Fourth Test Match

England v India

Norman Preston

This was the most interesting match of the series and the only one that went into the fifth day. England might have finished it earlier, but Cowdrey, with India having six wickets down for 127, announced before play began on the third day that in view of the settled weather and the Manchester holidays next week he would not enforce the follow-on if this situation arose.

An excellent pitch provided ideal conditions for batsmen and Pullar, in only his second Test, gained the distinction of becoming the first Lancastrian to hit a hundred for England at Old Trafford. M.J.K. Smith also established himself by scoring his maiden Test century, but overshadowing everything else was the achievement of Abba Ali Baig, the 20-year-old Oxford Freshman, who, drafted into the Indian side, hit a brilliant hundred on his first appearance in Test cricket.

With the rubber already decided the England selectors brought M.J.K. Smith, Dexter and Illingworth into the team to the exclusion of Cowdrey, Moss and Close, but on Peter May becoming ill -- he underwent an operation during the match although he saw the first two days' play -- Cowdrey was recalled and he captained England for the first time. India showed three changes, Baig, Joshi and Contractor replacing Manjrekar, Tamhane and Apte.

Some skilful bowling by Desai, Surendranath and Umrigar, who made the ball swing in the sweltering atmosphere, induced false strokes, and before lunch on the opening day England offered five chances, but only one was accepted when Parkhouse mistimed a hook.

Three weeks earlier Pullar had made 75 in his first Test innings at Headingley. Again he showed he possessed the big-match temperament. Safe when facing the new ball, he moved his feet well in going forward to the spinners, and whenever he decided to drive he made his stroke with the full flow of the bat. Cowdrey, too, delighted with his powerful drives, but opposed to much leg-theory bowling England spent two and a half hours reaching 100.

Cowdrey had hit one 6 and ten 4's and the stand had yielded 131 when the captain chopped the ball into the wicket-keeper's gloves. After tea India took the new ball but Pullar, as sure as ever, not only completed his hundred but went on to make 131 (fourteen 4's) before he was taken by the wicket-keeper on the leg-side after batting five and a half hours.

Meanwhile, M.J.K. Smith, batting for England for the first time in his normal position at number four and not as an opener where he was tried against New Zealand the previous year, played extremely well and never offering the semblance of a chance during the last two and a half hours, put on 98 with Pullar and 42 with Barrington, England scoring 304 for three wickets on the first day, Smith finishing with 55 and Barrington 22.

Next morning the sun again shone powerfully and both not-out batsmen played confidently, but Smith, having reached his hundred, was caught off a mighty pull, having hit one 5 and twelve 4's in an innings of three and a half hours. His stand with Barrington realised 109. While Smith made most of his runs on the leg-side, Barrington excelled with the cover drive as well as the pull, but Dexter, opposed to Gupte and Nadkarni, shaped uncertainly against the two spinners. Nevertheless, England were 417 for four at lunch and subsequently wickets were sacrificed in a chase for more runs, the last six adding only 73 after the interval. Barrington, getting his last 34 runs in six overs off the new ball, was leg-before making a violent hook. Besides two 6's he hit eleven 4's, and his 87, his best in Test cricket, came in three hours.

India owed much to Surendranath. It was a great feat to send down forty-eight overs in almost exhausting heat, and he finished with five wickets. Nadkarni bowled accurately and always commanded respect, and if a few fielders spoiled the work of the side, Baig, Contractor and Desai could not be faulted. Joshi, who took three catches, gave his best display behind the stumps.

When India batted the difference between the two attacks was soon evident. Cowdrey set an umbrella field for Trueman and Rhodes, and Roy might have gone in the first over, Dexter failing to accept a sharp chance in the slips. As it was, Rhodes removed both opening batsmen, and before the end of the second day India, with six wickets down for 127, were in a hopeless position.

A sterling display by Borde, a 25-year-old professional with Lancashire League experience, was one of the few good features of the third day's play. He drove and pulled to leg with assurance in scoring 75, his best in Test cricket. There was also much to admire in the leg-spin bowling of Barrington, who, seldom used by May, his England and Surrey captain, was given plenty of scope to reveal his hidden talent by Cowdrey and he responded by taking three wickets for 12 runs each. He kept a perfect length and mixed leg spin with the googly.

When England batted again, 282 ahead, it was not surprising that Desai and Surendranath bowled defensively and listlessly. Parkhouse and Pullar, both anxious to gain places in the M.C.C. team to tour West Indies, declined to take risks and the purposeless cricket was derided by the majority of the crowd of 13,000. Later they enjoyed some fine stroke-play by Dexter and Barrington and England wound up an unsatisfactory day 547 in front.

On Monday India, and in particular Baig, restored dignity to the struggle. A splendid second-wicket stand of 109 -- the best of the series for the touring team --between Contractor and Baig enabled India to master the bowling, but when Baig had made 85 he was struck on the right temple by a bouncer from Rhodes and was led off the field in a dazed condition. Happily he soon recovered, and next morning when India resumed at 236 for four and Rhodes and Trueman immediately took the new ball, he continued his innings on the departure of Nadkarni. The first ball Baig received (from Rhodes) was another bouncer, but the batsman did not flinch although the Derbyshire bowler subjected the fragile-looking Indian to a hot assault on the leg side and generally pitched much too short.

Baig hovered at 96 for nearly half an hour when to everyone's relief he swept Rhodes to the boundary. The England team joined in the wholehearted applause and Cowdrey shook hands with Baig as he crossed at the end of the over. A natural player with a splendid eye, Baig generally placed himself behind the ball, moving so quickly into position that he always had plenty of time for his strokes. The drive, cut, hook and pull were finely executed, and with Umrigar going most confidently India were beginning to threaten England.

Baig and Umrigar were pressing for victory. They stole sharp singles and were clearly masters of the situation when Baig pulled Mortimore. He thought the ball had beaten Dexter at mid-on, but Dexter picked up brilliantly and Baig had gone too far for when he turned the ball was in Swetman's hands. Both Baig (twelve 4's) and Umrigar (thirteen 4's) batted four hours twenty minutes.

Actually Umrigar was 94 when Baig left at 321, and on completing his first and only Test hundred in England he realised the cause was hopeless and was eighth to leave, skying Barrington to extra cover with the field spread deep. Trueman finished the match by holding Surendranath at mid-on and shattering Gupte's wicket. So England won with three and a quarter hours to spare.

© John Wisden & Co