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In this 16 part series, Arunabha Sengupta captures one special moment from each of the 16 previous Indian tours to England. In the first episode he looks back at the first 20 minutes of the inaugural Test match between India and England which made the world sit up and take notice.
Lord’s basked in glorious summer sunshine as the Indians took their first step into the hallowed world of Test cricket. And the step was by no means a tentative one.
The first twenty minutes made the home of cricket sit up and take notice. Within 20 minutes on the first morning, the Englishmen were fighting for survival and dignity. The spectators looked on goggle eyed, amazed at the ability of the men hailing from the eastern fringes of the Empire, the first ever team to enter the Test arena without being led by a white man. The 25,000 assembled at Lord’s had expected an easy knockout. Instead they found themselves applauding the deeds of unheralded visitors who had stormed the Mecca of cricket.
It had barely been nine days since Percy Holmes and Herbert Sutcliffe had added 555 for Yorkshire against Essex at Leyton. Three days ago, they had put on a mere 65 against Sussex at Headingley, but while Holmes had departed on 40, Sutcliffe had gone on to register a mammoth 270. Now they took guard against an inexperienced and raw Indian attack, with the country expecting them to proceed along another major course in their combined run feast.
However, it was not really a piece of cake. The wicket was fast, the Indian opening attack — spearheaded by Mohammad Nissar and Amar Singh — was of exceptional quality and some serious pace.Besides, the two openers had journeyed all the way from Leeds after completing their match the previous evening.
With the score on eight, Sutcliffe hastened to bring his bat down to counter an in-swinging yorker from Mohammad Nissar. The great Yorkshireman could only manage an inside edge to the leg stump. Three runs later, another fast one from Nissar broke back off the pitch at the speed of lightning and sent the off-stump of Holmes for a jaunty walk.
Soon, after a splendid drive through the off-side, the graceful Frank Woolley departed in a strange manner. Lurking at mid-on was the Malaya-born Lall Singh, the first outstanding fielder produced by India. He ‘glided over the ground like a snake’, and with supreme anticipation was already at the ball when Woolley turned for a second run. The throw was fast and zoomed into Janardan Navle’s gloves with the Kent legend a couple of yards out of his ground.
In 20 minutes, England were struggling at 19 for three.
Wally Hammond had travelled all the way from Swansea, after bowling 18 overs against Glamorgan the previous day. He helped his captain Douglas Jardine stem the rot, adding 92 before lunch. Immediately after the break, however, the Gloucestershire great was yorked by a beauty from Amar Singh. Later the legend remarked that Amar Singh’s deliveries came off the pitch like the crack of doom. Skipper CK Nayudu and Jahangir Khan completed a wonderfully competitive bowling unit.
Half-centuries by Jardine and wicketkeeper Les Ames helped England to reach some degree of respectability, but after the first day it was Indians who had the better of the exchanges. In response to 259, the rookie team stood at 30 without loss.
The honeymoon period lasted till the second afternoon. At one stage, with Nayudu and Wazir Ali at the crease, Indians were 110 for two. However, the lack of experience and depth were now exposed as the seasoned pacemen Bill Bowes and Bill Voce got their act together. The batting collapsed and India folded to 189 all out, losing the last six wickets for 29 runs.
Indians bowled splendidly again, but England had much better of the exchanges in the second innings. Some superb late order hitting by Amar Singh being the bright spot for India. The final margin of loss being a comprehensive 158 runs.
(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry.He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/senantix)
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