20 May 2024 12:39 PM



Gaekwad’s Marathon Knock: The Slowest Double Hundred in First Class Cricket

Down Memory Lane

When the Pakistan cricket team landed in India in September 1983 for a three-Test series it was clear that interest would be lukewarm. For one thing one day cricket had suddenly caught everyone’s fancy in this country thanks to the World Cup triumph at Lord’s a few months before.

Secondly the Pakistan team without the likes of Imran Khan, Sarfraz Nawaz and Abdul Qadir in the line-up clearly lacked the touch of glamour to attract much attention. The bowling was considerably weakened but the batting remained strong with players of the calibre of skipper Zaheer Abbas, Javed Miandad, Mohsin Khan, Mudassar Nazar, Salim Malik, Wasim Raja and Wasim Bari in the ranks.

The rain-affected first Test at Bangalore was drawn and the teams moved to Jalandhar for the second Test. The Burlton Park was the 55th ground to stage a Test match and the 13th Test venue in India. Kapil Dev won the toss, put Pakistan in to bat and took minimum time to strike by trapping Mohsin leg before with the first ball of the match.

That brought together two debutants in Qasim Omar and the other opening batsman Shoaib Mohammad. Both however did not last long with Kapil dismissing Shoaib and Roger Binny getting rid of Omar both through catches by Syed Kirmani.

Pakistan were tottering at 55 for three and it was left to the two stalwarts Miandad and Zaheer to commence the rescue act which they did with a fourth wicket partnership of 46 runs. While Zaheer was bowled by Ravi Shastri for 49 Miandad went on to make 66 before being caught by Shastri off Kapil Dev. Mudassar did not last long being held by substitute Kris Srikkanth off Shastri for 24 while Kapil had Bari edging him to Kirmani for a duck. Pakistan were 169 for seven and with some time left for the day’s play the Indians must have been thinking of wrapping up the innings by stumps.

Wasim Raja however had other ideas. The graceful left-hander had had a successful tour of India four years before passing the half century mark five times in ten innings. Now he was established as one of the senior players and was stroking the ball fluently. All he needed was an able partner and he found one in Tahir Naqqash. The medium pace bowler presented a straight bat while Raja continued to play his shots with ease. He really blossomed on the second morning.

First with Tahir (37) he added 95 runs for the eighth wicket. And then the manner in which he shielded the last two men Mohammed Nazir and Azeem Hafeez was an object lesson on how to control the innings when batting with the tail. Seventy-three runs were scored for the last two wickets with Nazir and Hafeez contributing just two runs each as Raja raced from 56 to 103 off just 24 balls.

Finally Raja was dismissed when he top-edged an intended sweep against Shastri and was caught by a tumbling Kirmani who sprinted 20 yards to clasp the ball. Raja’s highest Test score of 125 was compiled off 207 balls and was studded with 17 fours and two sixes and was chiefly instrumental in Pakistan reaching a highly respectable 337.

By stumps Hafeez saw to it that the bowlers continued the good work. The left arm seam bowler who had made his debut in the previous Test dismissed Sunil Gavaskar (5) and Mohinder Amarnath (7) and India were rather shakily placed at 37 for two at close. Pakistan were in a position of considerable advantage but two events then had a profound effect on the match. It rained on the third day ruling out play. But the following day, the rest day, was sunny.

The authorities made a request to the captains to continue the match on the rest day but quite inexplicably Zaheer refused. Pakistan were in a position to dictate terms and Zaheer turning down the offer to make up for lost time only strengthened the impression that a draw was all he was looking for. Having come to India without some key players Zaheer did not want to take the slightest risk.

With only two days left about the only interest left in the match was which team would take the first innings lead. Pakistan certainly were in a better position to do so but they started losing their grip thanks to their butter-fingered fieldsmen and to the adhesive-like Anshuman Gaekwad.

The bespectacled 31-year-old opening batsman from Baroda had won back a hard fought place only midway through the previous season after 3-1/2 years in the wilderness and missing out on 37 Tests. The situation was tailor-made for a batsman like Gaekwad who was known to be obdurate.

There was no question of a result and the match had the word draw written all over it and Gaekwad just kept going even as wickets fell at the other end. Sandip Patil and Ravi Shastri both of whom got 26 helped Gaekwad in partnerships of 58 and 78 for the fourth and fifth wickets. There was no sense of urgency and the Indians scored only 154 runs from 85 overs on the fourth day for the loss of two wickets. At close of play India were 201 for four with Gaekwad on 121 his highest Test score.

On the final morning Binny (54) and Gaekwad gave the innings some momentum with a sixth wicket partnership of 121. Kapil did not last long but by this time India had won the battle for the first innings lead. All eyes though were now on Gaekwad. He had passed Chandu Borde’s 177 not out – the highest by an Indian against Pakistan compiled at Madras in January 1961.

Could he make it a double? Gaekwad with unrelenting determination and unwavering concentration did not falter and duly got to 200 in the company of the No 9 batsman Madan Lal. The statisticians announced that it was the slowest double century in all first class cricket. The previous slowest was notched up by another Indian the Nawab of Pataudi who had batted 622 minutes for scoring exactly 200 for South Zone against West Zone in the Duleep Trophy final at Bombay in 1967-68.

Gaekwad had taken 652 minutes (and 426 balls) to reach the landmark. Eventually Gaekwad was eighth out at 353 after scoring 201. In all he batted 671 minutes and faced 436 balls and hit 17 fours. It was the seventh longest innings in Test history.

A marathon knock – a long playing record as it was called - had finally come to an end. Thanks mainly to Gaekwad India could get a lead of 37 runs and Pakistan were 16 for no loss in their second innings when the match meandered to its dreary conclusion.