All eyes will be on Virat Kohli when India lock horns with hosts England in the five-match Test series. The India skipper’s dismal record in his previous tour of England has been in the limelight as the build-up to the eagerly anticipated series continues.
England has been one of the tougher tests for India’s batsmen in their overseas sojourns and 2018 promises to be no different. After first touring England in 1932, India are now gearing up to play their 58th Test on English shores.
Here, we look at five of the best Test innings by an Indian batsman in England.
148 – Headingley, 2002
The 2002 tour of England was the making of Rahul Dravid as a Test batsman with the right-hander going on to score three centuries in the four matches. However, his best innings came during the third Test at Headingley.
India lost opener Virender Sehwag early after batting first at Leeds before Dravid walked in and scored a typically stubborn ton. The right-hander toiled for 307 balls and 429 minutes at the crease as he made 148 which laid the most solid of foundations for India. Sachin Tendulkar (193) and Sourav Ganguly (128) then feasted on a worn-out English bowling attack to help India tie the series with victory by an innings and 46 runs.
102 not out – Headingley, 1986
Sixteen years before Dravid played his stupendous innings at Headingley, Dilip Vengsarkar did something similar at the same venue. On a pitch where seam and swing thrived, Vengsarkar’s 61-run knock in the first-innings helped India to a substantial lead.
However, it was his knock in the second innings which will be remembered for its impact. On a pitch where no other batsman from either side scored more than 36, Vengsarkar remained unbeaten on 102 to pave the way for a 279-run win for India. The right-hander continued to wage a lone battle while other Indian batsmen fell like nine pins and his perseverance helped India seal a famous series win at Headingley.
119 not out – Old Trafford, 1990
It was 28 years ago that the legend that is Sachin Tendulkar took the cricketing world by storm with a tremendous innings. Then a 17-year-old, Tendulkar and India were up against it after England set the visitors a mammoth target of 408 to win in the second innings.
India found themselves in all sorts of trouble after being reduced to 127-5 before Tendulkar took the initiative and registered the first of his 51 Test tons. The teenager was unbeatable as England failed to find a way past his bat and his unbeaten knock of 119 ensured that India saved the Test with a hard-earned draw. That knock in Manchester is arguably Tendulkar’s best performance in England even though he went on to play quite a few innings of note in the country.
126 not out – Lord’s, 1986
The only batsman to feature twice in the list, Vengsarkar played a gem of knock at Lord’s before his heroics at Headingley in the tour of 1986. After England had managed to score 294 in the first innings, Vengsarkar and Mohinder Amarnath formed a solid partnership for the third wicket in India’s reply. However, once the latter was dismissed, wickets started tumbling in heaps. Vengsarkar, though, dug in to defy the England bowlers.
He remained unbeaten till the very end to help India take a 47-run lead which proved to be vital in the end as the visitors went on to claim a five-wicket win. Vengsarkar scored a record three tons on the trot at the iconic venue but his 1986 innings remains the best he has played at the ground.
221 – The Oval, 1979
India were trailing 1-0 in the four-match series when the final Test at The Oval started. Geoffrey Boycott’s ton for England in the second innings meant the visitors were set a near-improbable target of 438 to win in the final innings. Sunil Gavaskar and Chetan Chauhan then gave India the perfect start as they put together 213 runs for the first wicket before the latter was dismissed.
Gavaskar though, soldiered on with one of his best Test innings as he stitched a valuable 153-run partnership with Vengsarkar. His knock put India on the verge of one of the most famous Test wins ever but his dismissal for a 443-ball 221 saw the visitors scramble for safety in the final session. In the end, India finished their innings at 429-8, just eight runs short of what would have been a remarkable Test win.
Here, we take a look at the young English players aged 21 and below who could be soon knocking on the doors of the senior team.
Ollie Pope burst on to the scene as a wicketkeeper-batsman, but it is his batting which is winning him many admirers in the English county circuit. The right-handed batsman had had a phenomenal breakout year with Surrey in 2017, when he impressed across all three formats. While his exploits as a T20 batsman won him many plaudits, he showed that he has the gumption for five-day cricket too with a superb ton against Hampshire in only his third county championship match. He is one of, if not the brightest young talent England have on hand at the moment.
Haseeb Hameed is an enigma. The opening batsman was earmarked for greatness when he shone on his Test debut in tough conditions in India as a 19-year-old in November, 2016. His two innings of 31 and 82 on a pitch where spinners were causing mayhem was brilliance at its best. However, the Lancashire batsman has fallen way off the radar since then and has gone on to play only two more Tests. A poor run in county cricket means Hameed is no longer on the selectors’ radar but the youngster still has time on his hand to force his way back into the reckoning. A crucial year lies ahead of the right-hander.
Harry Brook looked head and shoulders above the rest of the English batsmen during the U19 World Cup held in New Zealand at the start of the year. The 19-year-old England U19 skipper is a technically-correct batsman with all the shots in his book. He proved his mettle for the Yorkshire Second XI in the 2017 season and has now been making appearances for the main team too. He registered a classy fifty in Yorkshire’s recent clash with a Lancashire side which included the likes of James Anderson.
A former England U19 skipper, Max Holden is another young English batsman who enjoyed a terrific 2017 in county cricket. The left-handed batsman scored a total of 629 runs in the county championship for Northamptonshire last year at an average of nearly 40. That impressive loan spell has seen the youngster recalled to Middlesex where he has now signed a long-term contract. A busy batsman who likes to graft for his runs, Holden seems tailor-made for Test cricket at the moment.
An all-rounder by ilk, Aaron Thomason is another of the young Englishmen worth keeping an eye on at the moment. The right-hander has come up through the ranks at Warwickshire and has also represented England at the U19 level. A technically sound batsman, Thomason is an adept medium-pace bowler. His showings with both bat and ball for Warwickshire’s second XI in 2017 were impressive and he could be stepping up to the main side fairly soon.
Another exciting English prospect coming up through the ranks at Warwickshire is Liam Banks. A batsman who is equally comfortable at opening the innings or in the middle-order, Banks can also bowl some handy part-time off spin. He was a part of England’s U19 squad in the World Cup this year and has already made his county championship debut with Warwickshire last year. This will be a big year for his development after some fine displays for the Warwickshire second XI last year.
Saqib Mahmood is one of the most promising young English pacers coming through at the moment. The Lancashire pacer was named as the England Development Programme cricketer of the year in 2015 and went on to represent the England U19 side as just a 17-year-old. The 19 wickets he has taken so far in six first-class matches saw Mahmood being called up the England Lions squad during their shadow tour of the Ashes last year. With that trajectory, it won’t be a surprise to see the pacer knock on the doors of the senior team soon.
How highly rated young Josh Tongue is can be gauged from the fact that he already has 20 first-class matches under his belt. The Worcestershire pacer had an outstanding first season in the county championship last year where he bagged a total of 47 wickets. He too, like Mahmood, was part of the England Lions squad which toured Australia last year. He is now an established member of the Worcestershire squad which is no mean feat for a 20-year-old youngster.
George Garton might not have racked up impressive numbers just as yet, but that does not mean the pacer isn’t on the radar of the England selectors. The left-arm quick can bowl with impressive pace and has been a steady performer for Sussex’s second XI over the course of the last year. How high up he is in the pecking order was evident when Garton was called up as cover for the injury-ravaged England squad during their last Ashes tour.
At 21 years of age, Dom Bess has already played two Tests for England. Although that might have more to do with England’s lack of quality spinners at the moment, Bess more than looked the part in his appearances. The off-spinner announced himself to the cricket world with figures of 6-21 against Warwickshire on his county championship debut for Somerset in 2016. He formed a successful partnership with Jack Leach in 2017 for Somerset and is no mug with the bat either as his century for the second XI last year showed.
Hamidullah Qadri made headlines in 2017 when, as a 16-year-old, he became the youngest player to play first-class cricket for Derbyshire. He picked up a five-wicket haul with his off-spin in the second innings of his debut to lead Derbyshire to a win over Glamorgan. Born in Afghanistan, Qadri is one of the most talented young spinners coming though the county circuit along with Dom Bess. Expect him to have a big year with Derbyshire across all formats.
South Africa pacer Dale Steyn has spoken out against the imbalance between bat and ball in the modern game. The fast-bowling great has even gone as far to call Australia’s attempt to tamper with the ball during their tour of South Africa this year as a ‘cry for help’.
The Proteas pacer recently equalled Shaun Pollock’s tally of 421 Test wickets to become his country’s all-time leading wicket-taker in the format and he believes that the game needs to take steps to aid the bowlers.
“It’s obviously not on (Australia’s ball-tampering attempt), but if you think about it, it’s almost like a cry for help. We need to do something,” Steyn told Reuters in an interview.
“There’s so much in favour of batsmen these days. Fields are small, two new balls, powerplays, bats have got bigger than they used to be, the list can go on. You bowl a ‘no ball’ and it’s a free hit. But I have never seen a rule change that favours the bowler.”
“It’s a big plea and it would be a sad day to see (reverse swing) disappear. I grew up watching (Wasim) Akram, I grew up watching Waqar and all these geniuses run in and reverse swing the ball. And you just don’t see it today. What inspiration will other fast bowlers have if they don’t have anybody to inspire them to become fast bowlers? You might as well put a bowling machine there and everyone try and become a batter,” the 35-year-old said.
Like Tendulkar, Steyn believes that the two new-balls rule in ODIs needs to be abolished to restore the balance.
“They changed the rule and said we will bring two new balls into the game. I don’t want a new ball when I am bowling in the subcontinent. I want an old ball that can’t get hit out of the ground. I want a ball that when I bowl doesn’t have true bounce, so that the batsman can’t hit it. These are not rules that favour the bowler at all. They are, if anything, add to the batsman,” said the pacer.