In the first part of this article I recalled five efforts from the batsmen that have failed to get the deserved recognition.
Now, it’s the turn to take a look at the bowlers.
Alan Davidson: 7-93 against India at Kanpur, 1959
The NSW all-rounder’s name is always associated with the tied match the Gabba. It was his run out late on the final evening that started the famous drama. Also, many people remember his batting at Old Trafford in the (northern) summer that led to a famous Australian comeback win.
But his best match figures of 12-124 at Kanpur, India are often forgotten. It is partly due to the fact that Australia eventually lost the match, and also because of the fact that back in 1959 the India-Australia rivalry wasn’t considered a major cricketing event.
The match in the north Indian city started on 19th of December. With the schools closed for winter vacation, there was a strong young crowd in the ground on the opening day. And they saw the tourists take the initiative, restricting India to 152 all out. Davidson (5-31) and skipper Richie Benaud (4-63) did most of the damage.
But the local side fought back on the second day with off spinner Jasu Patel taking 9-69. On the opening day, Davidson – bowling left arm over the wicket – had created plenty of rough outside the batsman’s off stump at one end. Bowling from the opposite end, Patel cleverly exploited the rough.
Australia still had a first-innings lead of 67. But they didn’t have any offie to take advantage of the rough. Neil Harvey tried some part-time off spinners and took the wicket of the Indian captain GS Ramchand. But it was Davidson, bowling the left-arm unorthodox variety, who did the biggest damage.
India looked set for a big score at 2-121. Left hander Nari Contractor was led the charge with 74. But Davidson had him caught by Harvey and then continued on for a marathon spell. His overall figures for the second innings were 57.3-23-93-7. And he mostly bowled spin in this innings.
Despite his brilliance, the Indian lower order showed plenty of grit and determination to take the score to 291. And India eventually won the match by 119 runs.
Kapil Dev: 9-83 against the West Indies at Ahmedabad, 1983
During the West Indies’ second innings, the Indian captain produced superb spell of fast bowling. He bowled unchanged for 30.3 overs, taking 9-83. Yet, after his team was soundly beaten, he was criticised for opting to field first after winning the toss on an under-prepared wicket.
Yet things had started so brightly for India on the opening day. Roger Binny, India’s hero of the 1983 World Cup, ran through the West Indies’ top order, taking 3-18. But in the process he injured himself and didn’t bowl anymore in the match.
Skipper Clive Lloyd started the Windies’ recovery, scoring 68, but it was the wicketkeeper-batsman Jeff Dujon, in prime form, who became the key man. He was the last man out for 98, narrowly missing a well deserved hundred. The West Indies finished on 281 all out early on the second day – the last two wickets had added 91 vital runs.
In reply India got off to a flying start, and somewhat unexpectedly, it was Sunil Gavaskar who was leading the charge. Fresh from a record-equaling 29th hundred in the previous match at Delhi, he batted in a carefree manner. During the innings he overtook Geoffrey Boycott as the leading Test run scorer, and it appeared that he would complete his 30th hundred before stumps, but late in the day, Michael Holding dismissed him for 90. His runs came from just 120 balls. India finished the day at 2-173 and seemed to have the edge.
But with the in-form Dilip Vengsarkar missing the Test with injury, and the out-of-form Mohinder Amarnath dropped, the Indian middle order was very inexperienced. Also the pitch was deteriorating rapidly and a nasty patch had developed on the wicket at the pavilion end.
Not surprisingly, the Indian batting collapsed badly on the third morning and they were all out for 241. For a change it wasn’t Malcolm Marshall or Michael Holding who did the damage. Instead it was Wayne Daniel, given a rare chance with the Windies’ team. He did the main damage. He took 5-39. It was his only five-wicket haul in Test cricket.
As the West Indies started their second innings Balwinder Singh Sandhu dismissed Desmond Haynes for one, and after that it became Kapil versus the West Indies batsmen. Bowling into the pavilion end he used the patches perfectly. He kept India in the game, almost single-handedly picking up wickets at vital times. After the West Indies were reduced to 5-74 with Gus Logie completing his pair in the match, Lloyd and Jeff Dujon tried another recovery act. But Kapil dismissed even them to reduce the tourists to 7-114.
Sadly, there was no support for him. There was no Binny with the ball, Sandhu was expensive and the spinners were very ordinary. And the West Indies’ tail, led by Micheal Holding (58) and Malcolm Marshall (29), took the score up to 201. Throughout the series, the two fast bowlers had tormented the Indian top order with their hostile bowling and together they took 63 wickets in the series. Here at Ahmedabad they used the long handle with the bat. They treated Kapil with respect, but scored freely at the other end.
The Indian fourth innings target was 242. During the break time the Indian radio commentators were upbeat about the Indian chances with Gavaskar in fine form. But Holding trapped Sunil plumb LBW for one, and the procession started. At one stage India were reduced to 7-39 and they only managed to reach 103 thanks to a last-wicket partnership of 40. Holding was the man of the match after taking 4-30.
This was Kapil’s career-best bowling figures. He also had figures of 8-85 against Pakistan at Lahore in early 1983 and 8-106 against Australia at Adelaide in late 1985. Both these efforts came on batting-friendly flat tracks.
Bob Willis: 5-35 against NZ at Headingley, 1983
Just two years after his Headingley heroics against Australia in 1981, Willis tried a similar feat against the Kiwis at the same venue, but this time England just didn’t have enough runs on the board.
After Lance Cairns blew away the England batting on the opening day, the Kiwi batsmen produced a sensible batting display to ensure a first-innings lead of 152. England didn’t learn from their mistakes in the first innings, and batted poorly in the second. The only exception was David Gower, and his unbeaten hundred gave England a slender lead of 100.
NZ had never won a Test in England previously and there were clear signs of nerves with history beckoning. Willis, the England captain, took this opportunity. At one stage NZ were looking comfortable at 2-60, but then both John Wright and future star Martin Crowe fell to Willis in quick succession to leave the Kiwis at 4-61. England sensed an outside chance.
It was the fourth day of the match, and the Monday crowd was fairly small. But the England supporters did their best to get behind their captain. Some of them I presume were there in 1981 as well. But this time, the opposition prevailed.
There just wasn’t enough support for Willis. Still, he bowled Jeff, the elder Crowe, to complete his five-for. And Jeff Crowe was his 300th Test victim. He eventually finished his career with 325 Test wickets.
But Jeremy Coney and Richard Hadlee took NZ home for a historic five-wicket win. Bob Willis played his last Test for England also in the same venue in 1984. This time it wasn’t a particularly impressive display from the big fast bowler.
Shane Warne: 3-11 against Sri Lanka at Colombo (SSC), 1992
The home side dominated this Test throughout only to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. On the opening day, Arjuna Ranatunga, the Sri Lanka captain, boldly put the opposition in and the Aussie batting inexplicably collapsed against the gentle medium pace of Chandika Hathurusingha – he took 4-66 as the tourists were restricted to 256 all out. The Lankans took a massive lead, thanks to three hundreds from the middle-order batsmen.
But then the Australian recovery started. No one scored a hundred but they still managed a respectable 471 that gave them a fighting chance. Without taking anything away from the Aussies, they were greatly helped by some poor keeping by the wicketkeeper Romesh Kaluwitharana. The debutant had scored a typically aggressive 132 not out with the bat, but his keeping was pathetic as he missed a string of easy stumpings. The low bounce in the wicket didn’t make his task easy.
The Lankan bowlers didn’t help their own cause by bowling 34 no balls as the sundries contributed a healthy 58 runs for the touring side.
So the final act of the match started with Sri Lanka needing 181 for victory, but with history beckoning, the Lankan boys lost their nerves.
For Australia, Greg Matthews was the main weapon and he produced a fine effort, taking 4-76. But Allan Border seemed to have little faith in the young leggie in the team, Shane Warne. In fact, he came in to the bowling crease as the sixth bowler. Tom Moody and Mark Waugh were tried before him.
There were good reasons behind Border’s negative opinion about him. In his first two Tests for Australia in the previous summer, the Victorian had taken only one wicket for 218 runs. His only significant contribution in the two Tests was running out Sanjay Manjrekar at a critical stage of the Adelaide Test. Still, it was a bold move by the Australian selectors to pick him for the Sri Lanka series. Whether they believed that they had found someone really talented – or whether it was just the lack of viable options that forced them to select him – I don’t know.
Here also he struggled in the first innings, finishing with 0-107. He especially struggled against the lefties Asanka Gurusinha and Ranatunga. So at this stage his Test record showed one wicket for 325 runs. In fact, at this stage, a few people were more impressed by his batting – he had contributed valuable 24 and 35 runs for Australia in the match.
On the final day, he got his call from the skipper late, with the match in perfect balance. At one stage, the home side was cruising at 2-127 – but then Matthews had run through the middle order. So, Border threw the ball to Warne hoping that he would provide adequate support.
He did more than an adequate job – his memorable spell of 5.1-3-11-3 ensured a great comeback 16-run win for the Aussies, Yes, he only dismissed three tail-enders, but the value of such wickets in close finishes can’t be underestimated. Last year, Australia would have won the Headingley Test despite Ben Stokes’ heroics if they could clean up the tail properly. Only a few days ago, the Pakistanis lost the Old Trafford Test they had dominated throughout just because their strong bowling attack failed to deliver the killer blow.
At Colombo, it was the overweight leggie from Victoria who delivered the killer blow for the Aussies.
Greg Matthews was the man of the match, and rightly so – he performed with both bat and ball. But the Colombo (SSC) crowd on the final evening would perhaps remember the match for viewing the first glimpses of a talent that would torment opposition everywhere – the Englishmen in particular – for over a decade.
Malcolm Marshall: 4-25 against Pakistan at Faisalabad, 1980
In March 1980, the Faisalabad Test between Pakistan and Australia saw 999 runs scored over five days, with only 12 wickets falling.
Yet the December Test at the same venue against the touring West Indies team saw the wicket completely change its character, and the match ended on the fourth afternoon with the tourists winning comfortably.
For the four-Test series in Pakistan starting in the late autumn, the Windies rested their two front-line quickies, Andy Roberts and Michael Holding. So, it presented opportunities for the two young Barbados speedsters Sylvester Clarke and Malcolm Marshall.
For the Faisalabad Test, the pace attack consisted of Marshall, Clarke and Colin Croft. Rangy Nanan replaced Joel Garner in the team. The offie did an admirable job in the only Test of his career, taking 2-54 and 2-37 in the match. But it was young Marshall who emerged as the key factor with his hostile bowling in the Pakistan second innings.
The home side started the fourth day at 2-60 chasing 302 for victory. The odds were against them, but they were pinning their hopes on the Asian Bradman, Zaheer Abbas. But it was the young Bajan quickie who settled the issue with a hostile spell in the morning.
He cut short night-watchman Sikander Bakht’s day time duty, dismissing him early without any addition to the Pakistan score. Then came the big blow. He trapped Zaheer plumb LBW for 33. This was a big blow for the home side and they never really recovered. The Pakistanis were bowled out for 145 with in-form Wasim Raja fighting a lone battle, finishing with 38 not out. Quite appropriately Marshall took the final wicket of Mohammad Nazir.
The 4-25 here was easily Marshall’s best Test bowling at the time. It would seem even more impressive if we consider the fact that he wasn’t given the new ball here, he only came to the bowling crease as the third seamer.
His first five-wicket haul in Tests didn’t come before the series in India in 1983. And he only got the new ball regularly from the autumn tour to India, also in 1983.