Australia v India
Craig Oval, Hale School, Perth: 15th – 17th January 1977
At the Craig Oval, Hale School, Perth, Western Australia, India would play just one match, a Test versus Australia.
Under the captaincy of Shantha Rangaswamy, the Indian players were an unknown quantity to the Aussies, but one thing would be for sure: there would be an army of spin bowlers. Rangaswamy had led the Indians to a 1-1 series draw against the West Indies at home over a six Test series and in the one off Test against New Zealand she scored a splendid 108 out of a team total of 177 at Dunedin in the drawn match.
Australian captain Margaret Jennings had one thing on her mind. Rattle the Indians early and charge towards victory.
“I was thrilled and determined to make a difference. We actually won the toss so we could set the game up and attack like mad. We went for it all out for 266 off 68 overs. Then bowled them out and quickly batted and declared to have a chance to win.”
It was captain versus captain as Rangaswamy opened the bowling for India with her medium pacers and Jennings opened the batting for Australia. India landed the first blow, taking out the skipper for 15 when the score was 34.
Rangaswamy introduced spin through leg spinner Shubhangi Kulkarni and left arm orthodox, Diana Edulji. Kulkarni immediately had Lynn Denholm stumped by wicket keeper Fowzieh Khalili. Lorraine Hill fell to Edulji and the Aussies were 3/46. They were rattled by the two spin bowlers.
Wendy Hills (48) stopped the rot initially with Jan Lumsden (16), before Elaine Bray took control with 86. Australia was all out for 266 with Kulkarni taking 6-99 in an outstanding debut against Australia. She tricked four of the Aussie batters into leaving their crease, presenting Khalili with 4 stumpings.
“Quite challenging as they were good spinners, we had Lutchini and Denholm, but the Indians were wily and typical Indian spinners. The WA wicket was not conducive to spin but these girls got the ball to spin.” – Jennings
Importantly, those 266 runs were scored at a good clip, from just 68 overs. Jennings had wanted bright cricket from her team and they delivered.
Where the Indian spinners held sway, the mainstay of the Australian attack was through the pace bowling and Raelee Thompson immediately broke through, bowling Khalili for 0. In the absence of injured Sharon Tredrea, Peta Cook (later Verco) shared the new ball and bowled Sudha Shah for 8. Former skipper, Anne Gordon, still good enough to make the side, also got an early breakthrough, but it was Australia’s own spinner, Marie Lutschini who gave the Indians a dose of spin bowling that broke the back of the tourist’s innings, taking two wickets, including the captain for a duck, to have India well behind, all out for 122.
Jennings led with her own blade as the Aussies pressed hard with the bat to set up a victory. The skipper made 52, while Hill (74) and Denholm (17) were not out when the Australian innings was declared at 1/152. The Indian spinners seemed to have lost their spark. Once again the Australians had attacked from the start with their 152 runs coming from just 31 overs. For the age it was a blistering pace for Test cricket.
“We attacked and decided to go for the runs and the spinners didn’t respond too well to that treatment.”
India started cautiously and was near 50 when they lost their first wicket, Shobha Pandit caught and bowled by Lynn Denholm. Shah was then needlessly runout and very quickly India were 2/56. Lutschini first, and then Thompson, tore through the batting line-up and the tourists were all out for 149, giving Australia victory by 147 runs.
In winning her first Test as skipper, Marg Jennings had done what no captain had achieved since Una Paisley’s victory over New Zealand twenty years earlier in 1956/57.
Australia 266 (Bray 86, Hill 48, Kulkarni 6/99) and 1 dec 152 (Hill 74*, Jennings 57) beat India 122 (Edjuli 32, Denholm 2/10, Thompson 2/25) and 149 (Rangaswamy 55, Thompson 4/41) by 147 runs