Cricket: Lord's Test tremors not a local disaster

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The Independent Online
THE RULES of sports journalism, handed out at the dawn of our careers, state clearly that the Lord's Test must always be previewed with an article about how strange it is that visiting teams raise their game at headquarters, while England do the opposite.

It has thus gone widely unnoticed that the Lord's Tests of the Nineties have had far more to offer than mere England disasters. A brief history:

1990 England v New Zealand: The decade gets off to a deceptive start with a match in the great tradition of England v New Zealand: dull, damp and drawn. A fellow called Franklin makes a slow century; sure enough, he is never heard of again. The most exciting thing about the game is the scorecard. Richard Hadlee, playing at Lord's for the last time, goes down on the card as Sir R J Hadlee, and celebrates with a shining-armoured 86 off 84 balls.

1990 England v India: Graham Gooch's most famous hour. He makes 333 and 123, and leads England to a 247-run victory. Yet these innings are almost upstaged. Mohammad Azharuddin, at his wristiest, makes a dreamy 121, and Kapil Dev (77no) succeeds in avoiding the follow-on, with only the rabbit Hirwani for company, by hitting steady Eddie Hemmings for four consecutive sixes into the building site at the Nursery End. Only later does it become clear that the building site has a rare distinction, too - it is more aesthetically pleasing than the buildings that will replace it, the drab and stumpy Compton and Edrich Stands.

1991 England v West Indies: Damp, drawn and not at all dull. West Indies, one-nil down after Gooch's finest hour (154no) at Headingley, bounce back with 419, including a lyrical hundred from Carl Hooper. Derek Pringle takes five wickets with his medium-pacers, blissfully unaware that one of his team-mates (name of Atherton) will tell him eight years later in these very pages that medium-pacers don't make much impact in Tests. England subside to 16 for 3, but recover to 354 with Robin Smith cracking 148 not out.

Collapse? What's that?

1991 England v Sri Lanka: On a roll after drawing with the mighty Windies, England have little trouble seeing off Sri Lanka. DeFreitas and Tufnell have their Phil with 7 for 70 and 5 for 94 respectively. There is a first Test hundred by an elegantly flashy No 3, prone to cream or waft the ball past gully, called Alec Stewart. Whatever happened to him?

1992 England v Pakistan: A sensational, low-scoring dogfight of the kind that will become commonplace in the late Nineties. England lurch from 123 for 0 to 255 all out in the face of Waqar Younis's reverse swing. Pakistan slide from 228 for 3 to 293 all out, doubtless foxed by DeFreitas and Malcolm's lack of reverse swing. Ian Botham, portly, half-fit but still showing traces of greatness, plays his final Test, and equals Colin Cowdrey's catches record. England collapse again but Stewart, continuing his Lord's love-in, makes 74 and 69no. Pakistan, chasing only 138, are reduced to 95 for 8 by the irresistible combination of Chris Lewis and Ian Salisbury. But Waqar and Wasim Akram add 46 to secure a two-wicket win.

1993 England v Australia: England are so hospitable that Australia fail by one run to become the first Test team ever to start with four individual hundreds - Taylor 111, Slater 152, Boon 164, M Waugh 99. Allan Border flops, managing only 77. Australia are reduced to one fast bowler by an injury to Craig McDermott. Ingeniously, England still lose by an innings. Mike Atherton makes 80 and 99, still his Lord's Test best. Two matches later, he becomes captain.

1994 England v New Zealand: Martin Crowe makes 142 as New Zealand refuse to behave like a team that is 1-0 down. They make 476, England scrape past the follow-on with 281, NZ rattle up 211 for 5, and England (254 for 8) only just scramble a draw, thanks to 119 from the inevitable Stewart and two useful not-outs from Steve Rhodes.

1994 England v South Africa: Dirt in the pocket, egg on the face as England have a shocker. Kepler Wessels makes 105 in South Africa's 357. England make only 279 runs in two innings - top score 38 by Graeme Hick. Atherton almost resigns after being caught on camera, doing we still don't know what. Crumb of comfort: Darren Gough takes eight wickets in his second Test.

1995 England v West Indies: A corker. Dominic Cork, on his debut, takes 7 for 43 as West Indies, needing 296, are all out for 223. Having also made 30 and 23, Cork is acclaimed as the new Botham by almost everyone except the Sydney Morning Herald, which remarks, apropos of Australia's recent triumph in the Caribbean: "If even the Poms can beat them, it takes a bit of the gloss off our win."

1996 England v India: A feast for the left-handers. England's 344 is all Thorpe (89) and Russell (124). Saurav Ganguly announces himself with 131. So does Rahul Dravid with 95, despite being right-handed. England grind their way to safety, thanks to Stewart, Russell and, of course, Lewis.

1996 England v Pakistan: Inzamam-ul-Haq makes 148 and 70 and, remarkably, is involved in only one run-out. On the pitch of their dreams, Pakistan's swing and spin are far too good for England. England's top score of 89 is made by Stewart.

1997 England v Australia: England not beaten shock. Though they might well have been if the first two days had not been all but lost to rain. Glenn McGrath takes 8 for 38 as England, over-excited at being one up, are all out for 77.

Australia manage a scratchy 213 for 7 with Matthew Elliott making a hundred despite being dropped five times. He has since had the same experience twice more - from the selectors. Mark Butcher stolidly compiles his first Test 50 to secure the draw.

1998 England v South Africa: England, replying to 360, limp to 110 as another great fast bowler, Allan Donald, enjoys the sporting bounce that has become a feature of Lord's - and possibly gets extra swing courtesy of the spectacular new Grandstand. Following on, England bumble from 222 for 3 (Hussain 105, Stewart 56) to 264 all out as the little-known pairing of Lance Klusener and Jacques Kallis go through them like a knife through corporate smoked salmon.

1999 England v New Zealand: The pattern is clear. Expect the following: a definite result, some rain, a handsome return to form for Stewart, an interesting new piece of architecture, a dash of heroism from an unknown Kiwi, and a major contribution from Chris Lewis.

Tim de Lisle is editor of Wisden Cricket Monthly