Home > Features > Moments in history >

Magic Moments of Indian tours to England Part 5 of 16 – Abbas Ali Baig, Polly Umrigar and India’s audacious chase at Manchester

Indian-cricketer-Polly-Umrigar-(Pahlan-Ratanji-Umrigar)-batting-against-Surrey-at-the-Oval_2
Polly Umrigar (Batting) and Abbas Ali Baig scored centuries in the second innings to take India close to an unlikely win © Getty Images (File Photo)

In this 16 part series, Arunabha Sengupta captures one special moment from each of the 16 previous Indian tours to England. In the fifth episode he looks back at the Manchester Test of 1959 which saw India attempt the impossible of chasing 548.

The Indians were being slaughtered – mercilessly. Of the three preceding Tests, they had lost two by an innings and the other by eight wickets. The batsmen had managed just three fifties between them in the six full innings. By the time the series moved to Old Trafford, they were dismissed as the dull dogs of cricket.

When they finished the second day at 127 for six replying to England’s 490, another tedious one sided rout was on the cards. But, there was some compassion in the offing from the most charming man in the cricket world – the England captain for the match Colin Cowdrey.

Cowdrey had been almost a non-starter for the Test. With the series already in the bag, he had been rested along with Brian Close and Allan Moss. However, a last minute illness to Peter May – the captain eventually had to undergo an operation during the Test – it prompted Cowdrey’s recall to lead the side. And when India were struggling towards another innings defeat at the end of the second day, he promised that in view of the great weather and the holidays in Manchester the following week he would not enforce the follow-on even if he was handed the opportunity.

And he kept his word. India finished on 208. Ken Barrington’s scarcely used leg-spin accounting for three wickets, the balls turning from perfect length with an excellent googly thrown in from time to time. The hint of respectability was provided by Chandu Borde, whose Lancashire League experience stood him in good stead as he drove and pulled his way to 75.The visitors thus ended 282 behind the mammoth England first innings total amassed with the help of centuries by Geoff Pullar and MJK Smith. And England went in again, spending the rest of the third day scoring 265 for the loss of eight wickets – taking the lead to 547 with the help of some sterling strokeplay by Ted Dexter and Barrington.

Cowdrey declared at the overnight score, leaving India two full days to get the runs.

The chase

The response was unexpected and sprightly. It was young Abbas Ali Baig who set the tone. The 20-year-old Cambridge man, making his debut for India, came in at No 3 and struck the ball delightfully.Getting right behind the line of the ball, he seemed to have immense time to play his delectable drives, cuts and hooks. At the other end the left-handed Nari Contractor was fluent as well and at long last Fred Trueman looked less than threatening.

The second wicket stand amounted to 109. Derbyshire paceman Harold Rhodes dismissed Contractor and skipper Datta Gaekwad in quick succession, but Polly Umrigar entered to exorcise the English demons that had for so long riddled his game. The Indians seemed to be cruising at 173 for three.

At this juncture a bouncer from Rhodes struck Baig on the right temple. The young man was on 85 as he was led off from the ground, tottering from the blow. Even the Manchester crowd sympathised. The boy deserved his hundred. Would he recover in time? Or could the Indian innings hold till he did get better?

The Indians in the meanwhile were displaying the long absent traits of tenacity and character. Borde did not last too long this time, but Umrigar and Bapu Nadkarni put their heads down to bat till the end of the fourth day. The score read 236 for four.

The final day dawned with the Indians clinging to the slimmest hope of performing a miracle. There was good news in their camp. When Nadkarni fell to Trueman, Baig walked in to resume his innings amidst some admiring applause. Rhodes greeted him with a bouncer, but the debutant stood firm. A barrage of short pitched bowling and a packed leg field did not disturb his poise.

Slowly the rookie batsman inched towards his ton. At 96, he scratched around for almost half an hour, tense and tentative at the crease. And then Rhodes banged another in and it was dispatched to the leg boundary to bring up the debut century. The crowd cheered and the England team joined in. At the end of the over, Cowdrey shook the lad by his hand as he crossed over to the slip at the other end.

Meanwhile, Umrigar was at last demonstrating to the English crowd what a splendid player he actually was. With the runs coming easily enough, the thought of victory was never far from the minds of the two batsmen. Sharp singles were scampered, and as the score crossed 300, the idea of a win did not seem too far-fetched.

And then tragedy struck. At 321, Baig pulled off-spinner John Mortimore. To the batsman, the ball seemed to beat Dexter at mid-on. He ran down the pitch and only then realised that it had in fact been a splendid stop. By the time he turned, Roy Swetman was already removing the bails. His superb innings of 112 came to an end. Umrigar was still there on 94.

Soon Nana Joshi was castled by Ray Illingworth. The Bombay stalwart was stranded with only his elusive hundred in England egging him on. He duly got it and, and after that there was too much time left in the match for forcing a draw and too few wickets to gun for a win. With the field spread far and wide to allow him easy singles, Umrigar took the easy way out by charging Barrington. He holed out to extra cover with the score on 358. The remaining two wickets managed 18 more before Trueman ended it all by knocking over Subhash Gupte’s stumps.

England won with more than three hours to spare, but the match had at last managed to produce some drama and a semblance of a contest.

Brief scores:

England 490 (Geoff Pullar 131, Colin Cowdrey 67, MJK Smith 100, Ken Barrington 87; Surendranath 5 for 115) and 265 for 8 dec. (Gilbert Parkhouse 49, Ted Dexter 45, Ken Barrington 46, Ray Illingworth 47; Subhash Gupte 4 for 76) beat India 208 (Chandu Borde 75) and 376 (Nari Contractor 56, Abbas Ali Baig 112, Polly Umrigar 118) by 171 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)

South Africa tour of Australia, 2014

Nov 23, 2014 (08:50 IST)   at Sydney

Zimbabwe tour of Bangladesh, 2014

Nov 23, 2014 (12:00 IST)   at Chittagong

India tour of Australia 2014, Practice matches

Nov 24, 2014 (05:29 IST)   at Glenelg, Adelaide

Pakistan vs New Zealand in UAE, 2014

Nov 26, 2014 (11:30 IST)   at Sharjah

England tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Nov 26, 2014 (14:30 IST)   at Colombo

More

Hong Kong tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Nov 22, 2014  at Dambulla

Match abandoned without a ball being bowled

Hong Kong tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Nov 21, 2014  at Dambulla

Match abandoned without a ball being bowled

Zimbabwe tour of Bangladesh, 2014

Nov 21, 2014  at Chittagong

Bangladesh won by 87 runs

South Africa tour of Australia, 2014

Nov 21, 2014  at Melbourne

Australia won by 3 wkts

Hong Kong tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Nov 20, 2014  at Dambulla

Match abandoned without a ball being bowled(Match rescheduled to 21/11/2014)

Photos

Australia vs South Africa, 3rd ODI at Canberra

Videos

SL vs Eng: Buttler practices wicketkeeping in nets

PCB’s biggest challenge is to bring back international cricket to Pakistan: Subhan Ahmad

Tim Southee’s 50 Test sixes and related records

India vs Australia 2014: India may have heavy dose of pace in store in 1st Test

Ross Taylor’s crucial knock against Pakistan will boost his sub-par subcontinent record

Stuart Binny — can the all-rounder be a trump card for India in ODIs?

Australia Australia vs South Africa Australia vs South Africa 2014 India New Zealand New Zealand tour of UAE 2014 New Zealand vs Pakistan New Zealand vs Pakistan 2014 Pakistan Pakistan vs New Zealand Pakistan vs New Zealand 2014 South Africa South Africa tour of Australia 2014 South Africa vs Australia South Africa vs Australia 2014

Inaugural Deaf and Dumb Asian T20 series begins in Dharamsala

Tom Latham should open during ICC World Cup 2015, says Mark Greatbatch

Cricket Australia mess up with Team India’s arrival timing

Pakistan vs New Zealand 2014: Misbah-ul-Haq laments missed chances

India vs Australia 2014: Ravi Shastri wants Team India to enjoy Australian tour

Rohit Sharma: India are serious contenders

South Africa may lose momentum ahead of ICC World Cup 2015

Has Umesh Yadav cemented his place in India’s ICC World Cup 2015 squad?

The Melbourne Cricket Club is formed

Bangladesh vs Zimbabwe 2014: Sabbir Rahman fires explosive 44 on debut

Fan of the Day

Niharika Shah

Niharika Shah

681 Posts | 6 Fans

Video Highlights: Virat Kohli vs Australian cricketers

Watch Free Live Streaming & Telecast of Indian Super League (ISL) 2014 Football 37th Match between Kerala Blasters FC vs Atletico de Kolkata

PK Tharki Chokro making: Rancho aka Aamir Khan and Munna Bhai aka Sanjay Dutt shake legs to this folk number

Simbu-Hansika’s Vaalu slated for Christmas release!

Yeh Hai Mohabbatein: Will Raman and Ishita help Mihika with her plans?

Alibaba to launch its Taobao marketplace in international markets: Reuters

8 reasons to add rosemary to your diet

eBay India ‘Black Friday’ sale kicks off today

How many calories do bananas have?

Also on cricketcountry.com

Play Fantasy Cricket & Win

Cash Daily! Click here