Honours shared in exciting series
Like in 1956, The Australians visited India in 1964 after their tour of England to play three Tests and no other matches. However unlike the 1956 side, Bobby Simpson's team arrived in India as favourites on the basis that they had won the Ashes battle 1-0. But India too had a good side which was in the process of being wielded together by MAK Pataudi. The result was a highly exciting series at the end of which honours were even. Australia won the first Test at Madras, India drew level with a victory at Bombay while the rain affected final Test at Calcutta ended in a draw.
There was much good cricket witnessed in the short series. The accent of both teams was on the attack, there were some fine individual performances and the closeness of the tussle was the icing on the cake. There were no new discoveries but the established players on both sides did really well. If the Australians were better served in pace bowling, the Indians were superior in the spin department. The batting of both sides was equally strong and all things considered there was little doubt that the end result was just, keeping in mind the equal strength of the two contestants.
Simpson proved to be a worthy successor to Richie Benaud. In addition, he and Bill Lawry had proved themselves to be the best opening pair since Len Hutton and Cyril Washbrook and the series cemented their reputation. With opening stands of 66, 91, 35, 59, 97 and 115, they always succeeded in laying the foundation for a good total. The middle order, manned by Norman O'Neill (who played only in the first Test), Bob Cowper, Ian Redpath, Brian Booth and Peter Burge was pretty formidable and the late order almost always produced some vital runs thanks to the presence of Barry Jarman, Tom Veivers and John Martin. In Graham McKenzie, Neil Hawke and Alan Connolly, Australia had a pretty useful new ball attack but the spin department, handled by Veivers, Martin and Simpson proved to be a trifle disappointing.
India's strength revolved around their batting and spin bowling with the new ball attack holding no terrors for the visitors. All the main batsmen - Jaisimha, Sardesai, Manjrekar, Borde, Pataudi and Hanumant - were among the runs. In bowling, Nadkarni with 17 wickets in the first two Tests was head and shoulders above everyone else though Chandrasekhar dealt telling blows at Bombay and Durrani struck a purple patch at Calcutta. Thanks also to the presence of Surti, Durrani and Nadkarni, the Indians showed depth in the batting.
Pataudi had a great series. Not only did he match Simpson in tactical skill, he also led from the front. He scored the only century of the series - 128 not out at Madras, thus emulating his father who had also scored a hundred in his first innings against Australia in the Bodyline Series, 32 years before. With scores of 86 and 53, he played a significant role in the victory at Bombay. This was one of the most thrilling Tests played in India. It was a game full of fluctuating fortunes before India squeaked home by two wickets late on the final evening. However it must be added that the Australians were handicapped with O'Neill being unable to bat. He was taken ill shortly after the match started.
The Australians had won the first Test, turning a 65-run first innings deficit to a 139-run victory. McKenzie's ten wicket haul and excellent batting by Lawry, Simpson, Burge, Martin and Veivers saw the visitors turn the tables. A week later, however India had drawn level. Among all the notable contributions to the victory, the most memorable was perhaps the seventh wicket partnership of 93 runs on the final afternoon between Pataudi and Manjrekar. This came about when India, facing a tough target of 254, were 122 for six. Borde then applied the finishing touches before a delirious Brabourne stadium crowd of about 42,000.
The Calcutta Test too was shaping into a keen contest. Australia, 61 runs behind on the first innings, were 143 for one at stumps on the third day. But rain on the last two days ruled out any play. Durrani's bowling (6 for 73) which brought about a sharp collapse in the Australian first innings (97 for no loss to 174 all out) was the chief highlight of the truncated game.