Home > Features > Moments in history >

When debutant John Lever administered ‘capital punishment’ on India

When debutant John Lever administered 'capital punishment’ on India

John Lever, with not much repute as a swing bowler even in English conditions, made his stock ball dip late into the batsman © Getty Images

John Lever, playing his first Test match, made a rogue replacement ball swing prodigiously and captured seven first innings wickets at Delhi. Arunabha Sengupta recalls that day 36 years ago when a bit of calculated flattery virtually swung the match in England’s favour.

A little flattery can go a long way, especially when it is dealt out by an Englishman in India of the 1970s. England’s manager, the great Ken Barrington, noticed that rookie medium-pacer John Lever was proving quite a handful with the new Indian balls during the warm-up matches. He winked at the young left-armer.
“If you play in the Test match, would you like to use them?” Barrington asked.
Lever said he would. Barrington sidled up to the officials and said, “We think you’ve made great strides in your cricket-ball making, we’d like to use them in Test matches.”
The cricketing administrators smiled gratefully and said: “Thank you very much, Mr. Barrington.”
So, when England played their first Test against India at Feroz Shah Kotla, Lever got his fingers across the seam of this home-made product.
However, it took a while for the ball to make waves. When England batted first after winning the toss, it was the turning ball that did much of the damage. Mike Brearley was brilliantly run out by Brijesh Patel, Graham Barlow was snared by captain Bishan Singh Bedi before he had scored his first run in Test cricket, and Bhagwat Chandrasekhar made short work of Bob Woolmer and Keith Fletcher.
Opener Dennis Amiss stuck around and weathered the spin storm, batting through the first day and much of the second. From 65 for four, England reached 381, thanks mainly to the mammoth 179 by Amiss, aided by an entertaining 75 by wicket-keeper Alan Knott and a determined 53 by the debutant Lever.
Now, during the afternoon of the second day, Lever ran in with his easy-paced action and tried to swing the ball as he had done in the warm-up matches. Initially, though, there was hardly any movement. Sunil Gavaskar and Anshuman Gaekwad started steadily enough.
But, these balls went out of shape very quickly. And by the 11th over, the ball had to be changed. The replacement cherry turned out to be a rogue one and swung prodigiously.
Lever, with not much repute as a swing bowler even in English conditions, made his stock ball dip late into the batsman. With the extra swing he soon became unplayable. Gaekwad was trapped leg before. The very next ball got Mohinder Amarnath in a similar manner. And six runs later, Gundappa Viswanath was the next to go, again leg before to a similar in dipper. Srinivas Venkataraghavan came in as the night watchman and was bowled second ball. From 43 for no loss, India collapsed to 51 for four by the end of the day.
Brijesh Patel and Gavaskar survived over an hour the next morning. But, soon Lever started conjuring up his magic once again, getting Patel caught behind by one that moved away. Gavaskar followed after a 140-minute vigil that produced 38. It was 99 for six, with Lever claiming all the wickets.
Derek Underwood broke the sequence by getting Parthasarathi Sharma caught in the in-field, before Lever unleashed another of those unplayable in-dippers to bowl wicketkeeper Syed Kirmani.
India folded for 122, Lever accounting for seven for just 46 runs from 23 overs.

What happened next

As the next ball behaved in a more traditional way, India fought back in the second innings. But, now it was the turn of the spinners to exploit the conditions. Underwood, excellently supported by the off-spin of skipper Tony Greig, tore the heart out of Indian batting.
Gavaskar battled for a skilful 71, but Underwood had the last laugh in a thoroughly absorbing duel. Lever, who did not have to do too much with the spinners sharing 84 overs between them, came back to wipe out the last three wickets and finish the match with ten for 70. England triumphed by an innings and 25 runs.
(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 http://twitter.com/senantix)

India tour of Australia 2014, Practice matches

Nov 24, 2014 (05:29 IST)   at Glenelg, Adelaide

Pakistan vs New Zealand in UAE, 2014

Nov 26, 2014 (11:30 IST)   at Sharjah

India tour of Australia 2014, Practice matches

Nov 28, 2014 (05:29 IST)   at Adelaide

Zimbabwe tour of Bangladesh, 2014

Nov 28, 2014 (12:00 IST)   at Dhaka

Afghanistan tour of UAE, 2014

Nov 28, 2014 (15:30 IST)   at Dubai


Zimbabwe tour of Bangladesh, 2014

Nov 26, 2014  at Dhaka

Bangladesh won by 124 runs

England tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Nov 26, 2014  at Colombo

Sri Lanka won by 25 runs

Hong Kong tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Nov 24, 2014  at Colombo

Hong Kong won by 2 wkts

Zimbabwe tour of Bangladesh, 2014

Nov 23, 2014  at Chittagong

Bangladesh won by 68 runs

South Africa tour of Australia, 2014

Nov 23, 2014  at Sydney

Australia won by 2 wickets (D/L method)


Phil Hughes suffers head injury: In photos


Phil Hughes passes away: Video tribute

Phillip Hughes passes away: Let us bring Sean Abbott back on track

Phil Hughes and other cricketers who succumbed to on-field injuries

Phillip Hughes 7th-youngest Test cricketer to die

Phillip Hughes: A brief look at the career of one of Australia’s most promising talents

Phillip Hughes: Rest in peace

Australia Bangladesh Bangladesh vs Zimbabwe England India India tour of Australia 2014-15 Pakistan Phil Hughes Phil Hughes Death Phil Hughes head injury Phillip Hughes Zimbabwe Zimbabwe tour of Bangladesh 2014 Zimbabwe vs Bangladesh Zimbabwe vs Bangladesh 2014

Phil Hughes to be remembered during Australia-England Rugby International

IPL 2013 spot-fixing and betting scandal: India Cements shares continue to fall

IPL 2013 spot-fixing and betting scandal: Supreme Court suggests Mudgal Committee to decide on punishment

Phillip Hughes passes away: MCC expresses its condolences

Phillip Hughes: Factfile

Phillip Hughes passes away: Kolkata is where Kolkata was

Phillip Hughes passes away: Crying for Phillip Hughes

Phillip Hughes passes away: Let us bring Sean Abbott back on track

Phil Hughes and other cricketers who succumbed to on-field injuries

IPL 2013 spot-fixing controversy: When Will the Supreme Court make the whole Mudgal report public?

Fan of the Day

Niharika Shah

Niharika Shah

682 Posts | 6 Fans

Video: Phil Hughes suffers head injury, collapses on field during New South Wales vs South Australia tie

More broadband connections to boost GDP growth in Asia Pacific: GSMA

Yo Yo Honey Singh goes into depression? His whereabouts unknown!

इबोला प्रायोगिक दवा के प्रयोग के नतीजे सकारात्मक आए

Shocking: Priyanka Chopra’s property a part of a sex racket?

Salman Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, and Aamir Khan to share stage with Rajat Sharma to celebrate 21 years of Aap Ki Adaalat!

India is becoming our largest overseas market, Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun says

Kanika Maheshwari aka Meenakshi of Diya Aur Baati Hum: Gautam needs to control his anger a little

सुपरमॉडल केट का क्रिसमस के लिए ब्यूटी टिप्स

Also on cricketcountry.com

Play Fantasy Cricket & Win

Cash Daily! Click here