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Edgbaston: Not a happy hunting ground for India

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India_Edgbaston_England_Cricket_GroundIf history is any indication, England could not have asked for a better venue to begin their defence of the Pataudi Trophy. Edgbaston has proved to be India’s bugbear over the years - not only have they failed to win in six attempts there, but have also been convincingly beaten five times. As we ponder over whether India can defy the trend and emerge victorious in the opening encounter of the five-Test series, here is a look back at their travails at the Birmingham ground.

England tame the quartet - Third Test, 1967

Courtesy of defeats in the first two Tests of the three-match series, yet another Indian bid to triumph on English soil had faltered. With nothing but pride at stake, India decided to field four spinners -the off-spinning duo of Erapalli Prasanna and SrinivasVenkataraghavan, leg-spinner Bhagwat Chandrasekhar and left-armer Bishan Singh Bedi all made it to the eleven. Intriguingly, this remains the only instance of the famed Indian spin quartet playing together in a Test match.

Not that it made much of a difference though, as England prevailed again to sweep the series 3-0. Ken Barrington (75) helped England recover from 89/3 to 182/4, but his dismissal triggered the loss of four wickets - three to Prasanna, plus a run out - for just nine runs. But wicketkeeper John Murray was undeterred, and he went on to frustrate India with a plucky 77 before being the last man out at 298. In reply, India’s top order was devoured by pacers David Brown and John Snow.

Only Farokh Engineer crossed 20 as India slumped to 41/5. Spinners Ray Illingworth and Robin Hobbs joined in the action too, condemning the Indians to a paltry 92. Brian Close chose to bat again, and his batsmen doubled the lead to set a target of 410. India showed improvement, with Ajit Wadekar (70) and captain Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi adding 83 for the fourth wicket, but Close and Illingworth snared four wickets each to secure a comfortable 132-run win for England.

Lloyd leads the charge - Third Test, 1974

In 1971,Wadekar had led India to a historic first series victory in England. Three years later, he was still at the helm, but this time, he endured the agony of watching his team get whitewashed 3-0 at the hands of the hosts. The nadir of the tour had come in the second Test at Lord’s, where India, following on 327 in arrears, were dismantled for just 42 in the second innings. It did not get much better at Edgbaston, as India suffered another innings defeat to end a forgettable series.

Sunil Gavaskar fell to Geoff Arnold off the first ball of the match, a blow from which India never recovered. The English bowlers, led by Mike Hendrick (4/28), dominated the Indian batsmen, except for Engineer - the feisty wicketkeeper’s 64* was the only silver lining of the innings, which terminated at 165. Lancashire opener David Lloyd further subdued India by converting his only Test century into a double - his 214* was also his highest first-class score.

Lloyd shared 157 runs for the first wicket with Dennis Amiss (79) and 211 for the second with his captain Mike Denness (100) to spur England to 459/2. In an all too familiar story, India wobbled to 59/4 in their second innings, and had it not been for an impressive 77 from debutant opener Sudhir Naik and his fifth-wicket stand of 84 with Ashok Mankad, their total would have been much less than the 216 they mustered, still 78 runs short of making England bat again.

Starting with a shellacking - First Test, 1979

India’s hopes of a positive start to the series were crushed under a mountainous English total of 633/5. Though Kapil Dev (5/146) bowled his heart out, the obdurate Geoff Boycott (155) and the elegant David Gower (200*) played contrasting knocks to bat India out of the game. Gower, who came in at 235/3 after Boycott and Graham Gooch (83) added 145 for the second wicket, put on 191 with Boycott and 165* with Geoff Miller (63*) for the fourth and sixth wickets respectively.

Gavaskar scored 61 before getting run out, while Gundappa Viswanath contributed 78. However, none of the other batsmen stood up, and the innings wound up at 297. As India followed on, Gavaskar (68) and Chetan Chauhan (56) added 124 for the first wicket. Viswanath (51) also looked assured until he was fifth out at 227, to Ian Botham. This was the breakthrough England needed, after which Botham (5/70) and Hendrick (4/45) sealed victory by an innings and 83 runs.  

Sharma shines in stalemate - Third Test, 1986

After having won the series with wins at Lord’s and Headingley, India drew the third Test in what remains their only non-defeat at Edgbaston. Both teams totalled 390 in the first innings, Mike Gatting starring for the hosts with 183*. Seamer Chetan Sharma grabbed 6/58 in the second innings, recording a match return of 10/188 - till date the best by an Indian bowler in England. Chasing 236, India saw off the left-arm spin of Phil Edmonds (4/31) to end at 174/5.

A Tendulkar ton in vain - First Test, 1996

Sachin Tendulkar’s ninth Test hundred could not prevent England from taking a 1-0 lead in the three-match series. India’s first innings fetched a disappointing 214, as Dominic Cork (4/61) led a disciplined effort from England’s fast bowlers. Javagal Srinath, coming in at 127/7, struck a rapid 52 to lend some respectability. Srinath and his fellow paceman Venkatesh Prasad collected four wickets apiece, but a fine 128 from Nasser Hussain handed England a vital lead of 99 runs.

India crashed to a woeful 36/4 against Cork and Chris Lewis (5/72) on the third morning, leaving Tendulkar with the task of saving the sinking ship. The ‘little master’ delivered a breathtaking one-man act, scoring 122 out of 219 - the next highest score was 15 - and accounting for nearly 64% of the runs while he was at the crease, before being Lewis’ fourth victim. Captain Michael Atherton (53*) ensured that the chase of 121 culminated in an eight-wicket win for his team.

Cooking India’s goose - Third Test, 2011

India landed in England as the world’s top-ranked Test team as well as the holders of the Pataudi Trophy. But their overseas blues resurfaced, and by the time they arrived at Edgbaston, they were 2-0 down in the four-Test series, with the worst yet to come. Stuart Broad (4/53) and Tim Bresnan (4/62) wrought havoc on the first day, and India owed their total of 224 to captain MS Dhoni’s breezy 77. This set the stage perfectly for Alastair Cook to impose himself on the game.

Cook put on 186 for the first wicket with his captain Andrew Strauss (87) and 222 with Eoin Morgan (107) for the fifth, as he occupied the crease for nearly 13 hours in compiling an epic 294. The Essex southpaw’s dismissal promptly led Strauss to declare, at a mammoth 710/7. The beleaguered Indians were trounced by an innings and 242 runs before tea on the final day - again, only Dhoni (74*) showed fight. With this win, England replaced India at the top of the rankings.

 

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Rustom Deboo is a cricket aficionado and freelance writer from Mumbai. He is an ardent devotee of T...

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