Sourav Ganguly (L) celebrates after completing his century on debut at Lord's in 1996. Rahul Dravid, another debutant, missed it narrowly"¦ © Getty Images
Sourav Ganguly (L) celebrates after completing his century on debut at Lord’s in 1996. Rahul Dravid, another debutant, missed it narrowly”¦ © Getty Images

 

By Navneet Mundhra

 

The first Test between England and India starting today (July 21) at Lord’s is truly special for a gamut of reasons. This is the 2000th match of the Test cricket history. It will also mark the 100th Test between England and India. India’s batting maestro, Sachin Tendulkar is on the threshold of scoring his 100th ton in the international cricket and it’ll be a double whammy for Indian fans if Tendulkar attains this incredible feat at the spiritual abode of cricket, Lord’s, where he is yet to play any noteworthy innings.

 

The first-ever Test at Lord’s was played in 1884 between England and Australia in which Allan Steel (England) became the first cricketer to score a hundred (148) at this hallowed venue. England won the Test by an innings and five runs.

 

Since then, Lord’s has hosted 121 more Test matches – the highest by any cricket ground in the world. England has featured in 120 Tests out of 122 that have been played at Lord’s. England’s record at Lord’s is fairly good. Out of 120 Tests, they have won 46 and lost 27, while 47 have ended in draws.

 

Though, India’s record at Lord’s is utterly undistinguished having lost 10 Tests out of the 15 matches. India have won just once at this venue – in 1986. Yet, ironically, Lord’s has witnessed some memorable performances by Indian players.

 

India played its first Test at Lord’s against England and lost by 158 runs, but not before the new ball duo of Mohammad Nissar and Lala Amar Singh earned their spurs. Nissar reduced England to 19 for three, as he cleaned up both English openers, Herbert Sutcliffe and Percy Holmes, and grabbed a five-wicket haul. Amar Singh displayed an exquisite all-round performance by picking up four wickets in the match and scoring a half-century (51) in India’s second innings – the highest individual score by any Indian in the match.

 

Nissar and Singh were effusively praised by the English media and English cricketers alike. Nissar was hailed as the fastest bowler of his era while Wally Hammond, who famously said: “He (Amar Singh) came off the pitch like the crack of doom.”

 

Skipper Douglas Jardine bailed England out of the quagmire and to victory.

 

From there on, India had had their moments at Lord’s.

 

The 1952 Test is memorably remembered as ‘Mankad’s Test’. The legendary Indian all-rounder Vinoo Mankad stood tall against the combined force of Alec Bedser, Jim Laker and Fred Trueman to score 72 and 184. He also snared five wickets in England’s first innings and bowled staggering 73 overs. His all-round performance is regarded as one of the finest in Test match history.

 

Indian cricket hit rock bottom in 1974 when the side was bundled out for 42 in their second innings – their lowest-ever score in Tests – to lose by an innings and 285 runs. Chris Old and Geoff Arnold exploited the overcast conditions to the hilt and wrecked the Indian batting line-up, leaving enduring scars on India cricket. Old picked up nine wickets in the Test. Tony Greig’s hundred (106) in the Test was the 100th century at Lord’s.

 

Lord’s was the happy hunting ground of India’s former skipper Dilip Vengsarkar. He is the only overseas player to have scored three Test centuries at Lord’s. He finished with 508 Test runs at Lord’s at an average of 72.57. Among visiting batsmen only Warren Bardsley (575), Garry Sobers (571) and Don Bradman (551) have scored more Test runs at Lord’s. His unbeaten 126 against England in India’s first innings in 1986 steered India to a five-wicket victory over England which was India’s first and till date only Test win at Lord’s. His astonishing run at the Mecca of cricket earned him the moniker, “Lord of the Lord’s.”

 

Kapil Dev’s spirited performance in India’s solitary triumphant at Lord’s is also notable. He finished with eight for 168 and his breezy cameo (23 runs in 10 balls while chasing 134) in India’s second innings sealed the victory.

 

The 1990 Lord’s Test is remembered for slew of reasons. Graham Gooch’s slammed 333 in England’s first innings – the highest individual score at Lord’s – and 123 in the second innings, a total 456 runs in a Test which is still a record. Gooch, in fact, holds the distinction of playing the most number of Test matches – 21 – at Lord’s. He has also scored the most runs (2015) and most hundreds (6).

 

Mohammad Azharuddin produced a blistering innings (121 off 111 balls) which prompted the billionaire-philanthropist Paul Getty to remark: “I thought after watching that I could have died happily.”

 

Kapil’s four sixes on the trot off Eddie Hemmings helped India to save follow-on but couldn’t avert 247-run beating.

 

An epochal moment for Indian cricket happened when two of India’s future legends made their Test debut at Lord’s in 1996. Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid were included in the team by strange quirk of fate. Sanjay Manjrekar was ruled out of the Test due to an injury and Navjot Singh Sidhu returned to India after a tiff with the captain Azharuddin. Two youngsters grabbed the opportunity with both hands and chipped in splendid performances. Ganguly scored his maiden Test century (131) while Dravid was unfortunate to narrowly miss out on his hundred, falling to Chris Lewis on 95. This was the onset of two glorious careers which flourished and took Indian cricket to spectacular heights. The Test will also be remembered as Dickie Bird’s swansong as an umpire.

 

Ajit Agarkar did what many legends have not managed to do. He accomplished the feat of scoring a Test century at Lord’s in the first Test of 2002 series. For a man who was battered after scoring five ducks in six innings in Australia two years back, this accomplishment was staggering and his celebration after notching up the ton said it all. Agarkar remained unbeaten on 109 in India’s second innings, but his knock didn’t make any impact on the outcome of the match as they were thumped by 170 runs.

 

With all the hype and excitement surrounding this Test and two equally formidable teams locking horns with each other, it would be intriguing to see whether Lord’s lives up to its tradition of providing crackling contests and cherished memories.

 

(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)