Clockwise from bottom centre: Mohammad Nissar, Bhagwat Chandrasekhar, Chetan Sharma, Ishant Sharma, Zaheer Khan - Bowled crucial spells for India at different junctures of history in England
Clockwise from bottom centre: Mohammad Nissar, Bhagwat Chandrasekhar, Chetan Sharma, Ishant Sharma, Zaheer Khan – Bowled crucial spells for India at different junctures of history in England

A tour of England has always been seen as an opportunity for emerging and established seam and swing bowlers as the perfect hunting ground to embrace and enhance their skills. The English conditions have helped seam bowling since time immemorial. India have traditionally produced quality spinners, but even they had mostly depended on seamers to win Tests in England: The Oval, 1971, was really an aberration. Let us have a look at five of the best bowling spells by Indian bowlers on English soil:

Mohammad Nissar: 5 for 93 at Lord’s in 1932

The Indian touring party of 1932 boasted of an excellent seam attack. Of them, Mohammad Nissar was the fastest. On that tour Nissar bowled the first ball for India in Test cricket, at Lord’s Cricket Ground against an established English side led by Douglas Jardine.

Nissar was destined for glory on debut; he clean bowled Herbert Sutcliffe with a yorker when England had made just 8. He then knocked over the stumps of Percy Holmes. At that stage the score read 11 for 2. Sutcliffe and Holmes had piled up 555-runs for the first wicket for Yorkshire only ten days earlier. Shortly afterwards, the outrageous Lall Singh beat Frank Woolley with a throw from mid-on, and they were 19 for 3.

In the course of his 26 overs, Nissar bagged 5 for 93 and had his name registered on the iconic honours board at Lord’s. England were bowled out for 259, a below-par score for a team that looked pretty decent on paper. Colonel CK Nayudu, India’s first captain, praised young Nissar, then considered to be the fastest Indian bowler of that time. He grabbed 71 wickets on the 1932 tour of England at 18.09.

Nissar’s debut spell will always be remembered though for tenacity and grit by an Indian who played against all odds and made an impact on a formidable English line-up upfront. It was certainly a day to remember in Indian cricket history.

Bhagwat Chandrasekhar: 6 for 38 at The Oval 1971

If Nissar’s spell at Lord’s would be remembered for his sheer pace and impact, Bhagwat Chandrasekhar‘s spell at The Oval in 1971 will be remembered as a magician’s wieldy act that helped India win their first ever Test in England. With back-to-back draws at Lord’s and Manchester, India were keen to make this appearance a memorable one. A 73-run deficit in first Innings didn’t dampen the confidence of then captain Ajit Wadekar as he brought in Chandra in the 8th over of England’s second innings. The rest, as they say, is history.

Chandra ran through the English side with his subtle changes in leg-breaks, googlies and top-spin. The sluggish Oval wicket dig the grave for England players as they slid to a paltry 101 in their second innings. Chandra’s extra pace always made it difficult for the Englishmen to read his variations.

The 1971 tour put India into history books as they won their first series in England post-independence. Chandra recounted later that it was a great moment for him to help India register their first Test win in the old country.

Chetan Sharma: 5 for 64 at Lord’s 1986

India were in search of a series win abroad for a long time. The last time they tasted a series win in England was in 1971. Since then there wasn’t much good news to hear in the long format but the summer of 1986 proved to be different.

The man who wrote the script for India was 20-years-old Chetan Sharma, less than two months after Javed Miandad had famously lofted him for six at Sharjah. The slightly-built former medium pacer was a force to reckon with a ball in his hand.

Come the first Test of the 1986 summer at Lord’s. Kapil Dev and Roger Binny couldn’t make a mark with the new ball but Chetan, bowling first-change, made an immediate impact and sent back three top-order batsman — David Gower, Alan Lamb and Mike Gatting. Despite Graham Gooch’s hundred England were bowled out for 294 and Chetan took 5 for 64.

India went on to beat England 2-0 in the three-Test series after Dilip Vengsarkar top-scored in all four innings of the Tests India won. Chetan’s historic spell set the momentum of the tour for the men in whites.

Zaheer Khan — 4 for 59 at Nottingham 2007

Zaheer Khan played an instrumental role during India’s series win on English Soil in 2007. After securing a draw in the first Test at Lord’s courtesy a valiant knock by MS Dhoni and the rain gods, India were determined to show their worth and Englishmen were confident to take lead. Zaheer was the man for India in Trent Bridge, leading from the front and wreaking havoc, sending English packing for a paltry 198 on the first day. He took 4 for 59.

Once the pitch turned flat and became good for batting, India made the most out of the conditions and set up a 283-run lead in first innings. Zaheer produced another great effort when England batted the second time around and took out five of the six top order batsmen. England did make 343.

India easily chased down the target of 73 in 24.1 overs with the loss of three wickets. Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly, journeymen and teammates who together debuted in Test cricket 11 years back at Lord’s on India’s 1996 tour of England, were at the crease when the winning runs were scored.

Zaheer’s nine-wicket haul was backed by four fifties from the top five in the first innings. The last Test of the series at The Oval ended in a draw and India eventually won a series in England after 21 years.

Ishant Sharma: 7 for 74 at Lord’s 2014

Beating England in their own den at Lord’s is definitely a remarkable achievement. India have done it twice, in 1986, and then after almost three decades, in 2014.

Ishant Sharma having a decent experience in the longer format still had a point to prove in overseas conditions. He troubled Ricky Ponting no end in 2007-08 and eventually had him caught at slip during India’s famous win at WACA. He was supposed to be the next big thing. Unfortunately, he never lived up to the promise but slowly earned his position as one of the mainstays in the bowling department in years to come.

England were chasing 319 with over four session to go at Lord’s. They ended Day Four with the score reading 105 for 4, but the important thing for India was that India had sent back Ian Bell and Alastair Cook back to the pavilion with Ishant clipping out both of them.

England had their task cut out on the final day with 214 to get with six wickets in hand. They did play well in the first session and Indian bowlers were finding it difficult to dislodge the determined Joe Root and resolute Moeen Ali, who added 68. At lunch England were 173.

Then Ishant hurled one of the most memorable bouncers bowled by an Indian bowler. Moeen tried to duck to a ball that rose sharply, and was only able to glove it for the forward short leg fielder, Cheteshwar Pujara, to pouch it comfortably.

This set the ball rolling for India. Ishant clipped out the important wickets of Matt Prior, Ben Stokes and Joe Root with some fiery short bowling. It was incredible to watch an Indian bowler bowl short and fetch the just rewards for his efforts at the iconic Lord’s.

Ishant bounced England out of the game. He was all over the English side that glorious day in the summer of 2014. His seven wickets made India believe in their pacers, but even among them the ball he bowled to Moeen stood out. It was a flashback to the glorious days of Test cricket when fast bowlers used to revel getting batsmen out caught at short leg.

Ishant ended with his career-best figures of 7 for 74, claimed the Man of the Match award and inscribed his name on the Lord’s honours board.