With the advent of thicker willows, smaller grounds, fielding restrictions and other developments that supposedly favours the batsmen, smashing four sixes in a row might not be a grand achievement for modern-day cricketers.
But, thirty years ago, it was a Sisyphean task, beyond the realms of conventional wisdom. Perhaps, this is the reason Kapil Dev’s four sixes in a row off Eddie Hemmings remains a remarkable accomplishment in the history of the game.
What makes this feat even more special is the despairing backdrop against which he pulled out a stunner to avoid the follow-on.
It was the first match of India’s tour of England at Lord’s in England. On the back of an astounding triple century from Graham Gooch, and a century from Allan Lamb and Robin Smith, England piled up a mammoth total of 653/4 in their first innings.
In reply, India tried to fight fire with fire until they nearly ran out of fuel. Ravi Shastri and Mohammad Azharuddin scored a spectacular century, and Dilip Vengsarkar scored a gutsy half-century before falling to Agnus Fraser.
Despite heroics from Shastri, Azharuddin and Vengsarkar, India was still way short of their follow-on target.
After losing a flurry of wickets in quick succession, India were 430/9, and they still needed 24 more runs to avoid the follow-on. With Narendra Hirwani, the last batsman on non-striker end, Kapil Dev decided to take things in his own hands and change the course of the game.
Kapil duly blocked the first two balls of Eddie Hemmings’ over. And the next four was ruthlessly dispatched over the bowler’s head for four consecutive sixes, each bigger than the previous one.
Hirwani got out in the next ball but India just avoided the follow-on. Kapil walked back to the pavilion with an unbeaten 77 from 75 balls to his name. However, India still lost that match by a massive 247 runs.