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India in England: A tale of first Tests — Part 2 of 2

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1979 to 2011 provided some of the most enthralling batting that was witnessed in an India-England series © Getty Images

India’s tour to England 2014 is all set to kick off on July 9 when the two sides meet at Trent Bridge in Nottingham. India have the dubious record of doing particularly badly in their first Tests in England. In the second of this two-part seriesShiamak Unwalla looks at how India have fared in the opening match of every tour to England since 1979.

In Part One of the series, we looked at India’s dismal record in the first Test of a series, from their maiden voyage in 1938 till their eighth sojourn in 1974. With seven losses and one draw in these games, India showed that they used to be distinctly uncomfortable the first time around. The question is, did the latter part of the twentieth, or the early twenty-first century change anything?

9. 1979, Edgbaston: England win by an innings and 83 runs:

To start with, things went about as usual. England won the toss and batted first. Kapil Dev took five wickets for India, but no other bowler could manage even one as David Gower’s wonderful 200 not out guided the hosts to a match-winning 633 for five. In reply, the usual suspects Sunil Gavaskar and Gundappa Viswanath got half-centuries, but received no support, as India were bowled out for 297. Following on, Gavaskar, Viswanath and Chetan Chauhan got fifties, but Ian Botham’s fifer ensured that India were never truly in the hunt.

10. 1982, Lord’s: England win by seven wickets:

In what turned out to be a match where the best all-rounders of both teams did well, England once again batted first. They had a tough time against Kapil and Madan Lal, who eventually shared eight wickets between themselves. However, England fought back brilliantly. Ian Botham, Derek Randall, and Phil Edmonds helped the hosts to a respectably 433. Kapil took five for 125, but the initial advantage was lost thanks to some excellent recovery work. In India’s first innings, Gavaskar made 48 and Kapil hit 41. The next highest scorer was Syed Kirmani, with an unbeaten six. India crashed to 128 after Botham snared five. Following on, India put in a far better show, but despite Dilip Vengsarkar’s excellent hundred and Kapil’s belligerent 55-ball 89, India could only get 369. With 65 needed to win, England again lost three wickets to Kapil, but it was not nearly enough to avoid defeat.

11. 1986, Lord’s: India win by five wickets:

In what may be considered a miracle, India actually went on to win the First game of their 1986 tour. England batted first and were bowled out for 294 in an innings in which Graham Gooch scored a century and Chetan Chauhan took a fifer. India responded very well to get 341, with Vengsarkar continuing his love affair with Lord’s, scoring another unbeaten century. Kapil and Maninder Singh were the wreckers-in-chief with seven wickets between them. India needed 134 to win, and got 136.

12. 1990, Lord’s: England win by 247 runs:

The match that will forever be remembered for Gooch’s unbelievable twin scores of 333 and 123. Batting first, England piled on the runs mercilessly, scoring 653 for four. Apart from Gooch, Allan Lamb and Robin Smith also got hundreds. In reply, India fought fire with fire. Ravi Shastri made exactly 100, Mohammad Azharuddin scored a breath-taking 121 off 111 balls and Kapil Dev famously hit four sixes off four balls to avoid the follow-on en route to his unbeaten 77 off 75 balls. However, it was not enough to starve off defeat, as India went down on the last day of the match, bowled out for 224 in a chase of 472.

13. 1996, Edgbaston: England win by eight wickets:

Batting first, India could only score 214, thanks largely to Javagal Srinath’s wonderfully entertaining 65-ball 52. England responded with 313 on the back of Nasser Hussain’s 128. In India’s second essay, Sachin Tendulkar scored a tremendous 122 — considering that no other batsman even touched 20, this was a truly special knock — but India could only manage 219. With just 121 needed to win, Michael Atherton’s unbeaten 53 ensured that England suffered no more than two hiccups.

14. 2002, Lord’s: England win by 170 runs:

Nasser Hussain’s 155 was backed up by fifties from John Crawley, Andrew Flintoff, and Craig White, as England put on an impressive 487. India responded with a mere 221 despite a rollicking start from Virender Sehwag (84 off 96 balls). England responded with 301 for six, setting India a monumental 568 to win. Wasim Jaffer, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman scored half-centuries, but the real star was Ajit Agarkar who made an unbeaten 109 as India were bowled out for a fighting 397.

15. 2007, Lord’s: Match drawn:

Andrew Strauss (96) and Michael Vaughan (79) looked like they were going to run away with the game, till Anil Kumble accounted for the former. From 218 for one, England crashed to 298 all out, as India’s pacers found some movement later in the innings. James Anderson and Ryan Sidebottom then combined to take nine wickets as India were bundled out for just 201. A magnificent century from Kevin Pietersen in the second innings propelled England to 282, setting India a daunting 380 to win. Things were looking dire for India when Monty Panesar removed No 10 batsman RP Singh with more than a session of play remaining. However, MS Dhoni was solid at one end, and shielded new man S Sreesanth exquisitely. The rain gods took pity on India and opened up the heavens as India held out to — what perhaps should be called a fluke – draw.

16. 2011, Lord’s: England win by 196 runs:

India arrived in England as One-Day International (ODI) World Champions and the No 1 ranked Test team in the world. They were supremely confident, and felt they had a great chance to trounce England comprehensively for the first time ever. How mistaken they were. In a series that ended up causing psychological hemorrhaging for the optimistic fans, the first match served the perfect template for the rest of the series. Main bowler Zaheer Khan pulled out of the tour with an injury less than 14 overs into the series, and India never recovered from his loss. Pietersen steamrolled India with a delightful 202 not out, as England got to 474 for eight. In reply, Dravid scored an unbeaten 103, but no one else could touch 50, as India were bowled out for 286. Matt Prior (103 not out) and Stuart Broad (74 not out) then led a tremendous comeback for the hosts, after they were six down for just 107. India had to chase 458 to win, and ended up rolling over for just 261, as Anderson grabbed a fifer.

Final Analysis:

In sixteen series in England from 1932 to 2011, India have won the first match on a solitary occasion. They have held on to a draw on two occasions. Conversely, they have lost a mammoth 13 times. India have played their first game at Lord’s on 10 of the 16 tours. They have lost seven of those games, but all their non-losses have also come there. When India take the field at Trent Bridge, the ghosts of the past might just haunt them, but the young Indian side could well exorcise the demons of the first-game jinx.

Catch Part 1 of India in England: A tale of first Tests — Part 1 of 2 here

Catch all the stories from India’s tour of England 2014 here

(Shiamak Unwalla is a reporter with Cricket Country. He is a self-confessed Sci-Fi geek and Cricket fanatic who likes to pass his free time by reading books, watching TV shows, and eating food. Sometimes all at the same time. You can follow him on twitter at @ShiamakUnwalla)

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