For Indian cricketers, England has always been one of the toughest countries to play red-ball cricket in. With conditions at home being more favourable to spin and pitches keeping comparatively low, Indian touring teams have, over the decades, struggled to get accustomed to the swing and carry on offer in England.
India have played 18 Test series in England and emerged victorious on just three occasions (1971, 1986 and 2007), with 14 of those series won by the hosts and one (2002) ending in a draw.
Since 1932, India have played a total of 62 Tests in England and won just seven of those matches, with the hosts winning 34 and 21 being draws.
When playing Test cricket in England, the bigger challenge may well be for batsmen but there are a number of adjustments that the bowlers need to make as well. Unlike in India where spinners tend to run the show, red-ball games in England usually require pace-heavy attacks.
The fast bowlers need to move the ball in the right areas and deliver long spells. While spinners, too, need to adjust their speed and length.
As India’s Test record in England indicates, victories have been hard to come by over the years. Having said that, there have been a number of memorable bowling performances by Indians in away Test series against England.
Some of the greatest names in Indian cricket have left their mark in England by taking responsibility and digging deep. Series wins may have been rare but Indian bowlers have consistently provided performances worth remembering.
Most Test wickets by Indians in England
|N Kapil Dev||13||1685||43||5/125||8/168||39.18||2.99||78.5||2||0|
Here’s a look at some of the finest bowling performances by Indians in away Tests series against England:
1946: Lala Amarnath and Vinoo Mankad
Most wickets in 1946 England-India Test series
It was a three-Test series which India lost 1-0, but the legendary duo of Lala Amarnath and Vinoo Mankad troubled the English batsmen throughout. Despite Amarnath’s five-for in England’s first innings of the series, the hosts went on to win the opener by 10 wickets. But Amarnath and Mankad picked eight and seven wickets respectively in the second match to earn India a fighting draw. In the last Test, India got a solid total of 331 thanks to opener Vijay Merchant’s 128, but England could get to just 95/3 in their first innings before the match was washed out. The series win belonged to England but Amarnath’s right-arm medium pace and Mankad’s left-arm orthodox spin were big positives for the visitors.
1959: Subhash Gupte and Surendra Nath
Most wickets in 1959 England-India Test series
This remains India’s heaviest Test series defeat in England, with Datta Gaekwad (who was captain in four games) and his teammates losing 5-0. But that is, perhaps, the reason why leg-spinner Subhash Gupte and medium-pacer Surendra Nath’s performances are all the more impressive. These two fought a lone battle for India and did their best to keep the visitors in the game each time they were handed the ball. India struggled with the bat throughout the series, crossing 200 just three out of ten times, and that robbed them of any chance. But Gupte and Nath’s presence in the top-five wicket-takers list proves how they tested the English batsmen consistently.
1971: BS Chandrasekhar
Most wickets in 1971 England-India Test series
The year 1971 was iconic for Indian cricket. While an unstoppable Sunil Gavaskar led the charge in an epic series win in West Indies, it was BS Chandrasekhar who starred in India’s first Test series victory in England. Spinners Chandrasekhar, S Venkataraghavan and Bishan Singh Bedi finished as the top wicket-takers of the three-match series, with the leggie landing the decisive punch in the final game. England got a decent first innings lead of 71 runs in the third Test after the first two ended in draws. The hosts threatened to run away with the series win before Chandra joined the attack and delivered an unforgettable spell. The leg-spinner picked 6/38 as England were bowled out for just 101 before India went on to register a famous four-wicket win.
1979: Kapil Dev
Most wickets in 1979 England-India Test series
|N Kapil Dev||4||16||5/146||5/146||30.93||2.84||65.1||1||0|
England hammered India in the first Test of the four-match series by an innings and 83 runs, and all five wickets lost by the hosts in that game were taken by Kapil Dev. The legendary right-arm quick kept up his performances thereafter and helped his team draw the remaining matches. England batted five times in that series and Kapil picked three wickets in four of those innings. He was just 20 years old at that time but led the attack with aplomb, bowling fiery spells with great speed and accuracy.
1986: Chetan Sharma
Most wickets in 1986 England-India Test series
This remains the most comprehensive Test series win in England for India. And one of the shining lights on that tour was Chetan Sharma. The right-arm pacer missed the second of the three Tests but was still the highest wicket-taker in the series by some distance. His figures in the four innings that he bowled were: 5/64 (32), 1/48 (17), 4/130 (29.3), and 6/58 (24). India won the first two Tests and opened with Kapil Dev, Roger Binny and Madan Lal through the series, but Sharma’s impact as a first change bowler was devastating. It’s a pity that these were the only two Tests he ever played in England.
2002: Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh
Most wickets in 2002 England-India Test series
In this series, too, England earned a comprehensive win in the first Test. But the remaining three matches saw India make a spirited fightback. Among the bowlers, it was the spin duo of Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh who led the charge. It was a high-scoring series with batsmen from both teams getting centuries consistently. The second and fourth games ended in draws but the third one saw India level the series. That match at Leeds remains iconic for Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly hitting tons in the first innings, but Kumble and Harbhajan played their part as well by picking seven and four wickets respectively in the match.
2007: Zaheer Khan
Most wickets in 2007 England-India Test series
This was the third time India won a Test series in England and the key architect of that victory was Zaheer Khan. The first and third games ended in draws but the left-arm pacer’s nine-wicket haul in the second Test gave India a famous seven-wicket win. Zaheer had picked up momentum with a match haul of six wickets in the series opener and by the time the action moved to Nottingham for the second Test, he was bowling with wonderful rhythm. He picked a five-for in the second innings of that match but his key breakthroughs in the first innings helped India bowl out England for just 198 and set up the win.
2014: Bhuvneshwar Kumar
Most wickets in 2014 England-India Test series
India lost this five-match series 3-1, with their batting failing to put up a fight in the last three games. The first two Tests, however, saw Bhuvneshwar Kumar lead the charge with two superb performances. He picked a five-wicket haul to help India draw the opener, before bagging a six-for in the next game to hand his team the series lead. The right-arm pacer was 24 years old at that time and bowled lengthy spells to give skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni control from one end. Bhuvneshwar delivered 172.5 overs in seven innings in that series and was undoubtedly the premier bowler for India.
(All statistics courtesy ESPNcricinfo and Scroll.in research)
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