First Test

India v England 1992-93

Toss: India. Test debuts: R. K. Chauhan, V. G. Kambli; J. P. Taylor

England were beaten in the first Test, physically, mentally, technically and tactically as Azharuddin led his side to victory, only the second in their past 26 Tests. India were in control even before Gooch, who was clearly unwell throughout his 100th Test, lost the toss. The England selectors, deprived of Atherton by illness, added insanity to injury by choosing a four-man pace attack. All the signs, particularly the Indians' choice of three spinners, Kumble, Raju and Chauhan, indicated that long hours of toil lay that way.

England's bowling resources comprised Malcolm, Jarvis, Lewis and the debutant from Northamptonshire, Taylor, plus one spinner, Salisbury, who started the tour as a net bowler, and another, Hick, whose first-class haul in 1992 was eight wickets at 51.87 each. In the event Hick's return of five for 28 in the match merely underlined the folly of excluding both Emburey and Tufnell. The England management explained that their senior spinners had not bowled well enough, nor with sufficient confidence, to justify inclusion, ignoring the point that there is no surer way of regaining confidence than taking wickets in Tests.

In fact, England might have got away with their selection had it not been for Azharuddin, who came to the dry, brown but firm wicket with his side in some difficulty at 93 for three and his own captaincy in jeopardy after an unsuccessful tour to South Africa. He departed having thrilled the capacity crowd at Eden Gardens with an innings of 182 and batted England out of the game. This was a masterpiece of uninhibited strokeplay matched with watchful defence. He bided his time before taking his pick of the varied assortment of bad balls served up at regular intervals and, until he capitulated to Hick's off-spin with a tired shot, he never looked remotely troubled.

England needed a mere 172 to avoid the follow-on and in falling nine runs short effectively surrendered the match. Kapil Dev and Prabhakar completed the task of removing the shine from the new ball in 12 overs and inevitably made way for the Indian spinners to take control. England's batsmen, flummoxed by the turning ball delivered flat and at pace by Kumble and Raju and into the rough outside off stump (caused by the left-armer Taylor's follow-through) by Chauhan, too often fell betwixt and between playing forward or back. They collapsed to 88 for five at the end of the second day and eventually to 163 all out.

They were then dealt a body-blow when Gooch failed for the second time in wasteful fashion, having momentarily lifted his back foot from the batting crease to allow More an unexpected but gleefully accepted opportunity to stump him. Thereafter Gatting, returning to Test cricket after his ban for touring South Africa, held out doggedly. He made good use of the sweep shot until, only 16 short of making India bat again, he attempted to play it at a wider delivery from Chauhan and dragged the ball on to his stumps. Hick, surmounting his first-innings disappointment and growing pressure on his place in the side, batted far more positively the second time, while Salisbury and Taylor, who hung around for a combined total of 225 minutes in a lost cause, demonstrated a refreshing simplicity of technique against spin. They thrust their front pads forward and played at nothing but those balls that demanded a response. They showed what might have been achieved by greater application from their supposed betters, who had batted as though certain that defeat was unavoidable.

Up to 25,000 spectators assembled on the final morning to watch India score the last 43 runs required for victory. Shortly after they had celebrated Calcutta-style - thunderflashes, firecrackers and all - Azharuddin's rehabilitation as a national hero was completed by his appointment for the remaining two Tests. Meanwhile, Ted Dexter, the chairman of the England committee, announced that, as a result of the continuing poor health of some England players, a study into air pollution levels in Indian cities had been commissioned. Some sceptical observers regarded this as nothing more than a smokescreen.

Man of the Match: M. Azharuddin.

Close of play: First day, India 263-4 (M. Azharuddin 114*, P. K. Amre 7*); Second day, England 88-5 (N. H. Fairbrother 17*, I. D. K. Salisbury 0*); Third day, England 128-2 (M. W. Gatting 48*, R. A. Smith 2*); Fourth day, India 36-0 (M. Prabhakar 12*, N. S. Sidhu 20*).

© John Wisden & Co