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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Another tight Test match finish as WI (just) hold India to draw

India 482 (Ashwin 103, Tendulkar 94, Dravid 82, Samuels 3/74, Rampaul 3/95) & 9/242 (Kohli 63, Sehwag 60, Rampaul 3/56) drew with West Indies 590 (Bravo 166, K Edwards 86, Powell 81, Ashwin 5/156, Aaron 3/106) & 134 (Ojha 6-47, Ashwin 4-34) : T3/3 D5/5 at Mumbai. India win series 2-0.

A high scoring match for the first four days- 22 wickets for 1153 runs (including Sachin Tendulkar again just falling short of his elusive 100th international century for 94)  - turned sharply (as did  the pitch at times) on the last day when 17 wickets fell for 295.

The West Indies with some honourable exceptions (mostly reflected on the scorecard)  eased off when if not a victory then a face-and clean sweep saving draw looked likely. First the middle and lower order crumbled against the Indian spinners, giving the home team a chance to try for a win against an attack weakened by injuries to Darren Sammy and Devendra Bishoo. Then the available WI bowlers struggled  against positive batting and were let down by poor fielding: Virender Sehwag was dropped three times in his 60, and there was too much fumbling and suboptimal throwing in the tight final overs.

Even so, as India came within 20 runs of victory with 4 wickets in hand the West Indies refocused. Bishoo had Virat Kohli caught at slip: 7/224, then, as Ishant Sharma and Ravichandran Ashwin looked like getting their team over the line, the dogged Ravi Rampaul bowled Sharma with a yorker: 8/239, 4 runs or two wickets (depending on your side) to win. Yet neither side did, as the only further wicket to fall was Ashwin's, off the last ball of the last over (well bowled by Fidel Edwards) of the match.

In a limited overs game, this would have been a win to India, but in Test cricket it was a draw, only the second time a Test has ended with the scores level: the other instance was Zimbabwe v England in 1996  (when the current England coach was a thorn in the English side).

Over the series India were unquestionably the better side but the West Indies blew their chances of a win here with a feeble performance on D5. Let's hope the strong home team performances keep, as it deserves, the flame of Test cricket alive in that part of the world.

Presumably the Indian team to tour Australia will be built around this one. After the strong performances by spinners Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha in the three Tests I can't see Harbhajan Singh in the starting XI on Boxing Day let alone in the touring party, which may be a relief to some Australian players (and officials). But the two new guys look good, and seem to work well in tandem, at least on their home tracks. It will be good to see them (or whoever is chosen) on our pitches.
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