On July 25, 1986, England fielded four wicket-keepers at various times, owing to an injury to the original man Bruce French. Two of the substitutes included Bob Taylor — a former ‘keeper who was already two years into his retirement and Bobby Parks — the Hampshire cricketer who never donned the Test cap again. Karthik Parimal revisits the Test that will be remembered for this unique statistic.
Having retired from international cricket two years ago, Bob Taylor was savouring the sight of the English players carve up a New Zealand attack that, apart from Richard Hadlee, looked frail and ready to disintegrate. On the first day, from the fine confines of a stand at the majestic Lord’s, he saw Martyn Moxon and David Gower score a stoic 74 and 62 respectively, while simultaneously performing his duties as a host for the match’s sponsor Cornhill. The next morning, he applauded Hadlee’s 26th five-wicket haul when the latter had Phil Edmonds caught by Martin Crowe in the slip cordon.
At 258 for six, England were in a fix when Bruce French, the wicket-keeper, walked out to consolidate. In his 12th delivery, he turned away from a Hadlee bouncer that eventually struck him on the back of the helmet. He collapsed on the floor and it had immediately become evident that the blow wasn’t a mild one. When the helmet came off, blood trickled out from the cut and it was later made known that three stitches were required to cover the wound up. England’s innings resumed, Hadlee picked up his sixth wicket, and the final total on the board was 307. The Kiwis had staged a fine comeback, although Wisden rightly noted that “two different games were taking place — one when Hadlee was bowling and the other when he was out of the attack.”
When New Zealand’s first innings commenced, French was in no shape to take the field. In fact, his participation in the rest of the first Cornhill Test was under a shadow. One expected Bobby Parks, the Hampshire cricketer, to don the ‘keeper’s gloves, but he wasn’t the first name that popped into the management’s heads. Instead, the less proficient Bill Athey took his place behind the stumps, but it was only for two overs. A frantic search for Taylor, England’s retired wicket-keeper, was on in the meanwhile. Having convinced him that he was the man for the moment, England then asked for New Zealand skipper Jeremy Coney’s consent to make the switch, and the latter duly obliged.
So, at 45, Taylor came out of his retirement to keep wickets for his country one last time. Although he had to borrow a kit, his wicket-keeping gloves were, incredibly, in his car. Although no catches or stumping opportunities came his way, Taylor was undoubtedly flawless behind the stumps. Not once there was a hint of untidiness in the way he collected each delivery. The English camp would have preferred he carried on, but the right thing was eventually done as Parks was called upon to take over from where Taylor had left.
In all, four wicket-keepers were used during the course of the innings, the first such instance in the history of cricket, and one that is yet to be repeated.
Despite all the commotion behind the wickets, New Zealand trudged along nicely, riding on Crowe’s century and Bruce Edgar’s 83. For England, Graham Dilley and Edmonds were amongst the scalps, but none of them could be attributed to the ‘keeper for he had received no opportunity to effect a dismissal. He worked the whole of the third day and, on the fourth morning, French resumed, but for just one ball, since Dilley took his fourth wicket to pull the curtains on New Zealand’s innings at 342.
In their second outing, England galloped to 295 for six and the innings was declared when French was the next batsman in. Gooch amassed 183, a knock that took over seven hours to etch and seized away the man-of-the-match award from Hadlee. In reply, New Zealand batted for 15 overs and stumps were called when the scorecard read 41 for 2. The target was 261 and, due to lack of time, the match duly ended in a turgid draw.
England 307 (Martyn Moxon 74, David Gower 62; Richard Hadlee 6 for 80) and 295 for 6 declared (Graham Gooch 183; Evan Gray 3 for 83) drew with New Zealand 342 (Martin Crowe 106, Bruce Edgar 83; Graham Dilley 4 for 82, Phil Edmonds 4 for 97) and 41 for 2.
(Karthik Parimal, a Correspondent with CricketCountry, is a cricket aficionado and a worshipper of the game. He idolises Steve Waugh and can give up anything, absolutely anything, just to watch a Kumar Sangakkara cover drive. He can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/karthik_parimal)