Dilip Vengsarkar is the only overseas batsman to score three Test hundreds at Lord’s © Getty Images
Dilip Vengsarkar is the only overseas batsman to score three Test hundreds at Lord’s © Getty Images

 

By Navneet Mundhra

 

India’s performance in England, barring the last decade, has been largely unspectacular with fleeting bouts of individual brilliance lightening up the horizon. Here are some of the dazzling batting performances by Indian batsmen: 

 

1. Vinoo Mankad – Lord’s, 2nd Test, 1952

 

He was India’s first genuine all-rounder and architect of India‘s first few victories in Test cricket. Ironically, his monumental all-round performance came in a losing cause. He was not in the original touring party due to contractual disagreements with the Indian cricket board but was drafted into the team after India took a severe drubbing in the first Test at Leeds, Headingley.

 

In the first innings of the Lord’s Test, he top scored with 72 runs, adding 106 runs for the opening partnership with Pankaj Roy. He then bowled 73 overs and picked up five wickets as England piled up monumental 537 in their reply. After bowling 31 overs in the day, Mankad exhibited inexhaustible energy by opening the batting and unleashing a magnificent 184 against an English attack comprising Alec Bedser, Fred Trueman and Jim Laker. England needed just 77 runs in the fourth innings which they attained at the loss of two wickets. Despite England winning the game, the Test is still remembered as Mankad’s Test.

 

He was the first Indian cricketer to score a century and take five innings in a Test match.

 

2. Abbas Ali Baig, 4th Test, Old Trafford, 1959

 

In a series where England routed India 5-0, Abbas Ali Baig’s innings century on Test debut came like a balm for the Indians. Baig got a chance to make his debut in the fourth Test of the series after India’s premier batsman Vijay Manjrekar was ruled out of the match due to knee-injury. Coming in at No. 3, he failed to make a mark in India’s first innings, scoring just 26 runs. In the second innings, India were set to chase a gigantic total of 548 runs. Baig added 109 for the second wicket with Nari Contractor. He was hit on the head by a bouncer from Harold Rhodes when he was 85 on the fourth day and had to retire to get medical attention. But he resumed his innings on the fifth day to score a century on debut. He was eventually run out on 112 and India lost the match by 171 runs. It was the solitary century by an Indian in the whole series and at 20 years and 131 days, he was then the youngest player to get a Test hundred for India. 

 

3. Sunil Gavaskar, 4th Test, The Oval, 1979

 

Sunil Gavaskar’s majestic 221 in the 4th innings of the Test is widely heralded as his best innings, along with his 96 at Bangalore in his last Test. England set India an imposing target of 438 runs to win the Test. Gavaskar rose to the occasion and his opening stand of 213 runs with his opening partner Chetan Chauhan sparked India’s hopes of snapping up a historic win. After Chauhan was dismissed, Dilip Vengsarkar and Gavaskar collaborated to put up a partnership of 153 runs better than a run a minute, during which Gavaskar took charge. India were 328 for one when mandatory last 20 overs began. Gavaskar’s untimely dismissal and few dubious umpiring decisions robbed India of a stunning victory that would have been a fitting ode to a marvellous innings. Gavaskar also narrowly missed the chance to overhaul the highest individual score in the 4th innings which belongs to George Headley (223).

 

4. Dilip Vengsarkar, 1st Test, Lord’s, 1986

 

He is fondly called, ‘Lord of the Lord’s’. Vengsarkar is the only overseas batsman to score three hundreds at Lord’s in Test matches. He scored 508 runs at an astounding average of 72.57 at this venue. His most remarkable performance at Lord’s came when he racked up unbeaten 126 in India’s first innings in the first Test of 1986 series. His innings helped India to win the match by five wickets and eventually lift the series 2-0. The innings was also special as it remains India’s only victory at Lord’s in Test matches. 

 

5. Sachin Tendulkar, 2nd Test, Old Trafford, 1990

 

It was Sachin Tendulkar’s first Test hundred and it couldn’t have come at a better time. India required 408 runs to win the Test on the fifth day, India were tottering at 183 for six and defeat looked inevitable as about 2-1/2 hours play remained. Ably supported by Manoj Prabhakar, Tendulkar manifested admirable maturity and concentration. The pair steered India to an honourable draw with unbroken seventh wicket partnership of 160 runs to help India finished at 343 for six.

 

Tendulkar scored an unbeaten 119. At 17 years and 112 days, he became the second youngest batsman, after Mushtaq Mohammad, to score a Test ton. Wisden wrote about Tendulkar’s hundred, “Of the six individual centuries scored in this fascinating contest, none was more outstanding than Tendulkar’s, which rescued India on the final afternoon.”

 

6. Rahul Dravid, 3rd Test, Headingley, 2002

 

India had lost the first Test at Lord’s and pressure mounted on India to square the series going into the final Test at Headingley. In overcast conditions conducive for the seam bowling, on Day 1, Dravid demonstrated sumptuous demonstration of craftsmanship by conjured up plucky 148. India piled up mammoth total of 628 runs with Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly also scoring hundreds and India coasted home by an innings and 46 runs victory. Nasser Hussain described Dravid’s innings as one of the best innings he had ever seen.

 

Dravid followed it with double hundred in the next Test and was deservingly adjudged Man-of-the-match and Man-of-the-Series.

 

(Navneet Mundhra is a dreamer who has no delusion of grandeur about himself. He is an eternal learner brimming with passion and compassion, a maverick who swears by perfection and integrity and an avid reader, devout philharmonic, die hard movie buff and a passionate writer)