Watch: At Sydney in 1977/78, substitute fielder Madan Lal took an outrageous catch off Karsan Ghavri to dismiss Peter Toohey.
Spin dominated Indian cricket in the 1960s and well into the 1970s, and specialist batters were often used to take the shine off the new ball. This led to the rise of a generation of seamers in India who were competent batters and exceptional fielders, which increased their chances of breaking through.
Abid Ali and Eknath Solkar were key members of the Indian side on either side of 1970. And halfway through the decade, Madan Lal arrived. He seldom replicated his first-class heroics (42.87 with bat, 25.50 with ball) at Test level, but he played his part, especially in India’s 1983 World Cup triumph.
He had four five-wicket hauls and five fifties in 39 Test matches, and his spectacular fielding, especially in the deep, was a bonus.
The 1977/78 tour was played in the shadow of Kerry Packer’s SuperTests. Madan Lal began the series well, taking 1-27 and 5-72 in Brisbane, and 1-54 and 2-44 (along with a 35-ball 43) in Perth.
India lost both Test matches, and left-arm Karsan Ghavri replaced him in Melbourne. Thanks to Bhagwat Chandrasekhar (6-52 in each innings), India won by 222 runs – their first ever Test match win in the nation, albeit against a severely depleted side.
At Sydney, Bishan Singh Bedi (3-49) and Chandrasekhar (4-30) bowled out Australia for 131 before six Indians scored in excess of forty to help Bedi declare on 396-8.
On the fourth day, EAS Prasanna (4-51) ran through Australia, and they finished on 243-8. The only interest on the final day was whether they would get those 22 runs and make India bat again.
Peter Toohey and Jeff Thomson erased 14 of these. Then Ghavri bounced, and Toohey hooked. The ball went “like a bomb” (to quote the commentator) some distance to the left – the wrong side – of Madan Lal on the long-leg fence.
One of the fastest runners of the Indian side, Madan Lal sprinted as the ball, hit very flat, kept losing altitude at a rapid rate. He eventually flung himself to his left to come up with an incredible catch.
“You wouldn’t see a better piece of cricket than this in many a long country mile,” uttered the commentator, in awe of the “zero-altitude catch”. The Wisden Almanack summed it up as “quite spectacular”.
Ghavri cleaned up Thomson, ending the Australian innings two runs short of the innings-defeat margin, their first win by an innings away from home.
Watch Madan Lal catch Peter Toohey off Karsan Ghavri here:
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