India’s Ravi Ashwin ends 55-year wait to emulate Garry Sobers’ Headingley heroics for West Indies

RAVI ASHWIN’s remarkable performance in scoring a hundred and taking five wickets in an innings in the second Test last week was the first time that the feat had been achieved against England in Test cricket since 1966, when Garry Sobers did it for the West Indies at Headingley.

Legend: Garfield Sobers waves to crowd at Headingley in 1966.
Legend: Garfield Sobers waves to crowd at Headingley in 1966.

Ashwin scored 106 and returned figures of 5-43 and 3-53 as India won by 317 runs in Chennai to level the four-match series at 1-1.

Fifty-five years ago, Sobers hit 174 and took figures of 5-41 and 3-39 as West Indies won the fourth Test at Leeds by an innings and 55 runs, the tourists going on to clinch the five-match series 3-1.

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The tour was a great triumph for Sobers, who scored 722 runs including three hundreds, captured 20 wickets and fielded magnificently close to the bat, as well as captaining the side superbly.

BIG HAND: West Indies off-spinner Lance Gibbs, who captured six second innings wickets against England at Headingley in 1966.

The Headingley Test began on August 4, 1966 – just five days after England’s footballers had beaten West Germany at Wembley in the World Cup final.

“During a season when football intervened, the West Indies played a vital part in keeping cricket alive,” said Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack.

“Unfortunately, it was a wet summer with many days ruined by rain, but happily the Tests met with little interference, nor did the dates clash with the soccer matches during July.”

In fact, there was a month’s break between the third Test at Trent Bridge that finished on July 5 and the Headingley Test, during which the tourists played six first-class games of three days’ duration; it would have been seven but the fixture against Surrey at The Oval was abandoned without a ball bowled.

BIG IMPACT: India's Ravi Ashwin. Picture: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images.

Nowadays, touring teams do well to squeeze in one first-class match outside of the Tests during an entire tour, yet another illustration of how the game has changed.

Sobers, who was West Indies’ leading first-class run-scorer (1,349) and wicket-taker (60) during the 1966 tour, hit 161 in the first Test at Old Trafford in an innings win. He followed that with 46 and 163 not out in the drawn second Test at Lord’s, and then 3 and 94 in a 139-run triumph at Trent Bridge.

His side retained the Wisden Trophy with victory inside four days at Leeds, where West Indies scored 500-9 declared after winning the toss, Sobers striking 103 of his 174 runs between lunch and tea on day two.

England made 240 and 205 in reply, off-spinner Lance Gibbs capturing six second innings wickets.

England won the final Test at The Oval by an innings and 34 runs, where Sobers made 81 and 0, the proverbial consolation win for the hosts.

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