David Gower recalls England's last Test series victory in India

More than 27 years have elapsed since David Gower led England to their last Test series win in India. Here's how events unfolded in 1984/85...

By Oli Burley - @SkySportsOli.   Last Updated: 14/11/12 1:05pm

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David Gower: 'the players stuck at it, enjoyed their cricket and deserved victory'

David Gower: 'the players stuck at it, enjoyed their cricket and deserved victory'

First Test, Bombay

A second innings century from Mike Gatting couldn't prevent England from slipping to an eight-wicket defeat at the Wankhede Stadium after Laxman Sivaramakrishnan (6-46) span the tourists out for just 195 first time around. But England's problems began well before then...

DAVID: We arrived in India on the morning that Mrs Ghandi was shot and so found ourselves in the grip of a major national and international crisis from day one of the tour. We left the country during a period of national mourning and resumed the tour just over a week later only to hear shortly after our return that our own deputy high commissioner Percy Norris had also been assassinated, the night after he'd hosted a wonderful party for us. It was quite a traumatic time all round.

At that stage of the tour half of the team wanted to go home and while we were advised that we weren't targets, there was a certain amount of mixed feeling within the camp to put it mildly. It meant that our preparations for the first Test were, shall we say, rather disturbed. When the time came to tell the team that we could go to the Stadium to practice, Graeme Fowler famously said 'What sort of practice? Target practice?'

We simply weren't prepared for the first Test and we definitely weren't prepared for Sivaramakrishnan either. He took us surprise and finished up with a stack of wickets in that first Test. No-one had ever seen him before and although Gatt got a hundred in the second innings, it simply wasn't enough.

Second Test, Delhi

Unchanged England managed to earn a first-innings lead of 111 despite losing the toss - thanks largely to Tim Robinson's 508-minute 160. The home side could not make up the ground as spinners Pat Pocock and Phil Edmonds shared 13 wickets and 160 overs in an eight-wicket win...

DAVID: Ahead of the second Test I had a private fear that India would shut up shop just as they had on our tour of 1981/82, when we lost the first Test and drew the next five. The pitches on that trip were as flat as you've ever seen and it seemed possible that we'd be consigned to the same conditions again. That's where a bit of experience doesn't actually help because you fear the worst!

Tim had been picked ahead of Chris Broad, even though Chris had battled hard against the West Indies and might quite rightly have felt that he deserved to retain his place. But the change was made on the grounds that Tim was a better player of spin, and so would be better suited to the conditions. So there was pressure on Tim to produce and Calcutta is where he did it.

When we were picking the squad for the tour, the selectors said to me 'Philippe can be difficult to handle' but I'd never found him a problem and he was the best spinner in the country - so I told them that I'd rather have him there than settle for second best. Philippe's not just vastly experienced - he's a really good man to have around actually; he was always brimful of ideas and enthusiasm, and he and Pocock bowling in tandem were my control elements in the middle of an innings.

Come tea on the final day India were in a pretty good position to save the game - they just needed to bat for another hour or so and they would have been home and dry with a draw. Kapil Dev had played very well up to that point but he gave us the chink of an opportunity that we needed when he lobbed a catch into the outfield and the last six wickets fell for less than 30. We still needed 125 to win in 20 overs and it turned out to be a very exciting final session, with Gatt and Lamby scoring at a run-a-ball to see us through...

Third Test, Calcutta

Kapil Dev lost his place in the team to Mohammad Azharuddin, who had amassed 439 runs at an average of 109.75 by the end of the series. His first innings ton helped India to 437-7 but Sunil Gavaskar's delayed declaration - and time lost to smog - meant even Gower got a bowl as the game petered out to a draw...

DAVID: I remember that Richard Ellison bowled supremely well but despite swinging the ball and beating the bat two or three times an over he ended up with 0-117 from 53 overs and we struggled to get the wristy Azhar out. The good news was that Sunil batted on way too long; if he had been keener to win the game, no matter how dead he thought the pitch was, we could have been under some pressure but he batted so long that India ran out of time. It made for a tedious Test.

At times the crowd were openly quite hostile. Sunil, being from Mumbai, was never overly popular in Calcutta. I don't think that worried Sunny one little bit. But looking back on it dispassionately, whatever side-plots there might have been about Kapil's controversial omission the simple cricketing truth is that the game died because Sunny failed to recognise that we weren't necessarily safe.

He took so much time out of the game that even I decided to have a bowl - and at one point Philippe started reading a newspaper, things got that bad...

Fourth Test, Madras

England went 2-1 up with one to play thanks to a crushing nine-wicket victory, built on first innings figures of 6-104 from Neil Foster. Fowler (201) and Gatting (207) powered the tourists to a colossal 652-7 declared and when Foster followed up with 5-59, England needed only 33 to win...

DAVID: The thing about the Madras pitch in 84/85 was that it had some bounce and carry - and Neil took full advantage. He not only got that crucial little bit of movement, but the ball carried absolutely beautifully. If he found the edge it went through to slip at waist height. Quite often on Indian pitches you'll see the ball dropping short of the slips or coming through at ankle height but this was a really good pitch and on the first day it had a bit of extra life.

It was great to see Foxy get runs; he'd been given the chance because Graham Gooch was unavailable and so I gave him, as far as I was concerned, a chance to be himself and to be responsible for himself too. A lot of the time on previous tours Foxy had been treated a bit like a naughty schoolboy whereas my abiding principle has always been to give people full responsibility for their own actions as adults. He enjoyed that - he got into some good form. That innings was a magic moment for him and I was really pleased for him, as I was for Gatt who appreciated the fillip of being named vice-captain for the tour. It gave him a bit of a boost at a time when his career needed it and he proved to be a very good lieutenant too - a very good sounding board.

Fifth Test, Kanpur

India responded with their highest total against England, Azharuddin (122) and Dilip Vengsarkar (137) contributing to a total of 553. Unable to bowl England out cheaply, the home side declared second time around on 97-1 but failed to force the victory they required to salvage the series...

DAVID: The good news for us was that it was a shirt-front pitch - it was as flat a deck as they come. You often assume in India that they will make pitches to suit themselves, but in this case the groundsman either didn't get the message or he chose to ignore it because it was an absolute belter. Again, the ball didn't really bounce above stump height and it barely turned - in truth it was exactly the pitch we needed to wrap up the series!

It's a rare achievement for an England side to win in India but the players stuck at it, enjoyed their cricket and deserved what they got at the end of it. What happened was really rather edifying given that after the first Test the team was split because of the perceived threat to our safety. But the tour went on and the team increasingly came together. In the absence of senior players like Gooch and John Emburey, players like Fowler and Pocock got the chance to show that they were very good tourists.

That meant we had some difficult decisions to make in the summer and recalling Gooch for Fowler wasn't easy after such a great winter. We were determined to build on our success and the 1985 Ashes gave us an ideal opportunity...

England's Test series in India begins on Thursday November 15 at 3.30am on Sky Sports 1 HD.

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