Second Test match

England v India 1936

In striking contrast to what occurred in the Lord's match, the second of the Test engagement produced several fine individual batting performances on either side. Hammond on his return to the England team was at the top of his form in hitting a faultless 167 and when India batted a second time Merchant and Mushtaq Ali, scoring 203 together, set up a record first-wicket partnership against England in England. England's bowling was made to look moderate and although having to face arrears of 368 India waged such a splendid uphill fight that when bad light intervened at quarter to four on Tuesday they were leading by 22 runs and had half their wickets in hand. Whether England could have forced a win had further play proved possible can only be conjectured. The easy-paced pitch left the fast bowlers powerless and although Robins worried the batsmen India had the satisfaction of putting together their highest total against England.

Seriously concerned with the problem of finding a reliable opening pair, England on this occasion depended upon two players of 21 years - Gimblett and Fagg. Four of the winning eleven at Lord's were passed over and, in addition to Fagg, Fishlock and Gover appeared in a Test match for the first time. Worthington was invited when Leyland withdrew owing to injury. Ocular trouble caused Hindlekar's absence from India's team and Meherhomji kept wicket.

Winning the toss, India seemed to have gained a considerable advantage for the pitch was definitely easy and likely to improve, yet they lost four wickets for a hundred runs. Tantalising to Englishmen was the dropping of two catches off Gover's bowling. These errors actually made only a small difference to the game, Merchant, missed when three, scoring 30 more runs, and Mushtaq Ali adding seven after being let off when six, but it was cruel luck for Gover, who bowled 35 overs in the match without taking a wicket. The breaking of the opening stand with 18 scored was a curious affair. Backing up, Mushtaq Ali was struck on the bat by a ball hit by his partner, the ball was deflected to Fagg at short mid-on and the Kent player promptly threw down the wicket. Merchant played a ball on to his pads and was caught by Hammond moving swiftly across to the leg side from slip.

Amar Singh made a few hard drives, and after lunch there came the best stand of the innings, Ramaswami and Wazir Ali adding 61 in 65 minutes. Ramaswami, left-hand, putting the weight of his body behind the bat, timed the ball skilfully and cut and drove well, but after he was beaten in the flight of a ball from Verity the innings did not last much longer. Wazir Ali batted without mistake for nearly too hours and a half, playing all the time with the utmost watchfulness and self-restraint. In third wicket down at 73 and ninth out at 190 to a good catch low down at extra cover, he could not be harshly criticised for the steady methods he adopted. Duckworth proved very safe behind the wicket but none of England's bowlers was outstanding.

Hammond began his glorious innings when Gimblett was bowled with England's total no more than 12, and the Indians did not see the back of him until there were 273 runs on the board. The moral effect of his fearless hitting could not be over-estimated. Hammond from the first did much as he pleased with the bowlers. He actually hit eight 4's in his first 50 runs and got 100 out of 138 in 100 minutes. His off-driving was done with consummate ease; his back play was brilliant. Meanwhile, Fagg played a steady part and the efforts of these two batsmen produced 134 runs in 95 minutes. The choice of Worthington, like that of Fagg, was also justified by results, and, in his third-wicket partnership with Hammond, Worthington helped to add 127 runs in an hour and a quarter. Worthington had spells of free hitting in which he drove with power and decision, and he always played a straight bat in defence. During over three hours at the wicket, Hammond rarely missed a fair chance of scoring; he hit twenty-one 4's. Fishlook unluckily played on, but Hardstaff maintained he batting supremacy with Worthington, who stayed until the total had reached 375 and then fell to a brilliant catch - by C. K. Nayudu, high up with one hand at extra cover - after a faultless innings lasting practically two hours and a half. Always choosing the right ball to hit, Hardstaff made some grand drives and in scoring 94 in 75 minutes he hit fifteen 4's. The third three-figure stand of the innings - between Robins and Verity - increased the total by 138 in 70 minutes. Robins hit fourteen 4's.

Verity continued the punishment of bowling which had long since revealed deficiencies and England, having kept their opponents in the field for six hours and a quarter and scored at an average rate of 91 runs an hour, declared with eight wickets down.

Bearing in mind their first innings performance, India appeared to be facing a hopeless position but, Merchant and Mushtaq Ali quickly cleared away thoughts of a collapse. Revelling in an unusual number of full-pitches bowled to them these trio quick-footed batsmen, by fine stroke play all round the wicket, put 190 runs up before stumps were drawn. Merchant often jumped in to drive Robins and also cut well; his partner, who hit 15 off an over from Allen, hooked short balls by supple strokes and completed his hundred in two and a quarter hours. Only six wickets fell on Monday and 588 runs were scored. Play on Tuesday began after a light shower. Robins and Verity were quickly brought on and when 13 runs had been added Mushtaq Ali was cleverly caught off a hard return. His efforts and those of Merchant in this stand brought exactly as many runs as India scored in the first innings, and the pair were together more than two and a half hours during which Mushtaq Ali sent the ball seventeen times to the boundary. India's batting order was changed, Ramaswami going in before Nayudu. The cricket for a time fell flat, Merchant, perhaps in his anxiety to complete a hundred, being at such pains with the bowling that he spent an hour over 12 runs. In the end he reached three fingers but only because Hammond, at slip, missed him when 91. Hammond made amends by getting rid of Merchant with a full pitch on the pads and so closed a splendid innings lasting four and a quarter hours. Watching the ball very closely, Merchant excelled in the late cut and off-drive and hit many of his thirteen 4's by using those strokes. In a good spell with the ball after lunch, Robins bowled Ramaswami, who stayed over two hours, and also got rid of Wazir Ali. India were by no means clear of anxiety but both Nayudu and Amar Singh preferred to attack the bowling and the total rose by 73 in 40 minutes before Nayudu was smartly stumped. Amar Singh made one grand drive off Verity for six and was so severe on slow bowling that he scored 43 while Nayudu made no more than four. With the innings defeat averted, India batted more soberly and it was generally agreed they had an even chance of saving the game when the weather intervened, bad light compelling an abandonment.

© John Wisden & Co
 
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