“I suppose it’s only logical. If you need 24 to save the follow on why wouldn’t you get it in four hits?,” said Richie Benaud as Kapil Dev slammed his fourth six to take India to relative safety.
India had been under the gun from the start of the first Test against England at Lord’s in 1990. Graham Gooch has slammed an imperious 333 as the hosts had piled on 653/4 declared in their first innings.
In reply, India tried to fight back. Ravi Shastri got a hundred, Dilip Vengsarkar got a fifty and Mohammad Azharuddin scored 121 off just 111 balls.
But by the time Azharuddin was the seventh batsman dismissed with the score on 393, India looked destined to follow on. Kapil Dev was still there in the middle but the visitors needed another 60 runs to make England bat again.
Kiran More hung around for a while, making 8 runs off 30 balls. But then Sanjeev Sharma was dismissed for a two-ball duck.
Suddenly, India were 430/9 and Narendra Hirwani walked in to bat. This is when Kapil Dev flipped a switch.
“When you’re batting with the number 11 batsman you have a change of mindset and you start thinking how you can get those runs as quickly as possible! I said, ‘Let me take the strike.’ I did plan to attack Eddie Hemmings but I didn’t plan for four sixes. The first two balls I was always going to block and then for the third ball I said I have to jump out, because he was trying to buy the wicket by giving me more flight. I knew I could go for it.
“I went for the fourth also, because I was thinking that he wouldn’t expect me to go for it again. We were playing mind games. But by the fifth ball I honestly didn’t have a plan. When I saw it in my zone, though, I was in such rhythm that I could see that he’d bowled much flatter and he’d overpitched it. I didn’t even have to jump out, I just had to stand there and slog. The sixth ball was the same thing. He bowled much quicker so as not to give a single, so he brought mid-off and mid-on up and I got the opportunity to play a big shot.”— Kapil Dev in an interview with Henry Cowen in Wisden (2017)
Hirwani was out on the next ball and India just avoided the follow on. Dev finished with 77 off 75 balls with 8 fours and 4 sixes. It was a typical innings from the allrounder, who was very difficult to stop when he found his rhythm.
As Gavaskar (who was doing his first series as a commentator) said on air: “Only Kapil Dev could have done that... only Kapil Dev.”
This was also the first instance in Test cricket when a player hit four successive sixes but despite Dev’s heroics, the visitors lost the match by 247 runs.
You can watch the four successive sixes below: