Remembering Graham Gooch's debut game forty-three years ago, and the two infamous ducks
1975, July 12th. It was a Saturday, and just a month after the inaugural Prudential Cricket World Cup was played out in England. Cricket had their first world champions in West Indies, with Australia becoming runners-up.
Hosts England had managed to start well, winning three-on-three matches in the group stage, but that was it. Australia literally steam-rolled their way into the finals, destroying the hosts at Leeds.
Coming back to the present day, and the two teams are again facing each other, only the format was bigger, and the venue different - Birmingham. With the advantage of playing hosts and also by winning the toss, England might have felt that they have an upper hand.
But the Aussies were strong, with the Chappell brothers and likes of Rod Marsh who have been good batsmen, all playing. The innings witnessed as many as four half-centuries and a 49 from Jeff Thomson, as the Kangaroos propelled themselves to 359, a good total in those times.
England's turn to bat came up, and by then, it was the third day, this day forty-three years ago.
Apart from John Edrich the opener, no one even made a mark as the hosts folded for just 101, with Dennis Lillee and Max Walker sharing all ten wickets equally between them. Humiliation was added on to the face of the English as they were asked to follow-on.
They outdid themselves from the first innings, indeed, but that wasn't enough. Jeff Thomson was the main tormentor in the second English innings as they were dismantled for 173, handing the visitors a win by an innings and 85 runs.
Among the England (non-)performers, there was a new lad. He was in the squad by virtue of some commendable performances in the domestic games and was known to be in good nick. But then, the unfortunate happened, and it was unavoidable.
Exactly a minute after he entered the twenty-two yards, he edged one Max Walker ball to the leg side, where Rod Marsh was waiting.
It was his third ball ever, and had to return, not opening his account. In the second innings, it happened again. Only the bowler changed, so did his shot selection, as he edged a Jeff Thomson special straight into the hands of Rod Marsh once again. A pair of ducks in debut tests.
The man was no one else - Graham G(00)ch.
He played the next Test, scored 6 and 31, and did not feature of his national team until three years later. Then he returned, and what happened turns out to be history, an England all-time record of 8900 runs in Test cricket (broken later by Alastair Cook), 20 hundreds and 46 half-centuries with a highest-ever of 333.
Gooch eventually became the most prolific run scorer top-class cricket has ever seen.
Turns out that carrying his first game's score in his own name benefited Graham Gooch, who evolved to be one of the greatest Test batsmen ever. And yet, it all began forty-three years ago, on this very day, with a pair of ducks.