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India in Great Britain, 1946 (cricket)

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India toured Great Britain in the 1946 cricket season and played 29 first-class fixtures with eleven wins, four defeats and fourteen draws. The 1946 season marked a return to normal first-class cricket following the end of World War II. The Test series between England and India was the first in Great Britain since 1939.

In its review of the 1946 season, Wisden Cricketers' Almanack remarked that "the Indians were the first postwar touring side, and although they were outplayed in the Tests they raised the status and the dignity of their country's sport".[1] Wisden also mentioned that "the weather in 1946 might have been dreadful, but it didn't stop the crowds flocking to games".[1] The state of the weather was mentioned by John Arlott who wrote his first match report for The Guardian when the Indians played Worcestershire at New Road, Worcester on 4, 6 and 7 May. Arlott wrote that "New Road was bleak that Saturday morning... dark under the cloud, it was swept by a bitter gale howling across from Diglis".[2]

The tour was the last by India before Partition the following year, but the players were on good terms with each other despite the tensions at home and they "earned the respect and admiration of everyone with whom they came into close contact".[3] The team's overall performance was better than those of the 1932 and 1936 tourists. India had hoped to do better still given that first-class cricket had continued in India through the war years while very little cricket had been played in England since 1939. Although the team had some good batsmen, it was let down by a shortage of specialist bowlers and some very poor fielding. Wisden commented upon "an almost astonishing frequency of dropped catches".[1]

Test series summary

England and India played three Tests between June and August. England won the series 1–0 with two matches drawn:

The three Tests were nos 276–278 in the overall list of Test matches and, apart from the one-off Test (no. 275) between New Zealand and Australia in March 1946, they were the first Tests played worldwide since the end of the Second World War and constituted the first full Test series played since England's 1939 home series against the West Indies.

India squad

India used a 16-man squad captained by Iftikhar Ali Khan, the Nawab of Pataudi, who was one of the few players to represent two countries in Test cricket, having played for England during the 1930s.

Squad details below state the player's age at the beginning of the tour, his batting hand, his type of bowling, and his Ranji Trophy team at the time:

Batsmen

Bowlers

All-rounders

Wicket-keepers

The team relied heavily on all-rounders and some of those listed above as batsmen or bowlers had all-round ability. All except Banerjee and Nimbalkar played in the Test series. The team was largely inexperienced at international level as only six players had made their Test debuts before the Second World War: Pataudi, Amarnath, Hindlekar, Merchant, Mushtaq Ali and Nayudu. In the First Test, which India lost heavily, the team had six debutants: Abdul Hafeez, Gul Mohammad, Hazare, Mankad, Modi and Shinde. Sohoni and Sarwate made their debuts in the Second Test.

It is possible that India could have selected a stronger side, assuming all players were available, but among those who did not take part were two of the outstanding bowlers in the 1945–46 domestic season. Amir Elahi of Baroda was the top bowler with 47 wickets. He bowled a mixture of leg break and googly with medium pace and he later played Test cricket for Pakistan. Ghulam Ahmed, only 23 at the time, was a real prospect who eventually played in 22 Tests through the 1950s. He was an off spinner who took 28 wickets in 1945–46 at 16.50. India's batting on the tour was generally strong but two players who had shone at home were Hemu Adhikari and Gogumal Kishenchand, who both played for India in later years.

Merchant and Mankad were outstanding players for India but too many of their colleagues were on the whole ordinary, although Hazare, Amarnath and Pataudi had their good days among the generally indifferent. Merchant scored 2,385 first-class runs on the tour at the high average of 74.53 with 7 centuries and a top score of 242 not out. At the time, he was one of the world's best opening batsmen. But Merchant was the only batsman of real quality and India were often vulnerable against good bowlers in the generally wet or overcast conditions. India's next highest run-scorer was Hazare with 1,344 at 49.77. Modi and Mankad also scored over 1,000 runs. Pataudi managed 981 runs at 46.71 despite persistent health problems and he scored 4 centuries.

Mankad performed the "double" by taking 129 wickets and he achieved the outstanding average of 20.76. But India's bowling had little depth and the next highest wicket takers were Amarnath and Hazare with 56 apiece.

England selections

England staged two Test trials, the first in June a week before the First Test and the second in July a week before the Second Test. It was seven years since England had last played a Test match and there was a winter tour of Australia and New Zealand to come so the selectors wanted to look at a large number of players to try and quickly establish the best possible team.

A total of 35 players were used in the two Test trials and, in the end, England used 19 players in the three Test matches, with as many as 10 making only a single appearance. The mainstays of the team who each played in all three Tests were middle order batsman and team captain Walter Hammond, opening batsmen Len Hutton and Cyril Washbrook, middle order batsman Denis Compton and opening pace bowler Alec Bedser. The details below state the player's age at the beginning of the season, his batting hand, his type of bowling, and his County Championship team at the time:

Batsmen

All-rounders

Bowlers

Wicket-keepers

For the first Test at Lord's, England had only three debutants compared with India's six. Bedser and batting all-rounder Jack Ikin were the only "new" players in that they had made two and five first-class appearances respectively before the war and each of them was now in his first full season. The third debutant was veteran seam bowler Frank Smailes who had been playing regularly for Yorkshire since 1932. England's other four players in this match were also experienced pre-war players: batsman Joe Hardstaff junior, wicket-keeper Paul Gibb, leg spinner Doug Wright and pace bowler Bill Bowes.

Team changes were made for the Second Test in view of the need to try out several players ahead of the winter tour of Australia. Pace bowler Dick Pollard was introduced, making his Test debut in place of Smailes. Like Smailes, Pollard was an experienced player active since 1933. Veteran pace bowler Bill Voce was recalled in place of his former bodyline series colleague Bowes.

England made six changes for the Third Test, which was drawn after being ruined by rain. Batsmen Laurie Fishlock, Bill Edrich and all-rounder James Langridge were recalled along with fast bowler Alf Gover. There were two debutants: wicket-keeper Godfrey Evans and leg spinner Peter Smith. They replaced Ikin, Hardstaff, Gibb, Voce, Pollard and Wright.

The season-long bad weather not only ruined the cricket but also prevented the selectors from being able to fully assess the suitability of their players for Test cricket ahead of the coming winter's tour of Australia and New Zealand. In the end, they were largely satisfied with the players selected because 16 of them were included in the 17-man tour party, the exception being Yorkshire batsman Norman Yardley, who was being groomed for the captaincy. Of the players who took part in the 1946 series, England did not select Bowes, Gover or Smailes for the winter tour.

The one great "find" in 1946 was Alec Bedser who took 24 wickets in the series, including 22 in his first two Tests. Bedser fulfilled his potential and was easily England's best bowler for several seasons to come. Godfrey Evans, who played in one Test in 1946, was another new player who became an England regular and has often been hailed as England's best-ever wicket-keeper. But, in terms of long-term development of the national team, the 1946 series left England with more questions than answers. Pre-war players Hutton, Compton, Edrich, Washbrook and Wright all continued to represent England for many years but, as two forthcoming series against Australia would show, the England team in the immediate post-war period was just not good enough, mainly because of over-reliance on the best players Hutton, Compton and Bedser with the latter having to "carry" the England bowling for several seasons.

Matches

Opening fixture

The tour opened at New Road, Worcester on 4, 6 and 7 May where India played Worcestershire in bleak and windy conditions. This was a close-fought match with Worcestershire batting first, having been put in by Pataudi, and scoring 191 in their first innings. Captain Alexander Singleton top-scored with 47 and Vinoo Mankad took 4–26. India replied with 192, Modi scoring 34 and Reg Perks taking 5–53. Worcestershire made 284 in the second innings with future England player Dick Howorth scoring 105 while Shinde took 5–50. Needing the same total to win, India did not quite make it and were dismissed for 267, giving the county a 16-run victory. Howorth, bowling the kind of slow left-arm orthodox spin that is more usually associated with Indian bowlers, took 4–59 to complement his century while Modi was again the best Indian batsman with 84.

Matches before the first Test

Including the match at Worcester, India played 10 first-class matches prior to the first Test at Lord's, starting on 22 June:

So, apart from losing the opener by a narrow margin, the Indians were successful in the run-up to the first Test. Their win over Surrey was made possible by a remarkable performance in their first innings when, with the score at a modest 205 for nine, the last two batsmen Sarwate (scoring 124 not out) and Banerjee (121) put on 249 for the 10th wicket. This was the first time that numbers 10 and 11 had both scored centuries in the same innings. Surrey collapsed and were made to follow-on but India had only to make 20 in their second innings to complete a celebrated victory.

Merchant made his mark with 111* and 57* against Leicestershire followed by a magnificent 148 against MCC. Mankad took 10 wickets in the match against MCC, whose team included Bill Edrich and Norman Yardley but was otherwise ordinary.

Against Hampshire, India converted a first innings deficit of 67 into a 6-wicket victory after a fine bowling performance by Hazare in the county's second innings. The next three matches were ruined by the bad weather although Amarnath scored a good century against Glamorgan.

First Test

England won the first Test at Lord's by 10 wickets in a little over two days. India batted first and, having been 87 for 6, recovered to make 200 after a good stand by Modi (57 not out) and Hafeez (43). Alec Bedser on his Test debut took 7 for 49. With Joe Hardstaff scoring 205 not out, England replied with 428. Amarnath bowled well and took 5 for 118. India made 275 in their second innings (Mankad 63, Amarnath 50) and England then won the match with 48 for no wicket. Bedser took 4 for 96 in the second innings to claim debut match figures of 11 for 145.[4]

This was the first Test match in England since 1939 and the public welcomed it in large numbers. The gates had to be closed on both the first two days with over 30,000 spectators inside.

Matches before the second Test

India played 6 first-class matches between the first two Tests and these included two matches each against Yorkshire and Lancashire:

Apart from the heavy defeat at Bradford where Len Hutton scored 183 not out and Arthur Booth took 10 for 91 in the match, India had another successful phase against the counties, although some of the matches were impacted by the poor weather.

Merchant made 110 and 72 not out at Northampton. After India had conceded first innings lead at Liverpool, Merchant and Pataudi added an unbeaten 161 for the 3rd wicket to complete the victory. At Old Trafford, Merchant made 242 not out as India scored 456 for 8 declared in their only innings. Mankad took 9 wickets in the match but the tourists ran out of time and Lancashire held on for the draw. Mankad was the pick of the bowlers at Chesterfield where Pataudi scored 113 and Modi was bowled on 99. At Sheffield, Hazare (244 not out) and Mankad (132) shared a fourth wicket stand of 322.

Second Test

The second Test at Old Trafford was drawn but it had a tense climax as India's last wicket pair Sohoni and Hindlekar held on for the final 13 minutes of play to secure the draw with England 125 runs ahead. Bedser again took 11 wickets and Pollard weighed in with 7. Compton, with two half centuries, was the top scorer.[5]

England batted first, having been put in by Pataudi, and the first four batsmen all scored half-centuries. England then collapsed from 250 for four to 294 all out. Amarnath and Mankad took five wickets apiece. India staged a similar collapse after a fine opening partnership between Merchant and Mushtaq Ali, falling from 124 for none to 170 all out. With the match impacted by rain, Hammond declared the second innings at 153 for five and left India needing 278. They made 152 for nine (Hazare 44) with Sohoni and Hindlekar holding on at the very end.

Matches before the third Test

India played five first-class matches between the second and third Tests:

India's best batting performance of the tour took place at Hove where they scored 533 for three declared and each of the first four batsmen made a century: Merchant 205, Mankad 105, Pataudi 110 not out and Amarnath 106. Sussex were dismissed for 253 (Shinde 4 for 60) and asked to follow on. In their second innings, Sussex saved the innings defeat with a total of 427 in which the stalwart George Cox scored a career-best 234 not out. Mankad took 5 for 140. India then made the necessary 148 for one (Merchant 63 not out, Modi 72 not out) to win by nine wickets.

Having achieved that fine victory at Hove, it was a surprise when the wheels came off at Taunton. India elected to bat after winning the toss and were bundled out for a mere 64 by Somerset seamers Bill Andrews and Bertie Buse. The surprise grew when Somerset amassed 506 for six declared. Although India recovered to score 431 (Merchant 87, Pataudi 76) in their second innings, they went down to a heavy defeat.

India recovered with a solid performance to win at Swansea where Mankad and Nayudu bowled well and India made 274 for five (Mushtaq Ali 93) in their second innings after a sporting declaration by Glamorgan. The matches at Edgbaston and Cheltenham were ruined by rain although early declarations at Cheltenham set up a tight finish, India finishing on 177 for nine just seven runs behind at the close.

Third Test

The third Test at The Oval was drawn after being ruined by the rain.

India won the toss and batted first after rain delayed the start by several hours, scoring 331 (Merchant 128, Mushtaq Ali 59; Edrich 4 for 68). England had made 95 for three in their first innings when the rain returned and washed out the last three days of the match, which was abandoned as a draw.[6]

Remaining matches

Following the final Test, India played five more first-class matches to conclude the tour:

India staged a remarkable recovery at Southend after Essex had taken a first innings lead of 165. Essex declared their second innings at 201 for three leaving India to score 367. Merchant made a fine 181 and India, having reached 354 for nine with the last two men in, reached the target to win by one wicket.

The rain was back at Canterbury with two days washed out. Hazare and Mankad produced outstanding all-round performances at Lord's where Middlesex, minus Compton and Edrich, were beaten by an innings and 263 in less than two days. In India's total of 469 for five declared, Hazare made 193 not out and Mankad 109 not out. The pair then took 4 for 25 and 5 for 48 respectively as Middlesex were bowled out for 124. Middlesex followed on and were all out for just 82, Hazare and Mankad taking three wickets apiece.

India had the edge in a low-scoring match against a very useful South of England team at Hastings, Amarnath taking eight wickets in the match which came to a very close finish with a 10-run margin after India had declared their second innings at 253 for three.

The last match of the tour against the select XI was at the Scarborough Festival and play was delayed by rain on the first day. The weather came to India's aid this time as the match closed with them needing twelve runs to avoid an innings defeat and only two wickets standing. Dick Howorth returned to haunt India by scoring 114 and taking four for 38 and five for 34.

Notes

Bibliography

  • Arlott, John: Arlott on Cricket (ed. David Rayvern Allen). Collins (1984).
  • Guha, Ramachandra: A Corner of a Foreign Field – An Indian History of a British Sport. Picador (2001).
  • Preston, Hubert (editor): Wisden Cricketers' Almanack – 84th Edition. John Wisden & Co. Ltd (1947).
  • Preston, Hubert (editor): India in England, 1946. Wisden Online (1947).
  • Swanton, E. W. (editor): Barclays World of Cricket, 3rd edition. Willow Books (1986).