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Chris Tavaré surprised the world by hitting his first international six at SCG on January 20, 1983. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at one of the rarest incidents in the history of the sport.
There were batsmen; and there was Chris Tavaré. While the world concentrated on scoring runs by the hundreds, Tavaré evaluated his performances based on minutes. When someone used the words “Tavaré” and “six” in the same sentence it was often something of the order of “Tavaré has batted for six hours.”
When men like Rahul Dravid used to set up tent at the crease it was usually with the intention of amassing huge scores. Not Tavaré. The very concept of scoring runs went against the principles of his batting: in Tavaré’s hands the bat was a tool to occupy the crease, not to keep the scoreboard ticking. He could bring even unwound watches to a halt.
“As [Ian] Botham brought the crowd to its feet, [Chris] Tavaré did his utmost to make them sit down again. Here was dullness personified, a walking, twitching anaesthetic. With his long face and little moustache, Tavaré was cricketer-as-bank clerk, a batsman apparently devoid of all personality. At the other end was a man larger than life; at Tavare’s end, a man so much smaller than life that electron microscopes might reasonably have been called into action.” — Marcus Berkmann, Rain Men.
“Geoffrey Boycott is fond of expressing the conviction that if you stay there long enough, runs will automatically come. Not with [Chris] Tavaré, they didn’t. If he stayed there long enough, then at the end of it, he was still there. He was the ultimate existential cricketer.” — Marcus Berkmann, Rain Men.
“Nearly 30 years since his only tour of Australia, mention of [Chris] Tavaré still occasions winces and groans. Despite its continental lilt, his name translates into Australian as a very British brand of obduracy, that Trevor Baileyesque quality of making every ditch a last one.” — Gideon Haigh.
“In 1982, part of King Henry VIII’s fleet The Mary Rose was recovered from the Solent. A contemporary joke suggested that by some aquatic miracle, a 450-year-old sailor had survived in an air pocket and reached the surface, blinking back the light, his first words being: ‘Has Tavaré got to fifty yet?’” — Richard H Thomas.
“The energy other players put into their strokes [Chris] Tavaré expended by walking halfway to square-leg after every delivery.” — Matthew Engel.
“When Chris Tavaré hit a six, children were given the day off school, men wept, and women danced in the street, and celebratory cakes were baked in kitchens up and down the land.” — James Milton.
Tavaré was a man like that. There are batsmen who bat in multiple gears, but Tavaré knew of only one. He was The Sultan of Sloth and The King of Crawl. It was not that he couldn’t accelerate: he simply wouldn’t. He was simply not designed that way: he either blocked deliveries or left them alone, providing spectators with the closest approximation of the Chinese torture on a cricket ground.
Having won only one of their first four matches, England were not in a good situation in the Benson & Hedges World Series Cup of 1982-83. Though David Gower was in ominous form (particularly against New Zealand: he had scored 122 in 134 balls and 158 in 118 balls in the two matches against them) there was little else of note.
Tavaré had been dropped against the match against Australia at The Gabba. Ian Gould had opened the innings with Geoff Cook, but the partnership did not prove to be substantial. For the match against New Zealand at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG), the English camp recalled Tavaré and included a debutant in the form of Graeme Fowler.
Geoff Howarth won the toss and decided to bat, but Bob Willis, bowling with the wind, removed both John Wright and Howarth to reduce the Kiwis to 20 for two. Glenn Turner then joined Bruce Edgar, and once the initial spells from Willis, Norman Cowans and Ian Botham were seen off, Edgar and Turner batted with confidence against the spin of Vic Marks and Geoff Miller.
It was eventually Marks who broke through, removing Turner for a 54-ball 37. Lance Cairns began at an alarming pace, but his innings was cut short by Miller. Warren Lees walked out and hit a ball straight over Tavaré’s head; though the ball cleared the fence at Sheridan Stand the umpire ruled a boundary.
Botham soon ran through Lees’ wicket, and Jeff Crowe was run-out shortly afterwards. Then Cowans eventually brought Edgar’s innings to an end when he had him caught by Willis for a 134-ball 74. Willis came back to pick up two quick wickets before Botham trapped Ewen Chatfield leg-before to finish things off.
New Zealand were bowled out for 197, Willis being the wrecker-in-chief with figures of 9-0-23-4. The score would have been lesser had Marks and Miller not conceded exactly a hundred between themselves. After the innings, umpire Dick French consulted with the sight-board attendant after the innings to find that Lees’ stroke had cleared the fence. As a result two runs were added to the New Zealand total, and England were required to chase a round 200.
The chase and the miracle
New Zealand’s only chance was to break through early, but Tavaré and Fowler saw off the initial overs without any visible intention to score. It seemed that Fowler might even tarnish Tavaré’s reputation, but he ended up losing concentration in the most unTavaréish of manners: he lost concentration and was caught brilliantly by substitute Peter Webb at square-leg off Chatfield. His duck had taken him 21 balls, and it seemed that another Tavaré was on his way.
Richard Hadlee, steaming in at the other end, clean bowled Gower at the other end for a duck. Less than half-an-hour into the innings England were reeling at 10 for two as the off-form Allan Lamb walked out to join the off-form Tavaré. They crawled to 25 for two in 12 overs, and it seemed that England might end up struggling for runs.
Alas, of Hadlee’s support-staff only Chatfield did a decent job. Cairns and Jeremy Coney were quite ordinary, but it was Martin Snedden that Lamb and Tavaré singled out for preferential treatment. Tavaré batted at an astounding pace of over three-and-a-half runs an over: for most batsmen of the era it would have been okayish; for Tavaré it was on another planet.
Tavaré surprised everyone by beating Lamb to the fifty, but thereafter it was Lamb who took control. Then the unthinkable happened — the incident that nobody had expected would happen. The 13,416-strong crowd rubbed their eyes in disbelief to check whether they were witnessing a Western movie of sorts.
Tavaré had hit a six of Snedden over square-leg. Just like that.
As the news was transmitted across the world through various modes of communication; the Earth should ideally have stopped rotating for a few seconds in disbelief but it did not. There should have been earthquakes and volcanoes, tsunamis and tornadoes all around — but nothing happened. The world, too, celebrated the incident in true Tavarésque style: without everyone noticing.
It was the first six of his international career. Nobody had ever dreamt of witnessing such a thing — that too when solid batting was the need of the day. But it really happened. More people have witnessed ducks by Don Bradman or runs by Chris Martin, or even a wicket by Sunil Gavaskar: but not a Tavaré six. That was a spectacle dreams are made of.
Lamb soon brought things to normal, hitting Snedden for another six and bludgeoning his way to a well-deserved hundred. It seemed almost fitting that Tavaré did not get a hundred; an ODI hundred by Tavaré would have been a catastrophe — the entire concept would have been extremely unTavarésque.
Lamb finished with a 106-ball 108 with nine fours and a six, while Tavaré’s 83 had taken him 127 balls with eight fours and a six. Lamb was the undisputed Man of the Match, but these trivialities were meant for lesser mortals, as was Willis’s spell earlier in the day. If there was one memory of the match that had remained etched permanently in the minds of the spectators it was that six from Tavaré.
Now that was something you would love to tell your grandchildren.
- England did not make it to the final. Australia won the tournament after defeating New Zealand in the final.
- Tavaré never hit a six in Tests and finished with a strike rate of 30.60. His ODI strike-rate read 48.94. He hit only one more six in his ODI career — exactly five months after the one mentioned here. He had faced 7,206 balls for his two sixes, or a shade above 600 overs per six.
- Tavaré’s strike-rate of 65.35 in the innings remained the highest of his international career irrespective of the number of balls he had faced.
- Fowler followed Tavaré’s footsteps but could never make it to his lofty standards. He finished with a strike-rate of 38.9 in Tests and 56.3 in ODIs.
New Zealand 199 in 47.2 overs (Bruce Edgar 74; Bob Willis 4 for 23) lost to England 200 for 2 in 42.4 overs (Chris Tavaré 83*, Allan Lamb 108*) by 8 wickets.
Man of the Match: Allan Lamb
(Abhishek Mukherjee is a cricket historian and Senior Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He generally looks upon life as a journey involving two components – cricket and literature – though not as disjoint elements. A passionate follower of the history of the sport with an insatiable appetite for trivia and anecdotes, he has also a steady love affair with the incredible assortment of numbers that cricket has to offer. He also thinks he can bowl decent leg-breaks in street cricket, and blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in. He can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42)
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