Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91
Vol. XXIX No. 21 , February 16-29, 2020
By February 1952 India had been playing Test cricket for almost 20 years and had still to notch up her first victory. The country had played just 24 Tests in India, England and Australia with no international cricket being played during World War II and of those India had lost 12 and drawn 12.
The arrival of the England team in India for the 1951-52 season appeared to give India their best chance to break their cricketing duck for the tourists were not at full strength. Many leading players like Len Hutton, Alec Bedser, Godfrey Evans, Denis Compton, Trevor Bailey, Peter May and Jim Laker did not make the trip and it was a sort of second string England side that landed in this country.
And yet at the end of the fourth Test of the five-match series India were 0-1 down. After the first three Tests were drawn, England won a low scoring game in a battle of spin bowlers at Kanpur by eight wickets wrapping up the game in three days.
In a desperate measure to win the final Test at Madras the selectors made as many as five changes. Out went Vijay Manjrekar, CS Nayudu, Nana Joshi, Polly Umrigar and Sadhu Shinde and in came Mushtaq Ali, RV Divecha, P Sen, Lala Amarnath and CD Gopinath. However as luck would have it Hemu Adhikari broke his wrist in a fall on the eve of the match and Umrigar was reinstated.
This forced change was to have a major impact on the game but in the meantime England winning the toss on the opening day of the Test (February 6) scored 224 for five at stumps on the first day. Shortly after play ended came the news that King George VI had passed away in London. Consequently the rest day was advanced to the following day and play resumed on February 8. Vinoo Mankad took little time in wrapping up the England innings. The left arm spinner took all the remaining five wickets to finish with the mesmeric figures of eight for 55 as England were restricted to a total of 266, Jack Robertson top scoring with 77.
The batsmen then built upon the great work done by Mankad. Opener Pankaj Roy scored 111 – his second hundred of the series – while veterans Mushtaq Ali, Amarnath, skipper Hazare and Mankad all came up with valuable contributions. Still on the morning of the third day India were 216 for five and a vital stage in the match had been reached. Now however India started taking control and the main architect was the man who made the final XI at the last minute. Umrigar making the most of the opportunity went on to get a commanding unbeaten 130 – the first of his 12 hundreds for India. He had successive partnerships of 104 runs for the sixth wicket and 93 runs for the seventh wicket with Dattu Phadkar (61) and Gopinath (35) respectively and so quickly had the runs been scored that Hazare was able to declare the innings closed at 457 for seven shortly before stumps on the third day. With two days left India were 191 runs ahead and were in a winning position.
India did not falter and wrapped up the game by an innings and eight runs with a day to spare. England were bowled out for 183 with Robertson again top scoring with 56. Mankad again was among the wickets, his four for 53 giving him match figures of 12 for 108. This time however he had to share the honours with off spinner Ghulam Ahmed who was no less unplayable finishing with four for 77 and finally India had registered their maiden Test victory at their 25th attempt. It was a historic day, February 10, 1952 a day to rejoice and there were congratulations and celebrations all around. It certainly was till then the greatest day in Indian cricket.