Pakistan became the seventh nation to attain Test status in 1952 when the two countries that were but one barely five years before and had been torn apart by a bloody partition, faced up against each other at Delhi for the first 4-day Test of a four-match series.
As one would expect, the inexperience and nervousness of the debutants when pitted against the rampaging stalwarts like Vinoo Mankad, Pankaj Roy and Vijay Hazare of a vastly more experienced Indian side, was exposed in no uncertain manner. The precocious 17-year old Hanif Mohammad scored a century in each innings in the first tour match against North Zone, but could not repeat his feat in the first Test. Pakistan lost by an innings and 70 runs.
When the teams came to Lucknow’s University ground the following week to play the second Test, however, it would be a different story.
First, in a bizarre selection decision, perhaps prompted by ill-advised overconfidence, India dropped Vijay Hazare, Vinoo Mankad, and Hemu Adhikari. The three had between them scored half of India’s 372 runs in the first Test. The Pakistanis had found no answers to Mankad’s left arm spin and he had himself accounted for 13 of the 20 wickets to fall.
Second, the wicket on which the Test was to be played in Lucknow was a matting wicket. Pakistan was elated at the prospect, since their main bowler, medium pacer Fazal Mahmood, had honed his art on such wickets, India less so.
Lala Amarnath won the toss and decided to bat first.
Fazal Mahmood’s elation at getting a matting wicket to bowl on soon disappeared when he realised that his experience back home wasn’t helping on this wicket. In his memoirs, Fazal was to recount later: “When I went on to bowl, it felt extremely difficult as there was jute matting on the wicket instead of coir matting. I had no prior experience of playing on such a wicket and I had no inkling of differences between the two. As a result, when I bowled my first ball, it did not hasten through quickly, nor did it swing. After pitching, it went through very straight and slowly. Pankaj Roy stopped it very easily. I was surprised and bowled several balls at Roy. I did not give him a chance to score, but he stopped all the balls easily.”
That would all change.
Maqsood Ahmed removed Datta Gaekwad and Gul Muhammad in quick succession leaving India reeling at 17 for 2. On paper, India had a strong line up, but they were soon to realise the folly of their selection decisions. Fazal Mahmood was far too good a bowler to let his early lack of penetration hold him back.
Fazal goes on to say: “My length and direction was absolutely right, but it did not matter. I bowled three overs like this, but after I had failed to impress continuously, I thought I should do something different. I decided I should make use of the seam. In the fourth over, when Vijay Manjrekar came to face me, I started to hit the seam. The ball moved and went cruising towards Manjrekar, showing him the way towards the pavilion. I bowled the same way to the rest of them and they had no answer.”
Just before tea, India were all out for 106, Pankaj Roy making 30. Fazal’s figures were a stunning 24.1-8-52-5.
Captain Abdul Hafeez Kardar who had earlier played Test cricket for undivided India, advised caution and patience to his batsmen. He knew that without Vinoo Mankad, the Indian attack was less than formidable and application on this wicket was key. He found a convert in Nazar Mohammad.
Nazar batted till stumps, then he batted the whole of the second day to return to the dressing room with his score at 87 not out, having added 66 in the five and a half hours. The third morning when Pakistan were finally dismissed for 331, Nazar was unbeaten at 124, having shown his resolve by carrying his bat through the innings lasting eight-and-a-half hours.
When Mahmood Hussain dismissed the highest scorer from the first innings Pankaj Roy for 2 early in the second, the Pakistanis scented blood, for none of the other Indians had shown much aptitude in handling Fazal on the first day. Their noses were soon rewarded as Fazal got into his Act Two of this Test match.
This time he was even better.
Lala Amarnath made the most of a chance at square leg early in his innings to play a captain’s knock of 61 not out. But his ship fell to the broadside attack from a Pakistani warship called Fazal who ran through the Indian batting. Taking 7 for 42, Fazal virtually single-handedly dismissed India for 182 early on the fourth morning.
Pakistan had their first ever Test victory in their second match, a feat only England could lay claim to thus far. Australia, thanks to Fred Spofforth would remain the only country to register a victory in their debut Test.
But 5-years after independence, the wounds of the forced separation of the two peoples and the bloodbath that had followed where more than a million perished, were still fresh in the memories of the common man. Lucknow did not take kindly to the tame surrender of their cricketing heroes.
A final reflection from Fazal Mahmood: “After the match, the crowd behaved so badly that it still scares me. They attacked the camp of the Indian players and set it on fire. They even broke the windows of the bus that was taking them back to the hotel and even pelted stones on the players. The players saved their lives by a hair’s breadth.” Luckily no one was seriously hurt.
The Indian selectors would quickly reverse their decision for the next two Tests and bring back their three stalwarts at the Brabourne stadium. Hazare scored a hundred and Mankad captured eight wickets in the Indian win. With the last Test drawn, India went on to win the series 2-1.
As far as Pakistan was concerned, however, victory was theirs.
An account of the tour written soon after goes on to describe what happened next: “On 21 January  the Pakistan team flew from Rangoon to Calcutta and, in an Orient Airways Corvair, on to Karachi. There was a rousing welcome at Karachi’s Quaid-e-Azam Airport and the next day a celebratory reception.”
It had taken India 20 long years to register their first Test victory (ironically earlier the same year against the MCC at Madras). Pakistan had achieved the feat in 10-days. The celebrations were well deserved.