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The Greatest ever bowling spell in Test Cricket
by Cecil Kippins


Scorecard:West Indies v India
Player:LR Gibbs, FCP Kippins

There have been many stirring deeds in first class cricket on the green fields the world over. Many have been the proud player who has acknowledged the cheers and ovations of the spectators after performing splendidly to have his name recorded in the record book. Perhaps, later, these very players would add their cheers to another who has just surpassed the latest record which was theirs a few moments ago. Such is the life of the cricketer: today a holder of records, tomorrow a "hasbeen".

 

The Test batsman has been, for ages, considered the darling of the crowds. But today spectators have grown to appreciate the less glamorous performers who toil in other departments of the game for the benefit of the team. We can all, today, appreciate a wonderful bowling performance and the beauty of great fielding be it at silly positions or in the deep. And for these we enjoy our cricket even more so. On most occasions the batsmen take the honours, but every now and then a bowler achieves such an outstanding performance that it can be said that "this is his hour" - and he becomes our hero.

 

In Test cricket down the years we have hailed many fine performances, some of which make exiting reading. A bowler may not take all 10 wickets in an innings as Jim Laker did once in 1956; nor does he usually take a "hat trick" in each innings of a Test match as J.T.Mathews did in 1912. It is not normal for a bowler to take 9 or more wickets in a Test innings as did seven previous bowlers, including Jim Laker twice. But then someone comes along and performs as no one else has done, and, after we look back on this achievement and the circumstances surrounding it, we are fascinated with wonder.

 

Such a happening took place on March 23, 1962 at Kensington Oval, Barbados.

 

West Indies and India were playing the Third Test of their 1962 series. India who batted first scored 258, and this was surpassed by the West Indies with 475. At the end of the fourth day India had lost 2 wickets for 104 runs and needed to score 217 runs to avoid an innings defeat. The two nightwatchmen were D.N.Sardesai who had opened the innings on 47, and Vijay Manjrekar on 14. Thus on the last day the scene was set for an absorbing day's play.

 

The match resumed in fine weather and at once Sardesai and Manjrekar concentrated on defence. In the period before lunch it was a war of attrition. Runs did not matter, only time; and no one was surprised that only 47 runs were scored before the adjournment.

 

Skipper Frank Worrell in an effort to break through tried eight bowlers, all to no avail, and a draw seemed likely.

 

Then, after lunch, without giving any warning, the match entered the regions of the fantastic. India resumed at 158 for 2, and Worrell immediately put Lance Gibbs, the off spinner, into the attack. Gibbs had up to lunch bowled 38 overs 23 maidens, had not taken a wicket, but had given away 32 runs. Immediately he again found a length.

 

Suddenly, a roar announces that Sardesai is caught at leg slip by Garfield Sobers off Gibbs. He had not added to his lunch score of 60.

 

What happened from there on was sheer misery and bewilderment for the Indian batsmen. Gibbs, using subtle flight and imparting devilish spin had all the Indians at sea. It was to be a performance that set the crown on the most skilful and artistic off spinner of the day.

 

The Nawab of Pataudi, skippering India for the first time at the age of 21, comes in only to see Manjrekar, who had added 10 runs since lunch, hit a turning ball from Lance to mid-off where Worrell takes the catch. India 159 for 4.

 

Pataudi, poor Pataudi, does not score at all. A ball of curving flight and biting spin terminates in a lovely swooping leg slip catch by Sobers. India 159 for 5.

 

Chandu Borde gets a few, including a cheeky cut for 2 off Gibbs, but, after being beaten twice by balls pitched on his middle stump and going towards leg slip, he chances his hand. The result: a simple catch straight to Worrell's midriff. India is now 174 for 6.

 

A vicious well concealed straight ball accounts for Polly Umrigar who snicks to stumper David Allen, and is out for a duck -177 for 7.

 

Farook Engineer makes an attempt at a lordly hit but misses He must have decided at 5.30pm was too far off. Anyway Allen stumps him, and it's now 177 for 8.

 

The rest all fall by the wayside. Durani offers Conrad Hunte a catch which is gleefully accepted, and R.B.Desai, after making a purely defensive stroke, is snapped up by Sobers. India, after sitting pretty at lunch with 149 for 2, were all out at exactly 3.22pm for 187.

 

A collapse? No a capitulation.

 

In his after-lunch spell Lance Gibbs sent down 15.3 overs 14 maidens and took all eight wickets that fallen for 6 runs. In the history of the game, on the Test scene, a bowler has never achieved such magnificent figures, nor so completely demoralised a Test side as Gibbs did on that day. Those 93 deliveries were the most deadly in Test cricket history. Only Noble of Australia who in 1901 took 7 wickets for 17 runs in 46 balls can be compared with Gibbs.

 

Lance Gibbs won the match that was dying, with wonderful spin, and the wicket was not his accomplice - only beautiful fielding. Wonderful bowling, wonderful fielding, wonderful cricket. The other two wickets that fell were taken by another Guyanese, Charlie Stayers. In all Gibbs bowled 53.3 overs 37 maidens and took 8 wickets for 38 runs. It goes down in the record book as the greatest bowling performance by a West Indian in a Test innings, and also in first class cricket. Never before, nor since, has a bowler in Test cricket, sent down over 50 overs and conceded less than 40 runs.

 

Lance Gibbs has had his Hour, and he was our Hero. No one can take that away from him.

 

(this article is reprinted, with permission, from From Bombay to Bourda, 1971)

 


(Article: Copyright © 2004 Cecil Kippins)



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