Through the years Indian Test sides have not won much outside the country. Series wins abroad are even rarer. This fact makes us savour wins abroad even more. In fact, India has never won a test series in Australia and South Africa, have won only one series in Pakistan, twice in New Zealand and 4 times in West Indies ( but only one of them before 2006). In England, they have won three series once in 1971, then in 1986 and then in 2007. It can safely be said that Indian wins abroad are few and far between. Even the current side, Number 1 in the world, lost the series they recently played in England and South Africa earlier in the year.
The win coming in 2007 was a very important series win in the larger context. For one, India went there without a coach after the Greg Chappell resignation as a result of the poor performance in the World cup. The team needed some healing and some rebuilding. Thus in hindsight, it was a good thing that a group of coach-less players figured it out for themselves led by the senior members of the squad and a determined Captain in Rahul Dravid.
India won the 3 test series 1-0 thanks to a wonderful victory at Trent Bridge in Nottingham in the second test match against a very strong England side led by the astute Michael Vaughan. It merits to take a closer look at the win as not many expected it, especially after the first test.
A Strong Team and the rain gods favour
It was a solid Indian team that came to England shores with virtually all bases covered. Batting was in the capable hands of the big 4 (Sachin, Rahul, VVS and Sourav). They had the lion-hearted Kumble spearheading the spin department and Zaheer Khan led the pace attack comprising of RP Singh and Sreesanth too who could all naturally exploit the swinging conditions in England. They used a makeshift opener in Dinesh Karthik after good performances from him in the warm-up games and he gave more than a credible account for himself by being the top run-getter for India in the series.
During the first test in Lords though, India were up against it (being the habitual slow starters in a series, dismissed for 201 in their first innings, replying to England’s 298) and were set a daunting 380 to win in the final innings. The realistic question was if England could get the 10 wickets needed for a win. They got 9 and thanks to some rain on the last day, some poor light and some good resistance from the Indian middle order ( Ganguly scoring 40, Laxman 39 and Dhoni top scoring and remaining not out on 76) – they were denied victory.
England went into the 2nd test determined to finish off the job this time and the Indians again left wondering how to score enough runs in English conditions.
Play on the first day of the Trent Bridge test too was delayed due to rain and the consequent wet outfield. When it did get underway midday, India won the toss and decided to make use of the overcast conditions and put England in to bat.
The perfect start
It sure was a good toss to win as the ball was swinging and nipping around for the India seamers from the get-go. Zaheer Khan made two quick breakthroughs by dismissing Andrew Strauss for 4 and Michael Vaughan for 9. When RP Singh dismissed Kevin Pietersen LBW for only 13 ( he was the centurion Man of the match from the first test), England were in trouble at 47 for 3 in the 15th over. They really could not recover from this early setback and kept losing regular wickets. Despite Cook (43), Collingwood (28) and Bell (31) showing some resistance, none of them could convert their starts and England were reeling at 169 for 7 at the close of play on day 1.
The next day, England could only add a further 29 runs before being dismissed for 198. Zaheer Khan did the bulk of the damage picking up 4 wickets and Kumble accounted for 3 wickets. Sreesanth too ably supported them by bowling 12 overs for a miserly 16 runs and picking up a wicket.
A Sound opening stand leading to a Solid reply
Dinesh Karthik may not have been a regular opener but he sure played like one. Wasim Jaffer and he blunted the threat from the England seamers. In Ryan Sidebottom and James Anderson, they had two wonderful exponents of swing bowling and natural variation as Sidebottom was a left-armer. To back them up, they had the imposing Chirs Tremlett, who at 2 meters tall not just bowled fast but also got an awkward bounce to trouble the batsmen. In the spin department, Monty Panesar led the England Charge. This was all negotiated well by the two Indian openers who put together a stand of 147 runs before Jaffer was dismissed for 62. Karthik scored 77. The big 4 that followed ensured to make the most of the platform and 3 of them got fifties. Laxman 54, Ganguly 79 and Tendulkar given out LBW (controversially) on 91. Only captain Dravid among the top 6 failed to get past fifty but shared a vital 97 run partnership with Tendulkar. Tendulkar also had a 100+ partnership with Ganguly and together the Indian batters ground the England bowlers out. Thanks to 5 of the top 6 batters scoring fifties, India put up an imposing reply of 481 runs batting out most of day 2 and day 3 to get there. The England bowlers were made to toil and bowled over 158 overs in the innings. All 6 bowlers who bowled picked up wickets though the stand out were Monty Panesar who picked up 4/101 and Chris Tremlett who picked up 3/80. So with just over 2 days to go, India were in a commanding position being 283 runs ahead at the end of their first innings. India admittedly got the better of the batting conditions though.
The mini candy crush saga better known as the Jellybean gate
It happened late in the India first innings when Zaheer Khan was batting. After one of the overs, he saw some jelly beans strewn on the pitch, which he removed. After a while, he saw some again at the same spot. This riled him up and he asked the England players what was going on and also spoke to the umpires about it. None of the players owned up to it at the time but it certainly got Zaheer Khan peeved and it would come back to haunt the English side later. ( Zaheer, incidently picked up the man of the series award)
This England side don’t roll over easily
The England batters in Strauss, Vaughan, Bell KP and Collingwood formed the nucleus of the batting unit that outdid Australia in 2005. With Cook as Strauss’ opening partner, they were only strengthened. Having come close to winning the first test, this team backed itself to climb out of the hole it found itself in. They began about it in right earnest and at the close of play on day 3 were 43 for no loss.
Though Cook fell early to Zaheer (47/1) Andrew Strauss continued the good work from the day before and scored 55 runs. The main resistance from England on day 4 came from Captain Vaughan, he played in the mould of his 2001-02 self when his batting form took him to the top of the ICC rankings for test batsmen. He dominated the attack and scored in a fluent manner at a brisk pace. He formed an 81 run partnership with Strauss. Though Pietersen fell cheaply (19), Vaughan found good support from Collingwood. They shared a 112 run stand and Collingwood himself scored 63 runs. Vaughan looked like a man determined to thwart India and flayed all the plans by Indian bowlers. However, there was a touch of misfortune involved in his dismissal.
Zaheer Khan decided to come around the wicket to Vaughan. To one of his deliveries, Vaughan attempted to play a shot on the legside but the ball hit his pads and trickled on to the stumps. The despair on his face was there to be seen as he walked off. It perhaps gave an indication of things to come as soon after his dismissal on 124 ( wicket fell at the team score of 287/4) the rest of the team folded up quickly thereafter to be all out for 355.
Spurred on by Jellybean gate, Zaheer khan was once again destroyer in chief for the Indians picking up 5 for 75 ( 9 wickets for the match). Kumble added another 3 wickets to his 3 in the first innings and RP Singh took 2 wickets. The manner in which he dismissed (bowled) Matt Prior by a beautiful, late swinging delivery is still remembered by those who saw it. RP Singh played a good lieutenant to Zaheer and was frugal in the second innings. His overall show in English conditions was impressive.
The wickets were thus well distributed among the Indian bowlers.
Stride to a famous win
India were set a target of 73 to win. At the close of play on day 4 they stood firm at 10/0.
The final day saw India march to their target of 73 losing 3 wickets in the process. The openers again had a solid stand of 47 runs and Dravid and Ganguly were at the crease when the winning runs were scored.
India went up 1-0 in the three test series with one test to play. It was a comprehensive win in the end and was a total team effort displayed by the Indian team. While Zaheer took 9 wickets and the man of the match award, the other bowlers ably supported him and kept up the pressure.
The batters too scored 5 fifties among them to ensure the good work done by the bowlers did not go waste.
India dominated the next test played at the Oval and made sure that they kept the 1-0 lead intact and thus went on to win a series in England after 21 years. It was also one of the rare series win for India where none of the recognized batsmen scored a century (Kumble got a century at the Oval).