Bill Pavilion End, Bill Ricquier's Cricket Views

The Honourable Draw

In Some Cricket Matches.. by Bill Ricquier

Something happened twice in 2012-13 which had only happened once before in the history of Test cricket. A side batting last and going into the fifth day with four wickets down managed to draw the match. South Africa did it against Australia at Adelaide, with Francois de Plessis making a century on debut. And England did it at Auckland, the redoubtable Matt Prior and the inimitable Monty Panesar holding out to ensure that the series, as well as the match, was drawn. The only other instance had been in Johannesburg in 1995-1996, when Mike Atherton led England to safety against South Africa over two days of unrelenting toil.

The draw, particularly in the context of a Test match, is one of the aspects of cricket most difficult to explain to a sceptic. How is it that two teams can play a single game for five days and not attain a conclusive result? What on earth is the point?

But the believer – in particular if he or she is an impartial observer – needs no convincing of the compelling attractiveness of the draw. Of course this is far from being the case with every draw. Of the 2089 Tests played at the time of writing, 718 have been drawn, and many of those results would have been deeply frustrating for the impartial observer let alone the partisan. There can be all sorts of reasons why a match might be drawn. The complex equation of time, runs and wickets can be affected by a variety of factors. The captains play a pivotal role. Declaring too late can ruin a promising finish; so can declining to chase a realistic target. Sometimes, five days is just not enough. Tests have not infrequently been played over six days. The “timeless Test” played at Durban in 1938-39 was called off after ten days because England had to catch the boat train: they were 654 for 5 chasing, if that is the right word, 696.

Weather – which in England means rain – is the most obvious influence. Then there is the condition of the pitch, always a crucial issue. Many a Test match, particularly in the subcontinent and the Caribbean, has been condemned to a draw before it started. Of the 11 Tests which produced the 10 highest individual scores (both Don Bradman and Mark Taylor made 334), only four ended with a conclusive result.

Are draws less common than they used to be? Almost certainly yes, again for a variety of reasons. Cricket is changing, like everything else. Several commentators have questioned the need for five days for a Test. Two periods of unusually lengthy and almost unchallenged dominance, first by West Indies and then Australia made a difference, Steve Waugh is particular, changing the way captains approached Test cricket.

Bradman, the dominant player of his and arguably any generation played 52 Tests of which 10 were drawn. But for almost all of Bradman’s career Tests in Australia were played to a finish: there were no drawn Tests there between 1881-82 and 1946-47. Of Bradman’s 19 Tests played overseas, all of them on his four tours of England – the Manchester Test of 1938 was abandoned without a ball being bowled – eight were drawn. Shane Warne, the other dominant Australian cricketer, played 145 Tests, almost three times as many as Bradman, but only 27 were drawn (26 were lost).

Just as draws can be boring for all sorts of different reasons, so they can be interesting in all sorts of different ways. Context is important. There are draws that seem more like victories for one side, usually, and ironically, for the one narrowly avoiding defeat. This was the case with the first Ashes Test at Cardiff in 2009. This game had a classic climax, with the last English pair, James Anderson and Panesar, holding out for 69 deliveries and earning an improbable draw. A week later, England beat Australia at Lord’s for the first time since 1934 and ended up winning a series, which by every ‘normal’ indicator – centuries scored, wickets taken, individual sessions won – they should have lost. Oddly enough, the opening Test of the next Ashes series in Brisbane in 2010-11, although its finale was of a very different order, had a similarly tone-setting effect. England, facing a deficit of 221, scored 517 for one, paving the way for a 3-1 thrashing.

Context was also critical in one of the great historical draws, the Lord’s Test of the 1953 Ashes series. Australia had held the Ashes since 1934. Not only that, they had flogged England mercilessly in three post-war series, although there was a sign that the tide was turning when F. R. Brown’s team won the last Test at Sydney in 1950-51. 1953 started with a hard-fought draw at Trent Bridge. At Lord’s again, the sides looked closely matched, Australia making 346 and England gaining a first-innings lead of 26 thanks to Len Hutton’s 145. Keith Miller scored a century in Australia’s second innings and when they were all out for 368, England had an hour of batting in the fourth evening. Roy Lindwall reduced them to 12 for three and when Denis Compton fell on the final morning, an Australian victory seemed inevitable. But Willie Watson and Trevor Bailey, coming together 20 minutes before lunch, stayed together till well after tea; Watson batting for five and three quarter hours for his 109 and Bailey four and a quarter hours for 71. England finished on 282 for seven. Three weeks earlier, the Queen had been crowned. A month later England regained the Ashes at The Oval; the Watson Bailey stand, initially merely memorable, had become immortal.

Sometimes, a draw is brought about by a single, heroic individual performance, always by a batsman. (Bowlers win matches, batsmen draw them: discuss.) Atherton’s 185 not out at The Wanderers, spread over 643 minutes was a classic example and perhaps the greatest single rearguard performance by a Test captain. At Bridgetown in 1957-58, Pakistan followed on 473 behind the West Indies; their diminutive opener Hanif Mohammed scored 337. But perhaps the outstanding example of an individual contribution to a drawn Test came at Port of Spain in 1983-84. Australia, sent in by Vivian Richards, were bowled out for 255, Joel Garner and Winston Davis sharing the wickets. West Indies made 468 for 8 and when Richards declared they had a session and a day to force victory, and when the eighth wicket fell almost an hour before tea on the last day, Australia were still 17 runs behind. They finished on 299 for 9. Allan Border made 98 not out in the first innings and 100 not out in the second. Dean Jones, in his first Test, made 48 in the first innings; no other Australian reached 40 in either innings.

The ‘best’ draws are of two types. The first is where each side has a real chance of winning right up to the end. Of course, the ultimate example of this sort of game is the tie, of which there have been two, but we are not talking about ties. The second is where one side has no real hope of winning but manages, against all the odds, to hang on for a draw. England, in recent years, have made a speciality of this, emerging with one second innings wicket left in four games since 2009, including two in one series in South Africa. Of course, there are variations on these themes, but this is the essence of it. To get into an all-time top five list, other qualities are needed, in particular an absorbing context and the involvement of genuinely great players. Lord’s 1953 satisfies these criteria (Hutton, Campton, Alec Bedser, Miller, Lindwall). Here are four others.

Nobody seriously disputes that the greatest Test of all was the tied Test at Brisbane in 1963-61. What is often forgotten is that, that remarkable series, orchestrated by two genuinely inspirational captains in Richie Benaud and Frank Worrell, contained two other tight finishes. The tied Test was the first. Australia won the second at Melbourne by seven wickets and West Indies the third at Sydney by 222 runs. The fourth, at Adelaide, was drawn. Australia took the series by winning the fifth, back at Melbourne by two wickets, the ninth wicket pair of Ken ‘Slasher’ MacKay and Jonny Martin scampering a bye as the fifth (penultimate) day drew to a pulsating close.

Adelaide had had a similarly nerve – jangling climax. The two teens were not far apart on the first innings. West Indies made 393, with Rohan Kanhai making a hundred in a little over two hours, and Australia made 366, Lance Gibbs taking the first hat-trick against Australia in the 20th century. But West Indies drew away in the third innings, with Kanhai scoring another hundred. Worrell declared setting Austrialia 460 in just over six and a half hours. Australia never had a realistic chance of winning, but at 31 for three even survival seemed improbable. Peter Burge and Norman O’Neill fought hard on the last morning, but when Lindsay Kline (career average, 8) joined MacKay at the fall of ninth wicket, nearly two hours of play remained. Almost immediately, a strong appeal for a catch by Gary Sobers at short leg, off McKay, was turned down. The pair survived to the end. Amid great tension Wes Hall,Worrell’s indomitable spearhead bowled the last over to MacKay, but could not break through.

It is an odd thing that the 1960s, which in general, was Test cricket’s most boring decade, should have produced the only two Test matches to have inspired a book all to itself. The first was the Brisbane tied Test which has inspired more than one. The second was the second Test at Lord’s between England and the West Indies in 1963. Worrell’s team – in his final series was at the height of its powers. Sobers, Kanhar and Gibbs were approaching full cricketing maturity, while in Hall and Charlie Griffith, Worrell had one of the greatest and most memorable of opening attacks. Ted Dexter’s England side, on the other hand, as so often, seemed to be in a ‘transitional phase’. Great players there certainly were – Dexter, Ken Barrington, Colin Cowdry, Fred Trueman – but getting them to fire on all cylinders together was not always easy.

Just as Brisbane ‘60-61 has its iconic image – West Indies’ fielders exulting as Joe Solomon’s side-on throw hit the stops to run out Ian Mackiff – so Lord’s 1963 has the strangely downbeat but instantly evocative snapshot: Cowdrey emerging from the pavilion with his arm in plaster – broken by a ball from Hall when England was 72 for 3 in the second innings – with two balls to be played and England needing six runs to win with one wicket left. Of course Cowdrey did not have to face a ball – the ninth wicket pair of David Allan and Derek Shackleton had crossed, so it was Allen who played out the last two balls for a draw, but that is really not the point.

West Indies had won the first Test at Old Trafford easily, Conrad Hunte making a big hundred and Gibbs taking 11 wickets. At Lord’s as at Adelaide, the two sides were level after one innings, West Indies making 301 (Trueman, six for 100) and England 297: Dexter’s 70 was one of Test cricket’s most genuinely memorable innings, ‘Lord Ted’ standing tall and driving and hooking Hall and Griffith.

West Indies went in again on the third afternoon and were soon in trouble, and when Worrell came in to join Basil Butcher, the score was 104 for five and England were very much on top. But Butcher played the innings of his life, one that in the context of the match was comparable with Dexter’s. He made 133 in nearly four and a half hours, adding 110 with Worrell (33).

West Indies were 214 for five at the close on Saturday, but lost their last five wickets in a rush on Monday morning; Trueman finishing with five for 52. England needed 234 to win. Micky Stewart, John Edrich and Dexter were out with only 31 on the board. Barrington and Cowdrey played well against fearsomely fast bowling, but then Cowdrey retired hurt. When play was abandoned for bad light at 4.45, England were 116 for three.

Rain delayed play until 2.30 on the last day, putting exquisite strain on the age-old equation of runs, wickets and time. Barrington continued to exude defiance, adding 60 to his first innings 80, but the lead role was assumed by Brian Close, who in an innings that excited considerable controversy, took the attack, at considerable physical risk, to Hall and Griffith. He was eventually out; charging down the wicket to Hall, for 70.

When Shackleton joined Allen 15 were required in 19 minutes. In the age of T20, it is hard not to regard the denouement as somewhat anti-climactic. Worrell entrusted the last over, as he did at Brisbane and at Adelaide, to the magnificent Hall (“Don’t bowl a no-ball”). The 38-year-old Shackleton was run out off the fourth ball. Allen played out those last two balls. Nobody could say a draw was not a fair result.

On the whole, the late 1970s was not a great period for Test cricket. World Series Cricket took away too many of the best players. But the era produced one match to rank with the best.

India had had a poor tour of England in 1979 and went into the fourth Test at The Oval one-nil down. Mike Brearley won the toss (and batted at number seven) and England made 305. India were bowled out for 202, Gundappa Viswanath making 62 and Ian Botham taking four for 65. Geoffrey Boycott made a hundred in England’s second innings and Brearley declared, setting India 438 in 500 minutes.

It looked like a token gesture and a hopeless task, even though India reached 76 for no loss on the fourth evening. When they were 306 for one at tea on the final afternoon, it did not seem quite so unthinkable. Sunil Gavaskar and Chetan Chauhan put on 213 for the first wicket, then Dilip Vengsarhar helped Gavashar take the score to 366; they added 153 at more than a run a minute. India needed 110 in the last 20 overs. England’s saviour was Botham who took three wickets for 17 runs in a final four over burst, as well as affecting a run out and holding a catch. Fifteen off the last over was just too much: India finished on 429 for eight.

Botham’s last wicket was the crucial one, that of Gavaskar, for 221, made in eight hours. It was master class in every respect as ‘The Little Master’ of his day controlled the improbable chase: “He did all the thinking and played most of the shots,” as Wisden said of his partnership with Vengsarhar. The highest successful fourth innings run chase is 416 for seven.

The key feature of Test cricket in the 1980s was the dominance of the West Indies and their quartets of fast bowlers. England – in the era of Botham, David Gower and Graham Gooch, among others, lost 14 out of 15 Tests to them. Australia, too, suffered grievously. But Pakistan…? Well, it was a different story. In the two mid-decade series, 1986-87, in Pakistan and 1987-88 in the Caribbean, when the sides were led by Vivian Richards and Imran Khan, honours were precisely even each time; a win for each team, and a draw.

It was a shock to the West Indies – even without Richards and Malcolm Marshall – when Pakistan won the first Test in the 1987-88 series at Georgetown comfortably – the hosts’ first home defeat since they lost to Australia during the Packer era in 1977-78. Richards and Marshall returned for the second Test at Port-of-Spain. Imran inserted the West Indies, who were all out by tea on the first day for 174 (Richards 49), Imran and Abdul Qadir sharing eight wickets. By stumps, Pakistan had lost five wickets for 55. Salim Malik batted courageously the next day to take Pakistan to 194 and Imran quickly removed Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes and Gus Lougie. But Richards and Jeffrey Dujon scored centuries, and with Imran and Qadir sharing nine wickets this time, Pakistan began their second innings after lunch on the fourth day in pursuit of 372 for victory. Ramiz Raja got them off to a positive start with 44, but the chase was orchestrated by cricket’s ultimate scrapper, Javed Miandad. He started defensively, after Pakistan lost three wickets in seven balls, but in the course of a six wicket stand of 116 with Ijaz Ahmed, he became more expansive.

Miandad made 102 in just over seven hours. When he was out just before the start of the final 20 overs, 84 were needed. But when Marshall dismissed Wasim Akram on 311, it was West Indies who were pressing for victory. They almost got there. Richards (two for 17), dismissed Salim Yousuf with the first ball of the last over and last man Qadir had to keep out the remaining five balls.

West Indies won the third Test, at Bridgetown, by two wickets.

Is there such a thing as a dishonourable draw? Well, some are worse than others. One shudders slightly at the thought of Old Trafford, 1964, when the Australian captain, Bob Simpson, defending the Ashes with a one-nil lead and two Tests to go, batted into the third morning, declaring on 656 for eight; he made his own maiden Test century a triple. England made 611 (Graham McKenzie seven for 153 in 60 overs). There was time at the end for Simpson and Bill Lawry to go in again, for two overs.

India and Pakistan have played numerous turgid draws. Wisden described the Lahore Test of 2005-6 as “abominable.” (Pakistan 679 for 7 declared, India 410 for 1). And a game which leaves a slightly bitter taste is the first Test between England and the West Indies in 1957. This was the first time the two teams had met in England since 1950 when the home team were spun and stunned to defeat by Sonny Ramadhin and Alf Valentine. At Edgbaston, it looked like Groundhog Day when England were bowled out for 186, Ramadhin taking seven for 49 in 31 overs. West Indies replied with 474. Ramadhin was soon in operation when England went in again, dismissing Peter Richardson and Doug Insole cheaply. Colin Cowdrey joined Peter May when the score was 113 for 3, 20 minutes after play stared on the fourth day. They stayed together until Cowdrey was out after lunch on the fifth day for 154. May made 285 not out and together they put on 411. May declared with the total on 583 for four and West Indies, left with two hours and 20 minutes to chase a notional target of 296, finished on 72 for seven.

In that second England innings, Ramadhin bowled 98 overs and took two for 179. In the four remaining Tests, three of which England won, he took five wickets (four in one innings at The Oval, where he bowled Cowdrey and Tom Graveney). That record fourth wicket stand was in many ways a remarkable achievement, but May and in particular Cowdrey, effectively padded Ramadhin out of Test cricket.

No DRS in those days!

Bill Ricquier, 28/06/2013

This article was published in The Island:

Share this Post