Play Fantasy Cricket & Win

Cash Daily! Click here

Home > Features > Moments in history >

John Fowles — Amazing experience of the British novelist during 2000 Lord’s Test

England celebrate victory during the third day's play of the England v West Indies second Cornhill test match at Lord's Cricket Ground, London © Getty Images
England celebrate victory against the West Indies, during the third day of the second Test match at Lord’s Getty Images


It is not very well known that John Fowles, the British novelist who passed away on November 5, 2005, was a fine cricketer in his youth and a devoted fan of the game. Arunabha Sengupta relates one bizarre cricket viewing experience during the final years of his life.


As a novelist, John Fowles was a heady mix of European influences. A lot of his writing was moulded by his early perusals of Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre.


Many are fascinated by his post-modernist style, and his experimental dabbling that went beyond the conventional art of the novel. Times named him as one of the 50 greatest post-World War Two British writers. There also remain a few who find it laborious to plough through his acknowledged classics like The French Lieutenant’s Woman and The Magus.


What is often difficult to believe is that this serious writer, his pen heavily dipped in continental forms, had a fascination for the English game. He was a rather good bowler in his youth who retained a deep interest in cricket till the very end of his days.


Fowles studied at Bedford School from 1939, which involved a two-hour train journey north of his home. He remained there till1944, becoming the Head Boy along the way. He was a member of the rugby-football third team, the Fives first team as also the captain of the school cricket team. He was one of the main bowlers of the first eleven.


In fact, he was good enough with the ball to have trials with Essex.


In the opening chapters of The French Lieutenant’s Woman, the view of Lyme Bay is described as seen from his own living room in Lyme Regis. He took up residence in Lyme Regis in 1965, four years before the publication of the celebrated novel. And it was in the same living room that he sat on July 1, 2000, glued to his television set watching the third day’s play between England and West Indies telecast live from Lord’s.


The visitor


It was indeed an extraordinary Test match — the 100th played in the historic ground. It was a game that defied prediction, changing momentum as quickly as “a spare ticket among the touts, who, sensing something special, thronged the pavements surrounding the ground.” The atmosphere was enhanced by music during lunch, and the drama produced matched the beats of Third World and Jools Holland Big Band.


After West Indies had been put into bat and had passed a rather normal first day, scoring 267 for nine, things turned absolutely chaotic from the second morning. For the first time in Test cricket, all four innings was seen in the course of a single day’s play, albeit just one ball of the first innings and seven of the fourth.


First Andy Caddick trapped Courtney Walsh leg before off the first ball of the day to end the Windies innings for 267. Next, Walsh and Curtly Ambrose struck back to rout England for 144. And, after Alec Stewart’s dressing room speech had stung every member of the English cricket team to the quick, there was a miracle enacted by the English seamers. In a spellbinding space of 26 overs and two balls, Caddick, Dominic Cork and Darren Gough scythed through the West Indies batting, knocking them over for 54. Only Ridley Jacobs, with a gritty 12, reached double figures. England remained on zero for no loss when play ended on this fascinating day.


After a start delayed  by 50 minutes due to overnight rain, Michael Atherton and Mark Ramprakash walked out to get the 188 runs. And the 74-year-old Fowles perched on his sofa, and followed the action from the edge of his seat.


After Ramprakash had played on to Walsh, 92 painstaking runs were added between Atherton and Michael Vaughan, each run dripping with tension and cheered to an echo by a full house. Atherton took 27 balls to get off the mark, Vaughan 29. Ambrose beat the bat again and again, but the two men stuck to their task. They both got to their forties before falling to Walsh, the big fast bowler gobbling up Graeme Hick in between the two. Alec Stewart and Craig White also fell to the sustained pace of the Jamaican, giving Walsh the first six wickets of the innings. And Nick Knight, playing with a cracked finger, falling to  Franklyn Rose, it was 149 for seven. The target looked far away for the hosts. Only the tail remained in front of the towering fast bowlers.


Around this juncture a stranger walked into the living room where the author sat watching the game and enquired about the score. After a bemused Fowles had informed him about the details, the man sat down to watch the game.


Caddick fell to Ambrose at 160, but Cork remained valiant and determined behind the layers of chap-stick. A lofted drive off the tiring Walsh went for four, and Rose was pulled for six. Singles were stolen with curious expressions of his face and body language, cheered at Lord’s and miles away at Lyme Regis by the unannounced visitor and the somewhat confused writer.


Gough’s bat remained straight and unflinching, and Cork brought the difference down into the realms of possibilities. Finally, Walsh ran into bowl the fifth ball of his 24th over.Cork drove it through the covers for four amidst scenes of euphoric joy. England triumphed by two wickets. The stadium erupted and at Lymes Regis, two men cheered heartily.


And now, beaming with delight, the stranger turned towards Fowles and asked him how much he charged for bed and breakfast. The layers of bewilderment now fell away from the writer’s face. The visitor had obviously mistaken his house for some other and had come in uninvited. In the process, he had watched over an hour of nail-biting cricketing action.


But, a true cricket lover, elated by this extraordinary victory, Fowles did not grudge the involuntary hospitality. After all, there is joy of triumph lies in sharing the moment.


Fowles passed away on November 5, 2005.


Brief scores:


West Indies 267 (Sherwin Campbell 82, Wavell Hinds 59; Darren Gough 4 for 72, Dominic Cork 4 for 39) and 54 (Andy Caddick 5 for 16) lost to England 134 (Cutrly Ambrose 4 for 30, Courtney Walsh 4 for 43) and 191 for 8 (Michael Atherton 45, Michael Vaughan 41, Dominic Cork 33*; Courtney Walsh  6 for 74) by 2 wickets.


(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at

Indian T20 League 2014

Apr 24, 2014 (20:00 IST)   at Sharjah

Indian T20 League 2014

Apr 25, 2014 (16:00 IST)   at Dubai

Indian T20 League 2014

Apr 25, 2014 (20:00 IST)   at Dubai

Indian T20 League 2014

Apr 26, 2014 (16:00 IST)   at Abu Dhabi

Indian T20 League 2014

Apr 26, 2014 (20:00 IST)   at Abu Dhabi


Indian T20 League 2014

Apr 23, 2014  at Dubai

Chennai Super Kings won by 7 runs

Indian T20 League 2014

Apr 22, 2014  at Sharjah

Kings XI Punjab won by 72 runs

Indian T20 League 2014

Apr 21, 2014  at Abu Dhabi

Chennai Super Kings won by 93 runs

Indian T20 League 2014

Apr 20, 2014  at Sharjah

Kings XI Punjab won by 7 wkts

Indian T20 League 2014

Apr 19, 2014  at Dubai

Delhi Daredevils won by 4 wkts


CSK vs DD, IPL 2014 Match 8 at Abu Dhabi


IPL: Tanmay Mishra talks shows the contents of his kit

IPL 2013: Chris Gayle’s monumental 175 against Pune Warriors India

Who else but Shakespeare on the World Book and Copyright Day?

IPL 2013: Shane Watson’s scintillating century against Chennai Super Kings goes in vain

John Small — The first man to use a straight bat

IPL 2014: Dwayne Bravo’s absence a major blow for Chennai Super Kings

Chennai Super Kings Delhi Daredevils Glenn Maxwell India IPL IPL 7 IPL 2014 Kings XI Punjab KXIP vs SRH KXIP vs SRH 2014 MS Dhoni Rajasthan Royals RR vs CSK 2014 Sanju Samson Sunrisers Hyderabad

Sachin Tendulkar turns 41, celebrating birthday away from cricket field

IPL 2014 set to break all records

Saleem Malik hits out at PCB for not reviewing his life ban

IPL 2014: Ravindra Jadeja says he enjoys bowling after Chennai’s win over Rajasthan

David Miller believes three consecutive wins in IPL 2014 ‘phenomenal’ for Kings XI Punjab

Happy Birthday, Sachin Tendulkar — The lesser known records

Happy birthday, Sachin Tendulkar: April 24 in history of cricket

Why was it always Sachin Tendulkar versus someone else?

Why Yorkshire was the ideal county for Tendulkar in the Championship

Sachin Tendulkar — the greatest batsman of India

Fan of the Day

Suraj Gowda

Suraj Gowda

622 Posts | 7 Fans

Video Highlights: Virat Kohli's 77 during India vs Sri Lanka ICC World T20 2014 final at Dhaka

Apple Q2 2014 earnings: 43.7 million iPhones, 16.3 million iPads sold

Sonakshi Sinha beats Akshay Kumar in basketball – Watch video!

Champions League: Real Madrid hold on to 1-0 win against Bayern Munich

Is Cameron Diaz planning holiday for Gwyneth Paltrow?

Happy Birthday, Sachin Tendulkar — The lesser known records

Apple iPhone sales in India grew 55% year-on-year

Happy birthday, Sachin Tendulkar: April 24 in history of cricket

Sachin Tendulkar turns 41: 19 interesting things to know about the Master Blaster

Also on