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India vs England 1st Test at Trent Bridge: Alastair Cook and other ‘demon bowlers’

    Alastair Cook (left) in jubilant after taking his first wicket in Test cricket © Getty Images
Alastair Cook (left) in jubilant after taking his first wicket in Test cricket © Getty Images

With the Trent Bridge Test meandering to a draw, Alastair Cook came on to bowl — and removed Ishant Sharma in his second over. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at a few other ‘demon bowlers’.

Chelmsford, 2005; Essex had piled up 506, had secured a 259-run lead, and had asked Northamptonshire to follow-on; after being 73 for two, Bilal Shafayat and Usman Afzaal took the score to 202, and draw loomed on the horizon. Then Ronnie Irani threw the ball to a 20-year old Alastair Cook.

Afzaal, Shafayat, and Rikki Wessels were removed in the space of five runs before Danish Kaneria ran through the rest. The last eight wickets fell for 59, Cook finished with figures of 4-1-13-3, and that was that.

Eight years after that match, with the Trent Bridge Test meandering to a draw, Cook ran in to bowl innocuous off-breaks. It never looked like he would come remotely close to taking a wicket. He switched to medium-paced bowling in his second innings, and found Ishant Sharma’s edge with a ball that ran down the leg-side. Matt Prior took a one-handed catch to give Cook his first wicket in his 105th Test.

Ten other ‘demon bowlers’ have played 80 Tests and have returned a career haul of a solitary wicket apiece. Let us have a look:

Sunil Gavaskar, Faisalabad, 1978-79

Gavaskar had a reputation for mimicking others’ bowling actions, but even his greatest fans would not count on him to bowl to save his life. However, before Kapil Dev came along, he had often been assigned to take the shine off the ball before the spinners came on.

In the Faisalabad Test — the first between India and Pakistan after a 17-year hiatus — India had responded to Pakistan’s 503 with 462. India managed two quick wickets, but Zaheer Abbas and Asif Iqbal batted India out of the Test, and approached their individual hundreds.

Bishan Bedi had asked Chetan Chauhan to bowl before reverting to Gavaskar. Zaheer had already scored 176 in the first innings, but surprised the world (Gavaskar himself, more than anyone else) when Zaheer holed out to Chauhan off Gavaskar for 96. A few overs later Asif Iqbal (who scored 104) fell to Surinder Amarnath (which was his only Test wicket), but that is another story.

Gundappa Viswanath, Kotla, 1979-80

It was yet another yawnathon on a Kotla featherbed. Gavaskar, Viswanath, and Yashpal Sharma all scored hundreds as India piled up 510, and though Kapil secured a 212-run lead for India, gritty fifties from Andrew Hilditch, Dav Whatmore, and Peter Sleep helped Australia save the Test.

With the Test as good as over, Gavaskar had a bowl himself; then he got Chauhan to bowl (who had Sleep caught by the substitute Arun Lal); still not satisfied, he summoned his brother-in-law, Viswanath, to bowl what was supposed to be leg-breaks. Meanwhile, Dilip Vengsarkar had taken over the big gloves.

The Viswanath-Vengsarkar combination struck as the Australian last wicket fell. Poor Ken Higgs’s ignominy has few parallels in the annals of Test cricket: c +Vengsarkar b Viswanath would take some beating.

Desmond Haynes, Gaddafi, 1979-80

Pakistan were down at 95 for five in the first innings before an Imran Khan hundred helped them reach 369. Abdul Qadir’s tweaks then skittled West Indies to 297, but rain ensured that Pakistan started their second innings only on Day Five. There were a few hiccups, but with Majid Khan taking control of proceedings Clive Lloyd let the Test stroll to a draw.

Alvin Kallicharran did not get a wicket, but Desmond Haynes did: it is not documented whether he bowled his military-medium or his leg-breaks, but whatever he did, he had Sarfraz Nawaz caught by Joel Garner.

David Gower, Green Park, 1981-82

It was one of those drab Tests of the 1981-82 series. Once Gavaskar had obtained the 1-0 lead in the rubber, he refused to take any risk, and the players and spectators fell in a deep stupor from which they did not recover till the series was over. Keith Fletcher declared at 378 for nine, but Gavaskar was not going to make a match out of it, and scored 52 from 180 balls.

With Vengsarkar, Viswanath, and Yashpal also contributing, there was no chance of a result. The crowd was entertained by a 98-ball 116 from Kapil. The blitz unfortunately came to an end in one of the most undeserving hands when he hit one from David Gower to Graham Dilley.

Syed Kirmani, Nagpur, 1983-84

It was yet another India-Pakistan drawn affair. The Test could have been tighter when India, trailing by 77, were down to 207 for eight; however, Madan Lal and Syed Kirmani saved the Test with an unbeaten 55-run partnership before Kapil made a token declaration.

Vengsarkar opened bowling with Kapil before Yashpal was called on. Zaheer was not one to let the opportunity go: he sent Tahir Naqqash and Azeem Hafeez to open batting. Kirmani came on second-change, and immediately bowled Hafeez. Unfortunately, Kapil played spoilsport and got Gavaskar and Anshuman Gaekwad to bowl after that.

Mark Taylor, Rawalpindi, 1994-95

Australia had sniffed a chance after Michael Slater and Steve Waugh had got them off to 521 for nine; Craig McDermott and Damien Fleming then bowled out Pakistan for 260; unfortunately for Australia, Saleem Malik decided that it would be his day, and ended up scoring a 328-ball 237 — considered by many as one of the finest innings by a Pakistani.

With any kind of result out of question, Taylor asked Slater and David Boon to bowl before running in to send in a few cutters. He managed to dismiss Rashid Latif, caught by Michael Bevan. Slater, at other end, responded by trapping Mushtaq Ahmed leg-before (it would remain the only wicket of his career).

Marvan Atapattu, Colombo (SSC), 1997-98

Many had criticised Arjuna Ranatunga for being defensive when he set Pakistan a target of 426 in four sessions, more so after the tourists were reduced to 19 for two. Ultimately it took another Malik effort — with strong support from Ijaz Ahmed and Inzamam-ul-Haq — to save the Test.

Ranatunga abandoned hopes of a win as he used Atapattu’s leg-breaks in tandem with Hashan Tillakaratne’s off-breaks: Atapattu, hero of many a battle with the bat, managed to remove poor Asif Mujtaba, who hit one to Ranatunga himself.

Rahul Dravid, St John’s, 2002

It was yet another of those typical St John’s draws: India declared at 513 for nine, while West Indies recovered from 196 for four to score 629 for nine. Anil Kumble bowled with a broken jaw to dismiss Brian Lara, but the Test headed towards only one possible result.

They were all summoned: VVS Laxman, who got Adam Sanford; Wasim Jaffer, who removed both Mervyn Dillon and Pedro Collins; SS Das and Ajay Ratra, who went wicket-less, and Dravid, who had Ridley Jacobs caught at slip by Laxman. It was only the third time in history that all 11 men got a bowl in a Test innings.

Mark Boucher, St John’s, 2005

Four South Africans had scored hundreds as they had piled up 588 for six; in response, four West Indians did the same (including Chris Gayle, who got 317); all 11 bowlers were used for the fourth time; and West Indies scored 747. AB de Villiers got a bowl (as the seventh bowler) and dismissed both Daren Powell and Tino Best.

Boucher came on as the tenth bowler (ahead of Herschelle Gibbs: it was probably the lowest moment of Gibbs’s career) as AB de Villiers took charge behind the stumps. Dwayne Bravo had already gone past his hundred, and this time, trying to hit out Boucher, he fell to a catch by Ashwell Prince.

Ian Bell, Faisalabad, 2005-06

Unlike the other names on the list, Bell’s catch was not in a dead situation: batting first, Pakistan had reached 201 for three with Mohammad Yousuf and Inzamam going strong. Then Bell, coming on as the sixth bowler, sent down a straight one, and Yousuf hit it hard back at him.

Bell dived to his right to pull off an excellent catch. Unfortunately, despite the success, he got to bowl only 18 overs in Test cricket.

Demon bowlers: one wicket, over 80 Tests

Bowler Type * Batsman Tests Balls Balls / Test
Sunil Gavaskar RM, OB Zaheer Abbas




Gundappa Viswanath LB Ken Higgs




Desmond Haynes RM, LB Sarfraz Nawaz




David Gower OB Kapil Dev




Syed Kirmani OB Azeem Hafeez




Mark Taylor RM Rashid Latif




Marvan Atapattu LB Asif Mujtaba




Rahul Dravid OB Ridley Jacobs




Mark Boucher RM Dwayne Bravo




Ian Bell RM Mohammad Yousuf




Alastair Cook OB, RM Ishant Sharma




* RM = Right-arm medium; OB = Off-break; LB = Leg-break; RSM = Right-arm slow-medium; LM = left-arm medium; SLA = slow left-arm; U = unknown

Bonus table 1: Most Tests without a wicket

Bowler Type * Tests Balls Balls/Test
Alec Stewart RM




Brian Lara LB




Kumar Sangakkara OB




Inzamam-ul-Haq SLA




Ian Healy U




Dilip Vengsarkar RM




Colin Cowdrey LB




Stephen Fleming RSM




Gordon Greenidge RM




David Boon OB




* RM = Right-arm medium; OB = Off-break; LB = Leg-break; RSM = Right-arm slow-medium; LM = left-arm medium; SLA = slow left-arm; U = unknown

Bonus table 2: Most Tests without bowling

Bowler Type * Tests
Ian Healy U


Stephen Fleming RSM


Andrew Strauss LM


Adam Gilchrist OB


Alan Knott OB


Godfrey Evans LB


Jeff Dujon RM


Adam Parore U


Matt Prior U


Moin Khan OB


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(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Deputy Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs here and can be followed on Twitter here.)

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