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IN modern times there has perhaps been no tail to reckon with the great Indian spinning trio of Erapally Prasanna, Bishen Bedi and Bhagwat Chandrasekhar. They appeared together in 25 Tests, usually in that batting order. They never managed the uncommon feat of bagging consecutive ducks at nine, ten and eleven (on the one occasion they all failed to register, Prasanna had gone in earlier) but their presence was the signal for the opposition opening batsmen to prepare for action. They were the last three in 1976 when India went from 75 for 3 to 81 all out. Prasanna and Chandra got ducks, Bedi scored two and all were bowled by Richard Hadlee. Two years later (in a match India won) Chandra recorded his fourth pair, a world record. Bedi comes next on the list with three.


JUST as the present lot are showing that they are indeed fallible (or at least not invincible), previous Australian tails have not all wagged with fury. In Melbourne nearly 20 years ago the home side were 303 for 3 at 4.30pm on the final afternoon and needed another 77 to win. It had been a formidable target but they had broken its back. Sixty-five balls later Australia were all out for 310. The last seven wickets had yielded five runs and all of them went to Sarfraz Nawaz for just one run in 33 balls. It was one of the greatest of all fast-bowling spells and one of the earliest examples of the potency of reverse swing. The last three men, Wayne Clark, Rodney Hogg and Alan Hurst, all failed to score and the last was registering his third pair in Tests in a single season.


IT is as well at times like these to recall that England, too, have put others to the sword. Remember now that sunny day at The Oval in August 1991. West Indies were 156 for 3 in reply to England's total of 419. They were chugging along rather well when Tufnell came on and saw his first ball to Clayton Lambert end in the hands of Mark Ramprakash at cover. This heralded a catastrophic collapse. Tufnell took six wickets in 33 balls for 25 runs aided by some strokes which would make the likes of Alan Mullally look like a model of judicious shot selection. The last six scores in the West Indian order were 0, 0, 2, 0, 0, 2. The last three men in were Curtly Ambrose, Courtney Walsh and Patrick Patterson. Walsh now has more Test ducks than any player in history.


IT is eminently understandable that Graham Gooch is so cross about what the lads at the back end are up to. But it is not as if he has not had time to ponder on the shortcomings of tail-end Charlies. At Melbourne two Ashes tours ago England had reached the comparative comfort of 147 for 4 on a pitch of low bounce and were stretching their lead. At that point Alec Stewart was brilliantly caught in the gully. The left-arm swing of Bruce Reid proved too much and in all six wickets fell for three runs. The last part of the England card read 0, 8, 1, 0, 0, 1, 0 no. The first of those ducks was excusable. It was recorded by David Gower and brought to an end his world-record sequence of 119 innings without a duck. And at least on that occasion England took 12 overs to lose their last six wickets.