First Cornhill Test



At Birmingham, July 29, 30, 31, August 1. England won by 113 runs, a comfortable-looking margin which belies the finely balanced fulcrum on which the game was poised before Pakistan began their second innings. Then, with the visitors needing 313 for victory, Botham and Willis took the first six wickets for 77, and although Imran and Tahir offered some late-order resistance, the game ended a day early in front of a 9,000 Sunday crowd with England preserving an impressive ground record of twelve wins, seven draws and only one defeat since Test cricket was first staged at Edgbaston in 1902.

After overnight injury scares which brought Cook and Small away from their county games and increased the England party to fourteen, these two players were not needed. Back trouble kept Pringle out of the side, Hemmings and Greig gained their first caps, and Gatting was recalled after a summer of prolific scoring. Sarfraz was unfit for Pakistan, Tahir Naqqash deputising. Majid Khan was omitted from their original twelve.

The pitch looked a good, even one for batting, an impression which turned out to be misleading. After Willis had won his fourth successive toss as captain, England batted under blue skies and hot sunshine, their innings opened by a makeshift partnership of Tavaré and Randall. The latter raced away with 16 from the first nine balls of the match. He was then bowled, offering no stroke to Imran, who later in the day was to show what a dramatic effect a world-class fast bowler can have, even when batsmen appear to be set.

Just before tea England were 164 for two, but the Pakistan captain had Gower caught behind the wicket for 74, easily the most fluent innings of the day, and then bowled Botham with a fast break-back. Tavaré, though still there, made no more effort to wrest the initiative from the bowlers than in his previous innings as a Test opener. Imran made short work of the tail to finish with seven for 52, but Pakistan's leg-spinner, Abdul Qadir, had a day to satisfy the connoisseur. Only Gower played him with any degree of comfort. Despite an unsuitably low and slow pitch, he spun his web around everyone else, notably Greig.

Replying to a moderate-looking 272, Pakistan lost Mudassar before the close, in Botham's opening over, to a high-looking leg-before decision. But many of their wickets which fell at encouragingly regular intervals for the England bowlers on the second day owed too little to ill fortune and too much to a self-destructive approach. Mohsin and Imran were both out hooking recklessly, and Javed tried to hit Hemmings out of the ground in the latter's first over in Test cricket. Greig bowled tidily, helped by the sort of apparent fortune which tended to be associated with his elder brother, and so, instead of gaining a substantial lead, Pakistan subsided to 251 all out after a performance that was profligate even by their standards.

England's second innings was in keeping with the untidy quality of much of the cricket played in the match, though this added paradoxically to the crowd's enjoyment, for the final outcome was becoming increasingly unpredictable. Prior to lunch on the third day England, at one stage, were 137 for two, with Randall on his way to an invaluable, improvised hundred that owed little to orthodoxy and hardly encouraged the belief that he can be turned into a Test opener. Tahir dismissed Gower, Gatting, Botham (first ball) and Miller in quick succession, and when Imran ended Randall's priceless innings for 105, England, were only 209 ahead with two wickets remaining. But wicket-keeper Taylor, helped first by Hemmings and then by Willis, squeezed 103 runs from an attack which rather lost its tactical way. The result was that Pakistan started their second innings needing over 300 to win, a target seldom achieved in Test cricket.

The measure of this became apparent in Botham's opening over, bowled in the sort of heavy atmosphere a top-class swing bowler dreams about. In six balls he removed Mudassar, who had entered the match with a tour average of 291.5 and who departed from it with one of 145.75, and Mansoor. Thereafter Pakistan's approach was no less undisciplined than in their first innings. Within an hour and a half they were 77 for six after 22 overs. Willis bowled a very fast spell, reminiscent of his match-winning one against Australia at Leeds in 1981, and with Botham bowling 21 overs unchanged and showing splendid stamina, the game was won and lost.

The total attendance was 41,000 and the takings were £139,323.

© John Wisden & Co