PARTAB RAMCHAND | 16 OCTOBER, 2019
When India Notched Up Their First Test Win Abroad
1932 to Feb 1968 India had played 43 Tests and not even won one!
By February 1968 India had progressed enough to hold their own on home turf. They had scored victories over England, New Zealand, Pakistan and Australia and had won Test series against the first three countries. But the story away from home made for pretty dismal reading. Since 1932 India had played 43 Tests in England, Australia, Pakistan and the West Indies and had not even won one. They had lost 29 and drawn 14. Their maiden visit to New Zealand for a four-Test series in February – March 1968 appeared to give the Indians their best chance of breaking their cricketing duck abroad. New Zealand were probably the bottom placed team in international cricket and at home India had won two contests against them in 1955-56 and nine years later. However the Indians landed in New Zealand after losing all four Tests in Australia and one wondered how much that would have dented their confidence.
In the first Test at Dunedin New Zealand won the toss and raced to 200 for one on the basis of a second wicket partnership of 155 runs between Graham Dowling (143) and Bevan Congdon (58). Thereafter there was a steady collapse and despite a stroke filled 50 by debutant Mark Burgess New Zealand’s first innings total was restricted to 350.
The Indian reply was a model of consistency. All the eleven batsmen reached double digits –the seventh such instance in Test cricket and only the second for India. Ajit Wadekar top scored with an elegant 80 while Farokh Engineer hit a typically breezy 63. But the decisive moment in the context of the game came late in the innings. When Bishen Bedi and Ramakant Desai came together for the tenth wicket India were 302 for nine. New Zealand appeared set for a handy first innings lead which given the fact that India were to bat last would give them a considerable advantage. Shortly after he came in Desai was struck on the jaw by a ball from New Zealand’s pace spearhead Dick Motz. It was diagnosed as a fracture but the game little fast bowler continued to bat bravely despite the pain and discomfiture. Desai (32 not out) and Bedi (22) added 57 runs for the last wicket and against expectations it was India who gained a lead of nine runs. Motz finished as the most successful bowler with five for 86.
Having gained the psychological advantage India now proceeded to gain a stranglehold on the match thanks mainly to the mesmeric bowling of Erapalli Prasanna. The ace off spinner took six for 94 as New Zealand were dismissed for 208 in the second innings with only opening batsman Bruce Murray (54) showing some resitance. This left India with the relatively easy target of 200 for victory. They lost two wickets for 49 but a third wicket partnership of 103 runs between Wadekar (71) and Rusi Surti (44) put them on the road to victory which was achieved for the loss of five wickets early on the fifth morning. ML Jaisimha and Chandu Borde were the batsmen at the crease at the historic moment when India finally notched up their first victory in a Test abroad. India in fact proceeded to win the series 3-1.