Indian cricket has always been rich in batting heritage . In olden times we had the Vijay Merchants, Mustaq Alis, Vijay Manjrekars ,Polly Umrigars ,In the 70s we saw the emergence of Gavaskar , Viswanath and Mohinder Amarnath .In late 1970s , we had this tall ,lanky aggressive strokeplayer from Mumbai who created mayhem in the Irani trophy match by hitting our famous Indian spinners, Prasanna in paticular for huge sixes . Thus Dilip Balwant Vengsarkar arrived in the Indian cricket scene and he went on to play with great distinction for India amassing 6868 runs at 42 average with 17 hundreds in 116 tests and also scoring 3500 plus runs in ODIS .
As Vengsarkar completes 63 today on April 6th we reflect back on his 3rd successive Lords hundred in 1986 which finally took India to a convincing win to go 1-0 up in the 1986 England series.
England batted first and scored 294 helped by a resolute 114 by Graham Gooch . In reply India were progressing well with both openers giving a decent start . At 90/2 , Gavaskar (34) was dismissed which brought Vengsarkar into the crease and he started off with a superb 71 run stand with Mohinder Amarnath (69) who was batting with ease. Both the stars matched each other stroke for stroke with Vengsarkar playing his glorious cover drives both off front and backfoot and some superb flicks past midwicket finding gaps with precision . After Amarnath was out against the run of play, Vengsarkar had another fruitful stand with Azharuddin (33) before there was a batting collapse with 5 wickets falling for 30 odd runs and India were struggling at 264/8 still 30 runs behind.
Judging the gravity of the situation , Vengsarkar took total charge of the innings and had a very good 41 run 9th wicket stand with an aggressive Kiran More (25) as he himself reached his 90s. However with team score at 303 , More was out and Vengsarkar was in danger of missing out on his 3rd successive ton at Lords with last man Maninder Singh coming out to bat.
However Maninder stayed long enough and Vengsarkar farmed the strike beautifully playing explosive shots to quickly reach his 3rd 100 at Lords ( the only overseas batsman to achieve the feat) and added crucial 38 runs for the last wicket to take India to a vital 47 run 1st innings lead. Vengsarkar finally remained notout at 126 studded with 16 magnificent fours. He looked in total control at the crease , well balanced, great footwork and equally at ease against pace and spin.
That 47 run lead proved vital for India as Kapil Dev bowled a match winning spell of 4 wickets early in England 2nd innings and an economical Maninder Singh picking up 3/9 to choke England to 180 allout which left the tourists with a smallish but a tricky target of 136 to win in 4th innings.
India had a slow progress for much of their 2nd innings trying to make sure to get the win without too much damage and once again Vengsarkar rose to the occasion playing a more restrained innings of 33 to take India closer to the target before Kapil Dev (23* off 10 balls ) , with some late hitting and Ravi Shastri (20*) ensured a 5 wicket win.
Thus in a relatively low scoring game, Vengsarkar’s glorious first innings hundred ensured a great Indian win and a man of the match award for him. He went on to score another hundred, even a better one at Leeds in extremely challenging conditions to help India to take an unassailable 2-0 series lead. He finally ended as the man of the series averaging 90 with 360 runs.
It may be recalled that deloittes had started the computer ranking system in mid 80s to decide the leading batsmen / bowlers playing in that era and Vengsarkar was the number 1 ranked batsman for 3 years from 1986 to 1988 . He continued his golden return since that England series of 1986 till the home series against the West Indies during 1987/88.
We wish Dilip Vengsarkar, Many happy returns on his birthday.