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India was on the verge of achieving a target of 438 and thus creating a world record against England at the Kennington Oval in London in September 1979. But they fell short by nine runs. The score was 429 for 8 when stumps were drawn. England, who led 1-0 in the 1979 series by virtue of their big win in the first Test at Birmingham, dominated the first three-and-a-half days of the fourth and final Test. Ian Botham, their premier player, became the fastest to complete the Test ¡®double¡¯ of 1000 runs and 100 wickets in this game. It was only his 21st Test, and he had surpassed the legendary Indian all-rounder Vinoo Mankad, who had taken two more Tests to achieve the milestone. When he came in to bat in this Test, Botham needed only three runs to complete his 1000 in Test. He had crossed the 100-wicket mark earlier in the series. But this fine feat was overshadowed by a magnificent batting display by Sunil Gavaskar on the last day.


England scored 305 in the first innings. The Indian response was uninspiring, and the tourists were skittled out for a meagre 202. It was only because of a 62 by G.R. Vishwanath and 43 by Yajurvindra Singh that India were saved the blushes. England were 334 for 8 in their second innings when Mike Brearley declared, setting the opposition a target of 438 in the 500 minutes of play left in the match. At this stage, no one gave India a chance of coming anywhere near to the target, let alone reaching it. Only one result - an England victory ¨C seemed possible.

The visitors were 76 for no loss at the end of the fourth day¡¯s play. The spirited start provided by Gavaskar and Chetan Chauhan had rekindled Indian hopes of saving the match. Nobody was thinking of an Indian victory. The pundits however confidently predicted a Gavaskar century.

India needed a run-a-minute on day five. But the batsmen were definitely not thinking about a win and were focussed on playing every ball on merit. Gavaskar and Chauhan carried on till the lunch interval. The score was 213 when Chauhan was out, caught by Botham off Willis for 80 handsome runs. The opening stand of 213 runs was an Indian first-wicket record against England, obliterating the 203-run association between Vijay Merchant and Mushtaq Ali at Manchester in 1936. Vengsarkar came in, and he along with Gavaskar batted so brilliantly that an Indian victory looked a distinct possibility. India were 328-1 when the twenty mandatory overs began, which meant that the visitors had to score a little over five runs per over. Vengsarkar fell at 366 for a masterly 52.

At this stage, skipper S. Venkatragavan, made a tactical blunder by changing the batting order. He promoted Kapil Dev, who was far too raw to keep a cool head and chase the runs in such a situation. He was out for a duck. This was followed by another error as Yashpal Sharma was sent in ahead of the experienced Vishwanath.

The task became all the more difficult after two bad umpiring decisions went against India. Vishwanath was given out caught off a bump ball and Venkataraghvan was adjudged run out. In such unfavourable circumstances, India finished at 429 for 8 and the match was drawn.

Gavaskar¡¯s 221 was one of the greatest innings ever played in a Test match. The innings ensured his selection as one of Cricket Bible Wisden¡¯s Five Cricketers of the Year.

India failed to win, but cornered all the glory.

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