India’s humble entry into the Test arena

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25 Jun 2020 | 05:23 AM
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Pramod Ananth

India’s humble entry into the Test arena

On this day in 1932, India played their first-ever Test - against England - at Lord's

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India became the sixth nation to be awarded Test status and took on England in their inaugural match on this day in 1932. Although India lost the Test by 158 runs, they were right on top till the afternoon session of day two, after they bowled England out for 259 in their first innings. A recovery of sorts after they were reduced to 19 for 3 — with Mohammad Nissar, arguably one of India’s fastest-ever bowlers removing the openers Herbert Sutcliffe and Percy Holmes for single digits. Not too long before this match the aforementioned duo had put on 555 runs for the opening wicket for Yorkshire in a county game against Sussex. Sutcliffe hammered 313 while Holmes finished with an unbeaten 224 in that game. To get them out for a combined total of nine in the Lord’s Test was a significantly huge achievement indeed. 

Like England’s opening duo, many including Wally Hammond had arrived just 24 hours or so before playing their county matches. In fact Hammond had to make the longest journey from Swansea – where he was involved in a nail-biting match for Glamorgan against Gloucestershire – to London.

It was eventually Hammond, who along with his captain Douglas Jardine, commenced the mission to resurrect the innings. After the new-ball pair of Nissar and Amar Singh’s first spell had come to an end, Jahangir Khan and India captain CK Nayudu too bowled tight lines and lengths but Hammond and Jardine continued to frustrate the Indian bowlers. 

The duo added 82 runs before Amar Singh picked up his first wicket – that of Hammond for 35 – right after lunch when the England batsman played a yorker onto his stumps. For the addition of 65 more runs, England lost Eddie Paynter (14) and Jardine for a patient, well-composed 79. Wicketkeeper Les Ames was going to be key for England from there on and he too delivered with 65 with as many as nine fours punctuating his innings.  He had a stroke of luck earlier in his innings when an outside edge off Amar Singh bisected the gap between the wicketkeeper and slip. His crucial 63-run stand with leggie Walter Robbins eventually took England to 259 – an incredible effort by the Indians against a star-studded English line-up. Nissar finished with 5 for 93, while Amar Singh and Nayudu picked up two wickets apiece. 

India ended day one at 30 for no loss and were in firm control of the game. However, things soon unravelled the following day when despite starts from the top-order, India failed to cash in and were bowled out for 189, after being 110 for 2 at one stage. Bill Bowes, who was suffering from a strain, picked up four wickets. Nayudu top-scored for India with 40. Jardine was once again the thorn in India’s flesh as he scored an unbeaten 85 and along with useful contribution from the lower-order, England set India a target of 346, which seemed to be beyond the visitors’ reach. 

England wrapped things up on day three, bowling India out for 187, thereby setting up a comprehensive win. While India’s effort was lauded and acknowledged in the cricketing spectrum, they would however end up only second best over the course of the match, despite dominating the game for large chunks.

India would eventually go on to register their first-ever Test win only 20 years later, in their 25th match against England in Chennai, under the leadership of Vijay Hazare. Later that year, they would go on to win their first-ever Test series – a 2-1 win over Pakistan. 

India’s elevation to the Test scene however wouldn’t have been possible if it were not for the vision of Maharaja of Patiala - Bhupinder Singh, for whom cricket was his priority after looking after his own kingdom. His teams – Patiala XI and Patiala Tigers – were among the best teams in India in cricket and polo respectively. He was the captain of the Indian team that hosted England in 1911 and would go on to play 27 first-class matches, which included five for MCC. He was also selected captain of the Indian team on their tour in 1932 – prior to their first Test, but dropped out due to poor health. 

The Maharaja of Patiala was also instrumental in giving India the Ranji Trophy in honour of Ranjitsinhji in 1934 – a tournament still in existence to determine the best domestic team in the country. Even though the format has changed over the years, it’s importance in India’s domestic calendar holds a prominent position, alongside, the more recent ones like Vijay Hazare Trophy and the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. 

Although it would take years before India would dominate Test cricket, the Ranji Trophy unveiled some gems who would go on to serve the nation well over the years.

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