First Test Match

ENGLAND v INDIA 1946

H.P.

The seventh consecutive single brought the match to an emphatic success for England just at half-past one on the third day. This concluding fight for runs typified the cricket from first to last and, though defeated so severely, India deserved high credit for the way they put the utmost keeness and effort into all their doings. Beyond question batting first proved anything but an advantage, for after much rain the ground remained heavy throughout the opening day, and, while the pitch never seemed difficult, it gave bowlers just enough help to make run-getting a struggle throughout Saturday. To take first innings on winning the toss was the obvious course for Pataudi, but only two stands checked the cheap dismissal of batsmen--57 for the seventh wicket and 43 for the tenth. Modi, very doubtful in timing the ball until after six men were out for 87, continued cramped, while Hafeez, a left-hander, scored freely with good cuts, drives and leg hits, and only in the final effort to improve matters did one of the soundest batsmen in the side force the pace. Then Modi brought off drives and forcing strokes that gave character to his play and Shinde offered stubborn resistance until completely beaten by Bedser.

This event appropriately finished the innings, for Alec Bedser, one of the Surrey twins, accomplished probably the finest performance ever recorded by a bowler in his first Test Match. Using his height, six feet two inches, to the full extent and putting his weight behind every ball, Bedser maintained an admirable length at fast-medium pace, with swerve or spin which often turned the ball appreciably from the sodden turf. For each of the four bowlers considered necessary Hammond placed an attacking field with three short legs and a silly point usually on duty; sometimes even more men stood very close to the bat.

England started just as badly by losing Hutton and Compton--bowled first ball--for 16. Hammond and Washbrook added 45, but both left while the total reached 70, and the success of Amarnath, with his short quick run and downward flip of the ball, required all the skill of Hardstaff and Gibb to prevent further disaster in a prelude to their batting on Monday, when the Nottingham man brought out his highest skill in stroke play while the bespectacled Yorkshireman relied on stubborn defence. Appreciably faster after a finer Sunday, the pitch and outfield meant greatly improved conditions for scoring, and so the total mounted from 135 to 252 in less than two hours before Gibb gave slip a catch. By adding 182, the fifth partnership put England on the highroad to victory, and with continued support, Hardstaff surpassed his previous highest Test Match innings--169 against Australia.

During five and a quarter hours at the wicket Hardstaff maintained close concentration on every ball. Bareheaded, as usual, he stood erect, holding the bat at full length, defending or forcing the ball away with wristy strokes; amidst the cheers that greeted his 200 he remained unruffled and as watchful as ever until the last wicket fell. He trusted to perfect timing for every kind of scoring stroke with the ball kept down, and one lifted drive from Amarnath to the pavilion rails caused surprise calling for special comment. Smailes put power into a few strokes, and two boundaries past cover-point by Bedser gave a hint of batting ability.

Before India began their second innings the King came from the pavilion with General Adams, President of M. C. C., and the teams were introduced to His Majesty.

Mankad, after long spells of bowling, batted very well, and 67 runs came before Merchant gave Ikin his only wicket of the match, and India entered upon the last day only 66 behind with six wickets in hand, but Bedser and Wright, who beat Pataudi with a specially deadly leg-break, caused a collapse, checked once by Amarnath and Hindlekar in a stand for 59. Amarnath, Mankad and Hazare proved themselves valuable all-round players. Practically all the Indians showed a preference to attack the bowling rather than defend, and their lively zeal certainly pleased the 15,000 people present at the finish. On each of the first two days the gates were closed about noon, when the crowds numbered nearly 30,000.

© John Wisden & Co