ENGLAND v INDIA 1946

Second Test Match

ENGLAND v INDIA 1946

R.J.H.

At Manchester, July 20, 22, 23. Drawn. By staying together for the final thirteen minutes, India's last pair, Sohoni and Hindlekar, warded off a second Test defeat that threatened their country. Fortune favoured them, England's wicket-keeper, Gibb, missing Sohoni in the closing overs off both Pollard and Bedser. This intensely exciting finish came as a fitting climax to a thoroughly interesting match. From the team successful at Lord's, England's selectors omitted the Yorkshire bowlers, Bowes and Smailes, and invited Voce, only recently returned to big cricket, and P. Smith. Because of injury Smith was compelled to decline and so Pollard was called upon. India dropped Gul Mahomed, Shinde and Nayudu for Mushtaq Ali, Sohoni and Sarwate.

Following heavy rainfall earlier in the week and a shower in the morning the start was delayed until quarter-past two, when Pataudi, winning the toss, made the first of two much-criticised moves by giving England first use of the dead wicket. This followed the example of R. S. Grant, the West Indies captain, in the previous Test at Manchester, in 1939. On that occasion five wickets fell for 62, but this time England started splendidly. Hutton and Washbrook led the way with a stand of 81, before Washbrook fell to a curious catch at the wicket; Hindlekar mishandled the ball, juggled with it again between his pads and gathered it close to the ground.

Washbrook, in a wide range of strokes, showed particular strength on the leg side. While Hutton, troubled by his back, continued chiefly to defend, Compton took over the role of attack and made 51 out of 75 in seventy-five minutes before beaten by an inswinger which kept low; his off-drives touched perfection. Hutton went his unhurried way for three hours, hitting only three boundaries, but was caught at mid-wicket with the total 186 trying to copy a huge hit for six in the previous over by Hammond over deep square-leg's head. Hardstaff failed for the first time in a representative game during the season, but Hammond and Gibb played out the remaining forty-five minutes. More rain fell over the week-end and on Monday Amarnath and Mankad, bowling unchanged, disposed of the last six wickets for 58 runs in an hour. Amarnath began the game by conceding only 17 runs in 13 overs and repeated his Lord's feat by taking five wickets in the innings. Varying in-swingers with an occasional cut leg-break, he kept a perfect length. Mankad, with left-arm slows, caused equal trouble. On the second morning Amarnath bowled 13--4--19--3, Mankad 13--4--36--3.

When Pataudi sent England in he was undoubtedly influenced by the known weakness of his team in batting on soft wickets, but Merchant and Mushtaq Ali began under conditions very similar to those at the start of the England innings. A heavy roller brought up the water, leaving the black surface dead slow, and the way India's opening pair treated England's attack appeared at first to contradict the view that India would have fallen for a small score if Pataudi had chosen to bat. Mushtaq, a big disappointment in nearly every previous match, repeated his triumph of the Manchester Test ten years before when he and Merchant made 203 together for the first wicket. Curbing his natural bent for flashing aggressive stroke-play, he remained with Merchant for two hours and a quarter while the score rose to 124. None of the seven bowlers tried by Hammond, including himself, could extract any life from the saturated ground, and loose deliveries by Wright, Compton and Ikin received proper punishment from Merchant. Just when India appeared on top an out-swinger kept low, touched the inside edge of Mushtaq's bat and shattered his wicket. Intent on keeping up the quick scoring, Pataudi changed his batting order, but with disastrous results. Instead of going in himself, with Amarnath second wicket down, he promoted Hafeez, the young left-hander, and six runs after his first success Pollard took a fine return catch from Hafeez, and next ball, an off-break knocked back Mankad's leg stump. Then at 141 Merchant fell to a brilliant catch at backward short-leg. In this deadly spell Pollard's analysis read 5--2--7--4. Maintaining his fast medium attack unchanged from tea till the close, Pollard finished the day with four wickets for 23 runs in 21 overs, eleven of which were maidens. Merchant batted for two hours, fifty minutes and hit nine 4's.

Without addition Voce who, like Pollard, employed four short-legs, bowled Hazare with a break-back, at 146 Modi gave a catch to one of Bedser's leg trap, and ten runs later Amarnath was bowled middle stump. So India's fortunes slumped so rapidly that after tea their score changed from 124 for one to 160 for seven.

For the first time in the match play began promptly to time on the last and most eventful day. In strong sunshine Pollard and Bedser quickly disposed of India's remaining three wickets for ten runs, the last nine batsmen being dismissed for 46. England led by 124 and they soon became thankful for that advantage. The pitch, though rolled twice within an hour, gave the bowlers considerable help and, in Amarnath and Mankad, India possessed men capable of exploiting the conditions.

England's policy obviously was to score quickly enough for a declaration in the hope of putting India out again, but runs were extremely hard to get. Amarnath, limping because of a damaged knee, managed to bowl unchanged. He disposed of Hutton at seven but, by alert defence, Washbrook and Compton staved off further disaster till 48. So hard was the struggle that Compton spent an hour over his first 17 runs. Hammond tried to force the pace, but soon gave a catch in the long field and Hardstaff and Gibb fell to the wiles of Amarnath, half the side being out for 84 at lunch. Much of the devil went from the wicket after the interval and Compton and Ikin found more opportunity for free scoring, 69 runs coming in 45 minutes before Hammond declared. Compton outshone all other batsmen in the match, not only by scoring 122 for one dismissal, but by the ease with which he met good bowling under difficult conditions. His 71 included seven 4's and occupied two hours, ten minutes, superb defence alternating with brilliant hitting.

Whatever slight hopes India held of making the 278 runs required for victory in three hours practically vanished when, with the second ball of his opening over, Pollard got Merchant caught at forward short-leg. Worse followed, for with only three scored, Mushtaq again played on to Pollard and soon Bedser produced an extra good ball which hit Pataudi's off stump. India thus lost their first three wickets for five runs; but their fighting spirit remained. For an hour and a quarter the next pair, Hazare and Modi, held up the England attack, and added 74. A big effort was needed from England after tea and Bedser rose to the occasion splendidly. In a really fine spell of six overs he cleaned bowled Hazare, Modi and Amarnath and got Mankad well caught high up in the gulley. After a short rest Hammond brought him back with twenty minutes left for play. With his third ball, Bedser deceived Hafeez, who gave a simple return catch and the Surrey bowler took his 100th wicket of the season when Gibb held a catch from Sarwate at 138. Then, with thirteen minutes left, began the critical last partnership between Sohoni and Hindlekar. Hindlekar, who opened the innings in the 1936 Lord's Test, refused to be worried by the eight men crowding round the bat, but Sohoni, for all his doggedness, gave two chances at the wicket. Bedser repeated his great triumph at Lord's. His eleven wickets in the match for 93 brought his record for the first two Tests to 22 for 238. For a bowler in his first season of first-class cricket such a performance was remarkable. In length, nip from the pitch, direction and general hostility Bedser looked England's best medium-fast bowler since Maurice Tate.

© John Wisden & Co