Prof. DB Deodhar (left) and Vinoo Mankad led the first eight-ball First-Class match in India. Caricature: Austin Gerard Coutinho
Prof. DB Deodhar (left) and Vinoo Mankad led the two sides. Caricature: Austin Gerard Coutinho

It was a Sunday, September 7, 1947 and a trial First-Class game was about to begin at the Deccan Gymkhana Ground in Poona between two teams named Maharashtra Past & Present and the Rest of India, and was scheduled to continue over the next two days. Top-scorers in low team scores in Test cricket

Both sides included several big names. Led by the 55-year-old Prof. DB Deodhar (playing his last First-Class match), the hosts included several Indian Test cricketers past or present in Vijay Hazare, Madhusudan Rege, Nana Joshi, Khandu Rangnekar, Nana Joshi, Sadu Shinde, and Ebbu Ghazali (who would later play for Pakistan). Also playing was debutant Sharad Deodhar, the 19-year-old son of captain.

The Rest of India, led by Vinoo Mankad, included Probir Sen, Hemu Adhikari, Dattu Phadkar, Gogumal Kishenchand, CS Nayudu, Jenni Irani and the three future Pakistan Test caps, Gul Mohammad, Amir Elahi, and Fazal Mahmood.

Things got underway with the Rest winning the toss and opting to field first. Rege and Joshi, squared up to the bowling of the Phadkar and Gul Mohammad. The decision of the skipper of the Rest team seemed justified when the hosts were dismissed for 128, with only Rangnekar (53) and Sohoni (28) in double-figures. For the Rest, Amir Elahi captured 4 for 24, and Phadkar 3 for 15.

The Rest began their first innings on the first day, and were 76 for 4 at stumps with Gul Mohammad on 18 and Kishenchand on 3. Day One, then, saw the fall of 14 wickets.

The innings ended the next day at a healthy 275. Kishenchand remained not out at the end with 88 against his name. Amir Elahi scored 49 from No. 9. Extras amounted to a sizable 34. Skipper Mankad was dismissed for 22 at the top of the order. Shinde (3 for 80) and Rege (3 for 25) shone with the ball. Sir John Montague Brocklebank: The Baron who played for Bengal

The second innings of the hosts got underway on Day Two, and staggered along to 44 for 6 and stumps were called at the fall of the sixth wicket, with Rangnekar batting on 6. On the final day, a seventh-wicket stand of 63 between Rangnekar (30) and Hazare (124, batting at No. 8) brought some relief, before an eight-wicket partnership of 114 between Hazare and Prof. Deodhar (37) brought a degree of respectability to the total. The innings ended at 247.

Needing only 101 runs to win, the Rest chased it down in 13.2 overs to win the game by 9 wickets. Opening the innings, skipper Mankad remained unbeaten on 42, while the other opener Gul Mohammad was run out for 46.

A closer look at the scorecard of the match reveals some interesting data. For instance, Innings One of the game lasted 36.6 overs, and Amir Elahi bowled 5.6 overs in it. Then again, Innings Two lasted 88.7 overs, Rege bowling 8.7 of them.

So, what was the thought behind organising this match? Well, the Indian team were about to embark on their first ever Test series in Australia in 1947-48. It was a well-known fact that the Australian team played 8-ball overs then.

The Indians had had little previous experience of playing 8-ball overs, and neither of playing in the dry heat of the Australian summer. Perhaps there was a doubt in the minds of the powers that be about the capability of the Indians for adapting to the changed circumstances. This one-off match had been arranged to give some of the prospective tourists an inkling of what they could expect to be confronted with in Australia. Rusi Jeejeebhoy: India s reserve wicketkeeper on the 1971 West Indies tour

Of course, this was not the first time that a First-Class cricket match was played in India using 8-ball overs. There were a few matches the season before. However, this was actually a selection trial for the proposed tour to Australia. It was to be the first time that a representative team from independent India was to undertake an overseas tour to play a series of 5 Tests.

Of the originally selected team, four members, Vijay Merchant (the originally selected captain), Mushtaq Ali, Fazal, and Rusi Modi were unavailable for the tour, and were replaced in the squad by Kanwar Rai Singh, Commandur Rangachari, Ranvirsinhji, and Chandu Sarwate. Pankaj Gupta was named as the Manager.

As has been widely documented, India fared rather poorly as a team on the tour, losing the 5-Test series 0-4. Of the other 9 First-Class matches, the tourists won 2, lost 3, and drew 4. As expected from a much lesser experienced team playing for the first time in an unknown set of foreign conditions, the team performance was rather disappointing, although there were some memorable individual feats on the tour, but that is altogether another story.

Captain Lala Amarnath played in all the matches, scoring a total of 1,162 runs with a highest of 228 not out and an average of 58.10. He scored 5 centuries in all on the tour but none in the Tests. Punya Brata Badal Datta: A Bengal and Cambridge cricketer

There were two other men with more than 500 runs on the tour: Hazare scored 1,056 runs with an average of 48 and 4 centuries, while Mankad scored 889 at 38.65 with 3 centuries.

Both men created history on the tour: while Hazare became the first to score hundreds on consecutive days of a Test (and the first Indian to score two hundreds in a Test) at Adelaide, Mankad entered his name permanently in cricket lexicon when he ran out Bill Brown as the batsman backed up too much.

Mankad, with 61 wickets, led the bowling charts for India, followed by skipper Amarnath with 30.

It is a historical fact, however, that India experimented with 8-ball overs in 1962-63, but never for Test cricket on home soil. Similarly, even England, staid old England, had had a 2-year experiment with the 8-ball over format in 1939, the dalliance ending with World War II. Eight-ball overs were last used in Test cricket in 1978-79 in Australia and New Zealand. The 6-ball over format was ultimately adopted universally from 1979-80.

How does one evaluate the success or otherwise of the one-off exercise in 8-ball cricket in September? From the results of the tour, one must admit that that particular game had had little or no effect on the overall performance of the team in Australia. In view of the fact that the later attempt of 1962-63 lasted for only that one particular season, one must come to the conclusion that the concept of 8-ball overs had not gone down very well with the authorities in Indian cricket.

Brief scores:

Maharashtra Past & Present 128 (Khandu Rangnekar 53; Dattu Phadkar 3 for 15, Amir Elahi 4 for 24) and 247 (Vijay Hazare 124; Amir Elahi 5 for 80) lost to Rest of India 275 (Gul Mohammad 88, Amir Elahi 49; Sadu Shinde 3 for 80, Madhusudan Rege 3 for 25) and 102 for 1 (Gul Mohammad 46, Vinoo Mankad 42*) by 9 wickets.

(Pradip Dhole is a retired medical practitioner with a life-long interest in cricket history and statistics)