Ahmedabad: The riot-ravaged city witnessed a riot of different sorts as India scripted the highest ever chase on Indian soil to restore parity in the ODI series against the West Indies under the Sardar Patel Gujarat Stadium lights on Friday.
The exceptionally high-scoring match in a sequence of big totals seen in the ongoing series was special considering the chase was made while batting under lights — always a difficult proposition because of the dew which makes the ball softer and stroke-making difficult.
As it so happened, there was no dearth of big shots and India found an unlikely hero in Sanjay Bangar who drowned Caribbean hopes of a 3-1 lead in the seven-match series right into the bed of the Sabarmati.
The unassuming allrounder, famous for his remarkably patient stays at the crease as Test opener, smashed 57 (41 balls, 5x4, 2x6) after coming in at the fall of the fifth wicket with India needing 94 more off 75 balls.
Bangar played proper cricketing shots with timely improvisations as the target was achieved with 14 balls to spare.
Rahul Dravid played the silent yet effective anchor — a typically responsible effort — and brought up his eighth ODI hundred (124 balls, 7x4). His calm presence at the middle ensured there was no panic at the other end.
The Indians, in fact, were always in the hunt, reaching 148 for two after 25 overs and 255 for five after 40. A wicket at this stage could have tilted the balance in favour of the visitors, but Bangar’s aggression along with Dravid’s astute rotation of strike kept the visitors at bay.
The start wasn’t ideal with Virender Sehwag failing to fend off a snorter in the first over and when Sourav Ganguly fell after a quick 28 (16 balls, 3x4, 1x6), things looked bad.
Dravid and V. V. S. Laxman kept India in the hunt within with a 103-run stand, which came off 118 balls. But Laxman’s departure — an injudicious call for a non-existent single — pegged India back. Yuvraj Singh maintained momentum with a quick 30 (30 balls, 1x4, 1x6) but he was quickly followed into the dressing room by Mohammed Kaif and these dismissals swung the balance back in favour of the Caribbeans.
Bangar, though, lifted the momentum decisively with his intelligent and authentic hitting. The visitors did their cause no good by conceding a number of no-balls and wides. Also, they were hardly as sharp on the field as they would have liked to be.
Earlier, the West Indian innings was built mainly around the avalanche of runs in the first ten overs (81) and another blast in the last ten (83). The flow of runs was put under temporary brakes by Harbhajan Singh and Murali Kartik as just 32 came between overs No. 11 and 20. But then, that was the phase when the visitors steadied their innings, knowing that enough had been scored in the first ten and preserving wickets rather than accelerating further was the need of the hour.
Another factor which helped the West Indies pile the huge score that they did was the number of abnormally big overs they managed. Ashish Nehra went for 19 in his third over and 15 in his next; Srinath conceded 15 in his fifth and the same in his seventh; Yuvraj conceded the biggest over, going for 22 in the 48th.
Gayle settled down after the fall of two wickets and anchored the innings in the true sense of the word. His drives were savage and every time he went over the top, he cleared the rope by miles.
The Jamaican posted the third ODI hundred (140 off 127, 12x4, 5x6) and second of the series. He looked good to go past his personal best of 152 but a tired looking lift in the 40th over ended his stay.
Sarwan showed immense maturity and composure by picking up the singles and twos in the middle overs. He was nimble between the wickets, wristy against the spinners and played them with soft hands so that he could work the balls into the gaps.
He started improvising towards the end of the innings and though he missed out on a maiden international hundred by a whisker, Sarwan’s effort once again underlined the immense promise he possesses.
The fact that Sarwan (99 off 104, 8x4) never seemed in a hurry but still managed a near 100 per cent strike rate speaks volumes of his temperament. This was his third 50 of the series and has been dismissed just once.