On this day: India's historic series win in England in 1971

This was the first time India won a Test in England. It was the first time in 28 Tests since June 1968 that England was defeated.

Skipper Ajit Wadekar and his men received a grand welcome on their return after winning the away series against England in 1971, the nation’s first in English isles.   -  The Hindu Photo Library

India has tamed the British cricket lion in its den. It was a historic day when India beat England in the third and final Test by four wickets with 205 minutes to spare at the Kensington Oval, to clinch the series 1-0.

The victory established at least three firsts. This was the first time India won a Test in England. It was the first time in 28 Tests since June 1968 that England was defeated and it was also the first time that India triumphed in two series in one year, having defeated the West Indies earlier.

For England, this was the first defeat in 14 Tests this year — six against Australia two against New Zealand (both series away) and three each against Pakistan and India. It beat Australia 2-0, New Zealand 1-0 and Pakistan 1-0 before succumbing to India 0-1.

On the other hand, India emerged unscathed this year—without losing a single Test against the West Indies, which it beat 1-0 in five Tests last winter. Against England, India won 1-0 in three Tests.

But the victory did not come easy. India had to fight for it all the way inch by inch until the last when Abid Ali hit the winning stroke—a square cut for four off Luckhurst.

India recorded its first Test victory on English soil in 1971, giving it a 1-0 win in a series of three Tests. The victory at the Oval was one of the great Indian Test wins, achieved coming from behind in the Test match.   -  THE HINDU ARCHIVES



It was purposeful batting by Sardesai (40) and Viswanath (33) and another cheerful innings by Engineer (not out 28) that saw India through. With the wicket helping spin, Illingworth and Underwood bowled almost continuously through out the morning with Snow D'Oliveira and Luckhurst taking a turn with the ball for a change.

Both spinners tied down the batsmen to such good purpose that England picked three wickets. Illingworth flighted the ball well and varied the length so effectively that the batsmen were able to snatch only 22 runs in his 2O overs.

Illingworth's final figures were an illuminating 36-15-40-0 while Underwood gave away 72 runs in 38 overs for his three wickets. Every delivery from them, or Snow, and D'Oliveira for that matter was full of suspense. But the batsmen, with the whole day ahead of them to make 97 runs, went about unhurriedly towards the goal.

And once they tried to take a single which did not exist it cost them the wicket of Wadekar. When Wadekar ran himself out in the second over of the day with the score still at 76 for two, doubts began to rise about Indians' ability to reach the target of 173 runs. Then Sardesai and Viswanath through their partnership of 48 runs in 95 minutes, brought the total to under 50 from the goal.


But with Sardesai's departure at that stage there remained a lurking fear in the minds of the Indian supporters. It grew even more with Solkar's dismissal 10 runs later

At lunch, India with the score at 146 for five, was somewhat better placed and when on resumption the first 10 minutes realised 11 runs with Engineer doing most of the scoring as victory finally came in sight.

England, however, did not relent till the end and just when three more runs were needed Luckhurst who had been called by Illingworth as the last hope in a desperate situation had Viswanath caught at the wicket. It was then left to Abid Ali to complete the job

Both Sardesai and Viswanath batted with the fullest sense of responsibility that had devolved upon them at a crucial stage. Their score of 40 in 155 minutes with four fours and 33 in 170 minutes respectively give an idea of their patience and perseverance against an attack that had always an edge to it.

Equally valuable was Engineer's 28 not out, with three fours, which was marked by his native audacity as well as the watchfulness that was needed at that moment.

At the Oval, with India still searching for that elusive Test win in England — it had only drawn four and lost 15 of the 19 Tests there — Chandrasekhar produced one of the finest spells of leg-spin bowling, ripping through the host's batting line-up with six for 38 and match figures of eight for 114. India won the Test by four wickets and clinched the three-Test series 1-0.   -  THE HINDU ARCHIVES



And Wadekar too, but for his rash attempt at a single this morning, played a solid innings of 45, which formed the base of the Indian score that ultimately brought triumph.

It was a triumph of the team as a whole, every member of which played his part in one department or another. But if in the overall perspective one man made the Indian achievement possible it was indisputably Chandrasekhar who with his destructive spell was mainly instrumental in England being skittled out for its lowest score against India — its previous lowest being 134 at Lord's in 1936.


Throughout it was an absorbing match, but in fact, the match at no stage appeared to belong to India. The first sign of victory appeared when England lost three wickets for 24 runs in its second innings. And then with the home side's rout in another 105 minutes for 101. Then it remained with India's batsmen to finish the job, which they did on the "Ganesh Chaturthi Day".

(This article was first published in The Hindu on Aug. 26, 1971)

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