On July 12, 1975, Graham Gooch registered a pair on his Test debut at Edgbaston. Abhishek Mukherjee looks back at the first man to have scored a pair on debut in an Ashes Test since 1880.
There have been men like Sunil Gavaskar who had arrived on the scenario with a bang and continued with the show till the end of their careers. There have also been the likes of Lawrence Rowe who had excellent starts but had somehow faded away with time.
On the other hand there have been a few others whose careers had taken off with a whimper: Marvan Atapattu, for example, had managed a solitary run from his first six innings spread over a span of four years. Some of these batsmen, however, have ended up with excellent career records.
Graham Gooch was one of these men.
England had returned battered and bruised from in the hands of Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson, supported more than capably by Max Walker and Ashley Mallett; in desperation they had called Colin Cowdrey out of retirement — and the damage was more psychological than anything.
When Australia toured England in the summer of 1975 they were the clear favourites for the Test. England, somewhat out of desperation, called up the in-form Essex 21-year old Gooch. The inclusion caused much interest before the series. The Canberra Times wrote: “For English supporters the form of 21-year-old Essex batsman Graham Gooch will be the mainpoint of interest. They will be anxious to see if he can provide the English battingwith that touch of class it so desperately needs.”
A lot was expected of Gooch when he got his cap in the first Test at Edgbaston: Mike Denness won the toss and put Australia in under the hope that the overcast conditions would assist his seamers. England had not won a Test after opting to bowl first in an Ashes Test since the MCG Test of 1911-12.
Day One: An even contest
Denness’ move did not work: the ball did not move around as expected, and Rick McCosker and the debutant Alan Turner batted confidently, reaching 77 without loss at lunch. The seamers occasionally probed with the odd ball, but generally Australia were not in serious trouble of any kind.
John Snow struck almost immediately after lunch, removing Turner. There was a mini-collapse when Rick McCosker (59) was followed almost immediately by Greg Chappell who fell for a blob. Ian Chappell batted beautifully, taking advantage of the fact that Denness had asked Derek Underwood to bowl only six overs on Day One.
Yet England clawed back into the match with the wickets of Ian Chappell (52) and Doug Walters. Australia were 186 for five by 5 PM and in trouble of sorts. Ross Edwards and Rodney Marsh, however, saw through till stumps: Australia finished with 243 for five with Edwards on a watchful 22 and Marsh on an arrogant 47.
Day Two: Lillee and Walker demolish England
Marsh fell quickly on Day Two for 61. However, Thomson walked out at 286 for seven, simply reached out for the ball, and made merry: though he lost Edwards (56) he slogged his way to a 67-ball 49 scored out of a team score of 73. He was last out and Australia finished with 359. Snow and Geoff Arnold had picked up three wickets apiece.
Then the disaster happened. Immediately after John Edrich and Dennis Amiss had seen off the first over from Lillee there was a heavy thunderstorm. When it stopped there was still water on the uncovered pitch. As JM Kilburn wrote on The Glasgow Herald, “a softened half-inch of turf on a rock-hard base is the fast bowler’s delight.”
Delighted they were — the Australian fast bowlers, despite Gary Gilmour’s absence. The conditions were tailor-made for Gilmour — but Lillee and Walker troubled the English batsmen sufficiently even without him.
Play finally started at 4.45 and was supposed to extend till 7.30. England ran into trouble on the treacherous track before they could realise anything. The ball bounced from good-length, often awkwardly and unpredictably, and avoiding the abruptly rising deliveries was the main concern of the batsmen.
Edrich and Amiss hung around till Lillee had Amiss caught by Thomson at the leg-trap; Keith Fletcher cut Walker to Mallett almost immediately at gully, and England were 24 for two. Edrich batted on bravely, but received little support at the other end. The other batsmen did not seem equipped to handle the tricky conditions where every ball left the batsmen in a dilemma. As Kilburn said, “to play or not to play was the unending question.”
Then, with the score on 46, Denness edged one to Greg Chappell in the slips off Walker. Gooch walked out to play his maiden Test innings. He played out two balls, and then, when Walker bowled one down the leg-side, Gooch tried to glance — but the ball landed in Marsh’s gloves. The career did not take off as expected.
More trouble followed. Tony Greig hit a couple of boundaries before edging one, and Alan Knott was cleaned up by Lillee. Then, just before stumps, Edrich’s 123-ball resilience of 34 ended when Lillee trapped him leg-before for 34 and England were in tatters at stumps — 83 for seven with Underwood (sent in mysteriously as night-watchman) on eight and Chris Old on nought.
Day Three: England sink further
Lillee and Walker wrapped up things early on Day Three, bowling out England for 101. Lillee picked up five for 15 from 15 overs while Walker finished with five for 48. With 258 runs ahead Ian Chappell had no hesitation in enforcing the follow-on.
The second innings was almost an encore: it began with Amiss being hit by an awkward delivery from Lillee with only seven on the board; Edrich then slashed at one from Walker and edged it to Marsh; and then, Thomson, after beating Denness by sheer pace a couple of times, hit his stumps with a straight, fast delivery. “England, 1/7, soon became 2/18 with the exit of Mike Denness, probably for the last time in the Test arena”, was the verdict of The Age. They were spot on.
This brought poor Gooch to the crease once again. To his credit he had walked out bareheaded to take on Thomson, and after surviving six balls he received a virtually unplayable delivery: he tried to take his bat away, but the ball followed him and found his edge. Marsh did the rest. Gooch had registered a pair on Test debut — the first one to do so in an Ashes Test since Fred Grace in 1880.
England succumbed meekly from there. Fletcher was the only one who offered some resistance with 51 and England ended the day at 93 for five just after he fell — with Knott on ten and Old on two. They still needed 165 runs to make Australia bat again.
Day Four: England surrender to Thomson
England lost Old early to Lillee as Amiss walked out to resume his innings after the rest day. He hung around grimly and eventually fell for a 78-ball five. Knott fell soon, and it took some lusty blows from Snow to help England reach 173 as they went down by an innings and 85 runs. Thomson was the hero this time with five for 38.
Gooch got another chance in the next Test at Lord’s. He scored six and 31, and was shelved for three years. He eventually came back and finished with 8,900 runs at 42.58. His 456 against India at Lord’s still remains a record match aggregate. With 22,211 List A runs in addition to the 44,846 in First-Class cricket Gooch finished as the most prolific run-scorer in history with a tally of 67,057.
Denness was replaced by Greig as captain at Lord’s. England drew at Lord’s (time ran out with Australia on 329 for three chasing 484); the match also witnessed the first streaker on a Test in England — the exotically named Michael Angelow.
The third Test at Headingley also offered promise, but a group of vandals mangled the pitch with knives and poured oil on it before the final day; a thriller was on the cards as Australia had finished Day Four on 220 for three chasing 445.
England followed on at The Oval but came back strongly, and yet again the match turned out to be a day shorter than desired as Australia finished the match on 40 for two chasing 198. They thus claimed the series 1-0 and retained the Ashes.
Australia 359 (Rodney Marsh 61, Rick McCosker 59, Ross Edwards 56, Ian Chappell 52, Jeff Thomson 49; John Snow 3 for 86, Geoff Arnold 3 for 91) beat England 101 (Dennis Lillee 5 for 15, Max Walker 5 for 48) and 173 (Keith Fletcher 51; Jeff Thomson 5 for 38) by an innings and 85 runs.
(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 Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/ovshake and on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42.)