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Great Test Matches XXI: India v New Zealand, Bombay, 1965 - Gulu Ezekiel
by Gulu Ezekiel
Mar 16, 2009
India and New Zealand were not particularly famed for playing attractive cricket in the 1960s. But at Bombay's Brabourne Stadium in March 1965 they played out a fascinating Test of topsy-turvy fortunes which eventually ended in a tense draw.

Neither country had won a Test match abroad when they met in 1965 and along with Pakistan, were known as the 'dull dogs' of international cricket.

That tag would persist till the 70s which dawned as a golden age for all three teams.

This was the Kiwis' second tour of India. They had been beaten 2-0 on the previous visit in 1955-56. Ten years later, they started off the series confidently and the first and second Test matches at Madras and Calcutta both finished in honourable draws.

Skipper John Reid was running a temperature at the start of the Bombay Test and after winning the toss, he retreated to bed.

Future captain Graham Dowling held the innings together with a sedate and technically sound century as the Kiwis finished the first day on 227 for 5-Vic Pollard out to the last ball of the day.

The wicket at the Brabourne Stadium had been re-laid with two layers of bricks. The earlier placid track had produced 9 draws out of 11 Tests but just six months earlier on the new wicket, India had beaten Australia in a thrilling encounter.

Now once again the added bounce helped balance things as it gave assistance both to pace and spin bowlers and another result was on the cards.

Certainly Ramakant 'Tiny' Desai relished the surface and returned his best Test figures of 6 for 56 with his lively medium pacers.

New Zealand were all out for 297 by lunch on the second day and this was when the dramatics of this fascinating match began to unfold.

Dick Motz, Bruce Taylor and Bevan Congdon combined to scythe through the Indian batting in next to no time. In front of a packed and stunned crowd, India crumbled to 88 all out in a mere 33 overs. It was lowest score by any side on Indian soil and for the first time against New Zealand India were forced to follow on.

Taylor had made a sensational debut in the previous Test at Calcutta with a century and five-wicket haul. Once again he proved to be India’s nemesis and his figures of 5 for 26 were great reward for hard toil in the merciless heat.

So immense was his effort that Taylor collapsed on the field and had to be carried off. In the dressing room he lost consciousness and a desperate physiotherapist worked frantically to get him back on his feet.

He returned refreshed after tea having broken the back of the batting with 3 for 11 in five overs before his collapse. Now he polished off the tail with only Chandu Borde (25) and Farokh Engineer (17) reaching double figures.

India were 209 runs behind and Reid had to think hard before asking them to bat again. His pace bowlers were exhausted but there was just a brief period of play before close on the second day.

It did the trick as Engineer, opening with Dilip Sardesai fell to Taylor as India limped to 18 for 1. That meant 16 wickets had fallen in one day for just 176 runs. The bowlers were right on top and with two days to go (the Test was of four days duration), the home side had their backs to the wall. A real battle for survival loomed.

When Taylor struck early on the third day to remove Salim Durani without a run being added to the overnight score, a shocking defeat was very much on the cards for the Indians.

Now came the amazing turnaround. New Zealand having totally dominated the Test for over two days were turned back by a determined batting effort led by Sardesai.

Taylor, the Kiwi hero also might well have been responsible for victory slipping out their hands. He dropped Sardesai at slip on 20 off Congdon and the opener would make them pay heavily for the lapse.

The first stage of the rescue act came in the company of ML Jaisimha (47). The stand worth 89 runs gave a touch of respectability to the total. But when Pollard claimed his wicket at 107 for 3, there was still a mountain to climb for the batsmen.

Borde was the only one among the home batsmen to show any confidence in the first innings debacle and he once again displayed his mettle with a fighting century. His partnership of 154 for the fourth wicket with Sardesai took India past the first innings deficit and gave fresh hope of avoiding defeat.

Still, at close of the third and penultimate day with the total reading 281 for 5, the lead was only 72 runs and a tense final day was in the offing. Sardesai was batting on 97 having played the sheet anchor role the whole day while scoring only 91 runs. At this stage survival was the key and Sardesai was the man the team was looking up to to salvage a draw.

Nothing could budge Hanumant Singh (75 not out) and Sardesai the next day. Sardesai picked up the pace after crossing his century and his final 50 came in only 42 minutes.

Skipper Pataudi declared at 463 for 5 as soon as Sardesai reached his double century. There was just 148 minutes of play left in the match and the target of 255 appeared academic. There was nothing in the pitch either to suggest what would happen next.

In hindsight 'Tiger' would be criticised for not closing the innings earlier. But no one present at the ground could have guessed what the final twist to the tale would be.

Bitterly disappointed at their inability to ram home their early advantage, the Kiwi batsmen began to fall in an alarming manner.

Suddenly a Test that had been consigned to a draw burst into life as India's spinners, largely ineffective in the first innings made deep inroads into the rival batting.

Three wickets were down for next to nothing and then the young leg spinner BS Chandrasekhar struck three quick blows. The crowd could hardly believe their eyes and the Indians were cock-a-hoop as the score-card read 46 for 7. And to think that just 48 hours earlier, defeat appeared imminent for India!

It took a defiant Taylor to scatter the field and save the day for his side. He had already taken eight wickets in the match and now launched a mini counter-attack with four boundaries. His score of 21 may seem insignificant. But it was enough to see New Zealand home to a draw, finishing the match at 80 for 8. India certainly came out with the honours at the end. The visitor's morale was broken and in the fourth and final Test in New Delhi they were beaten by 7 wickets to lose the Test series 1-0.

It would be another eight years before they won a Test abroad. India's first away success would come in New Zealand three years later.
 
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