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Hail Test Cricket: 5 Modern Day Classics (Part – 2)

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813   //    19 Jul 2011, 13:41 IST

As Test Cricket turns 2000 when India and England do battle at Lord’s this week, here’s presenting you Part 2 of 5 Modern Day Classic Test matches from the last 15 years which will stand the test of time.  Also read Part 1.

A Miraculous Turnaround

 Kolkata 2001

The Australian team reached Kolkata for the second test of the Border – Gavaskar Trophy after comprehensively defeating India in the first test in Mumbai. Steve Waugh’s men were on a 16 match winning streak and were looking invincible during that period. On the other hand, India wanted to get their acts together and put up a fight after the thrashing they received in Mumbai few days back. This had set up a fascinating test match where a win for Australia would have been their world record 17th and would also have put an end to their jinx of not winning a test series inIndia for 30 years.

Winning the toss and batting first, Australia, led by Hayden, began brightly putting on couple of solid partnerships with Slater and Langer and seemed on course for a big total in their first innings. But as soon as Hayden got out just after tea, Harbhajan got into the act and started a sensational Australian collapse and meanwhile becoming the first Indian cricketer ever to claim a test hat-trick when he dismissed Ricky Ponting (lbw), Adam Gilchrist (lbw), and Shane Warne (caught at short-leg) in consecutive deliveries. Australia were reduced from 214 for 3 to 269 for 8. But Steve Waugh’s 25th test hundred, and some late order assistance from Gillespie lifted Australia’s total to 445.

India made a mess of a good batting pitch and were dismissed for a poultry 171 in their first innings. The only shining light that came during India’s innings was a swashbuckling 59 from 83 balls by VVS Laxman which prompted his promotion from number 6 to number 3 when India followed on 274 behind.

Laxman and Dravids's epic 376 run stand on day four turned the tables on Australia as India became only the third nation to win after following on.

Following on, India looked in trouble at one stage when they were 115 for 3. But from then on, it was the VVS Laxman show. The tall, elegant batsman from Hyderabad played one of the finest innings in the history of test cricket. He scored a magnificent 281 and batted for more than ten hours, and faced 452 balls, picking up 44 fours with a wide range of exciting shots. Along with Rahul Dravid, who himself scored a brilliant 180, they batted for the full fourth days play and put on a record 376 run stand. But as soon as Laxman got out after missing an opportunity for a triple hundred, Ganguly declared the innings with India scoring a mammoth 657. Hence, Australia needed to score either 384 for a win or to bat out 75 overs to get a draw on the final day.

Australia looked good for a draw at one stage when Hayden and Slater stayed together for 23 overs. But once they were separated, wickets fell at regular intervals. The turning Kolkata wicket kept bothering the Aussies and Harbhajan did bulk of the damage by taking 6 wickets and Tendulkar also chipping in with 3 wickets. With shadows lengthening at Eden Gardens, Australia were dismissed for a total of 212 with just 6 overs left in the days play.  India had won a famous victory and the mighty Australian juggernaut was finally over. This was only the third occasion in test cricket that team had won after being asked to follow on.

The Kolkata win was one of Indian cricket’s finest hours and will always be etched in the memory of people in the years to come.

An Ashes Humdinger

Edgbaston 2005

This was the second test match of the Ashes series of 2005 and was played in Edgbaston,Birmingham.  Australia had convincingly won the first test by 239 runs and taken a 1-0 lead in the 5 test series. They were looking upbeat before the match but dealt a major blow as their major fast bowler Glen McGrath tore a ligament during practice just minutes before the match started.

Influenced by some gloomy predictions about the pitch, Ricky Ponting won the toss and decided to field on a cloudy morning at Edgbaston. But soon his decision backfired as England blazed away to a superb start as England batsmen, led by Trescothick, severely punished a McGrath-less Australian attack to every corner of the ground. After Trescothick got out, Flintoff and Pieterson followed it up with a brutal 103 run partnership as England scored 407 in their first innings in less than 80 overs with a run rate of over 5 runs an over.

Replying toEngland’s 407, Australia began poorly as Hayden was dismissed for a first ball duck.  But Langer dug in after being hit on the head by Harmison and scored gritty 82 runs.  Ponting also chipped in with fluent 62 runs before Flintoff and Giles bundled out Australia for 308 in their first innings.

Trailing by 99 runs, Australia fought back valiantly with Warne and Lee coming into the act and dismantling the England batting order. Lee’s lethal pace combined with Warne’s craft helped Australia restrict England for just 182 in their second innings. But by that time, Flintoff ‘s late order assault at Warne had made sure that Australia needed 282 runs to win on a deteriorating Edgbaston wicket and giving England a sniff of a victory.

Flintoff consoles Lee after England sealed a thrilling 2 run win at Egdbaston

After frenetic two and a half days of test cricket, Australia began their chase steadily with a 47 run opening stand. They looked good until Flintoff, almost inevitably, shook things up. He dismissed Langer and Ponting in quick succession before Simon Jones got rid of Hayden with a score at 82.None of Australia’s middle order batsmen hung in for a long time and Australia were soon reeling at a score of 137 for 7.

England took the extra half an hour to polish of the tail, but Shane Warne kept England bowlers at bay by his counter attacking batting, lofting Giles for two sixes, and the only casualty of the extra period was Clarke who scored just 30.  At the time, England’s win seemed just a formality and it seemed slightly unfortunate that there would probably be so little left for a full house on the fourth day.

The fourth day began with Australia’s scorecard reading 175 for 8. The main batsmen were all gone and so were Australia’s hopes. But Shane Warne put on a bright partnership with Lee, who while batting collected bruises as well as runs, and slowly ticked down the target When 62 were still needed for a win, Warne’s foot touched the stumps and he was out hit wicket, but it still wasn’t over. The last pair-Lee and Kasprowicz repelled England’s bowling as the bowlers tried to dug the ball in too short and too straight, trying to induce catches to the slip cordon. ButEngland’s confidence soon turned into panic as Australia kept getting closer to the target.

When just 15 were left for a win, Kasprowicz flicked Flintoff uppishly to third man, where Simon Jones failed to hold on to a difficult forward diving catch.  England’s last chance seemed to have gone. But finally with just three needed, Harmison dug one in short into Kasprowicz, who hunched at the ball as it looped down the leg side and Geraint Jones plunged the winning catch.England had won the match by just 2 runs. The narrowest margin of win in terms of runs in the 135 year history of test cricket

The last hour of the Edgbaston test was a nerve wrenching affair where fortunes flung both sides and it will certainly remain as one of the most thrilling test matches in the history of Ashes.

When Cricket lifted a Nation

Chennai 2008

The Chennai test between India and England may not have had the most thrilling finishes but it still ranks as one the best modern day tests purely because of two reasons. First, the time it was held (just two weeks after the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai) and second, as Mumbai’s favorite son produced one of his finest test hundreds ever to win the match on the final day.

England came into this match after only three days of nets at Abu Dhabi as their only warm up game had been cancelled when they flew home after the Mumbai attack. Their lack of match-practice, it could be argued, was decisive, but Pietersen and his players never made it as an excuse. Andrew Strauss led the way for England with a fluent hundred in the first innings. Cook and Prior also chipped in with half centuries before Indian spinners restricted them to a total of 316.

India struggled in their first innings and were 137 for 6 at one stage with Dhoni and Harbhajan at the crease.  But they put on a solid eighth wicket stand and took India within striking distance of England’s first innings total before they were bundled out for 241, still 75 behind, a decisive trail on a disintegrating Chennai wicket.

England slipped to 43 for three in their second innings when Yuvraj Singh trapped Pietersen with his first ball.England needed their highest fourth-wicket partnership in Asia, 214 from Strauss and Collingwood, to recover. Together they batted out the third day with both of them scoring hundreds and Strauss becoming the first England batsman to hit a century in each innings of a Test in the subcontinent.  England looked in a commanding position before Zaheer and Ishant slowed down their innings with their reverse swing. After a late order collapse, Pieterson declared England’s innings giving India a target of 387 in just under four sessions of cricket still left.

England must have been confident about ramming home the advantage, but Virender Sehwag had other ideas. He bludgeoned the England bowlers with his natural attacking style of batting put them on the defensive. His brutal 83 runs of just 68 balls, including 11 fours and 4 sixes, on the fourth evening made sure that India needed 256 on the final day and gave them a glimpse of a victory.

Sachin celebrates after scoring a brilliant century in the fourth innings to win the match for India

Even after Sehwag was dismissed late on the fourth day, India never dropped the scoring rate when they came out the next morning. Although Dravid got out early to Flintoff, maybe a blessing in disguise for India, and Gambhir steered one to gully after scoring 66, India kept ticking down the target down at a good rate. But as Laxman’s got out just after lunch,England’s final victory bid was over. From then on, it was the Sachin Tendulkar show. Scoring a hundred in a successful fourth-innings run-chase was, according to Tendulkar, something he had always wanted.

On a turning Chennai wicket, he measured his stroke play and negated the Swann and Panesar factor with precision batting. He combined calculated aggression with exquisite timing to score, according to him, arguably his greatest hundred. Yuvraj Singh also established himself as a Indian test regular with a brilliant 85. Both of them put on a superb 163 run stand and sealed what seemed a comfortable 6 wicket win in the end with an hour of cricket still left. It was the highest fourth innings run chase by any team in the Asian subcontinent.

The Chennai test win once again brought smiles to the faces of the people who had witnessed mass killing of people in their country two weeks ago. Tendulkar dedicated his hundred to the victims of the 26/11 attacks. It was a occasion where Cricket helped revitalize a nation.

Cricket. Rahul Dravid. Calvin and Hobbes. Fight Club. Peanut Butter. Cold water. That is all you should know.
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