand between the two featured typically aggressive batting by Akram and more measured stroke play from the skipper.

Due to the situation of the match, Akram initially remained a bit quiet, but once in the boundaries started to flow from his bat, mostly through off side. He score of 123 runs comprised a healthy 18 fours and a six. Khan at the other end hit just ten fours in his knock of 136. Overall he batted for almost 500 minutes. He was in no position to take any risks, and he frustrated the Aussie bowlers over after over.

Pakistan declared early on the fifth morning. Although David Boon and Allan Border perished cheaply for the Aussies, Dean Jones with his second hundred in the Test ensured the safety of the home team. Pakistan as usual missed a few chances in the field, which made the Aussie job easier.

At the end it was an exciting drawn Test match.


Kapil Dev: 175 not out against Zimbabwe, Turnbridge Wells, 1983 World Cup
So much has been written on this that I feel just recalling the major facts would be enough here. Coming to the wicket with his team struggling at 4-9, he soon saw it become 5-17. All the top-order batsmen were gone, none of them reaching double figures. With only the all-rounders and wicketkeeper Syed Kirmani to bat, there was enormous pressure on the young Indian captain.

He responded to the situation superbly, playing perhaps the innings of his life. Thankfully, he got excellent support from the lower order. Roger Binny, Madan Lal and Kirmani all made useful contributions, but there was no doubt in anybody’s mind about who the star of the show was. The highlights of his brilliant effort were 16 fours and six sixes.

It was Kapil’s match, yet it could easily have been Kevin Curran’s match. Zimbabwe’s premier all-rounder took 3-65 and then top-scored with 73, but everything was in vain. On this day everything else appeared mediocre under the light of Kapils’s genius.

A week later Kapil proudly lifted the World Cup.

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Duncan Fletcher: 69 not out against Australia, Trent Bridge, 1983 World Cup
Kevin Curran’s all-round show against India might have been in vain, but a few days earlier a fine all-round show by the Zimbabwean captain led his team to a historic win.

The World Cup opened on 9 June 1983. As was the norm in those days, all the eight teams were involved on the opening day. As I was following the Test Match Special radio commentary most of the focus was on the England-New Zealand game. Most of the people considered the Zimbabwe match a foregone conclusion, and in fact when the Zimbabwean openers posted a half-century partnership boosted by some extras it came as a surprise to me. Before lunch, though, things looked to be back to normal, with the new boys slumping to 5-94.

It was at this point Duncan Fletcher, the Zimbabwean captain, took command of the situation to lead his side’s fightback. His 84-ball 69* was the biggest factor in the result of the match. There wasn’t anything flashy about his innings; it was just sensible batting. He got help from the ever-reliable Curran (27) and Iain Butchart (34*) as the Africans posted a challenging score of 6-239.

Duncan’s job wasn’t over yet. He took 4-42 from 11 overs with his gentle medium pacers to lead his side to a 13-run victory.

Kepler Wessels top-scored for Australia with 76, but his 130-ball innings hardly did any good for his side. Towards the end Rod Marsh led a late rally with 50* from 42 balls, but he didn’t have enough support. It was a disaster for Kim Hughes, Duncan’s counterpart – he was out for a duck, one of Fletcher’s victims.

Fletcher remained a bogeyman for Australia, masterminding the famous Ashes victory for England in 2005.


Duleep Mendis: 94 against England, Lord’s, 1984
This wasn’t his highest score in Test cricket – in fact it wasn’t even his highest score in the match, having scored a polished hundred in the first innings here. But it was the situation of the match on the final day that gave extra weight to his second innings effort.

It was easy sailing for Sri Lanka in their first innings. They batted for 166 overs to reach 7-491 declared. Opener Sidath Wettimuny scored a memorable 190, skipper Mendis contributed 111, in the process becoming the first Sri Lankan captain to score a Test ton, and Arjuna Ranatunga made 84. England scored 370 in reply, and a draw seemed a certainty as Sri Lanka started their second innings on the final morning.

Yet the inexperience of some of the Sri Lankan batsmen gave an unexpected chance to the home-side bowlers. After producing a fine professional batting display on the first two days they seemed rather cavalier in their approach on the final day.

The result was an unexpected slump to 5-118 in the mid-afternoon. England, who had been struggling for the first four days, suddenly sniffed a chance. Mendis came to bat No. 7 to join wicketkeeper-opener Amal Silva. Mendis held himself back to give chances to the youngsters, but with the complexion of the game changed one expected a dogged fight from the captain. Yet he showed no signs of nerves and batted in a carefree manner, smashing 94 from just 97 balls. In fact it was his relaxed approach that possibly cost him his second hundred of the match. It’s a pity because he had already achieved this feat against India at Madras in 1982. It would have been wonderful for him to repeat such a feat so quickly.

His carefree batting had him smash nine fours and three sixes in his two hours at the crease. Not only did he wrest the initiative back to his team, but he thoroughly entertained the small Tuesday crowd at the Lord’s.


Silva finished at 102*, his maiden Test ton.

Akram Khan: 68 not out against the Netherlands, Kuala Lumpur, 1997 ICC Trophy
I started this two-part article with Allan Border’s knock at the Mecca of cricket; I will finish it in a remote ground of Kuala Lumpur known as the Rubber Research Institute Ground. It was a match between two associate member nations, but for Bangladeshi cricket history the result of this match had a huge implication.

Bangladesh cricket had made steady progress during the 1980s and as the new decade began the nation’s goal was to qualify for the World Cup. Yet Kenya 1994 became a big disappointment – with three World Cup places up for grab the Tigers failed to reach the semi-finals.

A massive rebuilding process started with Akram Khan as the new captain. Bangladesh went into the KL event well prepared and they won all their first-round group matches. After an expected victory over Hong Kong in the second-round group match the whole Tigers plan suffered a setback in the match against Ireland. The players were not at fault – they outplayed their opponents in every department of the game only to see the rain force a no-result.

This changed the whole complexion of the group. While the Irish were almost certain to qualify for the semi-finals, the big match between the Tigers and the Dutch virtually became a quarter-final.

As the radio commentary started from the Malaysian capital I felt a bit apprehensive as the Dutch had been Bangladesh’s bogey team in the past. Yet things started brilliantly for the Tigers. A disciplined bowling and fielding display saw the Dutch restricted to just 171 all out.

A target of 172 is modest in a 50-over game, yet half an hour into the innings everything seemed lost. The Tigers had slumped to 4-15 and looked hapless against opposition attack.


Sitting at Dhaka, I felt crestfallen, the memory of Nairobi three years earlier still fresh in my memory. Over at the ground two men from Chittagong were at the wicket. Skipper Akram Khan was joined by the veteran Minhajul Abedin. The two had just started the recovery when there was a new twist: rain.

All kinds of calculations were done during the rain break. An abandoned match would have ensured Bangladesh’s progress but only as the group runners-up, and we didn’t want that. When play did resume very late on the day our revised target under Duckworth–Lewis method was 141 runs from 33 overs. At the time I didn’t understood the Duckworth–Lewis system properly – I still don’t – but one thing I knew was that on a slow wicket with a wet outfield it wouldn’t be easy. Boundaries were hard to come by and sadly neither of the two batsmen at the wicket were renowned for their running between the wicket.

So when Abedin was run out for 22 from 48 deliveries it came as a no surprise to anyone. A free-flowing batsman, the slow wicket was a struggle for him. At least the 62-run stand gave us hope. All-rounder Enamul Haque Moni – now a very distinguished umpire – came to the wicket. He enjoyed a reputation as an aggressive batsman who often excelled in tight finishes, but here he disappointed us, dismissed cheaply with the score at 6-86. The match was nicely balanced.

At one end Khan was batting solidly, but some support was required. The good thing was that we had a long batting line-up, and Saiful Islam, the medium pacer from Mymensingh, was ready to play the required supporting role. He contributed only 18 in a 50-run partnership, but the most important thing was that he gave perfect support to his captain.

At the end we won the match by three wickets with eight balls to spare. Akram finished 68*. It took him 92 deliveries. There were only three fours, but then this innings was more about character and determination rather than glorious strokemaking.

Much has been written about the value of this innings. Without going into the details, one can safely say that without this effort the progress of Bangladeshi cricket would have been halted for at least five years and possibly more. In short, Akram Khan’s heroics on that day had changed the cricket history of Bangladesh.

Bangladesh booked their place in World Cup by defeating Scotland, and then they beat Kenya to lift the trophy. But everything had hinged on the Holland match, and it was our captain who had led from the front on that big day. That’s why whenever I think of the captain’s knock I always think of Akram Khan’s innings first.