First Test Match

ENGLAND v INDIA 1951-52

At New Delhi, November 2, 3, 4, 6, 7. Drawn. A gloriously successful uphill fight brought great credit to England, but somewhat overshadowed the fact that for the most part they were outplayed. Watkins played the innings of his life in helping to save the match, but every man rose to the occasion brilliantly. For India it must have been a most disappointing experience. Their good work in the field on the first day must have encouraged hopes of the first Test victory in their history. Even allowing for the excellence of the English recovery, India should have won. Their tactics were weak and the catching in England's second innings let them down badly.

England entered the match handicapped through being in the middle of a bad spell with injuries and illness. They were without their leading run-getter, Graveney, and their most likely wicket-taker, Rhodes, who a few days later returned home for an operation. The pitch became slower each day except at the start: the match was merely a test of endurance for bowlers as well as batsmen. England seemed to have gained a big advantage when Howard won the toss, but the batsmen failed lamentably against the splendid leg-break bowling of Shinde. For a bowler of his type, he sent down surprisingly few loose balls, while his flight and spin kept everyone struggling. He used the googly freely, sometimes two or three times an over, and yet his amazing accuracy never deserted him.

The start of England's innings did not suggest a collapse. Lowson was leg-before at nine to a fine ball which swung away and then came back sharply off the seam, but Robertson and Kenyon were into trouble until Shinde appeared at 51. A total of 79 for one at lunch was reasonable enough, but in the first over afterwards, without addition, Shinde started his destruction, bowling Kenyon with a googly. Another googly accounted for Robertson, who batted two and a half hours for 50. So much did England struggle that in two hours between lunch and tea only 73 runs were added for the loss of three wickets, all to Shinde. Even worse followed, the remaining six wickets falling after tea for 51. Watkins, hitting with the spin, was the only batsman who played Shinde well, but he was not so comfortable against Mankad.

With England all out 203, India were in a position to dictate the course of the game once they had assured themselves of a good start. It soon became obvious that England's bowling lacked sting, and although two wickets fell for 64 one was a fortunate run out. With Merchant and Hazare together, India really took command, although they scored far too slowly considering the state of the game. At tea the total was 153 for two, yet in the next ninety minutes no more than 39 runs were added. Certainly England bowled tightly and fielded magnificently, but for a side on top the batsmen showed a poor appreciation of the situation.

India went ahead with only two wickets down, but again failed to force the pace on the third day, only 232 coming in five and a half hours. Merchant and Hazare took five hours ten minutes over their partnership of 211. Merchant, batting seven a half hours for 154, established a new record for an Indian batsman in Test cricket. This Hazare regained, his 164 not out taking eight hours thirty-five minutes.

Hazare might well have declared at tea-time with the Englishmen tired out after fielding almost two days in the dry, dusty heat. Instead he delayed his declaration until first thing on the fourth day when England had the benefit of a day's rest in between. All the same, England faced a difficult task, being 215 behind with two days remaining.

India's first dropped catch came when D. Gaekwad, substitute for Merchant, who hurt a shoulder when throwing himself full length, missed Robertson off Shinde at mid-off first ball after arriving on the field. Robertson was then 16, and although adding only six more he helped Lowson in an opening stand of 61. When Shinde dismissed Kenyon 17 runs later and a third wicket fell at 116, England looked like rushing headlong to defeat. Then Carr joined Watkins and the whole situation changed. Mankad bowled over after over on the spot, but Watkins repeatedly pulled Shinde to the leg boundary and the leg-spinner gradually lost his effectiveness, although he should have had Carr caught at deep square leg when 28, the unfortunate Gaekwad dropping another easy catch.

England entered the last day 13 behind with their fourth pair still together, and they remained until three-quarters of an hour after lunch. For just over five hours Watkins and Carr defied India while adding 158 and making England almost safe from defeat. Although Spooner left one run later, Watkins carried on to the end. He stayed nine hours for 138, a faultless display of intense concentration. Towards the end he was so tired that once his knees literally buckled but he had played a glorious innings which undoubtedly saved England from disaster.

© John Wisden & Co
 
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