When Gavaskar and Co. did the unthinkable

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12 Apr 2020 | 03:06 AM
authorHardik Worah

When Gavaskar and Co. did the unthinkable

On this day, India chased down West Indies' massive target of 403 at Queen’s Park Oval

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On this day in 1976, Sunil Gavaskar, Gundappa Viswanath and Mohinder Amarnath helped India chase down a record 406/4 - then the most number of runs scored in the fourth innings in a successful chase - against the invincible West Indian side in the third Test at Port of Spain. The record stood for over 27 years before West Indies hunted down Australia's 418-run target at St John's in 2003.

BACKGROUND

India had defeated West Indies just three times in 34 Tests before they arrived at the Caribbean shores for a four-match series in 1976. The Bishan Singh Bedi-led side looked clueless against the likes of David Holford, Sir Andy Roberts and Michael Holding and were thumped by an innings and 97 runs in the first Test.

The second Test at Queen’s Park Oval ended in a draw but India made a huge statement by bundling West Indies out for 241 in the first innings after the first day of the match was washed out. Gavaskar and Brijesh Patel crafted stunning centuries and helped India amass 402/5 decl in their first essay. Bedi and Co. tried their best but West Indies somehow managed to save the Test and 1-0 lead going into the third encounter.

The third game, which was earlier scheduled at Bourda, was shifted back to Queen’s Park Oval because of the heavy downpour in Georgetown, Guyana.

RECORDS GALORE, HISTORY CREATED

West Indies opener Roy Fredericks and Lawrence Rowe got their team off to a decent start after Sir Clive Lloyd won the toss and opted to bat first. The two added 45 runs before Bhagwath Chandrasekhar triggered a mini collapse. The legspinner got rid of both the openers and didn't even allow Alvin Kallicharran to open his account. From 45 for no loss, West Indies were reduced to 52 for 3. The home team needed a big partnership and Sir Viv Richards and Lloyd took the onus on themselves to pull West Indies out of the bog.

The duo added 124 runs for the fourth wicket before Lloyd (68) became Chandrasekhar's fourth victim. However, Richards carried on and smashed 177 to propel West Indies to 359 in their first innings. Chandrasekhar finished with six wickets, while Bedi scalped four.

In response, almost every Indian batsman got a decent start but not one of them could convert it into something substantial. Not a single batsman managed a half-century despite five batsmen scoring over 20. It was Holding who did most of the damage as the right-arm paceman took 6/65. India were dismissed for 228 and ended up conceding a 131-run lead.

Just like their first innings, West Indies lost three early wickets with the first-innings centurion Richards being one of them. However, Kallicharran, who dismissed for a duck in the first essay, crafted a century and got decent support from skipper Lloyd and wicketkeeper-batsman Deryck Murray. West Indies declared on 271/6, with a total lead of 402, immediately after Kallicharran got to his hundred. All the 16 West Indies wickets to fall across two innings were taken by spinners.

Only once prior to this Test a total of over 400 (Australia 404/3 v England, 1948) was chased down in Test cricket and Gavaskar and Co. had an improbable task in hand. India, who had never chased more than 256, needed a miracle to pull this one off and they got that from Gavaskar. The Little Master was slightly aggressive and took the attack to West Indies bowlers. Anshuman Gaekwad stuck around for a while as the two added 69 runs for the opening wicket.

Left-arm spinner Raphick Jumadeen gave West Indies the first breakthrough when he sent back Gaekwad for 28. Coming in at No. 3, Amarnath gave Gavaskar solid support and two batsmen went about their business with full-on solidity. India were 134/1 at the end of Day 4 and still needed 269 runs to create history.

It was once again Jumadeen who broke the stand as he had Gavaskar (102) caught behind just after he completed his century. Amarnath was joined by Viswanath and the two ensured that West Indies remain under pressure. Lloyd took the second new ball very late and persisted with spinners despite them failing to break the partnership. The duo put on 159 runs and put India on a commanding position. Viswanath brought up his first overseas century but just after adding 12 more runs he was run out.

Brijesh was promoted to No. 5 because of his aggressive nature and the Karnataka batsman started scoring at a good pace. Amarnath too started scoring a bit more freely and almost got India over the line. After scoring 86 runs in 440 minutes, Amarnath was run out 11 runs short of the target. Brijesh however carried on and got the job done by slamming Jumadeen for a boundary.

WHAT FOLLOWED?

- West Indies came into series after being humiliated in Australia 1-5. Captain Lloyd was furious with his spinners and went with four pacers in the final Test. The likes of Holding, Wayne Daniel, Bernard Julien and Vanburn Holder dismantled Indian batting line-up with bouncers and even beamers and Bedi was forced to declare both innings closed, at 306 for 6 and at 97 for 5. West Indies won the game by 10 wickets and took the series 2-1.

- This experiment later led to West Indies always fielding four fast bowlers. Roberts and Holding were later joined by Joel Garner and Colin Croft. And then came the likes of Sir Curtly Ambrose, Courtney Walsh and Ian Bishop.  

- The record of most runs scored in the fourth innings in a successful run chase was finally broken in 2003 when West Indies chased down Australia's target of 418. In 2008, South Africa got the better of Australia by chasing down 414 at Perth.

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