Thirty years ago, India had resumed their second innings after the rest day with innings defeat looming over the horizon. However, when they did go down it was with flashing swords and fireworks in a spectacular blaze of glory.
Arunabha Sengupta recalls the special knocks of Dilip Vengsarkar and Kapil Dev on that day.
June 14, 1982
India had followed on, trailing by 305 runs.
The wicket was helpful, conditions tailor made for swing. Ian Botham had been unplayable in the first innings. Bob Willis was fast and furious in the second. Derek Pringle and Paul Allott exploited the conditions expertly when called upon to replace the spearheads.
When play resumed after the quaint old tradition of the rest day, the Indians were 61 for the loss of Sunil Gavaskar and Ghulam Parkar. As the morning progressed, Ravi Shastri, sent in as a night watchman in those fledgling days of his career, hung on for over an hour before playing all over one from Allott. Gundappa Viswanath, who had saved the Test at this very venue three years back with the same partner who stood at the other end, lasted just six balls before edging Pringle.
In the late 70s and the early 80s, Dilip Vengsarkar had been elegant, dependable, but far too restrained. While he slowly built himself into a bulwark of Indian batsmanship, the momentary flashes of unquestioned brilliance and aggression sparkled once in a rare while through his otherwise gutsy, dour approach.
However, there was something about Lord’s, be it the slope across the ground, the sight of Father Time riding his weather vane or the atmosphere of the Long Room, that always seemed to spark off the dormant genius in him.
As Yashpal Sharma joined him at the wicket, he shifted gears and launched into a breathtaking counterattack.
Trademark drives pulsated along the turf, and when the bowlers shortened the length they were mercilessly pulled and cut. Willis and Botham suddenly looked less than threatening, the rest pedestrian. Propelled by powerful yet wristy strokes, Vengsarkar plundered 86 runs between lunch and tea, in the process reaching the second of his three centuries at the hallowed ground.
The Englishmen were looking shell shocked when they opted for the second new ball, which immediately produced a spate of boundaries from the Bombay bat. It was in trying to hook Willis that he finally fell for a masterly 157, and the fifth Indian wicket was down for 253. His innings was etched with 21 boundaries.
The second line of attack
Willis then ran through the line-up, dismissing Yashpal, Ashok Malhotra and Syed Kirmani in quick succession, but even as the English looked for a quick finish, they ran up against a tornado along the home stretch.
Kapil Dev, who had taken five English wickets and had batted patiently for 41 in the first innings, now provided a second spellbinding layer of rattling rear-guard action, a display of pyrotechnics that lacked the elegance of Vengsarkar but was infinitely more brutal. Lord’s was lit up as in a carnival, as stroke after ingenious stroke sped to the fence, three of them on the full, the bowling treated with a disdain it hardly deserved. Wisden later noted that Kapil’s bat made “the sound of gunfire”.
When he finally caught at short mid-wicket out for 89, made in 77 minutes off 55 balls with 13 fours and three sixes, India had reached a more than decent 369.
With just 65 to get, the Englishmen commenced their second innings in the last few minutes of the day, and were almost blown away by the continuing Kapil Dev storm, now armed with a new ball. Geoff Cook, Chris Tavare and night-watchman Bob Taylor were soon back in the hut and the glorious day ended with the home team at a precarious 23 for three.
The fifth day followed a more logical order of things, ending in something of an anti-climax. Allan Lamb and David Gower took England home without further hiccups.
However, during their next tour in 1986, under Kapil Dev’s captaincy and due to some phenomenal batting by Vengsarkar, India were to triumph 2-0.
Over the years, Vengsarkar and Kapil Dev would often combine on the twenty-two yards in some electrifying partnerships – the most famous of them getting India home from a difficult corner in the semi-final against New Zealand during the Benson Hedges World Championship in 1985.
(Arunabha Sengupta is trained from Indian Statistical Institute as a Statistician. He works as a Process Consultant, but purifies the soul through writing and cricket, often mixing the two into a cleansing cocktail. The author of three novels, he currently resides in the incredibly beautiful, but sadly cricket-ignorant, country of Switzerland. You can know more about him from his author site, his cricket blogs and by following him on Twitter)