Mission possible for England - Amiss
Dennis Amiss was pivotal in England’s first Test series victory in India since the Second World War and thinks the current crop can also win there.
The robust opening batsman was the series' leading scorer with 417 runs at an average of 52 as the 1976-77 tourists took the five-game rubber 3-1, having comfortably prevailed in each of the first three matches.
Amiss, now 69, believes the lessons gained by many of his vintage on the 1972-73 tour of India - when the hosts won 2-1 - helped them triumph four years later when they toured as Marylebone Cricket Club for the last time.
Speaking exclusively to ecb.co.uk, he said: “We were an experienced side going there for the second time.
“We’d been there in 1972-73 with Tony Lewis and this time we were going back with Tony Greig as captain. It was more or less the same players so we’d had experience of being there before. So I think we knew what we might be up against.”
Eight of the current tourists were part of England’s last Test trip there and, although India enjoyed a 1-0 victory in that late 2008 rubber, Amiss is confident Alastair Cook’s side will have a battle-hardened spine.
“We’ve got a great chance because most of the players have played spin before,” added Amiss, who highlighted the importance of the toss in the opening Test on Thursday at Ahmedabad.
“We seem to have spent a bit of time at the wicket, most of the players, which is good - getting batting time. And as long as we can have everybody fit - we do need that, our bowlers to be fit - I think we’ve got a great chance in this series to win it.
“Most of those players have been on the sub-continent before and have had experience there and will find a way how to play. We just need that little bit of luck like we had in 76-77 of getting off to that great start and winning the toss and batting and winning the first match.”
Amiss’ most telling contribution in 1976-77 was his first. The right-hander’s 11th and last Test ton was an eight-and-half-hour 179 despite chest congestion, the eighth time he had passed 150.
Debutant seamer John Lever then unexpectedly found extravagant swing and his 7-46 skittled India for a first-innings 122 in defeat by an innings and 25 runs at Delhi.
“That was a great start and it gave us the confidence to go forward then and to play some good cricket in the series,” recalled Amiss, who played three more Tests after that rubber to reach 50.
“It was a very, very good wicket and the ball didn’t turn very much. The Indian spinners always turned it but it didn’t turn very much first innings and we managed to score a lot of runs.
“I should have gone on and got 200. I just got a little bit tired, which was my fault really, and got out instead of going on and getting a big 200 because it was just wonderful conditions.”
Another patient hundred, this time from Greig, underpinned a 10-wicket win in the second Test at Calcutta (now Kolkata) as India were twice dismissed for under 200.
They fared even worse at Madras (Chennai), where accusations that Lever rubbed Vaseline on the ball proved unfounded, and the hosts capitulated to 83 all out in the second innings for a 200-run loss.
“That was wonderful and we really celebrated that in a nightclub after that one,” said Amiss, who was tasked with lubricating England’s celebrations.
“I can remember because I wasn’t the chairman that night but I think I was on bar duty. And we really got the high commission to support us and we had a good party because most of us had been before and we knew what it was like to lose, but suddenly we’d had three straight wins and that was terrific in India - unheard of.”
India salvaged some pride with a 140-run success on a spin-friendly surface at Bangalore, and the Bombay (Mumbai) finale was an entertaining draw that both teams could have won on the last afternoon.
Left-arm spinner Derek Underwood ended the series with 29 wickets, a joint record with Fred Trueman for the most by an England player in a Test rubber versus India.
“Derek didn’t give runs away. He frustrated batsmen. His great armour was tying people down. He had them frustrated ball after ball and they were wondering where they were going to get a run from,” Amiss added.
“Whereas previously he did not bowl at his best on this tour, he bowled magnificently and he got it to turn as well. He bowled at the right pace, which was important on those wickets to make it turn, and he came out with a wonderful series.”