Down 0-3 in the series, the Indian batsmen gave an impressive account of themselves in the first innings of the final Test at Feroz Shah Kotla in the 1958-59 series against the West Indies. Led by Major Hemu Adhikari after a series of rather ridiculous musical chairs surrounding the hot seat, the military man seemed to have pumped some discipline and sense of purpose into the veins of the batting line-up.
Polly Umrigar scored an enterprising 76 coming in at No 3. And the young leg-spinning all-rounder Chandu Borde, playing just his fourth Test match, struck a defiant century against the hostile bowling of Wes Hall and Roy Gilchrist.
The newly-appointed captain himself scored 63, adding 134 with Borde on the second morning. The partnership was of immense value, especially given that the two best Indian batsmen were already on the injury list. Umrigar had been hit on the arm during the last stages of his innings. Vijay Manjrekar had fractured his thumb while trying to hook a Hall bouncer. The two batsmen did not look likely to take any further part in the match.
The two frightening fast bowlers carried on the saga of intimidation. Gilchrist continued to unleash hair-parting bouncers. Hall, overstepping four times, pegged back Borde’s off-stump with a no-ball. Yet, the young man was unperturbed. He continued to stroke freely, playing some forcing drives off the pace bowlers. Adhikari too, off-drove Gilchrist for four. Expecting a bouncer in retaliation, he ducked into one that did not rise and was struck on the body.
Borde, continuing fluently, drove Eric Atkinson delightfully off his toes and played Garfield Sobers and Collie Smith with consummate ease. And growing in confidence against Gilchrist, he guided him past point for a boundary to bring up his first Test match hundred.
He did not last much longer, snicking a loose delivery from Smith to Gerry Alexander behind the stumps for 109. Adhikari took the score to 399 before departing in a similar manner. India had done well in spite of the casualty list, their first innings amounting toa very respectable 415.
The second resistance
The West Indians however made merry after some butter-fingered catching granted numerous lives to Conrad Hunte. John Holt and Hunte added 159 for the first wicket, and with Borde unable to bowl on the third day due to a muscle strain and Umrigar not in the field, the limited bowling attack was plundered for runs. Subhash Gupte and Vinoo Mankad bowled 115 overs between them without picking up a wicket.
Holt, Smith and Joe Solomon hit hundreds, and when Alexander declared with a lead of 229, it was quite a task for the Indians to survive more a day and an hour with two of their frontline batsmen missing.
The second innings got off to a disastrous start with Nari Contractor run out with just five runs on the board.
On the final morning, Pankaj Roy and Datta Gaekwad started positively, striking attractive fifties. But with the wrist spin of Smith getting increasing help from the last day wicket, things soon looked ominous. Roy was dismissed shortly before lunch. A few minutes after lunch, Gaekwad became Smith’s second victim. With the score on 135 for three, West Indies fancied their chances of pulling off their fourth victory in a row.
As the field closed in, the first innings pair of Borde and Adhikari defied the West Indians yet again. In a courageous display of counter-attack, the two added 108 in 117 minutes, wiping out the deficit and taking the match almost beyond the West Indians. They were essentially the last recognised pair. The aging Vinoo Mankad, padded up in the pavilion, had not been among runs in a long, long time.
Indeed, after Smith had snared Adhikari for 40, Mankad followed almost immediately – bowled by the leg-spinner with still enough time left in the match for the West Indians to engineer a win. Fate had balanced the equation on the casualty list. Sobers, Atkinson and Hall had fallen prey to injuries during the innings, but the remaining bowlers tried gamely.
However, even as Roy Gilchrist charged in with his intimidating pace in a last-ditch effort to snatch a victory in the dying stages of the game, wicketkeeper Naren Tamhane stayed with Borde for almost half an hour to ensure a draw.
The last few minutes witnessed a dramatic dash for Borde’s second hundred of the match. Gupte and Ramkant Desai were found wanting as Gilchrist’s scorching pace unsettled their stumps. With eight wickets down, Manjrekar sportingly walked out, with his fractured thumb in a cast, to stay with Borde as the young man sought to emulate Vijay Hazare’s Adelaide feat of hundreds in both innings.
As Gilchrist ran in to bowl the last over of the day, Borde required four. The second ball was a typical Gilchrist bouncer. Borde tried to hook into the vacant outfield and tragically ended up hitting his own stumps.
Borde was stopped a stroke short of the rare glory of twin hundreds. But his three hours and 15 minutes of defiant vigil had saved the match for India. A delighted crowd crashed through the official cordons and gave him a rousing send off.
(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
First Published: February 11, 2013, 12:08 pm