First Test Match

England v India

Norman Preston

At Manchester, June 6, 7, 8, 10, 11. England won by 113 runs with fifteen overs to spare.

There had been rain at Old Trafford on only four days since February 14, but the weather changed on the eve of the match, which was played in biting cold North-West winds and was interrupted by heavy showers on each of the first four days.

Indeed, on Thursday and Saturday because more than one hour was lost play was extended for the first time until 7.30 p.m. under the new rule which came into force in 1973.

Before Denness won the toss England omitted J. Birkenshaw and G.G. Arnold, the Surrey bowler not being satisfied with this fitness. So Hendrick gained his first cap as did Madan Lal for India.

India had good reason to be pleased with themselves on the first day when England, in five sessions occupying four hours, were tied down to 116 for four wickets due to some splendid bowling by Abid Ali, Madan Lal and Bedi.

There was a good stand by Amiss (56) and Denness and in the closing stages Fletcher (11) and Underwood survived an anxious time.

Despite heavy night rain only three-quarters of an hour was lost first thing on Friday when Fletcher dominated the scene and hit his fourth Test century. Altogether he batted five and a half hours. He did not accelerate until Greig arrived and promptly struck the first ball he received hard through the covers.

The sixth pair put on 104 in two and a quarter hours before Lal gained his first test wicket by dismissing Greig and soon afterwards he removed Knott who was plainly leg-before as he covered up.

Fletcher found two more valuable partners in Old and Willis and England added 63 for the ninth wicket before Denness declared, leaving India thirty-five minutes at the crease. Willis caught Solkar brilliantly in the slips and then removed Venkataraghavan with the first ball of the last over of the day.

After another night of rain play did not begin on Saturday until one o'clock and then another set-back befell India. Wadekar failed to control a late cut and Hendrick held a smart slip catch.

There followed perhaps the best cricket in the whole match. The England bowling was hostile and Gavaskar and Viswanath played it splendidly, their stand of 73 being full of positive strokes. Gavaskar excelled in hooking any fast short ball.

Underwood bowled into the wind and he broke the stand which had lasted ninety minutes when he dismissed Viswanath. As Patel, Engineer and Madan Lal went cheaply to the pace bowlers India had seven wickets down for 143 and were in dire trouble.

Fortunately for them that fine experienced all-rounder Abid Ali, rose to the occasion and, encouraged by a crowd of his own countrymen assembled below the main score-board, used his wrists freely as did Gavaskar. Gavaskar duly completed his first hundred against England and Abid Ali reached fifty.

They were complete masters of the bowling until they went for a second run and Denness from mid-wicket knocked out a stump with an unerring throw with Gavaskar far from home. Abid Ali still hit hard, adding 18 more runs for the last wicket. Altogether Gavaskar stayed five hours for his 101 which included eight 4's.

England had to bat for half an hour that evening and soon Boycott fell to a fine low catch by Engineer. It was the fourth time in five meetings that the Yorkshire captain had fallen to Solkar's left arm pacy swing. Underwood again acted as nightwatchman while England reached 18 for one.

The fourth day (Monday) belonged entirely to Edrich, who enjoyed profitable partnerships of 74 with Amiss and 109 (unbroken) with Denness. After an absence of two years from Test cricket, Edrich returned to the scene rejuvenated and in his own calm way timed his strokes perfectly.

He put Bedi away for 6, a beautiful carry over mid-on, and he had just completed his eleventh Test hundred, his 89th in all, when down came the rain at 3.45 and ended the proceedings for the day. The Surrey left-hander's innings lasted three and a quarter hours and in addition to his 6 he hit nine 4's.

Denness declared first thing on the last day when the pitch, having been subjected to some rain on Monday evening before the covers were applied according to rule, was expected to be ready made for Underwood, but it had absorbed the damping and rolled out pretty true.

Gavaskar again played splendidly as did Viswanath, but after Underwood had removed Solkar with his sixth ball of the day it was a hard struggle for India.

They did well until lunch when Gavaskar had completed his 50 and the total reached 96 for two. Indeed, India still had a chance to win, but on resuming Gavaskar fell to a difficult rising ball and on his departure Old and Greig troubled the batsmen, Viswanath excepted. A fine running catch by Boycott disposed of Abid Ali and the last five wickets tumbled for 43 runs.

The extremely cold conditions told particularly against India. Chandrasekhar could not grip the ball properly and his looseness affected Bedi. Although Willis was at times wayward in length and direction in his efforts to acquire pace and a full length, all the England bowlers were effective. Hendrick earned high praise for his splendid bowling action and excellent close catching.

It was not surprising that in such inclement weather the match was sparsely attended, the best crowd being on Saturday when 10,000 were present. The full attendance, including members was 21,175; receipts £8,814.85.

© John Wisden & Co