Four players make centuries in bicentenary Test

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When the teams were announced for MCC’s Bicentenary match in August 1987, it was clear that this was a game the top names in cricket wanted to play in.

Almost all the greats were present and a capacity crowd there to see it, with the newly-opened Mound Stand resplendent in the sunshine. Although not an official Test, the match between MCC and a Rest of the World XI was to be played out over five days under Test Match conditions. The talent available should have guaranteed a keen battle between bat and ball; in the end it was a glorious festival of batting.

MCC batted first and their innings was dominated by England’s Graham Gooch and Mike Gatting. Gooch was not enjoying a vintage summer with the bat and would resign as Essex captain at the end of the season. But here he was in complete control, putting on 103 with Gatting and reaching 117 before a piece of scarcely believable brilliance from off-spinner Roger Harper brought his end. There seemed no danger when Gooch drove the ball hard back along the ground just to the bowler’s left, but what followed was a moment like something from a martial arts film, action only grasped properly in slow motion, superhuman in its swiftness and precision. Harper crouched to grasp the ball in his left hand, swivelled and threw down the stumps at the striker’s end leaving Gooch on his knees, out of his ground. It was undoubtedly the game’s ‘champagne moment.’

Gatting carried on. The MCC skipper was in the form of his life and had just hit a magnificent 150 not out to save a Test Match at the Oval. He batted on into the second day, adding 201 with Clive Rice (whose contribution was 59) before falling to Courtney Walsh for 179. He immediately declared with MCC on 455 for 5. Now it was Sunil Gavaskar’s turn. Few of the game’s honours had eluded the Indian master in his long career, but he had never scored a century at Lord’s. His highest score on the Ground was 59, and the memory of his agonising 174-ball 36 not out in the 1975 World Cup still rankled. This would be his last chance - 80 not out overnight, he announced his retirement from first-class cricket.

Day three was Gavaskar’s day. At the other end batsmen kept getting starts before falling to Malcolm Marshall or Ravi Shastri. Gavaskar batted on calmly, bringing up his hundred from 214 balls, then opened up and showed the Lord’s crowd that he had more to his game than technique and patience, striking 23 fours before giving a return catch to Shastri. Rest of the World declared on 421 for 7 as the day ended. Day four saw Gordon Greenidge take control of the match for MCC, with an innings of 122. Greenidge evoked memories of his great innings at Lord’s three years earlier with a magnificent range of strokes. When the Lord’s Honours Boards were introduced in 1992, this innings for MCC earned Greenidge the unique honour of having his name inscribed in both dressing rooms.

A belligerent 70 from Gooch and dashing cameos from David Gower and Richard Hadlee allowed MCC to declare on 318 for 6 leaving, Rest of the World 353 to win in just over three sessions. Gavaskar fell to Marshall before the close. Everything was set fair for a thrilling final day. Except the weather. Rain washed out the whole of the final day’s play, but it wasn’t enough to wash away the memory of four wonderful days and four superb innings.