Graham Gooch’s greatest knocks in defeat

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Given his never-say-die spirit and his desire to carry the fight until the very end, I am a little bit surprised that Graham Gooch’s Test batting average for losing cause is only 28.84, a good 14 runs less than his overall average.

Of course, his Test career started on the wrong foot. At Edgbaston in July 1975, the unpredictable nature of English weather completely upset the plans of the England captain Mike Denness as the home side suffered a humiliating innings defeat.

As for the new boy Gooch, he bagged a pair, giving Rod Marsh a couple of catches behind the stumps.

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Nevertheless, he recovered from this setback to establish himself as a regular member of the England team at the start of the new decade. And he was a fairly regular member of the England team for more than a decade after that.

The bitter Ashes rivalry and the almost continuous humiliation at the hands of the West Indies were major features of England cricket of the time.

Not surprisingly, all his innings here come against either Australia or the West Indies.

99 (first innings against Australia at the MCG in February 1980)
Gooch’s record against Australia prior to this Test was pretty poor. But while Dennis Lillee led the home side to victory with 11 wickets at the MCG, Gooch at least showed his class, scoring 99 and 51 in the match.

(Photo by S&G/PA Images via Getty Images)

The first day of the Test should have been a memorable one for Gooch. With his wife among the spectators, he came very close to his maiden Test ton.

But then a slight misjudgment while going for his 100th run saw him run out. It was his call, so he couldn’t blame anyone. It was indeed a real tragedy in the cricketing sense. 

116 (second innings against the West Indies in Bridgetown in March 1981)
Gooch eventually recorded his first Test ton at Lord’s in the northern summer of 1980: a brilliant 123 against the pace battery on the opening day.

He stayed at the wicket for three and a half hours. During his stay at the wicket he scored 74.5 per cent of his team’s runs. That is no big surprise given that his two companions were Sir Geoffrey Boycott and Chris Tavare.

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But even more impressive was his 116 in the fourth innings at Kensington Oval – the impregnable fort of West Indies cricket at the time.

Set an impossible target of 523 runs against the formidable pace attack, the tourists stood no chance.

In the first Test at the Queen’s Park Oval, they had managed 178 and 169. Here at Bridgetown they only scored 122 in the first innings.

The fact that they managed to reach the 200 mark in the second innings was entirely due to the brilliance of the Essex opener. He scored more than half of the runs in a team total of 224.

Graham Gooch

(Photo by Graham Chadwick/EMPICS via Getty Images)

51 (first Innings against the West Indies in Jamaica in February 1986)
Following his brilliant hundred in Bridgetown, Gooch further enhanced his reputation as an excellent player of fast bowling, scoring 83 at St John’s and 153 at Sabina Park.

At the beginning of the English summer of 1984, Gooch was preparing to renew his battle against the Caribbean quickies. Of course, he was serving a three-year ban, but the rumour was that it would be reduced to two years.

However, it didn’t happen, so Gooch’s next confrontation against the Calypso Kings came at Sabina Park, Jamaica in early 1986.

The West Indies would thrash England 5-0 in the Test series, and the tone was set on the opening day of the series in the Jamaica capital.

The scoreboard at the end of the day showed England 159 all out, West Indies 0-85. It was total domination by the home side. But the scoreboard would only give a partial picture of the true story.

David Gower won the toss and decided to bat, a brave decision on the same venue where just three days earlier, Mike Gatting had his nose broken by Malcolm Marshall.

Yet, the England opening pair of Gooch and Tim Robinson survived the first hour. It wasn’t comfortable, the runs weren’t exactly flowing, but the fact that they defied the new-ball attack of Marshall and Joel Garner was reassuring for the England players at the dressing room.

Joel Garner runs with a wicket stump in each hand.

(Mark Leech/Getty Images)

But it was the introduction of the rookie pacer Patrick Patterson that changed the course of the innings.

Prior to this match, the local media had described the Jamaican as the second fastest bowler in the West Indies after Marshall. Patterson didn’t agree with their views – he believed that the order should be reversed.

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In a blistering spell on a track with uneven bounce, he quickly dismissed Robinson and England debutant David Smith. More importantly, his pace completely rattled the England middle order.

At the other end, Gooch batted bravely to complete his half century after lunch. But he soon fell to Marshall.

He later admitted that this was the only time in his long and distinguished career that he feared receiving a fatal injury out there in the middle.

His case was compounded by the fact that a group of spectators targeted him for his role in the rebel tour to apartheid South Africa in 1982.

John Woodcook, writing in The Telegraph, summed up the day’s play succinctly. He said he “never felt it more likely that I would see someone killed in the pitch”.

Interestingly, Gooch scored four 50s in the series, but 53 in Bridgetown was his highest.

84 (second innings against the West Indies at the Oval in August 1988)
Gooch’s brave 73 and 146 in the opening Test of the summer at Trent Bridge ended England’s miserable run of ten successive defeats against the Windies.

Normal services, however, resumed at Lord’s as Marshall took ten wickets and led his team to victory. 3-0 down, England gave Gooch the captaincy job for the dead rubber at the Oval.

The game was nicely balanced at the end of the second day’s play. The home side could only manage 205 in the first innings, but Neil Foster, Gooch’s Essex teammate, with 5- 64 gave the home side a surprise 22-run first-innings lead.

The second day ended with England 3-64. Gooch was 38 not out and Foster the night-watchman was with him.

Generic cricket ball

(Steven Paston – EMPICS/Getty Images)

Hopes were raised in the home camp as the Essex duo took the score past the 100 mark. But then Winston Benjamin and Courtney Walsh, the support seamers for the West Indies, ran through the middle order.

Gooch carried on manfully. He was the last man out. Overall he batted for more than seven hours. A fourth-innings target of 225 seemed tricky.

But the Bajan openers, Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes, settled the issue with an opening stand of 131. The Windies won by eight wickets. Gooch was adjudged the man of the series.

133 (second innings against Australia at Old Trafford in June 1993)
Following his man of the series performance in 1988, Gooch led his side to a victory at Lord’s over the new boys Sri Lanka.

At this stage everyone believed that he was only a makeshift skipper, and indeed that was the case. However, he was given a more assured captaincy job in 1990 and under his captaincy, England started rebuilding following the exodus of key players the previous summer.

Out of nowhere, England suddenly became very competitive in the Wisden Trophy. And there were hopes at the beginning of the 1993 northern summer that the Poms would again be competitive in the oldest rivalry, the Ashes.

Very few people in England at the time knew about Shane Warne and his magic of spin.

England's Mike Gatting (centre) is bowled out by Shane Warne

(Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)

After Warne and Merv Hughes equally shared eight wickets among themselves to give the initiative to the tourists, their batsmen consolidated the lead.

A target of 512 was always out of England’s reach (perhaps Ben Stokes and company would have given it a go), but at least with Gooch batting beautifully, there were hopes of a draw.

Gooch had top scored in the first innings with 65. In fact, he was at the non-striker’s end when Warne bowled the ball of the century to dismiss Mike Gatting. Later, Gooch himself became a victim of the spin legend.

But he looked in total control in the second innings, and early on the fifth day he completed his hundred. But then came a bizarre dismissal: he was out for handling the ball.

As the media put it, the England captain handed the Test to the Aussies.

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