On this day: India's historic first Test victory at Lord's

On this day in 1986, India registered its first Test win in 11 attempts at the Lord's, after a jittery chase on the final day.

Dilip Vengsarkar, the first overseas batsman to score three hundreds at Lord's.   -  The Hindu Archives

The impact of India's historic first Test victory at Lord's was not allowed to reverberate through the pavilion corridors for very long. No sooner had Kapil Dev, who led his team to a thoroughly impressive win by five wickets, been nominated "Man of the match" by Ted Dexter, an old England captain, than the head of the present incumbent David Gower was chopped off, and all but held up dripping with blood for the populace to seek like that of Medusa, the Gorgon in old Greek mythology. Come to think of it, Gower looks a bit like Medusa with all those curls. Kapil Dev's new opponent is to be Mike Gatting.Truthfully there was none else in the frame.

India must be properly saluted. Indeed in his first public utterance in his new job Gatting was generous in his praise. India played good cricket and just about held the initiative from the moment that Kapil Dev won the toss and made his insertion. Gatting's complaint was that England had not played as badly as everyone seemed to suggest even though it had lost.

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We are already hearing that from the England football brigade as they stagger about in Mexico still blissfully unaware of what constitutes true talent on the soccer field (but England managed to qualify for the second round). I am afraid we are going to hear the same message quite often in the future from England's new skipper until his turn for the axe.

If Kapil Dev's win in his 21st Test has lengthened his tenure of the Indian captaincy, the skipper's job has become subject to a short lease in England, especially in the event of failure.

And, frankly, why not? Selectors have a duty to try and find a winning formula and although many may not have agreed with some of their individual decisions they have not ducked the major issue as Kapil Dev pointed out on the balcony at Lord's that he too has had to face the West Indies whom none can beat and also bad weather, both against Australia and Pakistan.

Seasoned campaigners: Indeed it seemed that the Indian side's preparation for the Lord's Test, the earliest ever played in England, would have been quite ruined by the number of days cricket lost to rain on the tour so far. What has saved the Indian party is the fact tffat so many of the players are seasoned campaigners who have often been in England.

David Gower sits on the balcony at Lord's, after being sacked as England captain, in the wake of a five-wicket defeat against India.   -  The Hindu Archives


Furthermore, in Raj Singh they have an experienced manager with a light touch, who has been this way before, and is much loved by English people wherever he goes. So this win, following on the achievement of winning the one-day series albeit by a narrow statistical squeak, is a just reward for those concerned with the management of Indian cricket.

Now for the match itself. We may never know how defensive Kapil Dev was really put in. He may have wanted to shield his batsmen. If so, he would have given England's bowlers too much credit. Botham might have done well but after his erratic efforts in the West Indies even that is not certain.

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Although he should not have been picked Robinson made a few but Gooch dug in to try and recover some real form. He had to bat for three hours before runs began to flow and by then little Chetan Sharma had scurried his way to two of his five wickets.

Chetan removed Gower and Gattingquickly to put India right back in the game and when Lamb's technique let him down again, this time by playing forward on too stiff a left knee, England's innings was on the floor. Pringle gave Gooch real help but the England opener was despatched, slightly tired, by the last ball of the first day and Pringle could not take charge against accurate bowling on the second day morning.

Man of the tour: A total of under 300 was simply not enough. However, the wicket had some movement in it and if the dashing Srikkanth was the only wicket taken on the second day, England and particularly the revitalised Dilley, were unlucky not to do better. They had their luck on the third day when Indian wickets fell all too regularly around the extraordinary figure of Vengsarkar who, when all is said and done, became not only the truly historic figure of the game but of the tour.

No doubt he will get praise enough elsewhere. Lord's is not an easy ground. For the nervous it can be unsettling and the staring eyes in the long room have never signalled love and affection, even though their applause can be genuine and hearfelt. Three times Vengsarkar has run this gauntlet session after session and three times, he has reached the coveted hundred.

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In terms of temperament it is a staggering achievement for a visitor from overseas. It is said now that Bradman would have completed three centuries on his four tours had he not had to face Verity on a sticky wicket after a weekends rain back in 1934. Vengsarkar runs are in the book and the English players there too, none better, note. No English player has hit four, are all in the highest class. Hobbs, Hutton, Compton, Boycott and John Edrich, all of them among the greatest.

So helped by little More and Maninder Singh, Vengsarkar established a lead of no great substance but one which was made formidable by Kapil Dev's bowling on the fourth morning, the spell which turned the match decisively and earned him the award ahead of his leading scorer Vengsarkar. Dexter was right in his choice.

Match winning stuff: The Indian captain bowled straight, straighter than the English bowlers. He made the ball move both ways and varied his pace. He produced a killer ball for the first wicket, knowing only too well Robinson's weakness against the fast lifter. This was quite simply match winning bowling and all the more remarkable for being delivered by a man whose knees are supposed to have gone.

Gatting and Lamb made a few, perhaps enough to earn Gatting the captaincy and Lamb. his retention. But this time Gooch and Pringle both failed and so did dower. The tail was cut off by Shastri and Maninder Singh whose figures were astonishing in modern cricket; four for 30 off a combined total of 40 overs. They may be Bedi, either of them. But Bedi never played a better role for his team and nor did any other left-hander given that whilst the pitch helped bowlers a little, it helped none overmuch.

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Thus India had only 134 runs to make. Kapil Dev saw this as a real, given India's recent Test record, and he was right to treat the day with caution. Dilley bowled well and shot out the two openers. Mohinder Amarnath became hopelessly bogged down as if there was psychological barrier to winning and Vengsarkar had to show the way.

When Azharuddin was run out and Vengsarkar beaten and bowled, the match still had to be won. However, Shastri punched Edmonds through the covers and Kapil Dev after one sweep, hit the lefthander cross batted into the grandstand for six which put the cap on the performance very neatly.

For captain and vice-captain to be at the wicket together at the end will have been an unforgettable experience for them both. The series is not yet won but the maggots are in the body of the lion and I cannot see an English victory any longer. We shall see. As Kapil Dev himself said "in cricket you cannot lose all the time nor win all the time either.

From the Sportstar Archives

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