First Test Match



Toss: India. Test debuts: England - F.S.Trueman; India - D.K.Gaekwad, G.S.Ramchand.

History was made in the match which, if not reaching the high standard expected from Test cricketers, was crammed with exciting incidents, remarkable collapses and gallant recoveries. But, above all, were the events which occurred at the commencement of India's second innings. They went in facing a first innings deficit of 41, and within a few minutes the match seemed almost over. India lost their first four wickets without a run scored and the crowd were stunned into silence as the drama unfolded before them. No Test side had ever before made such a bad start to an innings, although memories went back to the time when Australia lost three men before scoring against England at Brisbane in 1950. India possessed a reasonable chance of victory before this disaster overtook them, and although they tried hard to make up for it the blow was too severe. In the end England won comfortably enough, but the margin does not show how hard they had to fight under conditions which were mostly in favour of their rivals. Success by India might well have given them the confidence they so badly needed and which never came throughout the tour.

For Hutton the match was a personal triumph. Tradition had been broken with his appointment as a professional captain of England and he must have known that the eyes of the world were upon him. He did not falter and his astute leadership earned him many admirers and, perhaps, guided future policy. When Hazare beat Hutton in the toss there seemed little reason, except for past failures, why India should not have produced a good total. The pitch gave no help to bowlers, but India were on the defensive almost from the first ball. Rapid bowling changes unsettled them, and when their first three wickets fell for 42 another of their total collapses seemed imminent. At that stage young Manjrekar joined his captain, Hazare, and by thoroughly good batting they pulled the game round. Hazare chose the occasion to play himself back to form, but it was the performance of Manjrekar which caught the imagination of most people. He showed skill and nerve far in excess of that normally associated with a youth of 20. They carried the total to 264 before Hazare, who batted four hours, twenty minutes, edged a catch to Evans.

That was the wicket England had been waiting for, and they showed their appreciation with another devastating spell which undid nearly all the good work of the fourth pair. In the next over Manjrekar was brilliantly caught at second slip, Watkins diving to his left and holding the ball while rolling over. Manjrekar's 133 occupied four and a half hours and included nineteen 4's. The total was still 264 when yet another wicket fell, Gopinath being yorked, and although Phadkar and Mantri played out the remaining twenty minutes England must have been well satisfied with their day's work.

An overnight downpour changed their ideas, for India's total, moderate as it was under good conditions, became much more formidable on a difficult pitch. And so it turned out. Only thirty-five minutes were needed to capture the four remaining Indian wickets, Laker taking them all in the course of nine balls. Then came England's turn to bat, and it soon became obvious that they were in for a difficult time. Hazare quickly brought on his off-spinner, Ghulam Ahmed, and Hutton and Simpson had to call upon all their skill to save themselves. Simpson was lucky on a number of occasions, but Hutton left first, caught in the leg-trap off a ball which turned and lifted. Simpson fell in similar fashion, and May hit over a ball he turned into a yorker and was bowled. When a struggling Compton provided Ramchand with his third catch at short leg, England were in serious trouble, but they, too, found the men for the occasion. Graveney and Watkins, the successes of the tour in India the previous winter, fought back grimly, and their stand of 90 proved the turning point of the match. Watkins fell towards the close, the day ending with England 87 behind and half their wickets left. Ghulam Ahmed must have been a tired man, having bowled 46 overs (17 maidens) for his four for 75.

The cricket, already exciting, became even tenser before the large Saturday crowd. Graveney, whose fine innings of the previous day helped to save his side, did not last much longer, but the audacious batting of Evans placed England on top. Even the accurate Ghulam Ahmed was mastered and not until four were needed for the lead did Evans falter. He made 66 in ninety-seven minutes, and a determined Jenkins helped him add 79 for the seventh wicket. Considering that they would have to bat in the fourth innings on a pitch always likely to be difficult, England's lead of 41 did not appear enough.

Then came that astonishing Indian breakdown that virtually settled the issue. In the course of the first 14 balls Trueman claimed three wickets and Bedser one. Only the dismissal of Gaekwad by Bedser was the result of the ball doing the unexpected. Trueman upset Roy, Manjrekar and Mantri by his fiery pace and hostility. Hazare had changed the batting order, sending in Mantri and Manjrekar early, but it was left to Hazare himself to stop the rot. First he prevented Trueman's hat-trick, Mantri and Manjrekar having fallen to successive balls. Then, after losing Umrigar, fifth out at 26, he found a defiant partner in Phadkar. Yet again the game swung round. Gradually the excitement eased as it was seen that Hazare and Phadkar were in no way unsettled, and at one stage India, despite their disasters, must have started thinking of victory. Ten minutes before the close Hutton brought back Trueman for a final fling and the move worked, Hazare being beaten and bowled by sheer pace. His great effort with Phadkar added 105. It was the best Indian sixth-wicket stand against England.

So India began the fourth and what proved to be the last day 95 ahead with four wickets left, but there was no more fight left in them. Jenkins dismissed Gopinath and Ramchand with successive deliveries, and with another wicket falling at the same total England were set to get only 125 to win. Even then the match was not without surprises, for England made heavy weather of the task, struggling all the way and taking two and a half hours over the runs. Hutton had his middle stump knocked flat, and Simpson, although making 51, should have been out when 16. May soon left, but Compton and Graveney, taking an hour, carefully knocked off the remaining 36 runs. Trueman, in his first Test, emerged as England's most successful bowler with seven wickets for 166 runs, but lively as he was, weak batting on the part of the Indians helped him. The attendance for the four days was 74,000 and receipts were over £17,000.

© John Wisden & Co