Down memory lane: Story of a historic cricket match played in Hyderabad

The 23rd of January, 1934, was a historic day for Hyderabad cricket. It was on this day that the very first international cricket match, classified as a first class contest, was held at the Gymkhana ground in Secunderabad. The two teams involved were the Nawab of Moin-ud-Dowla’s XI and the touring Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) from England. Some of the most famous names of international cricket of those days were seen in action during this three day match which was held on Jan 23rd, 24th and 25th.

The match was held due to the initiative of a man who was a great lover and patron of sport. That man was Nawab Moin-ud-Dowla whose boundless energy and commitment gave Hyderabad cricket the push that it greatly needed back then. His love for all sports was immense. He loved riding horses, shooting, tennis, billiards and cricket. But among all these, his greatest passion was cricket.

It has been recorded in the book Cricket Biryani that sometimes when he was traveling in his car along the road and happened to see street urchins playing cricket in any open space beside the road, he would instruct his driver to stop for a few minutes while he watched them playing. Such was his love for cricket that he could hold back all his important engagements just to watch children playing a makeshift game of cricket with sticks and a bat and ball.

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The Nawab had two palaces, one in Saroornagar and another in Basheerbagh where he lodged his guests and outstation cricket teams for the many tournaments that he organised. His generosity was well known. But sometimes, quite unfortunately, some players took advantage of his generous nature. It started many years ago, when one player complained to the Nawab that his playing kit had been stolen or lost during his journey to Hyderabad.

The Nawab instantly bought him a new bat, and a new pair of pads and gloves. Thereafter, some other unscrupulous players also claimed that they had lost their belongings and the Nawab had no hesitation in buying new clothes and playing equipment for them.

In the cricket season of 1933-34, a cricket team from England put together by the prestigious Marylebone Cricket Club toured India from 15th December 1933 to 4th March 1934. It played three Test matches in India before going on to Ceylon (as Sri Lanka was then called).

Before the start of the tour, there was a discussion about the venues where the three Tests would be played. The Nawab made an offer to the cricket control board that he would host one Test match in Hyderabad and promised to pay to the board the required amount of guarantee money if the match was awarded to Hyderabad.

But after considering all the offers that had been received, the board decided to allocate the Tests to Bombay (now Mumbai), Calcutta (Kolkata) and Madras (Chennai). But so as not to disappoint the Nawab, one first class match was given to Hyderabad. That was how Hyderabad got the chance to host its first ever international first class fixture.

For his team, the Nawab picked up the cream of the Indian cricketers. They included legendary names such as Syed Mushtaq Ali, Lala Amarnath, C.K. Nayudu and his brother C.S. Nayudu, Hyderabad’s two most talented players of the time, S.M. Hussain and his brother S.M. Hadi and India’s topmost fast bowling all-rounder L. Amar Singh.

On the MCC side the most famous player was Hedley Verity. He was England’s most effective spin bowler and had the distinction of dismissing Don Bradman eight times in Test matches – more often than any other bowler. The visiting side also had Bryan Valentine who had scored 136 in the first Test at Bombay. In Stanley Nichols they also had a tireless fast bowler who could bowl for long spells with great hostility.

When the match began, the MCC side batted first but were bundled out for a surprisingly low score of 112. The credit for this went to Amar Singh and Mushtaq Ali. The former, as usual moved the ball beautifully off the pitch and took 4 wickets for 33 runs while Mushtaq Ali who was more famous for his strokeplay, did well with the ball by taking 5 wickets for 37 runs.

In reply the Nawab’s team scored 194 and thus took a first innings lead of 82 runs. Amar Singh performed well with the bat too and top scored with 58 before he was caught by Gregory of the bowling of Townsend.

In its second innings the touring MCC side approached their task with greater determination and scored 303. It was not a very big total but good enough under the circumstances. Nichols top scored with a half century in the lower order. They set the Nawab’s team a victory target of 222 runs.

If batsmen like Mushtaq Ali, Lala Amarnath or C.K. Nayudu had found their form, the target could easily have been achieved. But luckily for MCC, the big guns of the Indian side did not fire their salvos. Mushtaq scored 26 before he was stumped by Levett off Townsend while Lala was caught by Nichols off Townsend for a duck.

Only C.K. Nayudu came up with a hard hitting knock of 79 before was caught by Mitchell off the bowling of Nichols. But it was not enough to guide his team to a win. The match ended in a draw as the Nawab’s men took their total to 188 for nine when the match ended. Townsend who captured four wickets for 76 runs and Verity with three wickets for 78 runs were the bowlers who prevented a victory for the Nawab’s team.

Following is the brief scorecard of the match:

MCC 112 (Amar Singh 4 for 33, Mushtaq Ali 5 for 37) and 303 (C.F. Walters 36, A. Mitchell 42, R.J. Gregory 33, S. Nichols 55, Amar Singh 5 for 82, Lala Amarnath 3 for 84) drew with Nawab Moin-ud-Dowla’s XI 194 (Nazir Ali 43, Amar Singh 58,  Hedley Verity 5 for 63) and 188 for 9 (C.K. Nayudu 79, Townsend 4 for 76, Hedley Verity 3 for 78).

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