Playing in foreign conditions was always a massive challenge for the Indian cricket team.
All that changed in 1968.
It was in 1968 that the Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi-led Indian team beat New Zealand 3-1 to win their first series abroad and went onto to beat the mighty West Indies 1-0 in the Caribbean land in 1971. However, England continued to remain an unconquered fortress with India managing to draw only four in their 19 matches in England so far.
Ajit Wadekar was leading the high-on-confidence Indian side to their seventh tour to England in 1971.
The visitors did not boast of fiery fast-bowlers who could rip apart the opposition and, instead, relied heavily on the spin quartet to deliver on the pace-friendly English conditions. England, who had just regained the Ashes, with the likes of John Price and Peter Lever, looked dangerous.
Chasing a target of 183 on the final day, India survived at 145/8 crawling to a draw in the first Test at Lord’s.
India had plenty of positives to take from the match as Ajit Wadekar (85) Gundappa Vishwanath (68) Eknath Solkar (67) (first-innings) and Sunil Gavaskar (53) (second-innings) had a decent outing while the England batsmen struggled against the spinners Bishan Singh Bedi and Venkataraghavan.
The hosts prepared a green-top at Old Trafford, Manchester in the second Test. Medium-pacer Abid Ali (4/64) ran through the top-order leaving England reeling at 187 for 7 wickets. But skipper Ray Illingworth added a 168-run partnership with Peter Lever for the eight wicket to put England on top with 368 in the first innings. Despite hard-fought half-centuries from Gavaskar (57) and Solkar (50), India were bundled out for 212 on day three.
Opener Brian Luckhurst’s century (101) put England in the driver’s seat as they declared at 245/3, setting a mammoth target of 420 runs for India. A defeat seemed evident as the visitors toiled at 65/3 at the end of day four. But the rain gods lashed Manchester, sparing India as the final day was washed out.
England won the toss and opted to bat in the third and final Test match at Kennington Oval, London. John Jameson (82), Alan Knott (90) and Richard Hutton (81) put England in the front as the hosts finished at 355 runs on day one. Another draw hovered over The Oval as the second day was washed out.
Dilip Sardesai (54) and Farokh Engineer (59) helped India to 284 after being five down at 125 runs in their first innings. Ray Illingworth was the pick of the bowlers for England with figures of 5/70.
On day four, England enjoyed a healthy 71-run lead over India but the latter’s fortunes were about to change. Leg-spinner Bhagwath Chandrasekhar wrecked the hosts’ batting lineup scalping Jameson, John Edrich, Keith Fletcher in one over. On a wicket that hardly assisted spin Chandrasekhar had bamboozled the clueless English batsmen with his abrupt bounce and pace as he picked up six wickets in just 18.1 overs. England were dismissed for 101, their lowest ever score against the Indians at the time.
Chasing a target of 173 runs, India were off to a steady start and finished day four at 76/2 with Wadekar batting at 45 along with Sardesai (13). While Wadekar was run out on his overnight score, Sardesai went on to add to 27 runs to his tally and dragged India closer to victory along with Vishwanath (33) before a 28 not out by Farokh Engineer sealed India’s first ever Test match and series win on English soil.