PARTAB RAMCHAND | 28 MARCH, 2019
Vengsarkar - The Lord of Lord’s
Down Memory Lane
A century in a Test at Lord’s is the ultimate dream of every cricketer. The headquarters of cricket has an aura all its own and when a batsman gets a Test hundred there the feeling is unparalleled. So when a batsman gets not one, not two but three centuries at the ground it has to be the greatest achievement of his career no matter how many Tests he has played.
Dilip Balwant Vengsarkar knows the feeling all too well for he has accomplished the feat. And what’s more at the time he got his third hundred he was the only overseas batsman to do so. No other Indian batsman has got more than one and even Don Bradman in four appearances at Lord’s got two hundreds.
And yet Vengsarkar also in four Tests got three hundreds. The first of these was notched up in his first Test at the venue in 1979. India had lost the first Test at Birmingham by an innings and 83 runs inside four days. In this second Test of the series India were shot out for 96 to which England replied with 419 for nine declared. In the second innings India lost their first wicket at 79 when Vengsarkar walked in. It soon became 99 for two.
Gundappa Viswanath joined Vengsarkar and the two rescued India with a third wicket partnership of 210 runs in nearly 5-1/2 hours. This allied to frequent spells of rain helped India to draw the game as they finished with 318 for four. While Vengsarkar got 103, Viswanath scored 113. In a stay of almost six hours Vengsarkar faced 295 balls and hit 13 of them to the fence. Interestingly enough Vengsarkar who had got a duck in the first innings was adjudged player of the match.
Three years later India were again in dire straits when Vengsarkar entered in the second innings. This was the first Test of a three match series. England scored 433 and then bowled out India for 128. Following on India were six for one when Vengsarkar walked in. He embarked on a brilliant counter attack against an attack spearheaded by Ian Botham and Bob Willis.
Ravi Shastri helped him put on 60 runs for the third wicket while he and Yashpal Sharma (37) added 142 runs for the fifth wicket. Vengsarkar totally dominated with a series of breath taking shots which included 21 fours. By the time he was fifth out at 252 Vengsarkar had hit 157 off 264 balls in a stay of 5-1/2 hours. Kapil Dev then hit a thrilling 89 to steer India to 369. England scored the required runs for the loss of three wickets.
Four years later came Vengsarkar’s third century at Lord’s. Again it was the first Test of a three Test series. Put in to bat England were all out for 294. India made a laborious start to their reply but Vengsarkar who came in at 90 for two on the third morning immediately brightened up the proceedings. He shared small but valuable partnerships with Mohinder Amarnath (69) and Md Azhaurddin (33) but the middle order caved in and at 264 for eight the main discussion was whether India could get at least a token lead. Vengsarkar was batting in commanding fashion and he now found support in Kiran More with whom he added 39 runs for the ninth wicket.
More was then out for 25 and when last man Maninder Singh joined him Vengsarkar was on 95. But he was not to be denied his third century on the hallowed turf and he remained unconquered on 126 with 16 hits to the ropes. He made his runs off 213 balls after a five hour stay at the crease as the Indian total reached 341. The lead of 47 runs proved to be invaluable for England were all out for 180 in their second innings and India hit off the required runs for the loss of five wickets. Incidentally it was India’s first victory in 11 Tests at Lord’s dating back to 1932.
For good measure Vengsarkar hit another hundred in the next Test at Leeds – again with last man Maninder Singh for company - to star in India’s 279 run victory which clinched the series in their favour. When he came back to Lord’s in 1990 there was considerable excitement around Vengsarkar.
Could he get a fourth hundred in a Lord’s Test? But this time he was restricted to scores of 52 and 35 even as Ravi Shastri and Md Azharuddin took over the role as centurions. But Vengsarkar with his unmatched feat remains the Lord of Lord’s.