The game of cricket differs from the most other team sports in a number of ways.
One significant difference, in my mind, is that individual efforts play a much bigger role in cricket than in any other team sports.
All the successful international cricketers have produced some significant contributions for their teams at different stages of their careers. In some cases, a player’s name is associated with some brilliant effort of his.
Stan McCabe’s name always reminds us of his 232 from 277 balls at Trent-bridge in 1938. Similarly for many Aussies the mention of Kim Hughes’ name inevitably evokes the memories of the boxing day of 1981.
For most Kiwi fans of yesteryear, their most lasting memory of Sir Richard Hadlee was his nine-wicket haul at the Gabba in 1985.
Yet, over the years, many top cricketers have also produced performances that have failed to get the recognition these efforts deserved. At times other performances from the same player have overshadowed these events. Here, in this two-part article, I am looking back at some of these efforts from both the bowlers and the batters.
I will start with the batsmen:
Viv Richards (61) against India at Kingston in Feb. 1983
At lunchtime on the final day, the game seemed destined for a tame draw. On a slow wicket, both teams had batted with caution and the weather had badly interfered, the fourth day’s play was completely lost.
But, then the two famous Antiguans combined to change the game completely. First, Andy Roberts in a hostile spell reminiscent of his young days ran through the Indian middle-order as India slumped from 3-112 to 174 all out.
Still it seemed that the home side didn’t have enough time to chase their fourth-innings target of 172. But, led by their champion batsman, they produced a fabulous and successful chase.
Desmond Haynes from Barbados got the ball rolling with 34 from 21 balls. Clive Lloyd’s decision to come at No.3 didn’t work as Kapil, his opposite number, dismissed him cheaply. But Viv coming at 4 looked at his majestic best.
The demand of the situation suited his naturally aggressive batting perfectly and his 61 from 36 balls eventually took the home side to a four-wicket win. They reached their target from just 25.2 overs.
Andy Roberts was adjudged MOM for taking nine wickets in the match, but it was basically the combined effort of the two Antiguans that led to this Windies success.
Kim Hughes (80) and Allan Border (61) against India at Mumbai in Nov. 1979
The pair put on 132 for the third wicket in difficult batting conditions, out of a team total of 198. No one else reached the double figures, Mr Extra was the third-highest contributor with 22. Among the batsmen, Andrew Hilditch came third with nine runs.
In the context of the match and of the series this partnership mattered little. But it showed the class of the two young Aussies.
Actually, Kim Hughes’ second-string team did well to reach the sixth and final Test at the Wankhede only 1-0 down. So, on paper at least, the series was still open.
Throughout the series Aussie batting, led by the skipper himself, did well. As for the bowling, left armer Geoff Dymock bent his back manfully – as did Rodney Hogg despite his serious back problems. But the spinners were disappointing.
At Wankhede, where the pitch was expected to deteriorate rapidly in the autumn sun, winning the toss and batting first was important.
Sunil Gavaskar won the toss. Gavaskar (123) and his reliable opening partner Chetan Chauhan (73) gave India the early initiative putting on 192 for the first wicket. The Aussies fought back restricting the middle order, but WK Kirmani, who came as the night-watchman late on the first day, scored a ton and took the score to 458 for 8.
In reply, Hilditch didn’t do any good to his team’s chances buy running himself out for 13. The Indian spinners Dilip Doshi and Shivlal Yadav then ran through the opposition batting and Australian team only managed a total of 160. The follow-on was enforced.
The Aus openers perished early, and the Hughes-Border duo took the score to 60 before the end of the third day’s play. The Bombay crowd came on the fourth morning expecting to see the Indian spinners quickly run through the Aussie batting. Instead, for the first hour-and-a-half, they saw batting of the highest class.
Hughes and Border used different approaches. Despite the uneven bounce, Border played mostly off the back foot using his excellent reflexes to counter any unexpected behaviour from the wicket. Hughes, on the other hand, used his nimble footwork well to drive frequently off the front foot.
The pair took the score to 149 when Kapil dismissed Hughes. After that it became a procession and Border was the eighth man out with the score at 187. The match and the series was over in the mid-afternoon of the fourth day.
Sunil Gavaskar (111 and 137) against Pak at Karachi in Nov. 1978
In his illustrious career the Indian ‘Little Master’ scored hundreds in each innings of a Test match on three occasions: twice against depleted WI attacks and this one against Pak. Considering the circumstances and the quality of the opposition bowling, this was definitely the best.
But the cricketing public don’t mention this effort often enough partly because despite Sunil’s heroics, India lost the match by eight wickets.
India certainly was unlucky to lose the Karachi Test. Thanks mainly to Gavaskar, they scored 344 and 300 in the match. Given the slow scoring in Test matches at the time and also given the fact that then the sub-continent Tests used to see only five and a half hours play each day, this should have been enough to ensure a draw. But a late rally by the home team saw them win the match.
In fact, India looked pretty safe on the final afternoon at 6-246. But then Sarfraz Nawaz dismissed Gavaskar, and Indian innings folded just before the tea break.
The Paks needed 164 runs for victory and it seemed that time was against them. But they produced a superb run chase reaching 164 for 2 in less than 25 overs thanks to some brilliant batting by Javed Miandad, Aisf Iqbal and Imran khan. Obviously, they had changed their batting lineup to suit the demand of the situation.
Clive Lloyd 60* against England at the Oval in Aug 1984
This was the last Test match of the series and it would be Lloyd’s final Test match on English soil. The Windies were on the brink of a historic clean sweep of a five-match series in England.
But things didn’t start well for them. Lloyd won the toss and decided to bat first. While debutant Jonathan Agnew wasted the new ball bowling too short and too wide, the remaining English bowlers showed excellent discipline and they got good support from the conditions.
The English bowlers had also made a good start in the previous Test at the Old Trafford, but there a Gordon Greenidge double hundred and a Jeff Dujon hundred had led to a successful WI recovery. Here, even Greenidge and Dujon perished cheaply, and when Richard Ellisson, another England debutant, dismissed Malcolm Marshall for a duck, the scoreboard read 6-70.
It seemed that England might be on course for a consolation victory.
But, Lloyd, the WI captain, was holding one end in a determined fashion.
And he eventually got support from the No.8 bat. Eldine Baptiste was a highly respected all-rounder in county cricket playing for Kent. He was a fine ODI player as well, but with the WI Test team he was a fringe player.
He was the fourth seamer, and a useful lower-order bat. He was kind of a lucky charm for the team -he played ten Tests for WI and they won all of these. I must add that the Windies team at the time didn’t need much luck anyway.
Here, Baptiste, along with his captain, started the recovery act. The pair added 54 runs before Baptiste was dismissed. But Lloyd wasn’t finished yet. He carried on the fight along with the tail-enders. Roger Harper made 18, and Joel Garner, the no.11, contributed six.
But more importantly, the last wicket partnership produced 36 valuable runs, as the tall Guyanese left-hander looked at his majestic best.
Thanks mainly to their captain WI ended their first innings at 190. The fast bowlers then took over and England was restricted to 162 on the next day as Malcolm Marshall took 5 for 35 – Wisden later described this as an ‘almost brutal display of fast bowling’.
And in the English second innings, Michael Holding revived memories of his 1976 heroics taking 5 for 43. This was Holding’s last Test in England as well.
The Englishmen could consider themselves a bit unlucky to lose 5-0. Except the first Test at Edgbaston where they were outplayed right from the word go they had chances in all the remaining matches. It was the depth of talent of the WI team and their ability to play the big points better that made the clean sweep possible.
In about 20 months’ time, WI, this time led by Viv Richards, would inflict another humiliating 5-0 clean sweep on England. This time, it was as one-sided as it can be.
Ian Botham (66) against Ind at Delhi, Dec 1981
This match was always destined to be a draw. Not only was the pitch very slow, but both sides showed their negative intents in team selection. England had Mike Gatting at No.7 and went into the match with only four frontline bowlers. India was worse, with Ravi Shastri showing increasing focus in his batting, they only had three frontline bowlers.
The opening day crowd at the Feroz Shah Kotla was both lucky and at the time a bit unlucky. They were lucky in the sense that they saw history being made; late on the day, Geoffrey Boycott overtook Sir Gary Sobers’ record as the leading run-scorer in Test cricket.
They were unlucky in the sense that they saw Boycott batting in his usual fashion for the whole day. After five-and-a-half-hours of cricket, England finished the day at 1-190 with Boycott 90*.
Boycott duly completed his hundred the next morning and Chris Tavare also scored 149, his first Test ton. For Boycott, this would be his last Test century. It seemed that England was batting to save the match and there was no attempt to raise the tempo.
But the arrival of the ‘Beefy’ changed everything. Coming to the crease late on the second day with the score reading 4-368, he immediately went into the fourth gear.
The Indian spinners Dilip Dishi and Shashtri were bowling flat trajectories, making it very difficult for the opposition batsmen to play lofted shots. But Botham was on the mood and there was no stopping his stroke-play.
It was Christmas Eve, but Botham seemed to be the only player to be in a festive mood. Everyone else seemed preoccupied with saving the match. No one was bothering about entertaining the patient Delhi crowd.
Botham was dismissed for 66 early on the third morning on the boxing day. His 48-ball innings included two fours and five sixes. The home crowd gave him a standing ovation.
Botham’s dismissal ended the fun for the crowd. Eng declared on 9-476. But the home side batted with caution to save the match. Gundappa Vishwanath scored a fine hundred, but even normally flamboyant Kapil Dev took 42 balls to score 16 runs.
England relied heavily on Derek Underwood, but while he was accurate the veteran Kent spinner no longer had the venom of his heydays. He took 2 for 97 from 48 overs.
Botham did score 142 in the rain-affected sixth Test at Kanpur, but this time it was his rival Kapil who provided the main entertainment, smashing 116 from 98 balls in the drawn match.