January 23, 1934 was a historic day for cricket in Hyderabad. It was on this day that the very first international cricket match, classified as a first-class match, was held at the Gymkhana grounds 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 the time were seen in action during this three-day match, which was held on January 23, 24 and 25.
The competition was held at the initiative of a man who was a great lover and patron of sports. That man was Nawab Moin-ud-Dowla whose unbridled energy and dedication gave Hyderabad cricket the boost it desperately needed at the time. His love for all sports was immense. He liked horse riding, shooting, tennis, billiards and cricket. But among all these, his greatest passion was cricket.
It is recorded in the book Cricket Biryani that sometimes when he was driving his car along the road and happened to see street boys playing cricket in a clearing by the road, he would tell his driver to stop for a few minutes while he watched them play. His love for cricket was so great that he could stop all his important pursuits just to watch children play an impromptu game of cricket with sticks and a bat and ball.
The Nawab had two palaces, one in Saroornagar and another in Basheerbagh, where he housed his guests and outstation cricket teams for the many tournaments he hosted. His generosity was well known. But sometimes, unfortunately, some players took advantage of his generous nature. It started many years ago when a player complained to the Nawab that his playset was stolen or lost during his trip to Hyderabad.
The Nawab immediately bought him a new bat and a new pair of pads and gloves. After that, some other unscrupulous players also claimed that they had lost their belongings and the Nawab did not hesitate to buy them new clothes and play equipment.
In the 1933-34 cricket season, an England cricket team, assembled by the prestigious Marylebone Cricket Club, toured India from December 15, 1933 to March 4, 1934. It played three test matches in India before going to Ceylon (as Sri Lanka was then called).
Before the tour started, there was a discussion about the locations where the three Tests would be played. The Nawab made an offer to the cricket control board that he would organize a test match in Hyderabad and promised to pay the board the required amount of guarantee money if the match was awarded to Hyderabad.
But after considering all the offers received, the board decided to allocate the tests to Bombay (now Mumbai), Calcutta (Kolkata) and Madras (Chennai). But in order not to disappoint the Nawab, Hyderabad was given a first-class match. That was how Hyderabad got the opportunity to host its first ever international first-class competition.
For his team, the Nawab picked the cream of the crop from Indian cricketers. They include legendary names such as Syed Mushtaq Ali, Lala Amarnath, CK Nayudu and his brother CS Nayudu, Hyderabad’s two most talented players of the era, SM Hussain and his brother SM Hadi and India’s best fast bowling all-rounder L. Amar Singh.
On the MCC side, Hedley Verity was the most famous player. He was England’s most effective spin bowler, having distinguished himself by sacking Don Bradman eight times in Test matches – more than any other bowler. The visiting side also featured Bryan Valentine who had scored 136 in the first Test in Bombay. In Stanley Nichols, they also had a tireless fast bowler who could bowl with great hostility for a long time.
When the match started, the MCC squad batted first, but were bundled together for a surprisingly low score of 112. Credit for this went to Amar Singh and Mushtaq Ali. The first moved the ball beautifully off the field as usual, taking 4 wickets for 33 runs, while Mushtaq Ali, better known for his stroke play, did well with the ball taking 5 wickets for 37 runs.
In response, Nawab’s team scored 194 to take an 82-run lead in the first innings. Amar Singh also performed well with the bat, scoring 58 before being caught by Gregory from Townsend’s bowling.
In their second innings, the touring MCC-squad approached their task with greater determination, scoring 303. It wasn’t a very big total, but good enough given the circumstances. Nichols top scorer with half a century in the lower order. They set the Nawab’s team a 222-run victory target.
Had batsmen like Mushtaq Ali, Lala Amarnath or CK Nayudu found their form, the goal could have been easily accomplished. But luckily for MCC, the Indian side’s big guns did not fire their salvos. Mushtaq scored 26 before being caught by Levett at Townsend, while Lala was caught by Nichols at Townsend for a duck.
Only CK Nayudu came in with a hard hit of 79 before being caught by Mitchell from Nichols’ bowling. But it was not enough to lead his team to victory. The match ended in a draw as the Nawab’s men brought their tally to 188 for nine when the match ended. Townsend taking four wickets for 76 runs and Verity three wickets for 78 runs were the bowlers who prevented Nawab’s team from winning.
Below is the short scorecard of the match:
MCC 112 (Amar Singh 4 for 33, Mushtaq Ali 5 for 37) and 303 (CF Walters 36, A. Mitchell 42, RJ Gregory 33, S. Nichols 55, Amar Singh 5 for 82, Lala Amarnath 3 for 84) Nawab Moin -ud-Dowla’s XI 194 (Nazir Ali 43, Amar Singh 58, Hedley Verity 5 for 63) and 188 for 9 (CK Nayudu 79, Townsend 4 for 76, Hedley Verity 3 for 78).