A different India on show

Published : Sep 07, 2002 00:00 IST

Sanjay Bangar and Rahul Dravid (left) laid the foundation, and the position was consolidated by Sachin Tendulkar (below) and Sourav Ganguly (bottom). While Dravid, Tendulkar and Ganguly struck hundreds, Bangar made a half-century..-N. SRIDHARAN
Sanjay Bangar and Rahul Dravid (left) laid the foundation, and the position was consolidated by Sachin Tendulkar (below) and Sourav Ganguly (bottom). While Dravid, Tendulkar and Ganguly struck hundreds, Bangar made a half-century..-N. SRIDHARAN

Sanjay Bangar and Rahul Dravid (left) laid the foundation, and the position was consolidated by Sachin Tendulkar (below) and Sourav Ganguly (bottom). While Dravid, Tendulkar and Ganguly struck hundreds, Bangar made a half-century..-N. SRIDHARAN

The Nos. three, four and five scored centuries in a Test innings as India at Headingley surpassed everyone's expectations, by G. VISWANATH

INDIA trounced England in a Test match in England after 16 years. It was like magic for a group of cricketers who stepped on the Headingley field for the first time and surpassed everyone's expectations.

Reared in tropical conditions and slow turners, Sourav Ganguly's team pulled the rabbit out of the hat, excelling in conditions in which many Indian teams of the past have come a cropper.

There were low clouds, the ball swung around and seamed off the pitch on the first day. The Indian batsmen took the challenge, established control over the match almost right through its course and finally beat the home team hollow by an innings and 46 runs. It was only India's fourth win in England and its 18th overseas in 359 Tests.

Sourav Ganguly is not a man who is easily flattered by such stray Test wins abroad. He has been the captain who has seen Test series slip out of his hands from winning positions.

It has happened in Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka and the West Indies. He was happy that India was able to turn the tables on England in their own backyard and in conditions in which the home team's four-man seam attack was supposed to make the Indian batsmen fall like a pack of cards.

India's fightback in the npower Test series started on the last day of the second Test at Nottingham. Thereafter the team did not take a false step at Headingley.

The combined contribution of Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and Ganguly and an admirable show of skill and temperament by Parthiv Patel were the first acts of defiance in the series at Nottingham although Venkat Sai Laxman and Ajit Agarkar had shown glimpses of it in the fourth innings of the Lord's Test.

For the Headingley encounter, England pinned its faith on its leading bowler of the summer, Matthew Hoggard and the experienced campaigner Andrew Caddick, who returned to the big stage after breaking down in the third Test against Sri Lanka at Old Trafford. The England selectors also picked Alex Tudor and Andrew Flintoff in spite of the latter having been diagnosed with having double hernia.

They were all seamers handpicked to deliver in favourable conditions. But the Indian batsmen passed the test in flying colours. In the forefront of the show of defiance was Sanjay Bangar, chosen ahead of specialist openers, Wasim Jaffer and Shiv Sundar Das. He battled it out in the middle for nearly five hours. This fighting spirit, said Rahul Dravid, inspired and motivated him when he joined Bangar at the fall of Virender Sehwag's wicket.

Indian batting was on song on the second day when Dravid and Tendulkar and then Tendulkar and Ganguly batted for a sufficiently long time to score individual hundreds and take India to a position of strength.

Three different styles of batting provided a treat for the Yorkshire cricket fan who more often than not sees defensive and stoical efforts from batsmen. He would not have seen anything like this before with Tendulkar and Ganguly exploding into action. By nightfall on the second day, England's bowlers had been collared leaving Nasser Hussain at his wits' end.

It was an incredible display of batting might that saw India make its highest ever score outside India. The 628 had the look of a winning total straightaway. Ganguly's team had made 400 plus in the second innings at Nottingham to save the Test match. The big three - Dravid, Tendulkar and Ganguly - had made 306 then; they made 469 in the first innings of the third Test for a grand aggregate of 775 in two innings. England's tactics of bowling wide of the off stump and from around the wicket did not pay.

The English bowlers suffered, with Bangar receiving lavish praise for his exhibition of technique from all quarters, especially from Ganguly and Dravid. Bangar and Dravid put on 170 for the second wicket, which according to many was the crucial partnership that laid the foundation for Tendular and Ganguly to attack.

After the Indian batsmen had left the England bowlers' figures in a shambles, the Indian bowlers deriving psychological advantage from the huge total came into the picture. Somehow the tour selectors managed to pick a bowling combination that worked well. The decision to balance the bowling by looking at the option of Bangar's allround calling took shape immediately after the Nottingham Test. The tour selectors were unhappy with Ashish Nehra's efforts at Lord's and Trent Bridge.

In the Lord's and Nottingham Tests the England batsmen had made over 1500 runs against India's three-man medium pace attack in Zaheer Khan, Nehra and Agarkar. The tour selectors applied the simple and straight logic of dropping one of them and because Agarkar had made a century in the first Test and 30s in both the innings of the second Test and picked important wickets he got the nod ahead of Nehra.

But a factor that gave some teeth to the Indian bowling was the return of Anil Kumble. His seven-wicket haul - three in the first innings and four in the second - only represented his wicket-taking ability. What mattered more was the number of overs he bowled in both the innings to tie up the England batsmen in knots.

There must have been occasions when he must have felt pain in his calf-muscle, especially when he bowled nine-over spells. He was unlucky not to get more wickets in the first innings, but he made up in the second.

Hussain's defiant century and Alec Stewart's superb defensive and attacking techniques bothered India for three hours and more. But Kumble came up with beauties to send back both Hussain and Stewart in the first hour of the fifth day.

Kumble got excellent support from Zaheer Khan and Agarkar. Ganguly did not forget their efforts. "Zaheer bowled remarkably well. He has been consistent for the last six months. Ajit (Agarkar) bowled well in the first innings. Bangar also contributed by picking those two wickets in the second innings. Anil is of course a world-class bowler. I think we made a mistake not picking two spinners for the Lord's Test," Ganguly said.

The England captain was in a generous mood to compliment the Indians. "They played near perfect cricket on all five days. Dravid's century is one of the best I have seen in these conditions. One cannot blame our bowlers. We have to take collective responsibility."

India's win levelled the series 1-1 and as Hussain said: "They will be under pressure at The Oval because they have to make history. But we know that should we bat first and make 450 plus, we can put them under pressure."

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