Who dares is occasionally defeated – part 2
Barely one in fifty target-setting declarations in Test cricket results in a loss for the team who make the declaration. Just eleven in Test cricket history. With the odds seemingly so heavily stacked against it happening, a match-by-match review should produce some treasures – and numbers six to eleven of this series throw up some magnificent innings and even a turning point in the history of the game. The first five were described in Who dares is occasionally defeated.
Clive Lloyd West Indies v India, Port-of-Spain (April 1976)
Lloyd’s 13th match as captain was to have a far-reaching impact on test cricket. His team had been well ahead from early on day 1 of this match. With a comfortable lead of 400 on a slow turning pitch, with three spinners in his side, Lloyd declared after lunch on the fourth day. India had almost five sessions to score the runs.
Generous or not, it required a magnificent, record-breaking effort from India’s upper order – centuries for Gavaskar and Vishwanath and a sheet-anchor 85 from Mohinder Armanath. The other triumvirate whose role was significant were the three West Indies spinners – Jumadeen, Padmore and Imtiaz Ali. Their impotency – absolutely (two wickets in 105 overs) and relative to the Indian spinners – set Lloyd on the path to the all pace attack of the next two decades. It was a rapid transformation with four quick bowlers in place two tests later.
Bishen Bedi Australia v India, Perth (December 1977)
The calculation made by captains approaching a declaration is between size of lead and time available to win. In this case, Bedi’s calculation was how long he dare bat on without an injury to a key bowler. With nine wickets down, himself and Chandrasekhar at the crease and Thomson at full-throttle, he was not sacrificing much run-scoring potential cutting short the innings.
The match had been closely fought with neither team able to secure a telling advantage. This was true through most of the fourth innings, where a nightwatchman’s century (AL Mann) played a major part in a creating a dramatic finish with Australia reaching their target of 339 with two wickets to spare and time running out. Bedi became the second captain in test history to have both suffered and benefited from a loss after a declaration.
David Gower England v West Indies, Lord’s (July 1984)
This is the only one of the eleven matches that I saw any of in the flesh – day 3 when Botham’s bowling took England to the unusual position of a first innings lead against the West Indies. One of his eight wickets in the innings was Richards, given LBW after a half-hearted appeal. At the time it felt as though the umpire, Barry Meyer, was as carried away as the crowd with England’s competitiveness.
Gower declared with nine wickets down early on day 5, setting a target of 342. More controversial than this decision was Lamb’s, and presumably Gower’s, to leave the field for bad light the previous evening when England’s lead was building. Greenidge’s response would have made any such cavils academic as he powered to 214* and a nine wicket victory. The West Indies’ progress was updated on my classroom blackboard by a chemistry teacher who was invigilating some low key afternoon-long test, wearing headphones.
Despite the defeat, this was England’s highpoint of a five-nil series defeat. Lloyd became the third captain in test history to have both suffered and benefited from a loss after a declaration.
Adam Gilchrist England v Australia, Headingley (August 2001)
Stand-in captain Gilchrist brought his attacking frame of mind to Test leadership setting England a target of 314 in a possible 110 overs. Poor weather meant that the full allotment would not be bowled and an inspired innings from Mark Butcher (174*) took England to a rare and unlikely victory when the loss of early wickets on day 5 had made a draw a more reasonable aspiration.
Asked about how he had prepared himself for the afternoon assault on Australia’s magnificent four bowlers, Butcher memorably explained that at lunch he had sat in the shower with a fag and cup of coffee.
Of losses following declarations, this was one of the most comprehensive turnarounds: 1st innings lead of 139, which became a lead over 300 with four wickets down on day four when Gilchrist waved his batsmen in. Steve Waugh was fit for the next test and Australia continued on their winning ways.
Graeme Smith Australia v South Africa, Sydney (January 2006)
Graeme Smith holds the test record for most target-setting declarations (23) and the most drawn matches (16) following those declarations. This is his single defeat.
Losing one-nil, on the final morning of the series, Smith gambled: setting Australia 287 in 76 overs. An onslaught from Ponting saw the target swallowed in just 60 overs, for the loss of only two wickets – setting a new record for a fourth innings winning total at Sydney. Smith’s positive outlook was evident throughout the game as he had declared the 1st innings, becoming the second captain to lose a match after declaring both innings.
Kevin Pietersen India v England, Chennai (December 2008)
Oh the ups and downs of KP. In this, his second (of three) test matches in charge, he cut short England’s innings and set India’s galacticos a target of 387 in around 110 overs. The declaration wasn’t reckless, or even particularly bold, as nine wickets were down and Panesar due to join Anderson.
In sharp contrast to England’s meandering afternoon of batting on the 4th day, Sehwag launched India that evening with 83 from 68 balls. On day 5, Tendulkar and Yuvraj guided India on a record-breaking run-chase.
Despite the loss, Pietersen’s stock was high, having led his team back to India after the Mumbai terror attacks. Within months, at loggerheads with Coach Peter Moores, he had had to step down. Perhaps more significant for his current predicament, at least one of his teammates was unimpressed by his conduct.
The difficulty chasing a substantial total in the fourth innings is the cricketing truism that informs every captain setting a target. These six examples, despite the success of the run-chase, support that belief, as each was driven by one or more outstanding batting performance.
Only Lloyd and Gilchrist made declarations that allowed a fundamental alteration to the course of the game. In three of the matches featured, the declaring captain probably sacrificed little as his team was already nine wickets down. In the remaining case, Smith’s was motivated by the need seize the last opportunity to draw level in the series.
Did you follow, watch or even attend any of these matches – perhaps as one of the sparse fifth day crowd rewarded with a brush with cricket history? Your recollections would be a very welcome addition to this project.
This article is the sixth in a series investigating target-setting declarations in Test cricket. The full series is found by selecting ‘Declarations’ from the top menu bar.