International cricket returned to India four days ago. After the tragedy on the 26th last month, cricket was the last thing on people’s mind. There were arguments and counter arguments on whether the tour should continue or not. And the distractions off the field could easily have been a good excuse to be on the losing side. Not for this Indian team, though…
For over three and a half days, England was the dominant team. When they declared just three overs after tea setting India a target of 387 to win, England must have thought they had the match in the bag.
Most Indians probably believed that too – but not Virender Sehwag. His blitzkrieg yesterday did two important things that changed the tide of the match – first, it showed his team mates that it could be done and they could indeed win the match and second, it broke the morale of the English team. With around thirty overs to go for the day, England would have hoped to have knocked out 2 or maybe even three wickets and restricted India to say around 80-90 runs. India would then need close to 300 runs on the final day. On a fifth day pitch in India, that would have been a tough ask.
But with Sehwag’s onslaught, the total at the end of the day read 131 for 1 – India had wiped out more than a third of the score needed to win and they needed just 257 on the final day. Suddenly the target seemed so achievable.
And yet, with Sehwag back in the dressing room, there were several things that still pointed towards an Indian loss –
- A fifth day Indian pitch where no team has made over 276 in the fourth innings to win a match
- Dravid’s form
- Tendulkar’s fourth innings average and the constant criticism that he has very rarely batted India to a victory in the fourth innings
- An unproven Yuvraj Singh (in Tests, any way)
But there has been some transformation in the Indian dressing room under Dhoni’s captaincy that has made this team believe in themselves. This was again evident today.
Gambhir scored 66 and Laxman chipped in with 26, but the key partnership was between Tendulkar and Yuvraj, who scored the bulk of the runs. They put on an unbroken partnership of 163 runs – Tendulkar scored 103* and Yuvraj 85*. They got together when the score was 224 for 4 and a point in time when England probably still thought they could win this game.
Tendulkar hasn’t scored a fourth innings century since that 136 he scored in this very ground a few years ago against Pakistan – when he ended up on the losing side. That loss would have hurt Sachin badly as India needed just 17 runs to win when he got out. It also led to criticisms of his inability to lead India to a victory in the fourth innings. With this win, that monkey is finally off his back now.
At the end of the day, India won the game with 6 wickets in hand and romped home with more than a twenty overs to spare. Although Gambhir, Tendulkar and Yuvraj contributed to the victory, it was only possible because of Sehwag’s 83. It is not often that someone who isn’t the top scorer and who hasn’t taken any wickets is awarded the man of the match award. But such was his impact…