It’s not just ‘Home of Cricket’. It’s also the venue where India’s Test cricket journey began all the way back in 1932. Led by the charismatic CK Nayudu, Indian cricket embarked on a journey that has now seen them play 523 Test matches.
“Though it was the Maharaja of Patiala who was the designated captain and the Ghanshyamsinhji of Limbdi the official vice-captain, both made way for my father to lead the side. It was indicative of his abilities as a leader and the readiness with which even princes were willing to give way to a common man,” Chandra, a retired professor in English and the Nayudu’s daughter is quoted as saying by ESPNCricinfo.
The first Test saw India, expectedly, lose to the mighty English by 158 runs, despite Mohammed Nisar getting India off to a breathtaking start by reducing England to 11/2 and a run-out of Frank Woolley making it 19/3. But the hosts recovered from there to post 259. India’s batsmen got off to starts in their first innings but were eventually bowled out for 189, and England dominated the game thereafter to win big.
From thereon, India have played 16 more Tests at the famous venue, winning two and drawing four matches.
After six defeats at Lord’s in their first six Test matches and nearly four decades later, India avoided defeat for the first time in 1971 – incidentally, the first time they won a series in England.
Coming into the first match of the 1971 series in England, under Ajit Wadekar’s captaincy, India were riding high on an already significant feat – a series win against the mighty West Indies, their first ever overseas win in the Caribbean and even more significantly, the first time they had won an overseas series apart from New Zealand in 1968.
Having bowled England out for 304 in the first innings, they scored 313 to gain a first innings lead of 9 runs, only the second time India had led England in a Test overseas. Their spin trio of Srinivas Venkataraghavan, Bishen Singh Bedi and Chandrasekhar had a combined 9-wicket haul in the first innings and got into action again to bowl England out for 191 in their second innings. Needing only 183 to win, India slipped to 145/8 at tea on the final day and were thankful for the rain which prevented any further play.
That Test at Lord’s, apart from sending India on their way to a famous series win led by the inimitable Chandrasekhar, is remembered for that infamous image of England pacer John Snow charging into the Little Master, Sunil Gavaskar, just before lunch on the fifth morning. The incident, which happened when Gavaskar was trying to complete a run, caused a big uproar in English circles (because of how seriously they take their ‘spirit of cricket’ sentiment) and Snow was dropped for the second Test.
Read more about that match and the entire series here.
The Lord’s honours board is a special place to have your name. Especially if you are an overseas batsman. Some of the biggest names have failed to get that honour. Sachin Tendulkar. Brian Lara. Sunil Gavaskar. Ricky Ponting. Four men who’d make most all-time great XIs, couldn’t score a Test ton at the hallowed turf.
That’s why Dilip Vengsarkar’s feat – the only overseas-born player to score three centuries at Lord’s – will remain special in Indian cricket history. In fact, Hashim Amla is the only active cricketer who poses a threat to that record, having scored two.
Another hero of that match was Chetan Sharma, who’s 5/64 helped to bowl out a plodding England out for 294 in more than 128 overs. The second day of the Test saw only 132 runs scored in 83 overs, with India also content to trudge on, finishing the day on 83/1 in 51 overs.
Vengsarkar then played a knock full of sumptuous cover drives and piled up an unbeaten 126, his third consecutive century at the “Home of Cricket”. But even then, when India finished on 341 with a vital first innings lead, a draw seemed the likeliest prospect. Up stepped another special cricketer. Kapil Dev, with a brilliant display of swing bowling.
Thanks to Kapil Dev’s wonderful spell of bowling, where he ended up picking four wickets, England were bowled out for 180 and India only needed 134 to win at Lords for the first time in their cricketing history. At 78/4, with Vengsarkar dismissed, there was some concern for India but it was that man again, the Indian captain, who smashed a 10-ball 23 at the end to take India past the finish line. Kapil’s Devils created history. India had their first ever win at the Mecca of Cricket.
Read more about that match and the famous series win here.
It wasn’t a particularly memorable series for India, as they lost the first Test at Edgbaston, before drawing the next two games to lose 1-0 but in the grander scheme of things, a new era for Indian cricket began at Lord’s. On June 20, 1996 two young men won their first Test caps for the country and the rest, as they say, is history.
It wasn’t just an ordinary debut for Sourav Chandidas Ganguly and Rahul Sharad Dravid. A magnificent century for the former and a wonderful 95 for the latter, meant their impending journey with India began in fine fashion, as India earned a draw to keep hopes of levelling the series alive. Ganguly’s selection, which created plenty of controversy in the lead up to the Test, was quickly becoming a masterstroke as he pierced the off-side with some divine stroke-play. Dravid, then, shored up India’s total, with a gutsy innings at No 7 as India took a first innings lead, that was ultimately good enough to make sure the game would be drawn.
The signs were good but little did we know that it was the beginning of the golden era for India’s middle order in Test cricket.
India have won a Test series in England only three times. And on all three occasions, they avoided defeat in the series-opener. In that sense, the lucky escape of 2007 was a sign of things to come for Rahul Dravid’s men.
The draw in 2007 was when MS Dhoni took center-stage in a Test match for exhibiting a side to his game that wasn’t common knowledge back then – the ability to grind it out, when he had to. Curbing his attacking instincts, Dhoni – with the help of some rain on the final day – played for 203 minutes, while scoring 76 and remaining unbeaten. His half century on his England debut set the tone for India to come away with a 1-0 series win.
“Of course we had a bit of luck but it’s nice to get away with one of these rather than lose them,” Dravid had said then. I’m glad that Dhoni, along with the tail, batted through a difficult period for us in tough light and got us there.”
India got out of the jail at Lord’s and redemption would arrive at Nottingham.
A largely forgettable series saw MS Dhoni’s men create history in the most unique of fashions. After a draw at Nottingham, India won at Lord’s for only the second time in the series and yet ended up losing the series 3-1 in, frankly, embarrassing fashion, getting thrashed in games three, four and five.
For the first time since 1986, India tasted victory at the Home of Cricket and it was inspired by Ishant Sharma’s strategy of bowling bouncers to England in the fourth innings.
Well, we say Ishan’t strategy but it was really Dhoni’s, who recalled after the match about how he had to force his fast bowler’s hand to change his lengths.
“To start off with, it was very difficult to convince him,” Dhoni said. “When he first came on to bowl, I asked him to bowl short, and he turned the other way. Then I set the field for him so that he couldn’t even think of bowling up. So the strategy was to give him a field so he is forced to bowl the length that I wanted him to bowl.”
The result was a middle-order collapse for England that handed India a 95-run win.
The Test started with Ajinkya Rahane playing a gem of an innings on a green wicket, taking India to 296 from 145-7, with a stroke-filled 154-ball 103. It was then Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s turn to get his name on the honour’s board with a six-for on Lord’s debut.
India’s second innings saw M Vijay play a masterful innings at the top, followed by a plucky partnership between Ravindra Jadeja and emerging-star of the series for India, Kumar. Chasing 319 for a win, England had a top-order collapse but Joe Root led the recovery before Ishant wrecked the hosts’ best-laid plans.
It didn’t matter ultimately but, while it lasted, the feeling of triumph at Lord’s was special for a generation that wasn’t used to seeing that.