My favourite game: Graham Gooch v India, Lord’s 1990 | Sport

I was 17. The end of the summer term had been dominated by Italia 90 and Friday nights dabbling in snakebite and black. I had little idea what I was doing with my life, apart from extra shifts behind the bread counter at Sainsbury’s and getting down to the business of failing my first driving test, thanks to Guildford’s dystopian Stoke roundabout.

Meanwhile cricket rumbled on. Following England had become quite the cathartic wallow. Since the dazzle of the 1985 Ashes, their performances had limped from unfortunate to woeful. They had won only two series – an Ashes away romp in 1986-87 and a one-off Test against Sri Lanka.

The nadir had come the summer before, when the selectors had shelled 29 players during the 4-0 Ashes thrashing and the side had been decimated by a rebel tour to South Africa. That winter, out of favour or pushing stout, David Gower and Ian Botham were left out of the touring party. Cricket was teetering into irrelevance.

The early visitors that 1990 summer had been New Zealand, a series overshadowed almost entirely by the World Cup – though Michael Atherton did make a maiden Test century. But the hosepipe ban months smouldered on and India arrived, led by the (pre-disgrace) Mohammad Azharuddin and including the young Sachin Tendulkar.

My dad had secured tickets for the Friday of the first Test, at Lord’s, and off we trundled on the train with my brothers, meeting a couple of uncles and cousins in the queue. Graham Gooch, skipper since the disastrous summer of the four captains, was 194 not out overnight and we speculated, over doughnuts, as to whether he could make it to 200.

We didn’t have to wait long. His casual acknowledgement seeped into the mood and the early part of the first session passed in fairly relaxed style, with Gooch and Allan Lamb palming off India’s bowling as people mooched through their broadsheets. But as he reached 250, collective ears pricked up. On he went, past Wally Hammond’s 251, Glenn Turner’s 259, through the 260s, overtaking Graeme Pollock and Zaheer Abbas on 274, past Compton, May, Richards IVA, and Bradman, again, to reach, after a hiccup of hesitation, a triple hundred, which brought with it the outrageous gesture of removing his helmet.

Graham Gooch celebrates his triple century.



Graham Gooch celebrates his triple century. Photograph: Colorsport/Shutterstock

Twitter would have had a field day but in the analogue age all the work was done by the knowledge of the crowd itself and TMS, who knew the beauty of a slow burn through a Walkman, and allowed the excitement to bubble and foam.

My favourite game

The glut of Test triple hundreds was yet to come, no one had passed 300 since Lawrence Rowe in 1974. Gary Sobers had held the highest Test score since 1958, his 365 a stat imprinted on every fan’s mind. As Gooch inched towards it, the crowd’s nerves showed not in bedlam, but skittish silence, superstitions bloomed and even the champagne corks knew their place.

All those training runs round Chelmsford had done their job as Gooch ploughed on, a most unlikely record breaker in his white cycle helmet, his short-sleeved shirt and droopy moustache. But with Bradman’s 334 and Wally Hammond’s 336 in spitting distance, he got an inside edge from a tired drive and was bowled. After 10 and a half hours he trudged modestly off, the crowd let out a collective sigh, and he was gone, applauded through the wicker gate and right up though the Long Room.

Applause rings out around Lord’s at Gooch heads back to the pavilion.



Applause rings out around Lord’s at Gooch heads back to the pavilion. Photograph: Patrick Eagar/Popperfoto via Getty Images

The collective joy of having been there and the wonder of English cricket having a tiny moment in the sun lasted a long time and to those of us who had watched on television the fall of the Berlin Wall the previous winter it felt like we, too, had witnessed our own little bit of history.


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