Graham Gooch: 333


30 years ago today, Graham Alan Gooch, OBE, DL chose to put the India Test team to the sword. Records tumbled as the Essex legend rewrote cricketing history.

After setting the Test record for the highest match aggregate (456) when becoming the first batsman in any first-class fixture to follow a triple hundred with a century, he set a host of other milestones details of which feature later in this article.

Apart from his weight of runs, he took the vital wicket of Sanjay Manjrekar, held two catches, and then figured in the last wicket to fall in the match when he ran out Sanjeev Sharma, a dismissal that wrapped up the England victory.

It was little wonder his performance made his nomination as Man of the Match the simplest decision for those charged with deciding such awards. He was in a class of his own.

But before embarking on the record-breaking innings that was to prove a statistician’s delight, Graham played for his beloved County against Lancashire at Colchester immediately before the match at Lord’s.

Essex won by 6 wickets and Graham recalls the match. “Yes, I got 177 (21 fours facing 152 balls) in that game when Lancashire set us 348 to win,” he said. “It was a classic run chase of that era. I remember Mike Atherton bowled then and he was quite a good leg-spinner, he was quite aggressive and over the years, he got me out a couple of times including lbw in this match. We were playing three-day games then and they were often really exciting. Not always, but for a lot of the time both sides were trying to win the game. So, you would have a total to chase which made for an exciting game of cricket in terms of the pursuit of points. It was exciting for the players and spectators and you don’t see much of that nowadays because, generally, to win a game, you have to bowl a team out twice and take 20 wickets. You might have more games set up in the Second Division because obviously, teams are trying to win promotion into the First Division.

“In those days, there was only one day between the last day of a Championship match and the start of a Test match.

“I had scored a lot of runs that summer, conditions for batting were ideal. The previous season had been the year of the big seam on the ball, it had a thicker coarser seam and tended to move around a bit more. But in 1990, the authorities addressed that, and batsmen started scoring plenty of runs.”

So, onto the Lord’s Test.

Thirty-seven years old at the time, his innings was the sixth-highest triple hundred in Test history at that time and included the third-highest tally of runs in boundaries in a Test innings. Only Hanif Mohammad had scored more runs (499) in any first-class game.

As for India’s captain, Mohammad Azharuddin, one wonders how long it was before he could sleep soundly again after he made the nightmare decision to put England in to bat after the tourists had won the toss.

On a dry pitch and with bounce that was to become increasingly variable with spin also coming into the equation as the game progressed, his decision to insert the opposition was baffling.

But he would not have been the only member of the India team to suffer with regrets. Gooch had scored 36 when he was dropped by wicket-keeper Kiran More. Spare a thought for the hapless gloveman who had to watch Gooch’s wonderful innings – often at close hand – as the runs flowed relentlessly from the heavy bat over after over, hour after hour after over to run salt into the keeper’s wounds

Graham relates: “The first day at Lord’s is always quite a difficult decision to know what to do if you win the toss. If it is a little bit overcast and muggy, you think maybe you should bowl because there could be difficult batting conditions on the first day although generally, it’s the first morning if there are any problems. So, if you can get through the first session of the match without losing more than a wicket or two, then you’ve done okay because the pitch generally flattens out. And that’s what happened in this game. They chose to bowl, ‘Athers’ was out reasonably early, David (Gower) got a few and then ‘Lamby’ (Alan Lamb) joined me.

“I did have a bit of luck with the dropped catch and I have to say it wasn’t a particularly difficult catch. The bowling was downhill from the Nursery End, More moved to his right and didn’t even dive, he didn’t have to really, he stooped down but the ball didn’t stick. So, there we go!

“Often the other centuries in that match are forgotten, Azharuddin particularly scored a brilliant hundred but there were quite a few incidents in that match.”

Gooch underpinned England’s highest total against India and teamed up with Lamb for the third wicket to add 308, a record partnership for any wicket against India.

“To have the opportunity to be able to bat long enough to have the chance to score a triple hundred is rare, because if you are scoring that sort of total at one end, you are often scoring more than that at the opposite end if you see what I mean,” Gooch explained. “But that situation didn’t quite transpire in that game.

“Obviously when I got to 300, there was inwardly the self-gratification because very few people have anywhere near the opportunity to do that and it’s a lovely milestone to have against your name.”

Azharuddin attempted to make amends with a sparkling innings of his own but it was not in the same league as Gooch’s mammoth effort and having scored 124, the Indian skipper was bowled by Eddie Hemmings.

India eventually avoided the follow-on but only just and then Gooch and Atherton extended the lead by 208 in a breezy partnership spanning just 148 minutes, a record opening stand by England against India. Gooch became the first player to score five Test hundreds at Lord’s with 123 in the second innings. “I was pretty livid when I went into bat second time around,” and he revealed the reason why.

“Angus Fraser was bowling at the Pavilion End to Kapil Dev towards the end of the India first innings. He nicked it and I “caught” him at second slip. My hands were on the ground and the ball went straight in. Anyway, he stood there because he didn’t think it had carried which was fair enough, he’s entitled to do that. There were no TV replays or anything like that in those days. Nigel Plews was the umpire, he walked over to the square-leg umpire who was Dickie Bird and I walked with him. Plews said, ‘Dickie, did that carry’ and Dickie said, ‘Nigel, I cannot help you.’

“So, Kapil Dev was given not out, and I was not a happy skipper because at that stage they were getting close to avoiding the follow-on. Then he proceeded to hit Hemmings for four consecutive sixes round about the long-on area where the clock is. Eddie being the wily old pro that he was kept tossing the ball up and tempting him, which is not necessarily the wrong thing to do but Kapil kept whacking the ball over the boundary. They got one run past the follow-on and then Fraser bowled one ball at (Narendra) Hirwani, the leg-spinner, and got him out. So, they’d saved the follow-on by one run.

“So, when I went in to bat in the second innings, my recollection is that far from being calm, I was more annoyed and frustrated and I suppose that transferred itself into my playing quite aggressively. Two hundred was the follow-on figure and we’d have been able to enforce the follow-on but for that catch that wasn’t given. So, we added quick runs and declared 471 ahead.”

Challenged with a mammoth target to win with 110 overs available, India adopted a go-for-glory approach that failed dismally against some outstanding fielding and consistently accurate bowling. Their quest ended with a slick run out-executed by Gooch who, as England captain, was able to celebrate his fourth Test win in seven matches.

“I ran Sharma out from mid-on and that is even rarer than the 300, me running someone out,” Gooch laughed. “That put the seal on a game that had my stamp on it.”

The tourists only consolation that was that they had figured in a match that set new Test records and at least they could claim one positive contribution, the match aggregate of runs totalled 1,603 a new record for any match at Lord’s.

Graham admits he is not particularly a records man. “When I got to 300, I started to accelerate to hasten the declaration after tea on the second day. There is a story, and it’s true, that when I was out and came into the dressing room, Mickey Stewart our manager offered me his congratulations but then asked ‘What were you doing getting out?’ I said,” Sorry Mickey, I’ve run out of petrol. And he basically told me that I should have gone on and beaten the record which was 365 held by Gary Sobers. To be honest, it was the first time I’d even thought about it.
Probably, if that had been mentioned to me before-hand, I might have tried to beat the record. The chance to do that is a once in a lifetime opportunity and not even that for most people.

“As I got older, I got much better at converting scores into hundreds and centuries into big hundreds, hence the term ‘daddy hundreds. That phrase came from the time many years earlier when I was playing for England the second time around and when I was starting my international career properly as it were in 1978 after my earlier two Tests three years before. Kenny Barrington, a great man, was like a father figure to the likes of myself, John Emburey, David Gower, Mike Gatting, Ian Botham. Kenny was a selector and there was no manager or coach or anything like that in those days.

“Kenny was the assistant manager on the first three tours that I went on and he assumed the role of coach, not officially, but he had been a great player, he knew the game, he ran the nets, he did the coaching and helped us a lot. He was a much-loved figure in terms of his advice and his demeanour, his character was brilliant. He could laugh at himself and the boys used to take the mickey out of him a little bit, but he used to love it. He was never a guy to say, ‘In my day, it was better,’ he never said that. The bit of advice that he gave me and probably several others was to say, ‘If you get in, make it count. If you get to 50, make sure you get to 100. If you get to 100, make sure you get to 150 and if you get that far, make sure you try and get a double-hundred.’ The rationale was, ‘Why give it away when it’s the easiest time to score runs is after your 100. Generally, it’s just yourself that will get you out by being expansive and making a mistake or trying to push the score along too quickly. Or in the modern terminology, ‘playing out of your bubble’.

“The next time that you go back in, you have to start
all over again with your score on nought and you might get a ball that shoots along the deck, or one that takes off the glove or you get a poor lbw decision against you or whatever and you might be out for nought. Then the next time you go in, the same thing might happen again, and you’ll be glad you turned that hundred into 180 or more. So that was the rationale behind it and that stayed with me throughout my career. You’ve probably heard Alastair Cook say on more than once occasion, ‘You’ve never got enough runs’. And that’s right because you never know what’s going to happen in your next innings. People have slumped in form, people lose form, it happens to every player. So, when you are playing well, that’s the time to cash in while you can.

“That’s what I always tried to instil in players when I was coaching full-time and what I tell them now if I’m asked to help them. Always try to stretch out the run of form as long as possible, because you don’t know what’s around the corner. “

And what did Graham do to relax after such demands in that Lord’s Test? Feet-up perhaps or a few days away to recover. Not so. His mode of recovery was to play for Essex later that week at Southend where they met Nottinghamshire. He top-scored in the first innings with 87 and followed with an unbeaten 65 in the assisting the County to a 10-wicket victory.

A true maestro, what a player!