Twenty five years ago in the month of July, Kapil Dev played a blinder of an innings. England had piled on 653 runs in the 1st Innings. India chasing the score, were 277 runs behind and Mohammad Azharuddin and Kapil Dev were starting the day for India. Azharuddin who had played brilliantly the previous day and had a century to his name, left early in the day, out bowled by Eddie Hemmings. Kiran More followed later out caught in the slips, followed couple of balls later by Sanjeev Sharma caught by wicket keeper.
Kapil watching the carnage from the other end was joined by Narendra Hirawani. Hirwani who had a batting average of 4.66 from 10 innings was the last batsman for India, while it was 28 runs still abreast to avoid follow on. Hirwani had one more ball to survive from the Angus Fraser over, which had created a lot of carnage. With prayer in his mind and a willow in his hand, Hirwani somehow survives the last ball of the over. Kapil Dev is on strike for the Eddie Hemmings over. The first two balls of the over Kapil plays defence and is now clear in his mind what need to be done to avoid the follow on. Third ball of the over, Hemmings flights the ball, Kapil dances down the pitch and lifts the ball mightily for a SIX over long on. Hemmings next ball is also similar and Kapil hits it again for another SIX in the same area. Fifth ball of the over, Hemmings gives the ball more air and makes it fuller in length, Kapil this time does not have to dance down the pitch but swats the ball like a “doodle bug” over the boundary for a flat SIX. India need another 6 runs to avoid follow on. Hemmings has a word with the captain and moves the mid wicket fielder to silly point. The bowler is thinking that is the last ball of the over, Kapil will definitely try to take a single. He wants to block the vacant area on the off side to stop any prod for a single. In doing so, Hemmings also reveals his next ball, which is outside off stump and turning in. Kapil adjusts his stance and moves a step to off side and slog hits over the same long on area for another SIX. Kapil is over joyed and pumps the air in delight as India avoids the follow on. The English players are shocked in dis belief. The next over, the first ball of Angus Fraser over, Hirwani promptly gets out LBW, underlining the calculated risk that Kapil took by hitting out 4 sixes to avoid the follow on.
25 years later, England were trailing by 55 runs to avoid follow on when Mitchell Johnson nicked off the last wicket. Australia had the opportunity to enforce the follow on and get after England. Then, why did an aggressive captain as Michael Clarke did not enforce the follow on?
Does it have anything to do with the test match played on March 11, 2001 in Kolkata? This is the most famous test match played in India. Saurav Ganguly’s men were trailing Australia by 274 runs. Steve Waugh the captain of Australia enforced the follow on.
Then VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid played all day on Day 4 of the test match. Laxman scored 281 runs while Dravid scored 180 runs. India declared, setting a target of 384 runs to Australia. The Indian spinners got the Australians out in 68 overs for 212 runs. Spinners took all the wickets with Harbhajan Singh snapping up 6 wickets. India won a historic test match.
Australia who were mighty well placed with a lead of 274 runs lost the test match after enforcing the follow on. Even though this has happened only 3 times in the history of test cricket, something changed from the day onwards and test captains have been hesitant to enforce the follow on. In the next part, of this 2 part article, we will examine why test captains are hesitant in enforcing the follow on.