Gooch's Indian Summer

In the latest chapter of Tour Tales, we revisit 1990 and an astonishing series for England captain Graham Gooch...

By Alan Bone.   Last Updated: 10/08/11 1:57pm

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Scorching weather and flat pitches made for a batsmen-dominated series when Mohammad Azharuddin's Indian side toured England in the summer of 1990.

At the age of 36, Graham Gooch had been a surprising choice to replace David Gower as England captain after the 1989 home Ashes defeat but his hard work ethic was instrumental in turning the team's fortunes around.

The winter brought a noble 2-1 defeat for Gooch's unrated team in the Caribbean against Viv Richard's all-conquering West Indies side (with Gooch's broken hand a key factor in the narrow defeat after England had been 1-0 up) and, in the early part of the 1990 summer, Gooch's side had beaten a strong New Zealand outfit 1-0, with 22-year-old Michael Atherton securing England's Man of the Series award.

Highest

In the first Test at Lord's, Azharuddin ignored a flat-looking pitch and decided to field first. Despite the early loss of Atherton (8), India's fate was sealed once wicketkeeper Kiran More had dropped Gooch on 36.

Gooch scored 333, the highest individual score in any first class match at Lord's, and the then sixth highest Test score of all time.

By the time he was eventually bowled, missing a straight drive against Manoj Prabhakar, the opener had batted for 627 minutes and faced 485 balls, hitting three sixes and 43 fours. His monumental effort was just 32 runs short of the then Test record of 365 not out scored by Sir Garfield Sobers for West Indies against Pakistan in 1957-58.

His 308-run partnership with Allan Lamb (139) for the third wicket was England's highest ever partnership against India. With Robin Smith (100*) also in fine form, scoring his third Test century, Gooch was able to declare on the second evening at 653 for 4.

In reply, India adopted an attacking approach - opener Ravi Shastri (100) scored his ninth Test century as India went past 200 with only three wickets down.

However, the real flair was provided by Azharuddin (121), who entertained a packed Saturday afternoon crowd with a dazzling hundred from just 88 balls, including 20 fours, as India reached stumps on Day 3 at 376 for 6.

Once Hemmings had bowled Azharuddin through the gate early on the fourth morning, the follow-on looked a formality, particularly once England's best bowler Angus Fraser dismissed More and Sharma in three balls to leave India on 430 for 9.

Enter Kapil Dev. The all-rounder defended the first two balls of the next Eddie Hemmings over and then launched the venerable off-spinner for four successive straight sixes (the first time this feat had been achieved in Test cricket) to take his side past the follow-on. With Fraser (5-104) trapping Hirwani LBW to the first ball of the next over, England had a first innings lead of 199 runs. Kapil Dev's feisty hitting had taken him to 77 not out.

Struggle

India's bowlers continued to struggle as Gooch (123) again looked in excellent touch, adding 204 with Atherton (72), a then-record for England's first wicket against India. By the time Gooch was dismissed, he had amassed 456 runs in the match, the highest Test aggregate ever.

England lost quick wickets in the quest for quick runs, one of which was Lamb (19), dismissed thanks to the athleticism of 17-year-old Sachin Tendulkar; the teenager sprinted in from long-off to just behind the bowler to take an amazing one-handed running catch. With a huge lead of 471, Gooch declared and his bowlers dismissed openers Navjot Singh Sidhu (1) and Ravi Shastri (12) on the fourth evening.

Wickets fell regularly on the final morning and, once Azharuddin (37) had gone, courtesy of a fine slip catch from Atherton, India were 127 for 5. The rest of the batting fell away, with Fraser (3-39) again the pick of the bowlers. It was left to Gooch to cap an amazing personal match with the final wicket, a direct hit from mid-on to run out Sharma and give his side victory by 247 runs.

Glut

In the second Test at Old Trafford, India tried a two-pronged spin attack, giving a Test debut to 19-year-old leg-spinner Anil Kumble, in support of Narendra Hirwani. The England run glut continued, however, once Gooch had decided to bat first on another blameless surface.

Gooch (116) and Atherton (131) surpassed their own first wicket record from the Lord's Test by 21 runs, this time adding 225 together.

India's spinners worked their way through the lower middle order to leave England on 459 for 9, before an unlikely last wicket stand of 60 between Smith (121*) and Devon Malcolm (13) enabled the South African-born batsman to reach his fourth Test hundred, and England to reach 519 all out. The spin of Hirwani (4-174) and Kumble (3-105) had at least given their side some penetration.

In the remaining hour on the second evening, the Indian top order was decimated by Fraser, with Sidhu (13), Shastri (25) and Vengsarkar (6) all falling to the Middlesex paceman.

On a fast-scoring third day, the visitors were again rescued by their captain Azharuddin (179), who dominated a fourth-wicket partnership of 189 runs with Sanjay Manjrekar (93). Between lunch and tea, the Indian skipper became the first player to score 100 runs for India in a Test session.

Once Azharuddin had fallen to Angus Fraser, the lower order succumbed to the second new ball, despite 68 from Tendulkar, as India were bowled out for 432, 87 runs behind, by the end of day three.

Gooch (7) had a rare failure on the fourth morning but Atherton (74) carried on from his first innings, providing a platform for Lamb (109 from 141 balls) and Smith (61*) to build a sizeable lead and allow Gooch to declare early on the last day.

India never looked likely to score the 408 runs needed to draw level in the series, once their openers, Sidhu (0) and Shastri (12), had again failed, to leave them on 35 for 2. Despite runs once again from Manjrekar (50), India subsided to 183 for 6 with two and a half hours of the match remaining.

It was time for Tendulkar to show the class that would allow him to dominate world cricket for more than 20 years. Memorable for its off-side back foot strokes, his unbeaten 119 meant that at age 17 years and 112 days, he was only 30 days older than Pakistan's Mushtaq Mohammad had been when he scored his first Test century against India at Delhi in 1960-61. Prabhakar (67*) provided good support as the pair added an unbeaten 160 for the seventh wicket to see India to safety.
Imposing

It all meant there was everything to play for at the Oval, a match that India had to win to square the series.

India brought in seamer Atul Wasson in place of Kumble while Chris Lewis' migraine just before the toss meant a first (and, as it turned out, only) Test cap for the Middlesex seamer Neil Williams. This time Azharuddin needed no persuading to bat first on yet another flat looking surface.

His side did not disappoint, batting for the best part of two days. Ravi Shastri (187) recorded his 10th Test century whilst Azharuddin (78) looked all set for yet another Test hundred, before becoming Williams' first Test wicket.

Shastri's eventual dismissal left the end of the innings in sight with India on 478 for 7 but Kapil Dev (110) blasted an imposing seventh Test hundred which, with a late flourish from More (61*), allowed Azharuddin to declare late on day two with a total of 606 for 9, at the time their highest total anywhere against England.

Atherton (7) went cheaply and, even though nightwatchman Williams (38) put together a useful innings, England's middle-order this time proved ineffective. Wasson dismissed Gower (8) and John Morris (7) and, with Kapil Dev yorking Lamb (7), the hosts subsided to 139 for 5.

All the while Gooch had been solid and had gone past Zaheer Abbas's record aggregate of 583 runs in a three-match series. He finally found some support from Smith (57) but, once Smith was out, Gooch (85) quickly followed and England were back in trouble at 233 for 7.

For once in this era of English batting collapses, their tail proved useful; Russell scored 35 and a second Test match half-century from Hemmings (51), in a 41-run stand for the last wicket with Devon Malcolm (15*), took England up to 340 all out, 266 runs behind India on first innings and with over a day and a half remaining.

Asked to follow-on, England's batting was much more assured second time round and, as had been the case for much of the series, India's attack lacked penetration. Gooch (88) quickly went past Bradman's record of 974 runs in an English Test summer as he put on yet another century stand (176 this time) with Atherton (86).

Hirwani dismissed Gooch late on day four but Gower, hitherto out of touch throughout the series, looked in superlative form from the moment he arrived at the crease. Atherton (86) fell on the final morning after more than five hours at the crease, his side still 15 short of India's first innings total.

However, with good support from Morris (32) and Lamb (52), Gower (157*) proved both elegant and immovable as he easily guided England to safety with his eighth 150 in Test cricket. India's inflexible tactics saw Hirwani bowl 59 consecutive overs from the Vauxhall End as the hosts finished on 477 for 4 when time ran out.

England's 1-0 series victory, coupled with the same scoreline against New Zealand earlier in the summer, meant that for the first time since 1979, they had gone through a Test season at home unbeaten. With 752 runs at 125.33 in the India series, it was truly Gooch's Indian Summer.

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