VICTORY ELUDED 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.
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
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.