First Test Match


At Bombay, November 27, 28, 29, December 1. India won by 138 runs. Fine bowling by Kapil Dev and Madan Lal on the fourth morning gave India a deceptively big win in what had been a close match. When it finished 50 minutes after lunch that day, it became the fourth successive Test at the Wankhede Stadium to end in four days. The bounce, uneven from the start, became more variable as the game progressed, several batsmen falling lbw to balls that hit them ankle-high.

There was a time on the second day when Gavaskar must have wondered whether he would have done better not to have won the toss. Having seen India bowled out for 179 in four and a half hours, Boycott and Tavaré, intent only on occupation, built a solid answer with a stand of 92 in 59 overs. At 95 for two, England seemed well placed for a lead that might have made certain of the match, but a series of controversial decisions changed the picture. Gower was adjudged run out by Srikkanth, retrieving in the short-leg area, whereupon Doshi, abetted by umpire Ramaswamy, removed Fletcher, Botham and Emburey as they tried to sweep. Nine wickets fell in two and threequarter hours, and on the third morning India's prospects were further helped in the fifth over when Gavaskar, on the back foot, survived an lbw appeal from a ball by Willis which came back and kept low. Shastri, promoted four places, impressively consolidated India's advantage by batting for two and a half hours, permitting himself only strokes which could be made straight-batted. It was a fine innings from a nineteen-year-old in only his fourth Test.

England were still strongly in the game when India fell back to 157 for eight. But Kapil Dev, hitting through the line with a certainty unmatched by either set of batsmen, added 46 in even time with Madan Lal, and on the fourth morning Madan Lal and Doshi, by careful and determined batting, put on another 24.

Psychologically, those extra 70 runs were vital. Though time was no object, England approached the task of scoring 241 in a defeatist frame of mind, lacking confidence in both the pitch and the umpires, although in the event it was a fine opening spell by Kapil Dev which undid them. In contrast to the first innings, he swung the new ball away from the right-handers, and in his first and second overs he removed Gooch and Tavaré to catches at the wicket and at second slip. Gower played freely for a time, but Madan Lal had Boycott and Fletcher lbw with break-backs that kept low, and at 42 for five the innings was in tatters.

Only a last-wicket stand of 27 between Underwood and Willis spared England the indignity of their lowest score in a Test against India - 101 at The Oval in 1971. Their previous lowest in India was 159 in Madras in 1972-73. Botham, who bowled unchanged through India's first innings, deserved better figures than he achieved. When he reached 16 in England's second innings, he completed the double double of 2,000 runs and 200 wickets in Tests, in seven fewer matches than Benaud (49) and 38 fewer than Sobers (80).

© John Wisden & Co