Ernie Toshack bowled India out in 19 balls with a spell of 5 for 2 at Brisbane. Picture courtesy: Wikimedia Commons.
Ernie Toshack bowled India out in 19 balls with a spell of 5 for 2 at Brisbane. Picture courtesy: Wikimedia Commons.

India were bowled out for 58 on a ‘sticky’ at The Gabba on December 1, 1947. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at the day when Ernie Toshack, the man they called Black Prince, routed India in 19 balls with a spell of 5 for 2.

A new era had dawned in India a few months back. Finally liberated from British rule, they were now set for their first tour of Australia — a side led by the man who been dominating the English attack on the field of cricket for close to two decades. Sankari Prasad Basu later confessed that he had idolised three men while growing up: Robin Hood, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Don Bradman — men who had tormented the British during their lifetimes.

India did not have their best team: Vijay Merchant, their champion opening batsman, had opted out of the tour, as had Mushtaq Ali, with whom he had forged a successful opening pair. With Abdul Hafeez Kardar having moved to the newly formed Pakistan as well, the Indian team that left for Australian shores did not have a lot of experience.

India began the tour with mixed results. India got off with a draw in the rain-affected match against Western Australia at WACA; almost chased down 286 (they finished on 235 for 5 after being 60 for 5) against South Australia at Adelaide; drew prestigiously against Victoria at MCG; lost by an innings against New South Wales (NSW) at SCG.

Then came the match against a strong Australian XI at SCG. The side consisted of seven Invincibles in the form of Don Bradman, Bill Brown, Keith Miller, Sam Loxton, Ron Saggers, Bill Johnston, and Ron Hammence. Bradman scored 172 in the first innings to bring up his 100th First-Class hundred but Australia faltered in the second.

Defending 250, Vinoo Mankad bowled out the hosts for 203 with 8 for 84. He also ran out Bill Brown when the batsman had backed up — an incident he would repeat in the second Test. Despite Mankad’s six-wicket haul and Lala Amarnath’s 172 the tourists lost the last tour match before the first Test against Queensland at The Gabba.

There was a discussion between the two captains, Bradman and Amarnath, before the Test series. The captains had agreed to keep the pitches uncovered during rain. Amarnath was perhaps right: he knew that India did not stand a chance in high-scoring matches, whereas if he could catch the Australians on a ‘sticky’ he might pull off an upset. Unfortunately for Amarnath and India the plan backfired.

Day One: That man, Bradman, again

India fielded four debutants in the Test in the form of Hemu Adhikari, Gogumal Kishenchand, Khandu Rangnekar, and the wicket-keeper Jenni Irani. Australia included the Victorian Bill Johnston, who could bowl both fast-medium and finger-spin with his left hand.

Bradman won the toss and duly elected to bat. Amarnath found Brown’s edge early with the match not even an hour old to give Irani his first Test dismissal. Bradman walked out and set about his usual business. Mankad, who had bowled so well on the same ground a few days ago, found it difficult to penetrate through the pair of Arthur Morris and Bradman.

The pair added 59 in 65 minutes before Morris was hit wicket off Chandu Sarwate for 47. The Indians could not have a moment’s relief as Lindsay Hassett walked out; he helped Bradman add 101 for the second wicket in 89 minutes before Mankad picked up his first Test wicket in Australia: Hassett holed out to Gul Mohammad for 48.

The flamboyant Keith Miller joined Bradman, and played an uncharacteristically cautious innings. Bradman scored at an amazing rate. He later wrote in A Farewell to Cricket: “My form was immeasurably superior to anything I had shown against the Englishmen in the previous year.”

He reached his hundred and then 150. He remained 160 not out at stumps; Miller was left unbeaten on 6 in a 75-run partnership; Australia finished at 273 for 3.

Day Two: Amarnath’s plan backfires

It poured after play had ended on Day One. “From that moment India’s chances were hopeless,” wrote Bradman. A surprisingly high turnover on Day Two saw Bradman insisting play resumed and Amarnath refusing the offer. However, they were somehow under the impression that it was Bradman who did not want play to begin and booed the Australian captain.

Eventually, play did not resume until five o’clock on Day Two. After an hour’s play on the wet wicket, Australia added 36 runs. Bradman took his score to 179 and Miller to 19. The score was already beyond India’s reach.

Day Three: Toshack’s world record

It rained throughout the evening and the rest day, but the sun came out on the third morning. Amarnath’s face fell when he inspected the pitch before the day’s play. He knew what was on the cards. Play eventually began at 12.30 PM.

Fourteen minutes into the day’s play, Bradman was the first to go, hit wicket for 185: he smashed the off and the middle stumps while trying to square-cut Amarnath. The 336-ball innings had contained 20 boundaries. It was only the second time in the history of cricket that two batsmen were out hit wicket in the same innings (it has happened twice subsequently).

Bradman ordered quick runs, and Miller rose to the task. With Amarnath and Mankad becoming unplayable, the only option was to hit out; Miller, who had been subdued till now, exploded, scoring 58 with 2 fours and 4 sixes as wickets (of which 3 came in the third morning) fell at the other end. One of them was hit straight over pacer Ranga Sohoni’s head into the sightscreen. He eventually fell when he pulled Amarnath to Mankad.

Poor fielding did not help. “The Indian fielding today would have shamed a schoolboy team”, wrote Newcastle Morning Herald & Miners’ Advocate. Bradman declared the innings closed at lunch with the score on 382 for 8; Amarnath finished with 4 wickets and Mankad with 3.

Despite the onslaught the Australian effort on the ‘sticky dog’ came more out of desperation than dedication. KS Duleepsinhji wrote that the Australian batsmen “have a lot to learn before they are good on sticky wickets. English batsmen, with long experience, are the world’s best players on such pitches. [Jack] Hobbs and [Herbert] Sutcliffe would never have played the strokes the batsmen, including [Don] Bradman, played today.”

The Indian innings started at 2.15 PM and Ray Lindwall started things off in his very first over. The inexperienced Indians had not encountered the pace at which Lindwall bowled. Mankad tried to leave a warm-up delivery off the first ball of the Indian innings. But the ball took the edge; Don Tallon did the rest behind the stumps.

Off the seventh ball of the same over, Lindwall turned out to be too fast for Gul Mohammad. The scorching yorker rushed through the ‘gate’ and flattened the debutant’s middle-stump. Seven balls into the innings, India were 0 for 2. The Indians were already de-motivated; Bradman decided to tighten the noose further.

Newcastle Morning Herald & Miners’ Advocate wrote: “The Australian fieldsmen made a suicide squad as they fielded in a circle round the wicket. Eight men stood within a radius of ten yards of the batsman and another was a few yards farther off.” “A dozen near chances dropped within inches of the fieldsmen,” wrote The West Australian.

Johnston supported Lindwall quite superbly on debut. He had Adhikari caught by Colin McCool at first slip, and followed with having Kishenchand caught-behind. Bradman replaced Lindwall with Miller: he had Sarwate, who had been holding fort for 53 minutes, caught by Johnston. India were in tatters at 23 for 5, still 359 behind. Soon afterwards, Brown dropped Hazare at mid-on off Miller.

Amarnath walked out to join Hazare and the pair somewhat steadied the situation. They added 30 when Johnston was replaced after an 8-over (10.4 six-ball overs) spell by Ernest Raymond Herbert Toshack. The NSW left-arm medium-pacer-cum-finger-spinner, whose dark curly mop of hair had earned him the nickname of The Black Prince, had routed New Zealand at Basin Reserve with figures of 4 for 12 and 2 for 6 on debut a year ago.

Hazare hit Toshack’s first ball to Brown at mid-on; this time there was no mistake. To his credit Rangnekar kept out the 7 remaining balls of Toshack’s maiden over. The drama began in his second over.

Rangnekar hit the third ball of the over back to Miller at silly mid-off; Sohoni snicked the first ball he faced for a brace and hit the next ball over Miller’s head. Miller ran ten yards back to take the catch high over his head. The batsmen had crossed over. Amarnath, who had resisted the Australians till now, played a weak shot to Bradman at silly mid-on. Standing only 3 yards away, the 39-year old Australian captain took the catch.

Toshack’s spell now read 2-1-2-4. Irani prodded forward to the third ball off his final over and Hassett took an easy catch. Toshack finished with figures of 2.3-1-2-5 — still the cheapest five-for. He took only 19 balls to claim his five-for, which also remains a record.

[Note: Monty Noble (against England at MCG 1911-12) and Jim Laker (against Australia at Old Trafford 1956) had taken 5 wickets in 13 balls during their spells. However, Toshack’s 19-ball five-for remains the record for the minimum balls a bowler had taken to take 5 wickets from the beginning of the innings.]

[Update: Stuart Broad has subsequently equalled Toshack’s record.]

India were bowled out for 58 in 21.3 overs (28.3 six-ball overs) in 92 minutes. “It is quite apparent that the Indians had never experienced such conditions before and were slow to adopt methods to meet the situation,” wrote Bill O’Reilly in The Age. “Most of the Indians lost their wickets in playing balls which they need not have tried to play at all,” he added.

With Bradman enforcing the follow-on India went in again at 4.02 PM with Amarnath refusing to have the pitch rolled. This time the openers batted for 27 minutes before Lindwall yorked Mankad. Then, just after Gul Mohammad drove Lindwall past point for four, play was called off for bad light at 4.36 PM.

It was then that the Queensland Cricket Association announced that play had been called off for the day, and almost 7,000 of the 9,100 spectators left the ground. India were 18 for 1 at this stage. As things turned out, Andrew Barlow and George Borwick decided to resume play at 5.05 PM.

Bradman resumed with Toshack; he struck soon, clean bowling Gul Mohammad. India were 27 for 2. Adhikari hung around for a while before Toshack struck him on the pads; the famous shriek of “Ow Wizz Ee?” was met with approval; Kishenchand hit the next ball to Bradman at silly mid-on, and Hazare came out to face the hat-trick ball.

During this phase, the ball changed colour in the literal sense of the word. As Sydney Morning Herald wrote, “Australian bowlers found difficulty in gripping the ball, which was coated in a film of mud.”

India were 41 for 4 when Hazare joined Sarwate, who had repeated the grit he had displayed in the first innings. By now Toshack was turning the ball at absurd angles, and the only respite India could have was if play ended early. That happened when Hazare’s appeal at 5.36 PM was upheld. India finished the day at 70 for 4 with Hazare on 17 and Sarwate on 16. They still required 254 to make Australia bat again.

Day Four: The rout

India had expected to get away with a draw as the next day’s play was washed out. However, play resumed on Day Five, and Toshack struck immediately, having Hazare caught by Morris to obtain his first Test ten-for. Still not content, he bowled Amarnath soon afterwards, and 2 balls later Rangnekar was caught by Hassett.

That was, however, the end of Toshack’s participation in the Test. He left the ground with a foot injury that would bother him throughout the rest of his career. He finished with 17-6-29-6 and a match haul of 19.3-7-31-11.

Miller dismissed Sohoni soon afterwards while Johnston brought an end to Sarwate’s vigil. He had put up an excellent display of temperament over 179 minutes. His 160-ball innings of 26 did not include a single boundary, but he was the only one to have put up some resistance on the track. He had also batted for 55 minutes in the first innings.

Lindwall finished things off by removing Irani. India were bowled out for 98 in 49.7 overs (66.3 six-ball overs). Their effort had lasted 194 minutes, and they had lost by an innings and 227 runs in a Test that was perhaps decided by the toss of the coin. As Wisden wrote, “If India had won the toss the result might well have been different, for in Mankad they possessed a bowler able to exploit the conditions equally as well as Toshack.”

What followed?

– Toshack was immediately selected for the 1948 Ashes. However, he played only 12 Tests, finishing with 47 wickets at 21.04.

– The rain-affected second Test at SCG showed interesting prospects, once again on a ‘sticky’. After India were bowled out for 188, they struck back with Dattu Phadkar and Hazare bowling out the hosts for 107. Play, however, was called off with India on 61 for 7, 142 runs ahead. Mankad repeated his act of running out Brown again here; the term ‘Mankaded’ was coined.

– The third Test at MCG had no such upset. Bradman scored 132 and 127 not out and India lost by 233 runs.

– Bradman continued his form in the fourth Test at Adelaide, scoring 201. With Hassett scoring 198 not out and Sid Barnes getting a hundred as well Australia amassed 674. India lost by an innings and 16 runs, but the defeat would have been way more embarrassing if Hazare had not become the first Indian to register twin tons (116 and 145).

– With the series already wrapped up Australia extended the lead in the final Test at MCG, winning it by an innings and 177 runs. India were routed for 67 in their second innings.

– Bradman finished the series with a whopping 715 runs from 6 innings at 178.75. After the third Test, his average had crossed the hundred-mark yet again, and remained on 102.98 at the end of the series.

Brief scores:

Australia 382 for 8 decl. (Don Bradman 185, Keith Miller 58, Lindsay Hassett 48, Arthur Morris 47; Lala Amarnath 4 for 84, Vinoo Mankad 3 for 113) beat India 58 (Ernie Toshack 5 for 2) and 98 (Ernie Toshack 6 for 29) by an innings and 226 runs.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is a cricket historian and Senior Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He generally looks upon life as a journey involving two components – cricket and literature – though not as disjoint elements. A passionate follower of the history of the sport with an insatiable appetite for trivia and anecdotes, he has also a steady love affair with the incredible assortment of numbers that cricket has to offer. He also thinks he can bowl decent leg-breaks in street cricket, and blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in. He can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42)