Mumbai: An unknown territory for India, a golden opportunity for England. A record chase, an amazing crowd and two brilliant teams. The end result, an epic game of cricket.
As India came out to bat on the final day of the first Test in Chennai, not many believed that they could pull it off. 387 was a huge task. Nobody had ever done it in the sub-continent before. If accomplished it would have ranked fourth on the list of all-time record run chases in the fourth innings.
When the going gets tough, the tough get going and team India showed their strength of character on Monday. After some amazing batting display from Virender Sehwag on Day 4 it was Sachin Tendulkar and Yuvraj Singh who carried the team mantle on the final day.
The match even left former players stunned. Former India captain Mohinder Amarnath said: “Everything about the match was remarkable. There was passion, there was drama. It is a great win. It’s never easy to score 387 in the fourth innings.
There was so such talk about the wicket but it was all in the mind and the Indians showed that.” Former England player Allan Lamb was left speechless by the course of events, “It’s been five days full of drama, anything could have happened. India had a positive frame of mind. They did not let the wicket get to them. England played well but India were even better.”
England seemed to be in command all along, so where exactly did they lose the plot? Amaranth feels: “The session between lunch and tea on Day 4 made the difference. It showed that England were negative. And then Sehwag’s innings. He didn’t let the bowlers settle down.”
Praising India for their effort Lamb said: “Sehwag set the foundation for India. But 256 on the final day on a turning wicket is not easy. India kept the momentum going. England just didn’t have the momentum going in their favour after lunch yesterday.”
Sehwag’s knock may have set-up India but they still had to get 256 runs on day 5. But the star-studded batting line-up rose to the occasion and other than Rahul Dravid everyone made a valuable contribution. Talking about the way India went about achieving the target Amarnath said: “The morning session was really crucial today.
Gambhir started the innings positively. Even Laxman chipped in with some crucial runs. It’s sad that Rahul did not contribute. Indians were fantastic against the spinners. They didn’t let them settle down.”
Lamb also felt that the positive approach of the Indians and some good partnerships won them the game. “India would have been pleased with the morning session. They would have taken 60 odd runs being scored with the fall of two wickets.
But if you look through the course of this game, its partnerships which have made the difference. India had a brilliant partnership between Gambhir and Sehwag and today it was Sachin and Yuvraj who took India to victory. Partnerships win matches. England never really looked like they were going for it.”
But Lamb doesn’t rate Tendulkar and Yuvraj’s contribution as the only significant contributions, for there was one other stand in the game which proved to be crucial. “Because of current events people have probably forgotten Dhoni and Harbhajan’s partnership but that was probably the most vital one for India.”
England also had an amazing partnership between Paul Collingwood and Andrew Strauss but Lamb feels it was not in the league of the ones India had. “If you occupy the crease you have to score as well. And the problem with England was that once a partnership fell apart we lost a lot of wickets thereafter.”
Tendulkar played a match-winning innings along the way scoring his 41st Test century. But he could not have done it alone. Yuvraj Singh was there with him all along and it was a 163-run stand between the two which took India home. Talking about the Yuvraj special, Amarnath said: “He looked more confident today. He knew he had to do something special in this innings.
This is the way he should play whether it’s T20, ODIs or Tests. He’s a good player going for the ball rather than defending. Though he needs to work against pace bowling. Even if he is struggling India should persist with Yuvraj. He’ll get the confidence then that he is a part of the Test side.”
Amarnath also reasoned why Yuvraj ticked in the second innings and not the first. “In the first innings he was playing against Flintoff, but in the second innings he straight away faced spinners. He has some problems facing short-pitched deliveries. He has to work on that.”
For Lamb the English bowlers were not up to the mark and he was very critical of their effort. “You can’t set a field for bad balls. That’s what England did. The opening spell of Anderson and Harmissson to Sehwag was not good enough. That’s not how you bowl in Test matches. England played negative.”
Team India has been playing some amazing cricket. They are surely on top of their game. But one man who needs to be credited for this success is the team coach Gary Kirsten. Lamb seems to be really impressed with this former South African cricketer, “Gary is a very level-headed guy. He’s done a lot of work. Indians are very lucky to have him.”