First Test Match

England v India 1971

At Lord's, July 22, 23, 24, 26, 27. Drawn. Rain prevented any play after tea on the fifth day when India were 38 short of a target of 183 with two wickets left. There was little between the sides throughout a closely contested match, the chief feature of which was the fine spin bowling of Bedi, Chandresekhar and Venkataraghavan. The England batsmen struggled against their high-class slow bowling as they had rarely done since the days of Ramadhin and Valentine.

Soon after the start of the Indian second innings, Gavaskar, racing up to complete a quick single, was barged to the ground by Snow, as the pair ran up the pitch together. It was an incident for which the fast bowler was requested to apologise by both the chairman of selectors, Mr. A. V. Bedser, and Mr S. C. Griffith, secretary of the Test and County Cricket Board. After he had done so, the Indians announced that they considered the matter closed. Nevertheless, the England selectors omitted Snow from the second Test as a disciplinary measure. Snow played in his first Test of the summer at Lord's where he was partnered by Price of Middlesex. Lever and Hobbs were dropped from the team which beat Pakistan at Headingly.

Although England had lost five wickets for 71 soon after lunch on the first day, they recovered to total 304, thanks to an adventurous 67 by Knott and 73 by Snow, his highest score in first-class cricket.

Most of the specialist batsmen were bemused by the Indian spinners, who were supported by fine close catching. The pitch was hard and dry, conditions in which Bedi and Chandrasekhar revelled, and England struggled until Knott provided an object lesson on how to tackle spin. His footwork was nimble and decisive, his stroke play full-blooded. He hit one 6 and nine 4's in just over two hours. Illingworth and Hutton fought well and then Snow played a sensible and aggressive innings, making 51 in the last ninety minutes of the opening day which ended with England 252 for eight. Another 62 useful runs were added next morning before Bedi closed the innings by bowling Gifford.

The second day belonged to Wadekar, the Indian captain, whose calm and measured 85 in three and a quarter hours kept his side in the game. He dominated the scoring to such an extent that he made 40 out of the first 50 in forty-nine minutes, but this proved a bright prelude to a dreary Saturday.

A fine crowd of 20,000 turned up for the third day and they saw India gain a first-innings lead for only the second time in a Test Match in England. It was achieved by innings of monumental patience from Viswanath and Solkar, whose sixth-wicket partnership of 92 occupied three hours. Viswanath spent four and a half hours reaching 68 and Solkar required five hours for one man fewer. The two young players showed great resolution against the pace bowling, but each became slower the longer he stayed. In just short of five hours only 133 runs were made and stoppages for showers and bad light helped to make it a disappointing day for the onlookers.

Showers delayed the start until 2.45 p.m. on the Monday when a doughty 62 by Edrich prevented another England collapse against the spinners. Amiss was so tied down against them that he finally ran himself out in a frustrated attempt to get off the mark. When Edrich fell just before the close England were unhappily placed. The last five wickets went down for 46 runs in ninety minutes on the last morning, leaving India four hours and twenty minutes to get 183 runs to win.

Again they began badly, but Gavaskar and Engineer raised hopes with a swashbuckling third-wicket partnership of 66 in fifty minutes. They drove the fast bowlers out of the attack as rain clouds began to gather over the ground. India were racing the weather more than the clock, but even so some of their batsmen were unduly reckless, especially against Gifford. Had the left-arm spinner faltered England might have gone down. But the Worcestershire captain stayed steady in length and direction and when he took the key wicket of Gavaskar, sixth out at 114 after a polished 53 in two hours, the game swung towards England. They were favourites when the rain came, leaving Gifford with match figures of eight for 127 and England grateful for Illingworth's shrewd leadership.

© John Wisden & Co