Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh

Anil Kumble (left) and Harbhajan Singh have played havoc on home soil against the Englishmen © Getty Images

 

As the Englishmen prepare to face India at Motera, Arunabha Sengupta finds a strange bit of history stacked solidly against them.

Since 1981-82, England has played six series in India. In five of them, they have ended up losing the first Test. This strange piece of history will be weighing them down as they prepare to face India at Motera.

 

It was only in 2005-06 that the first Test at Nagpur was drawn.

 

Generally Indians are known to be poor travellers who have consistently managed to lose the first Test of the away series played on seaming or quickforeign tracks. However, the scorecards tell us that the same holds true for England as well, at least on their trips to India.

 

The saga started in 1981-82, when Kapil Dev and Madan Lal stopped Keith Fletcher’s men way short of a rather small target of 241 at the Wankhede Stadium.

 

Three years later, at the same venue, Ravi Shastri and Syed Kirmani hit hundreds and Laxman Sivaramakrishnan spun a tantalising web around the English batsmen.

 

When the teams met for the first Test in Kolkata in 1992-93, Mohammad Azharuddin got stuck into the ordinary bowling attack, and the spinning trio of Anil Kumble, Rajesh Chauhan and Venkatapathy Raju made short work of the batting.

 

In 2001-02, it was Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble who did the damage at Mohali as Deep Dasgupta scored a surprise hundred along with some meaty contributions from Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid.

 

There was some relief in 2005-06, when England forced a draw at Nagpur; but not before Dravid had given them a scare by pretending to go for an impossible target, sending in Irfan Pathan and Mahendra Singh Dhoni to have a go at the bowling.

 

The sequence was resumed in 2008-09, when Virender Sehwag blazed away and Sachin Tendulkar batted out of his skin to engineer a superlative win chasing 387 on a deteriorating fifth day wicket.

 

Surprisingly, before 1981-82, India did not manage a single win in the first Tests of the seven earlier series played against England at home – having lost four and drawn three.

 

One wonders whether the current English side can reverse the 31-year trend.

 

England’s glaring first Test woes in the last 31 years
 

How the 1st Tests of the series panned out over the years

Before 1981

After 1981

Series

Result

Margin

Series

Result

Margin

1933-34

England

9 wickets

1981-82

India

138 runs

1951-52

Draw

-

1984-85

India

8 wickets

1961-62

Draw

-

1992-93

India

8 wickets

1963-64

Draw

-

2001-2002

India

10 wickets

1972-73

England

6 wickets

2005-06

Draw

-

1976-77

England

Inngs & 27 runs

2008-09

India

6 wickets

1979-80*

England

10 wickets

 

 

 

 

(*) – Only Test

 

 

(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)