Team India has successfully chased the highest ever target set on Indian soil with six wickets to spare. Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s captaincy honeymoon continues to stay intact as the charismatic man now has led his team to victories in all his 4 Tests as Captain. The 387 that India has chased down is also the fourth highest run chase ever in the history of Test Cricket! The Master – Sachin Tendulkar and The Prince – Yuvraj Singh were the architects of the Indian win on the final day.
It was a fitting tribute towards the end for Sachin to not only strike the winning boundary but also register his 41st test century with that. It was perhaps the first time in Sachin’s 19-year-old career that he has won the match by staying right till the end! Like Dhoni rightly said both Sachin and Yuvraj got the opportunity to win the match thanks to Sehwag’s blistering opening start yesterday which reduced the 387 to 256 on the final day. Another person responsible to bring out this terrific result was the Curator K Parthasarathy and his team as they had very little time to prepare the wicket for this Test especially with all the rain around and also the very fact that Chennai was not the original venue at all.
Morning Session: Both sides continue to stay in the hunt
The first hour of the morning session was good for India as they collected 49 runs in 12 overs and their only wicket to fall was that of a struggling Rahul Dravid while Gambhir continued to remain unfazed at his end. Sachin Tendulkar, the new man at the crease battled through an incisive spell from Flintoff which had both pace and reverse swing. Dravid (4 from 19 balls) had perished in that spell after getting forced to nick one late outswinger on the frontfoot but not Tendulkar and Gambhir.
After drinks, India required 207 more runs with 8 wickets standing but they suffered their second blow because of a reckless steer from Gambhir to gully off new bowler Anderson. The batting side got reduced to 181 for 3 with Gambhir doing his part with a score of 66 from 139 balls in a solid knock that had 7 fours. There was no further damage before lunch with Tendulkar and Laxman stroking the ball around freely. India went to lunch at 213 for 3 with both Tendulkar and Laxman into 20s. England had to be disappointed with the amount of runs that India scored in that session freely, a total of 82 in 24 overs. The target was down to 174.
Afternoon Session: Sachin, Yuvraj have India in control
At the start of the afternoon session, both sides had plenty of work to do to get control of the match. England struck the first telling blow of the session when VVS Laxman (26 from 42 balls with 4 fours) was forced on the backfoot to inside edge a sharp turning off break to short leg. Sachin Tendulkar was now joined by a man who is not a confident started against spin. Yuvraj Singh it was coming in the middle with men around the bat and having to battle against the rough outside his off stump. Yuvraj saw through his initial hurdles against Swann and Panesar confidently and the runs started to come easily for him and Sachin. Kevin Pietersen couldn’t plug the singles on both sides of the wicket right from the start of the day’s play and it continued to ease the pressure on the batting side.
Both Sachin and Yuvraj defied the English spinners and KP had to bring back his pace duo of Flintoff and Harmison. Flintoff tried to get under the skin of Yuvraj like in the first innings but this time the batsman was avoiding the eye contacts by turning back to squareleg. That helped Yuvraj to concentrate on his shot selection and soon he developed a wonderfully dangerous partnership with Tendulkar to get India closer to 387. By Tea, the pair got India to 304 for 4 which brought the target down to 83. This session was the best that India had with 91 runs coming from 26 overs. Tendulkar moved calmly to 65 and Yuvraj got 45 runs under tremendous pressure.
Final Session: India chase down 387 with ease
India started the session as the favourties to win the match after what had happened in the wonderful last session in which they had lost only Laxman. Sachin Tendulkar has been like a rock and Yuvraj was playing his game sensibly which put England on the backfoot. England’s last hope was the second new ball which was taken during the 83rd over. The bowlers in charge were James Anderson and Steve Harmison, who were clearly not that confident to get it right. The two Indian batsmen made complete use of that to knock off some runs on a track that has always been placid for the fast bowlers. It was just the reverse swing that was troubling from the pacers. By drinks, India got to 348 for 4 with Tendulkar on 84 and Yuvraj on 69.
England gave up their chances of winning the match from here with just a few runs in the bank. Even Freddie Flintoff had no chance to do anything when he was brought back into the attack for one last effort. Meanwhile Yuvraj’s continuous clean hitting was now putting the heat on Tendulkar as the left hander matched his score within no time and was in a comfortable position to bring up a century. But Yuvraj sacrificed his and allowed Tendulkar to take the honour although it meant that the end was delayed. In the 99th over, came the winning shot from Tendulkar which also got him a well deserved hundred. Sachin’s 103 came in 196 balls with 9 fours while Yuvraj played the innings of his life scoring 85 with 8 fours and a six but the most important thing was that he survived 131 balls on a wearing wicket which should make him feel at home in Test Cricket. Tendulkar was very conscious to stay right till the end as a decade ago he was playing a similar innings at this same venue against Pakistan where his dismissal with another 17 runs to get lost the match for his side although there were still 3 wickets in hand.
Although there were bigger contributions from the likes of Strauss, Tendulkar and others in this match, the Man of the Match went to a player who batted for just 68 balls which was more than enough to engineer India’s win and that was of course Virender Sehwag with his mind boggling knock of 83 yesterday. The second and final Test is at Mohali and it begins on the 19th.