Vinoo Mankad’s Test: India's first victory in the five-day game

It was a great hour for all, for Hazare and his men as well as for the thirty thousand people who had the privilege of being present on the occasion. A recap of India’s first ever Test victory which arrived against the visiting English side on February 10, 1952.

The victorious Indian team at the Chepauk stadium in Madras. Standing from left: S. G. Sindhe, V. L. Manjerakar, P. Roy, Ghulam Ahmed, C. D. Gopinath, P. R. Umrigar, P. Sen, P. S. Joshi, R. V. Divecha. Sitting from left: D. G. Phadkar, L. Amarnath, V. Hazare, Mushtaq Ali and V. Mankad.   -  The Hindu Photo Library

History was made at the M.C.C. ground at Chepauk, Madras, a hallowed place, on a Sunday when India won her first Test ever in an official series, by defeating England by an innings and eight runs in the fifth and last match. The happy moment occurred round about 3 p.m., fifteen minutes before the tea interval on the fourth day, Gopinath, youngest member of the Indian team, taking a catch offered by Statham, one of England’s last pair of batsmen. It was a great hour for all, for Hazare and his men as well as for the thirty thousand people who had the privilege of being present on the occasion.

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It was in 1932 at Lord’s, the Mecca of cricket, when the very first Test between England and India was played, and England won on that memorable occasion. Since then, the two countries have met in three rubbers, but in none of these had India won. Out of the ten matches played England had won six and the rest were drawn. Even in the present series, the first three matches were drawn and at Kanpur, India again suffered a defeat. But overcoming the effects of the defeat which must have affected their confidence, India won a great victory at Chepauk. They well deserved the success. Its margin is very significant; for despite what happened at Kanpur, India were without doubt the better team in the present series. In all except the fourth Test, a draw had always been an inevitable alternative to a win for India.

Vinoo Mankad has T. W. Graveney dismissed with a brilliant piece of stumping by Sen.   -  The Hindu Photo Library

 

To some of us who had the opportunity of watching all the Test matches, India’s victory did not come as a surprise. It had been merely put off from the very Test at Delhi by India themselves through their own inability to push home the advantage; in every Test, India had been in a winning position but that they surrendered their initiative meekly was largely the result of missed catches. If that did not happen again India were bound to win, some of us had told ourselves, and at Chepauk, not only did our men not miss many catches but some of the catches that were brought off were remarkable. Phadkar’s catch at cover which dismissed Spooner and Mankad’s catch of Robertson off his own bowling will rank as outstanding efforts. There were three other catches by Mankad, equally splendid while Sen showed speed and sureness of hands in stumping four men. His wicket-keeping was first class. Even Divecha, for one of his size, showed rare agility and brought off two catches, one very vital, which proved to be the turning point in the game — that offered by Graveney in the second innings when he seemed set for a long innings. After such brilliant catching in conjunction with smart ground fielding, the best so far in the series, India’s victory was inevitable but their batting and bowling were also of such a high order that victory was achieved quickly and decisively.

 

This fifth Test will be remembered as Mankad’s match. For not since Verity’s great triumph against India on this very ground in 1934 in the third Test, when he claimed 7 wickets for 49 runs, has there been such magnificent bowling by a left-hander with perhaps the same artistry; and not since Amar Singh’s 7 wickets for 86 runs also in the same match, has greater success come the way of an Indian bowler in a Test match. Mankad set up a new record with 8 wickets for 55 runs in 38.5 overs, 15 of which were maidens. That was in the first innings. In the second he took 4 for 53 and thus brought his total for the match to 12 for 108 and to 34 for the entire series, both records. Bedser’s 24 in a series and his 11 wickets (twice) and Verity’s 11 wickets were the previous best.

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Mankad can rarely have bowled better than in the first Innings when he had to perform on a dead wicket with little pace in it. No doubt from the beginning the wicket took spin but it responded suitably only to the high quality spin bowling which only Mankad was capable of; for neither Ghulam Ahmed nor Tattersall could infuse the same spin in their attack. His length never suffered and without losing anything in the way of spin he overcame the lack of pace in the pitch through pushing the ball quickly in the air. In the second innings, although his bag included most of the tail-enders, it was still grand bowling which proved too good for them. Besides taking 12 wickets in the match, Mankad was responsible for four catches and he made 22 crisp runs. Well may one ask what was left for him to do in the match? All told, it was yet another example of the measure of Mankad’s worth to India. Should he not be available for India in the Test matches during the coming English tour, I can only call it a great tragedy.

Polly Umrigar on the way to his brilliant unbeaten 130.   -  The Hindu Photo Library

 

It was the greatness of Ghulam Ahmed that he bowled superbly and took valuable wickets when Mankad temporarily lost the habit in the second innings. This off-break bowler once again demonstrated his high quality when the wicket showed signs of responding to his spin as it did after the first hour on the fourth morning. He simply tied the English batsmen into knots and by clever strategy, got their wickets. It was indeed a very astute move on his part to shift Divecha from the gully to short-leg and bring the ball back sharply from the off after bowling a number of ‘cutters’ to a surprised Graveney who made a defensive stab and was well caught by Divecha. After such a fine performance, following an equally grand effort at Kanpur, Ghulam Ahmed should not be out of the English tour. Of course, I am aware of the fact that Ghulam Ahmed’s fielding is poor but a great bowler like him can be hidden. Phadkar used the new ball to good purpose and the inswinger with which he bowled Lowson in the first innings was a beauty. Amarnath kept an impeccable length and varied his deliveries but he bowled without luck, as at least two catches were dropped off him — Poole by Mankad and Carr by Sen, both in the first innings.

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If Mankad was the chief architect, Roy and Umrigar, who both got past the century, and Gopinath built up this grand victory. In playing his second three-figure innings of 111 runs, the first being 140 in the second Test at Bombay, Roy showed good sense and courage and gave a superb exhibition of off-driving and forced shots off his pads. Besides he showed nice temperament, for he never allowed the success of the English bowlers at the other end to affect his game; on the other hand, he met them as if two hundred runs had been scored for no wicket. He was however lucky that Carr failed to hold a hot return catch in the thirties and Watkins missed a very difficult catch at 98. In all he batted for 230 minutes and the fifteen boundaries adequately tell their story of his mastery.

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It was good to see Polly Umrigar back into that form which made him the outstanding cricketer against the second Commonwealth team. After a careful start, he raided the English attack with terrific pulls and drives and hit it out of recognition. How very fortunate India was that this brilliant hard-hitting batsman who had been having the leanest time, should have come off in this most vital match, and how very lucky he was, for he came into the team only after Adhlkari had cried off at the last moment owing to an injury. But for this opportunity, Umrigar would have had a very poor season. However, he was let off at 82 by Tattersall who should have caught him off his own bowling, and by Carr in the slips off Statham when he had made 106. His 130 not out made in 373 minutes contained ten 4’s.

Pankaj Roy, who opened India’s innings with Mushtaq Ali, hooks Ridgway during his century knock.   -  The Hindu Photo Library

 

Phadkar’s usefulness to the team cannot be exaggerated. He gave another characteristic display of pluck, determination and resourcefulness in playing an exceedingly valuable knock of 61. He used the high hit to the straightfield to purpose and once hit Hilton for a magnificent 6 over the screen. With Umrigar he added 104 runs for the sixth wicket and virtually paved the way for a commanding total. And then there was the batting of young Gopinath who gave delightful evidence of the high quality of his stroke-making mood in which most certainly he was. He drove to the off and hit to leg with such disdain that his first four scoring strokes went to the boundary and his 35 contained seven 4’s.

Mushtaq Ali, Hazare, Mankad and Amarnath, each made valuable contributions and all of them batted brightly. Who says Indian cricket is unattractive?

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Despite Mankad's great bowling and what followed later, England’s defeat by an innings must be traced primarily to their poor tactics in their batting on the first day of the match. They allowed a great chance of scoring more than 224 runs for the loss of five wickets to slip past them. They gave a placid beginning to the match being determined more to take it to a draw than force a win since they were already one match up in the series. True, the wicket had no real pace in it to allow free stroke-making and the Indian attack was very steady but, sometimes, it happens that the bowling is as good as the batsman makes it out to be. Graveney showed that if one had the necessary strokes one could make them without the fear of getting out. He played beautiful cricket, making drives in front of the wicket off his back foot, before he was lured out by Mankad and was smartly stumped by Sen. However, since Lowson was out early and Poole was not in form, the English batting had to be defensive. Spooner showed his customary dourness while Watkins overdid this. Robertson and Carr, who were not out at the close of the first day, looked like putting England in a good position but Mankad broke the back of their resistance when he caught and bowled Robertson with a superb effort. There is no bowler in the world who fields as well as Mankad to his own bowling. From there began England’s collapse.

Ghulam Ahmed played a great part in India’s triumph with a four-wicket haul in the second innings.   -  The Hindu Photo Library

 

India’s war cry was ‘attack’ and Mushtaq and Roy attacking the bowling made 53 runs before Mushtaq was deceived by Carr’s googly. Hazare began with a 4 to leg and a gorgeous drive to cover before he played across a full toss from Hilton, missed the ball and was bowled. Mankad and Amarnath promised great things before both were out for 22 and 31 respectively. Then came the two stands between Phadkar and Umrigar and Umrigar and Gopinath. The best batting came between lunch and tea when both Umrigar and Gopinath were imbued with the highly commendable desire to make the most of their time at the wicket. It was all 4’s. Hazare declared the innings at 457 for 9 after batting for nearly an hour after tea.

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Neither Statham nor Ridgway troubled the batsmen with their pace, for they got nothing out of the wicket to carry the ball at greater speed. Tattersall was inclined to overpitch the ball while Carr was short although he slipped in a googly now and again and worried the batsmen to that extent. It was, therefore, left to Hilton to carry a heavy burden on his young shoulders and although what he did was negative, bowling over the wicket to six fieldsmen on the leg-side and pitching the ball mostly outside the leg stump, he deserves high credit for the manner in which he stuck to the job.

An electric scoreboard donated by Sport & Pastime helped the spectators a great deal at the Chepauk ground.   -  The Hindu Photo Library

 

Even sending down such stuff needs great skill. England’s ground fielding was top-class with Graveney, Carr, Poole, Lowson and Ridgway outstanding, but the catching was at fault and the throwing was not always accurate.

When England batted again, Divecha struck the first blow dismissing Spooner and Phadkar next had Lowson caught superbly. For a time, Robertson and Graveney held the fort. Graveney was on the defensive and he obviously did not like the role. Had he played his normal attacking game he might have helped to wipe out the lead but before he started on aggression, Ghulam Ahmed trapped him. Robertson and Watkins did the right thing by attacking and nearly saved England from an innings defeat but Mankad and Ghulam Ahmed were in too deadly a form to allow them to do so, and England were all out for 183 runs, 8 runs behind India’s total.

This victory has given India an equal share in the rubber with one match each, but even more significant is that this will make for the success of the Indian team’s tour in England this summer.

This articles first appeared in Sport & Pastime on February 16, 1952.