Gatting gesture a joy for Fowler
Graeme Fowler understandably has many fond memories of his epic double-hundred against India in 1985, yet one act of kindness stands out as an enduring highlight of the innings.
By compiling 201 in the fourth Test of five at Madras, now Chennai, Fowler was instrumental in helping England to a nine-wicket victory that was to prove decisive in a 2-1 series triumph – their most recent on Indian soil.
The opener defied intense heat to bat throughout day two, but was understandably flagging as the close approached.
It was then that Mike Gatting, who would go on to reach 207, offered a welcome helping hand that has not been forgotten.
In an exclusive interview with ecb.co.uk, Fowler picks up the tale.
“It was the last over of the day, I was 149 not out and Gatt was on strike with four around the bat,” he explained.
“He swept the first ball and it went trickling down to deep backward square-leg. The fielder was walking towards it, so I started walking down the wicket because it was a big, long single.
“I got halfway and Gatt was just standing there. So I said, ‘Gatt, do you not want a single?’ and he said, ‘You’ve done enough today. You go back down that end. I’ll take this over.’
“How unselfish is that? It was just a brilliant thing to do, to be so generous of spirit in a Test match with all the pressure on.”
Given licence to relax at the non-striker’s end, a grateful Fowler soon realised the extent of his fatigue.
“I didn’t back up or do anything,” he added. “I had my eyes shut with my head down and all I did was look up when I heard the bowler’s footsteps.
“All I had to do was count, but I only got to four and it was the end of the over – I had fallen asleep for two balls!”
Further evidence of Fowler’s weariness was not long in coming.
“As I walked off somebody gave me a drink and it was a bottle of beer. I had three mouthfuls and I was drunk because I was so dehydrated,” said the Lancastrian.
“Rehydration hadn’t been invented in 1985!”
Fowler and Gatting were both back in the groove the following day as they extended their mammoth second-wicket partnership to 241, underpinning an England total of 652 for seven declared in response to India’s modest 272 all out.
They remain the only England pair to have passed 200 in the same Test, having displayed admirable powers of concentration and skill.
Reflecting on his time in the middle with Gatting, Fowler said: “Me and Gatt decided there were some shots we could play and some we couldn’t, and we just kept each other going.
“One of the shots that you couldn’t really play was a push-drive, because if it spun you were just going to feed the men around the bat, so there was a level of discipline needed.
“I can remember when I got to 200, it was as if I was an inflatable doll and someone had pulled the plug and all the air went out of me. I had not another ounce of energy.
“Talking to Gatt, once he had got past me the same thing happened to him as well. You had given everything you had and there was just nothing left.”
Despite contributing heavily to England’s success, Fowler insists neither he nor Gatting could claim to be the tourists’ star performer in Madras.
That honour went to Essex seamer Neil Foster, who returned outstanding match figures of 11-163 on a surface offering more pace and bounce than those England had previously encountered.
Yet while Fowler speaks glowingly of his team-mate’s performance, Foster’s efforts went unappreciated in certain quarters.
“When we got back to the hotel having won, I had a big cake presented to me by the manager of the hotel and some champagne,” Fowler revealed.
“Mike Gatting had the same, and Neil Foster scoured the hotel looking for his because he got 11 wickets.
“He thought everyone was playing a practical joke on him and had hidden it, but the fact was the hotel manager obviously preferred batting to bowling and Fozzy didn’t get a cake!
“He was most upset and quite rightly - to get 11 wickets was a great effort. He was the man of the match without a doubt.”