SK Flashback: Gooch outsmarts Indians in the World Cup 1987 semi-final
If ever an innings was planned meticulously in advance, and executed to perfection, it was the one by Graham Gooch in this match. It left the reigning champions, who had aspirations to reach the final on home turf, completely baffled and comprehensively beaten. It also showed what an important part strategy plays in the game of cricket. Without a doubt, it is a sport that is played as much in the mind as on the field. The English proved yet again that they are thorough professionals, and when it comes to tactics they can always teach a thing or two to the rest.
And so they did in the packed Wankhede Stadium which was buzzing in anticipation of a day of glory. The wicket was a bit under-prepared, a slow turner to suit the left-arm spin of Maninder Singh and Ravi Shastri. Kapil Dev won the toss and put England in, hoping to bundle them out for a small score.
Gooch opened with Tim Robinson, and from the start, it was clearly evident who was in charge. As expected, Maninder Singh came on first-change and he had Robinson stumped for 13, with the total on 40. The crowd was jubilant in the belief that the match was going along expected lines. Bill Athey fell for 4, the score had advanced to 79. But as Maninder's spell unfolded, it began to dawn on all those who were witness to the proceedings that Gooch was batting to a plan.
He was sweeping everything in sight. It did not matter what the direction of the ball was. He would stick out his front foot and flat-bat the ball anywhere between mid-wicket and fine-leg. Whether the ball was pitched on the middle stump, on the off, or even inches outside the off stump, it just disappeared on the on-side.
At first the Indians fancied their chances against such adventurous batting. They thought they would get him sooner than later. But they were wrong. Gooch was connecting the ball unfailingly, and collecting runs at a very brisk rate. Keeping his eyes on the ball till the last moment, and reaching out for it, he was despatching delivery-after-delivery deep into the untenanted areas. It was a most incredible display of batsmanship and completely outwitted the hosts.
Gooch put on 117 for the third wicket with skipper Mike Gatting. By the time he departed, caught by Krish Srikkanth off Maninder for 115, the Indian dream lay in ruins. He had played 136 balls and hit 11 fours. England reached 254 for six in 50 overs, which was a sufficient total for their efficient bowling to defend. The Indian lower-order floundered and they were all out for 219 with 27 balls still left.
England reached their second World Cup final, and for this, they were hugely indebted to Graham Gooch's incredible improvisation. Gooch took the Indians by surprise and before they could react, the match had slipped out of their hands. Gooch had proved smarter.
England 254 for 6 wickets (50 overs), India 219 all out (45.3 overs) (CWC 1987)
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