Monday, Oct 21, 2002
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By S. Dinakar
END OF A RESISTANCE: Ramnaresh Sarwan stood between the host and an emphatic victory. Indians knew the importance of his wicket and were desperate to see the back of the talented youngster. It was no surprise then, that when it actually happens, the batsman wrapped in front by Zaheer Khan, Indians' joy knows no bounds as V.V.S. Laxman gives a warm hug to the bowler and `Man of the match' Harbhajan Singh, wicket-keeper Parthiv Patel, Rahul Dravid and Sanjay Bangar converge to celebrate. Photo: N. Balaji
This has indeed been a season when the Indian flag has fluttered high on the cricketing arena, with the Sourav Ganguly-led Indian team performing with much pride and passion, two essential qualities in any winning outfit.
And at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium on Sunday, the Indian `spin-pace' punch - Man of the Match Harbhajan Singh's turn and bounce, Zaheer Khan's seam and swing - finally floored the West Indies.
The resistance of the third day resembled a page from a distant past, as Carl Hooper's men lost six wickets for 43 runs, in an all too familiar tale of a Caribbean collapse, on the fourth day.
The West Indies second innings terminated at 229 and the Indians knocked off the 81 runs required for a series-clinching victory, losing the wickets of Sanjay Bangar and Virender Sehwag. India now leads the three-Test series by 2-0, with the final Test beginning in Kolkata on October 30.
Zaheer, who removed the principal stumbling block, Ramnaresh Sarwan (78), produced an incisive morning spell of 4.4-2-6-3, Harbhajan's eleven overs from the pavilion end fetched him three for 19, and all the escape routes had been sealed for the West Indians.
A cause for concern
However, there was a worrying moment for India when Anil Kumble and Ganguly collided into each other while going for a high catch at deep mid-wicket, as Pedro Collins miscued one off Harbhajan, and the Indian captain had to be carried out of the ground on a stretcher.
Ganguly was able to walk soon, but the exact nature of the injury to his back will be known only after the results of an MRI scan are out. "I have taken two painkilling injections to my back, and right now the area is numb,'' said the Indian skipper.
When the Indians began the chase, Virender Sehwag, after a circumspect beginning, entertained a sizeable Sunday crowd, freeing his arms against Gareth Breesen's off-spin, and cutting and lofting Carl Hooper, before the West Indian captain, had the Delhi opener stumped. Hooper, who clearly underbowled himself in the first innings, prised out another batsman with his off-spin, Sanjay Bangar's edged cut, landing in the hands of Chris Gayle at slip.
But then, the target was too small really to worry the Indians. It was all over when Tendulkar, to a huge roar from the crowd, cut Breese and completed three, 46 minutes after lunch. Yet another home series had been won.
Start under lights again
For the second day running play started under lights, with clouds hovering around. Ganguly trusted the spin duo of Kumble and Harbhajan when the battle resumed, and a severe test of skill and temperament awaited Ramnaresh Sarwan and Ryan Hinds, overnight 62 and one respectively.
Harbhajan achieved sharp turn and bounce against southpaw Hinds from the pavilion end, and if his middle and leg line against Sarwan was a deliberate one with two shortlegs waiting, just in case the West Indian failed to keep the ball down while turning it off his hips, the ploy did not work.
This was a major innings for Sarwan. He had survived a tentative phase initially on Saturday, yet had settled down to play a pleasing knock, his feet and blade in perfect harmony.
Ganguly's decision to introduce Zaheer Khan from the Wallahjah Road end was a well thought out one, and it was clear that the left-arm paceman's strategy would be to fire them in at Sarwan's middle and leg stumps from over the wicket; Sarwan has a tendency to shuffle across, and `opening up' while working the ball on the on-side.
Zaheer ended Sarwan's century dream, getting the ball to pitch in line, not always easy for a left-armer operating over the wicket, and letting out a war cry after umpire David Shepherd responded positively. The jubilant Zaheer knew the importance of the scalp. Harbhajan's 28th over, then sent the Caribbeans on a rapid downward spiral. Ganguly had kept the huge area between mid-off and square-leg vacant, inviting the left-handed Hinds to hit against the break, but the West Indian did not take the bait.
However, the plan worked the other way round for Harbhajan with Hinds stepping down to a flighted delivery on the leg-and-middle stump in his attempt to slam it over cover, and then finding the ball spinning into him. He only managed to provide Kumble with a simple catch at cover.
With his next delivery, Harbhajan blew away Gareth Breese with a vicious off-break, Ganguly completing the dismissal at backward short leg. The Sardar was on a hat-trick, and as many as six Indians crowded the bat, however, Meryvn Dillon managed to keep the ball on the ground. The big paceman struck Harbhajan for an on-side boundary, but was ruled leg-before by umpire Asoka de Silva, while attempting to clip a full-length delivery. There was some doubt whether the ball had brushed the bat.
Then Ridley Jacobs, capable of delivering powerful blows, was snared by a Zaheer special that moved away from the left-hander, 'keeper Parthiv Patel scooping up a splendid low, catch with his left glove, even as the ball was dying on him.
Harbhajan could have grabbed his fifth wicket had he, spiriting with his back to the ball, held a high return catch offered by Collins. This was, however, a day when he was not destined for a five-wicket haul with Ganguly and Kumble soon running into each other. It was a well-deserved third scalp for Zaheer though, when he knocked back Jermaine Lawson's off-stump. The West Indian resistance was over.
India bowling: Srinath 9-4-16-2; Zaheer 12.4-5-23-3 (nb-2, w-1); Harbhajan 30-6-79-4; Kumble 26-3-87-1; Sehwag 2-0-9-0 (nb-1).
West Indies bowling: Dillon 5-1-10-0; Collins 2-0-7-0 (nb-2); Lawson 2-0-2-0; Breese 5.1-0-27-0; Hooper 7-1-32-2 (nb-1).
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