Headingley, a happy hunting ground for India

Beyond boundaries

The honours board at Headingley with the names Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly.

Yorkshire has a special connection with India apart from Geoffrey Boycott who was loved by the Indians for his commentary.  

India sealed their maiden series win in England at Headingley in 1986 while Sachin Tendulkar was the first overseas player to represent them in County championship. They also drew their series in 2002 here.

Just like in most of England’s traditional Test venues, Headingley too has this tradition of having honours boards on the walls of their long room that bear the name of players who have taken five wickets in an innings or scored a century.

The Long Room at the Eastern Stand of Headingley, has six centurions and a lone five-wicket taker from India, and it’s the second board that catches your attention as it has three consecutive Indian batsmen in the long list. Vijay Manjrekar was the first from India to score a hundred here on their maiden visit in 1952 and MAK Pataudi followed suit on their next tour in 1959. Dilip Vengsarkar’s century in the 1986 series was crucial to India’s win while in the next and last by India at this venue, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar buried the hosts in an avalanche of runs for a series-equaling victory.

When the first of the two series wins was sealed here by the Kapil Dev-led team, the stars of that match were Roger Binny, who claimed a fifer, and Vengsarkar who struck 61 and 102 in a low-scoring affair. After completing this historic win, India, trailing 1-0, drew their four-Test series here 16 years later that saw Binny’s fellow Bengalureans – Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble -- play the big role in India’s innings win.

Much to everyone’s surprise, Ganguly had opted to bat first on an overcast day with a tinge of grass on the pitch – just what England’s seamers would have hoped for. Matthew Hoggard took out Virender Sehwag quickly, and a batting collapse appeared imminent. But Dravid and Sanjay Bangar, the current batting coach of the Indian team, batted with great discipline and resolve to conquer the conditions and a four-pronged English pace attack – Andrew Caddick, Alex Tudor and Andrew Flintoff being the other three. Man-of-the-match Dravid scored 148, arguably his best Test innings ever, while Bangar contributed 68 to add 170 runs for the second wicket.

Skipper Ganguly (128) and Tendulkar (193) then made merry as India posted 628/8 declared. After that the bowlers complemented the batsmen’s splendid work, by skittling England for 273 and 309 for an innings win. Kumble was the leading wicket-taker with 7/159, the leg-spinner taking a four-wicket haul in the second innings but missing the honours board by just one wicket unlike Binny who had claimed 5/40, helping India restrict England to 102 in the first innings of the 1986 Test.

Binny had added two more in the second for a match haul of 7/58 besides chipping in with 26 runs at No. 10 in India’s second innings total of 237.

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