England vs India Test Flashback: India nearly chase down 438 against England on their soil

England vs India Test Flashback: India nearly chase down 438 against England on their soil

India had a chance to level the series and register their first win on that tour.

Sunil Gavaskar being congratulated by happy supporters at the Oval. (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)

The England tour in 1979 didn’t go well for India as they failed to win even one game among the three they played in the 2nd ODI World Cup held that year. India also lost to an associate nation Sri Lanka by 47 runs during that tournament. It was followed by a 4-match Test series against the hosts and India’s misery continued. They lost the first Test in Birmingham by an innings and 83 runs, were bowled out for 297 and 253 respectively in response to England’s first innings total of 633/5.

India were lucky to draw the 2nd Test at Lord’s despite getting bowled out for only 96 in the first innings of the game. They came back to stonewalling for 148 overs in the 2nd essay where they made 318/4. The 3rd Test match also ended in a draw as not even three hours of play was possible on the first three days of the Test. India had a chance to level the series and register their first win on that tour in the final Test at The Oval played between 30th August and September 4th.

England elected to bat first on winning the toss and ended the first day at 245/5. Graham Gooch’s 79 and Peter Willey’s 52 gave England hopes for a big total but Indian bowlers restricted the hosts to 305 by taking the last five wickets for 60 runs. The Indian batting struggled to get going against England’s pace attack as they were bowled out for only 202 runs. Gundappa Viswanath’s 62 and Yajurvindra Singh’s unbeaten 43 were the saving grace for India in the first innings.

The big chase:

Geoff Boycott, England v India, 4th Test, The Oval, Aug 1979. (Photo by Patrick Eagar/Patrick Eagar Collection via Getty Images)

England batted with ease in the 2nd innings as Geoff Boycott scored 125 batting out for nearly seven hours. They made 334/8 before declaring the innings to set a target of 438 for India in 500 minutes. They began the chase confidently losing a wicket at stumps on the 4th day with 76 runs on the board. However, India didn’t show any sort of emergency on the final day where they were chasing a record total.

The opening pair of Sunil Gavaskar and Chetan Chauhan added 137 runs in the first three hours of the 5th day by scoring 48, 45 and 44 runs respectively every hour. The opening stand read 213 runs when Chauhan was dismissed by Bob Wills for 80. Gavaskar decided to take the charge when India still needed 225 runs in 180 minutes. The opening batsman yielded runs at a rate of run/minute along with the new batsman Dilip Vengsarkar.

The partnership between the Mumbai batsmen turned out to be fruitful as the equation came down to 110 needed from 20 overs. Gavaskar soon raised his 3rd double century in Test cricket sharing a 153-run 2nd wicket stand with Vengsarkar. The No.3 batsman got out for 52 at the score of 366 when India needed 73 from 12.5 overs. The promotion of the big-hitting Kapil Dev higher in the order didn’t make a difference as the all-rounder got out for a 5-ball duck.

Sunil Gavaskar during his double century. (Photo by Patrick Eagar/Patrick Eagar Collection via Getty Images)

A nail-biting finish:

India took a risk by promoting an inexperienced Yashpal Sharma as well ahead of Viswanath. In the mean-time, Gavaskar’s gritty 221-run knock that lasted 490 minutes with 21 boundaries, came to an end when he hit one straight to mid-on off the bowling of Ian Botham. Viswanath walked in as No.6 when India needed 49 from eight overs. He made 15 off 11 deliveries with two fours before he found a fielder in the spread field.

India continued to lose wickets while attempting to score quick runs as Yajurvindra (1) and the skipper S Venkataraghavan (6) fell cheaply. Botham, who bowled a crucial spell towards the end, got Yashpal’s wicket during his 4-over spell where he claimed 3/17. The No.5 batsman laboured to a 29-ball 19 before getting out in the penultimate over. India were left with 15 runs to chase in the final over bowled by Willey.

As India had lost eight wickets already, they decided not to take risks and end up losing the game. The wicketkeeper Bharath Reddy did get a boundary in the final over but India made only six runs in the first five balls. With one more delivery left to play, the game ended in a draw as neither India could get nine runs nor England would manage two wickets from the one last ball. Gavaskar was adjudged the Man of the Match for his record-breaking effort.

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