On October 15, exactly 48 years ago, on India pulled off a miraculous victory against the mighty Australians at Bombay. Abhishek Mukherjee looks back at one of the greatest Tests played on Indian soil.
The Australians were clear favourites coming into the second Test at Bombay after winning the first Test at Madras by 139 runs – thanks to Graham McKenzie’s 10-wicket haul. Australia won the toss at Brabourne Stadium and elected to bat.
Just after the match began, Norman O’Neill went down with a stomach pain and could take no further part in the Test. This meant that Australia virtually played the Test with only ten men.
Three half-centuries helped Australia pile up 320, Bhagwat Chandrasekhar taking four wickets. Fifties from ML Jaisimha, Vijay Manjrekar and Nawab of Pataudi meant that India could manage a lead of 21, the last four wickets contributing 153 runs. Chandrasekhar took four wickets again, and so did Bapu Nadkarni, and as India set out to chase 254 for a victory, few people gave them a chance.
Jaisimha fell for a duck on the fourth afternoon; Dilip Sardesai and Salim Durrani seemed to be in control with a 66-run stand, but just before the close of play, Bobby Simpson removed Durrani. Manjrekar, who had played well batting at four in the first innings, was held back; Nadkarni walked in as a night-watchman, and fell without scoring to Tom Veivers. Pataudi sent in Rusi Surti as the second night-watchman of the afternoon, and India ended the day at 74 for three.
On the final day – October 15, which also happened to be Dassera – Sardesai and Surti walked out to begin the uphill task of scoring 180 to secure victory. After a painstaking phase, Veivers removed Surti. There was still no sign of Manjrekar, though, as Hanumant Singh strode out.
After the resilience was broken, Simpson brought back McKenzie. McKenzie trapped Sardesai in front of the stumps, and then, continuing his good work, removed Hanumant. Manjrekar finally came out at eight to join Pataudi with the score at 122 for six. But the two senior batsmen, batting at seven and eight, remained rooted to the crease despite some hostile bowling, and India crawled to 146 for six at lunch.
More attritional cricket followed after lunch: McKenzie and Alan Connolly ran in hard, giving nothing away; Tom Veivers bowled an agonisingly long spell, and the other spinners – Johnny Martin and Bobby Simpson – supported him. The fielding was immaculate; not a single run was given away; Pataudi and Manjrekar were made to work hard for every run as the Australians pressed on.
But they survived; they added only 69 in the second session, but what was important was the fact that both of them were still around. Bob Cowper was tried and so was Brian Booth, but nothing went past the broad bats of Pataudi and Manjrekar. With 39 to make from the final sessions and four wickets in hand, it seemed India’s match from there.
After tea, Simpson had to opt for one last throw of the dice: he brought McKenzie and Connolly back. Almost immediately, without a single run being added after tea, Manjrekar snicked one off Connolly, and Simpson took the catch at first slip. The partnership was worth 93 of which Manjrekar had contributed 39. Nine runs later Pataudi was caught spectacularly for 53 by Peter Burge at backward point off Connolly, and Australia were right back in the match.
KS Indrajitsinhji, nephew of the illustrious KS Ranjitsinhji, now walked out; as the wicket-keeper strode out to join Chandu Borde, the crowd knew that it will be over with the fall of the next wicket, given that Chandrasekhar will be the last man in – and everyone knew that he was anything but a batsman.
Everyone waited with bated breath as Borde and Indrajitsinhji set off in a meandering pursuit of the remaining 30 runs. All fielders converged around the duo, swooping down on the nervous duo like eager hawks; Simpson removed McKenzie and Connolly and brought back the persistent workhorse Vievers, who probed with an almost unbelievable accuracy. Almost every single stroke was intercepted. But the runs kept trickling, however slowly.
Then, with two to get, Veivers’ relentless persistence eventually gave way: he finally bowled a rare full-toss, and Borde hit it straight back for a four. As the Indian batsmen returned to the pavilion, victorious by a measly two wickets, the whole country celebrated in this delightful Dassera gift the Indian cricket team had given them.
Pataudi went on to mention this victory as “the most satisfying I have known as captain” in his autobiography Tiger’s Tale five years after the victory.