The day Bedser couldn't knock over two tailenders
Fifty four years ago to this day, Chandu Sarwate and Shute Banerjee immortalised themselves with one of those historical quirks that has never been witnessed before or since. The scene was the Oval in London where the touring Indians were up against the might of Surrey. Batting first India were quickly in trouble as Alec Bedser removed both Vijay Hazare and Rusi Modi for ducks. Bedser was still some six weeks away from making his Test debut and establishing an international reputation, which he did immediately with eleven wicket hauls in his first two Tests.
Surrey's only bowler with Test experience, Alf Gover, did not bowl much but the Indians found Bedser more than a handful. Although Vijay Merchant (53) and Gul Mahomed (89) were involved in a retrieving stand, Bedser had picked up his fifth wicket when the last man, Banerjee, joined No.10, Sarwate with the score at 205/9. As Sarwate recalls, the Surrey captain was already informing the groundsman what roller he would require at the end of the innings. He was destined to wait a great deal longer.
"It seemed as though we couldn't do anything wrong. Whatever strokes we made were all along the ground and very well placed", said Sarwate as he and Banerjee tamed the Surrey bowlers with a thrilling display of attacking batsmanship. When Parker castled Banerjee to terminate the innings some three hours and ten minutes later, the two had pieced together a humungous 249 for the last wicket. It is still the only instance in first class cricket when No.s 10 & 11 have scored centuries. Buoyed by the sight of the scoreboard reading a healthy 454, the Indians went out on the field and bowled out Surrey for a miserable 135.
Following on, the home team did slightly better in the second innings as they ran up a score of 338 and just avoided an innings defeat. The irrepressible Sarwate, who bowled a mixture of off and leg breaks, snapped up 5-54 in the second essay and India eventually won by the thumping margin of nine wickets. In the three Tests that followed, Banerjee failed to make an appearance while Sarwate played only in the second Test at Manchester, his Test debut, where he made 0 & 2 and bowled seven wicketless overs. But it hardly mattered for they had already done enough on that single day in May to command a place in cricketing folklore.