On October 8, 1969, India lost to New Zealand at Nagpur after left-arm spinner Hedley Howarth tormented the home team on a spinning track. Sarang Bhalerao looks at the Test match played in the scorching October heat where the visitors showed their mettle to level the series.
The sweltering October heat at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Ground in Nagpur was as stern a test as any Test cricketer would imagine. With New Zealand losing the first Test at the Brabourne Stadium by 60 runs it was imperative for them to find a way to come back in the series. Mind you, it was a gargantuan task.
New Zealand won the toss and had no hesitation to bat first on a track that was expected to turn. Brian Hastings and Bruce Taylor made way for Bryan Yuile and Vic Pollard. India dropped fast bowler Ajit Pai and Hanumant Singh. Srinivas Venkataraghvan and Ambar Roy were selected to play the second Test.
The pitch was turning square on the first morning. With the spin trio of Bishan Singh Bedi, Erapalli Prasanna and Venkataraghvan, India were expected to run through the New Zealand batting order. But New Zealand batsmen relished the challenge of taking on the spinners and keeping them at bay. Captain Graham Dowling hit 10 boundaries in his 69. He batted for more than three hours. He was eventually trapped leg-before by Venkataraghvan. Bevan Congdon, batting at No 3, hit a couple of sixes and seven fours in his knock of 64 in just over two hours.
Mark Burgess top-scored with 89 and looked very comfortable. The spinners however posed a threat throughout the day. New Zealand lost five wickets on the first day with 252 on the board. The next day, spinners finished New Zealand’s innings at 319. Bedi picked up four wickets while Venkataraghvan and Prasanna took three and two wickets respectively.
India were powered by opener Abid Ali’s aggressive innings. He scored 63 that included eight boundaries. India lost Ajit Wadekar and night-watchman Venkataraghvan in Burgess’s final over of the day. With 143 for four at the end of day’s play, the game hung in balance. On the third day morning, quick wickets triggered an Indian collapse. Rusi Surti, the overnight batsman, was out for 26 with just the addition of two runs to the overnight score. Skipper Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi was out for seven to Burgess. Ashok Mankad was bamboozled by left-arm spinner Hedley Howarth in flight. Mankad offered a simple return catch to the bowler.
A 73-run eighth-wicket stand between Farokh Engineer and Roy prevented India for collapsing under 200. Howarth picked up Enginner (40) and Prasanna (3) in quick succession. Roy was the final man dismissed for 48. India conceded a lead of 62.
New Zealand danced to the tunes of Indian spin in the second innings. They showed positive intent alright. Dowling, in order to unsettle Bedi, hit the left-arm spinner for a six. The umpiring blunder cut short his promising stay. Reports Wisden: “[Dowling] was an unfortunate victim of a caught at the wicket decision.” He scored 18.
An enterprising stand of 65 for the fifth wicket between Turner and Pollard gave New Zealand’s innings a sense of stability. There was a peculiar pattern to the Test match: after a flurry of wickets, a partnership followed but soon after a big stand, wickets again fell in heaps. After the fifth wicket stand was broken, New Zealand collapsed to 171 for nine. Howarth and Dayle Hadlee added 43 for the final wicket to set India a daunting task of 277 for a win.
India struggled right from the outset. Abid Ali was out for a duck. Wadekar scored 23 while opener Chetan Chauhan managed to score 19. Surti was dismissed for no score. The wrecker-in-chief was left-arm spinner Howarth, who picked up three of the first four wickets to fall. He was confidently flighting the ball. Wadekar was beaten by the flight and offered simple caught and bowled, so did Roy. India were precariously placed at 86 for seven at the end of the fourth day with Pataudi batting on 27.
Pataudi was out leg-before to Howarth on the morning session of the final day and soon India were bowled out for 109, thus losing the contest by 167 runs. Howarth picked up five for 34.
New Zealand 319 (Mark Burgess 89; Bishan Singh Bedi 4 for 98) and 214 (Glenn Turner 57; Srinivas Venkataraghvan 6 for 74) beat India 257 (Syed Abid Ali 63, Ambar Roy 48; Hedley Howarth 4 for 66) and 109 (Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi 28; Hedley Howarth 5 for 34) by 167 runs.
(Sarang Bhalerao hails from a family of doctors, but did his engineering. He then dumped a career in IT with Infosys to follow his heart and passion and became a writer with CricketCountry. A voracious reader, Sarang aspires to beat Google with his knowledge of the game! You can follow him on Twitter here)