A morale-booster, indeed

M. A. K. PATAUDI ... rates India's victory over Australia in Bombay in 1964 as his best as skipper.-THE HINDU PHOTO LIBRARY

Chasing 254 for victory, India were down to Borde, the last recognised batsman. The tension had reached breaking point for only Chandra was to follow. However, the host squeezed out a two-wicket win. The match could hardly have been tighter, writes Gulu Ezekiel.

For more than 40 years the record has stood — the highest fourth innings winning total by India on home soil. And it came against the mighty Australians, led by Bobby Simpson at Bombay's famed Brabourne Stadium in October 1964.

Australia had won the previous series in 1959-60 (5 Tests) 2-1, and on their first visit in 1956-57 (3 Tests) were 2-0 winners. This time the three-Test series was drawn 1-1; a highly creditable performance by the hosts considering the selectors had deliberated long and hard whether to retain the Nawab of Pataudi as captain. In the end he certainly proved himself against very worthy rivals — the Aussies were fresh from beating England on their soil to hold onto the Ashes. In fact, if not for rain washing out the last two days in the third and final Test in Calcutta, India, with a handy first innings lead, could well have taken the honours.

Australia had comfortably won the opening Test in Madras. And by the close of play on the first day of the second Test in Bombay, they had reached a handy 301 for 6. But it could have been much worse. Young leg-spinner B. S. Chandrasekhar picked up the early wickets of Simpson and Brian Booth, and Salim Durani sent back Bill Lawry to have the visitors struggling at 53 for 3. This was when Peter Burge took control.

The burly middle-order batsman dominated a stand worth 89 with Bob Cowper (20). But just when respectability was being restored to the innings, they both fell in quick succession and at 146 for 5 it was back to square one for the visitors.

Barry Jarman had replaced Wally Grout behind the stumps for this Test. But it was in front of the wicket that he played a vital hand. He and all-rounder Tom Veivers (67), the sixth-wicket pair, scattered the Indian fielders with highly entertaining and unorthodox strokeplay. Their stand of 151 had taken just 160 minutes when Jarman fell shortly before the close for an invaluable 78.

Australia would have been hoping to consolidate with Veivers still at the crease. But within half an hour on the second morning, the remaining three wickets were mopped up for the addition of only 19 runs and India had forced their way back into the match.

India, however, began their reply badly with Dilip Sardesai and Durrani out cheaply. They crawled to 178 for 4 by close in virtually a full day's play. For that recovery they were indebted to M. L. Jaisimha and Vijay Manjrekar. With both scoring fifties (there was no century-maker in this Test), the stand worth 112 runs meant India were still very much in the hunt.

The next day, led by the captain himself, the Indian batting came into its own and secured a small but vital lead of 21 runs. This after a slump in the morning, which saw the score precariously poised at 188 for 6, still 132 runs in arrears.

Pataudi had been in sparkling form in the previous Test in Madras with an unbeaten century and here he continued in the same vein. He guided the lower order so well that the last four wickets added 153. He used the lofted drive to great advantage against the spinners, finding gaps in the vast Brabourne Stadium outfield. And along the way, he inspired Rusi Surti, Nadkarni and wicket-keeper K. S. Indrajitsinhji.

After batting for nearly four hours and striking 11 boundaries, Pataudi was finally out for 86 when he became one of the four victims of off-spinner Veivers. It turned out to be the top score of the match.

Despite Chandra bowling first innings hero Burge for a first-ball duck, the Aussie top order clicked in the second innings and looked set for a large score when the fourth wicket — Cowper caught behind off Nadkarni for 81 — fell at 246. Chandra, who had earlier trapped Lawry leg before for an attacking 68, bowled in tandem with Nadkarni and the duo struck again and again. After the left-armer had Booth stumped for 74, the rest of the batting crumbled dramatically.

Chandra snapped up Veivers and Jarman, both falling without scoring, and Nadkarni finished off the tail. Both bowlers claimed four wickets each. With the last six wickets (one man short) collapsing for just 28 runs, the stage was set for a dramatic finish. Australia all out for 274 on the fourth day; India needing 254 for victory.

It had been 10 years since the Brabourne Stadium crowd had seen a Test end decisively. A result was now certain. The burning question: Which team would come up trumps?

The euphoria surrounding the visitors' batting collapse soon evaporated around the ground though, as India lost three quick wickets — Jaisimha and Nadkarni without scoring, and Durrani for 31.

At 74 for 3 at close on the penultimate day, had India thrown away their golden chance to level the series?

The next day was Dassera, but for those flocking to the stadium, the celebrations would have to wait. Ace fast bowler Graham McKenzie, wicket-less in the first innings, swung the tide in favour of Australia. He dismissed Sardesai, who made a fighting 56, and Hanumant Singh (11). With night-watchman Surti first out for 10, India were tottering at 122 for 6. There were still 30 minutes to go for the lunch break and yet again the advantage had shifted away from India. As in the first innings, Pataudi took charge, though this time he was more circumspect. The young captain found an able ally in veteran Manjrekar. They took the score to 146 by lunch and then hung on grimly in the two-hour session leading up to tea.

Runs came in an agonising trickle. Only 69 runs were added as the total crept to 215 at tea, but crucially both the batsmen were still at the crease. Surely, there would be no more drama for just 39 runs were now needed for victory. Simpson tried every trick in the book to budge the obdurate pair. His last option was to take the new ball. Immediately Alan Connolly struck. Manjrekar was caught at slip by Simpson for 39 after a vital partnership of 93 with his skipper. Then Pataudi, who had twice been reprieved by the normally failsafe Simpson, was caught spectacularly at backward point by Burge. The crowd was stunned. Two wickets in the space of nine runs — yet another twist in the tale!

It was now down to Borde, the last recognised batsman. The remaining runs were squeezed out with Indrajit keeping Borde company. The winning shot was a straight drive to the boundary off a Veivers full toss.

The tension had reached breaking point for only Chandra was to follow. However, India were home and dry by two wickets. It could hardly have been tighter.

The victorious Indians gathered on the CCI balcony to wave to their ecstatic fans. In his 1969 autobiography `Tiger's Tale', Pataudi wrote: "I regard our victory as the most satisfying I have known as captain. It gave a tremendous boost to our morale, also to cricket as a whole in India."

THE SCORES

India v Australia, 1964-65, 2nd Test, Brabourne Stadium, Bombay. Oct. 10-15, 1964.

Result: India won by 2 wickets.

Australia 320 (P. J. P. Burge 80, T. R. Veivers 67, B. N. Jarman 78; Chandrasekhar 4-50) and 274 (W. M. Lawry 68, R. M. Cowper 81, B. C. Booth 74; Chandrasekhar 4-73, Nadkarni 4-33) lost to India 341 (M. L. Jaisimha 66, V. L. Manjrekar 59, M. A. K. Pataudi 86, R. G. Nadkarni 34; Connolly 3-66, Veivers 4-68) and 256 for 8 (D. N. Sardesai 56, S. A. Durrani 31, M. A. K. Pataudi 53, V. L. Manjrekar 39, C. G. Borde 30 not out; Connolly 3-24).