Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Playing for a draw: The Oval test of 1975

If you wonder why the pundits grumble about modern batsman not being able to play for a draw, consider the Oval test match of 1975.

It was the last test of a four-match series, so the authorities had decreed that it would last six days.

Australia batted first and made 532-9, including this century by their captain Ian Chappell. In reply, England could only manage 191.

Wikipedia takes up the story:
Chappell asked England to follow on; with two-and-a-half days of a six-day Test remaining, defeat seemed almost inevitable. Still further resistance from Edrich (96) and Steele (66) saw England close the fourth day on 179/1; after Lillee dismissed both in quick succession the following morning, England continued to resist. 
Bob Woolmer (149, his maiden Test century) defied Australia for more than eight hours, sharing partnerships of 122 with Graham Roope (77) and 151 with Alan Knott (64) as England held out for 14 hours to reach 522/5. Only a spell of medium pace from Doug Walters eventually conquered England's lower order. In the limited remaining time, Australia reached 40/2.
That is how you play for a draw.

As a result of this rearguard action England lost the series only 1-0. After the carnage of the previous winter, when Lillee and Thomson had run amok, that felt like a considerable achievement.

The test England lost was the first, which took place at Edgbaston. Mike Denness controversially put Australia in and later got the worst of the weather.

I was there on the first day as a 15-year-old - this was an era where you could just turn up to a test and have a reasonable chance of getting in.

But what really interests me in this clip is the England bowling attack.

The opening bowlers were my hero John Snow and Chris Old. That latter always seemed to me one of those bowlers (Steve Watkin was another) who seemed much faster in the flesh than on television.

The third seamer was Bob Woolmer, though Tony Greig may well have come on first with his seamers as he was the better and faster bowler.

And then there werer  three spinners. The great Derek Underwood, Greig with the off spin that had won a test in the Caribbean 18 months before and Phil Edmonds in his blond Adonis period.



Phil Banting said...

I too was present at the Edgbaston Test - the whole of the match. My grandfather, who was assistant treasurer, had got me a job helping to work the scoreboard. I had to change the numbers indicating the bowlers, and also the last man score, which kept me busy when England batted.

Jonathan Calder said...

It must have done. I remember a young debutante called Graham Gooch got a pair.

When I was there on the first day he fielded at long leg all the time and no one seemed to speak to him.