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Great Test Matches XX: India v Australia, Bombay, 1964 - Gulu Ezekiel
by Gulu Ezekiel
Feb 24, 2009
For 45 years the record stood-the highest fourth innings winning total by India on home soil (until it was eclipsed in the recent Test against England at Chennai). And it came against the mighty Australians led by Bobby Simpson at Bombay's famed Brabourne Stadium in October 1964.

Australia had won the previous series in 1959-60 series (5 Tests) 2-1 and on their first visit in 1956-57 (3 Tests) were 2-0 winners. This time the three-Test series was drawn 1-1, a highly creditable performance by the hosts considering the selectors had deliberated long and hard whether to retain the Nawab of Pataudi as captain.

In the end he certainly proved himself against very worthy rivals-the Aussies were fresh from beating England on their soil to hold onto the Ashes. In fact, if not for rain washing out the last two days in the third and final Test at Calcutta, India with a handy first innings lead could well have taken the honours.

Only one Australian, ace batsman Norman O'Neil was a survivor from the 1959 Kanpur Test, the only previous occasion when India had beaten Australia. For the Indians, Chandu Borde and Bapu Nadkarni had also been members of that victorious side.

Unfortunately for O'Neil, he suffered severe stomach cramps just 15 minutes after the toss and could take no part in the match. The Aussies thus batted one man short in both innings.

Australia had comfortably won the opening Test at Madras.

By close on day one at Bombay they had reached a handy 301 for 6. But it could have been much worse. Young leg spinner BS Chandrasekhar picked up the early wickets of Simpson and Brian Booth and Salim Durani sent back Bill Lawry to have them struggling at 53 for 3.

This is when Peter Burge took control. The burly middle-order batsman dominated a stand worth 89 with Bob Cowper (20). But just when respectability was being restored to the innings, they both fell in quick succession and at 146 for 5 it was back to square one for the visitors.

Barry Jarman had replaced Wally Grout behind the stumps for this Test. But it was in front of the wicket that he played a vital hand.

Jarman and all-rounder Tom Veivers (67), the sixth-wicket pair scattered the Indian fielders with highly entertaining and unorthodox strokeplay. Their stand of 151 had taken just 160 minutes when Jarman fell shortly before the close for an invaluable 78.

Australia would have been hoping to consolidate with Veivers still at the crease. But within half an hour on the second morning, the remaining three wickets were mopped up for the addition of only 19 more runs and India had forced their way back in to the match.

But they began their reply badly with Dilip Sardesai and Durani out cheaply. They crawled to 178 for 4 by close in virtually a full day's play. For that recovery they were indebted to ML Jaisimha and Vijay Manjrekar. With both scoring fifties (there was no century-maker in this Test), the stand worth 112 runs meant India were still very much in the hunt.

The next day, led by the captain himself, the Indian batting came into its own and secured a small but vital lead worth 21 runs. This after a slump in the morning which saw the score precariously poised at 188 for 6, still 132 runs in arrears.

Pataudi had been in sparkling form in Madras with an unbeaten century and here he continued in the same vein. He guided the lower order so well that the last four wickets added 153. He used the lofted drive to great advantage against the spinners, finding gaps in the vast Brabourne Stadium outfield, inspiring along the way Rusi Surti, Nadkarni and wicket-keeper KS Indrajitsinhji.

After batting for nearly four hours and striking 11 boundaries, Pataudi was finally out for 86 when he became one of the four victims of off spinner Veivers. It turned out to be the top score of the match.

Despite Chandra bowling first innings hero Burge for a first-ball duck, the Aussie top order clicked in their second innings and looked set for a large score when the fourth wicket-Cowper caught behind off Nadkarni for 81--fell at 246. Chandra had earlier trapped Lawry leg before for an attacking 68 and now, bowling in tandem with Nadkarni, they struck again and again. The left-armer had picked up 11 wickets at Madras and once he had Booth stumped for 74, the rest of the batting crumbled dramatically.

Chandra snapped up Veivers and Jarman without scoring and Nadkarni finished off the tail. Both bowlers had four wickets and with the last six wickets (one man short) collapsing for just 28 runs, the stage was set for a dramatic finish. Australia all out for 274 on the fourth day; India's target-254.

It had been 10 years since the Brabourne Stadium crowd had seen a Test end decisively. A result was now certain. The burning question: Which team would come up trumps

The euphoria surrounding the visitor's batting collapse soon evaporated around the ground though as the Indians lost three quick wickets, Jaisimha and Nadkarni without opening their accounts and Durani for 31. At 74 for 3 at close on the penultimate day, had India thrown away their golden chance to level the series?

The next morning dawned with the Dassera festival. But for those flocking to the stadium, the celebrations would have to wait.

Ace fast bowler Graham McKenzie, wicket-less in the first innings, swung the tide the Aussie's way, sending back Sardesai for a fighting 56 and Hanumant Singh (11). With night-watchman Surti first out for 10, the batting was tottering at the abyss at 122 for 6. There was still 30 minutes still to go for the lunch break and yet again the advantage had shifted away from the Indian camp.

As he had done in the first innings, Pataudi once again took charge though this time he was more circumspect.

The young captain found an able ally in veteran Manjrekar. They took the score to 146 by lunch and then hung on grimly in the two hours session to tea. Runs came in an agonizing trickle.

The total crept to 215 at tea, just 69 runs added but crucially both batsmen still at the crease. Surely there would be no more drama for just 39 runs were now needed for victory.

Simpson tried every trick in the book to budge the obdurate pair. His last option was to take the new ball. Immediately Alan Connolly struck. Manjrekar was caught at slip by Simpson for 39 after a vital partnership of 93 with his skipper.

Then Pataudi, who had twice been reprieved by the normally failsafe Simpson was stunned to find himself caught spectacularly at backward point by Burge. The crowd was stunned too. Two wickets in the space of nine runs—yet another twist in the tale!

It was now all down to Borde, the last recognised batsman. The remaining runs were squeezed out with Indrajit keeping Borde company. The winning shot was a straight drive to the boundary off a Veivers full toss. The tension had reached breaking point for only Chandra was to follow. India were home and dry by two wickets. It could hardly have been tighter.

The victorious Indians gathered on the CCI balcony to wave to their ecstatic fans. In his 1969 autobiography 'Tiger's Tale', Pataudi wrote: "I regard our victory as the most satisfying I have known as captain. It gave a tremendous boost to our morale, also to cricket as a whole in India."
 
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