Chandigarh: The Englishmen had anticipated Anil Kumble to be the main protagonist of the final day show in Mohali. Little did they know that a nearly-unknown fast bowler from Ikhar in Gujarat would dash whatever little hopes they had of saving this Test.
It is a rare sight to see visiting teams flinching against an Indian fast bowler. England were reduced to doing just that as Munaf Patel triggered a late-order collapse with some accurate and disciplined bowling. Only a late revival by Andrew Flintoff and Steve Harmison ensured India chase 144.
If Munaf’s success came as a fresh breath of air, the Indians relished the return to form of Virender Sehwag.
The opener had been struggling somewhat and his fine unbeaten 74 meant Rahul Dravid and Co. can heave a sigh of relief. His being among runs is crucial to India’s plans and a solid start at the top make things that bit easier for the batsmen to follow.
It seemed even the elements declined to come to the visitors’ aid as Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) president Inderjit Singh Bindra said it had started to pour only 400 yards away a little before the match finished.
For the record, England had lost the opening Test here in their last visit (2001-02) too.
The 1-0 lead in the TVS Cup will help improve India’s ICC rankings. They have a good chance of promoting themselves to the No.2 spot even if they manage a draw in Mumbai.
Man-of-the-Match Anil Kumble won’t forget this Test in a hurry, not just for his 500th wicket, but also because he managed to psyche the visitors into submission. It will mean an added advantage going into the final Test in Mumbai.
The nine-wicket Indian victory would never have been possible without Munaf’s morning spell of 8-2-15-3. Quite naturally, with a match haul of seven for 97 on debut, Munaf remained the star attraction in the dressing room.
visitors had struggled against him in Vadodara in the lead-up game to the first Test, but had not calculated that he would be as effective in a Test, too.
A fluent run-up, an upright use of the seam that allows him to extract movement and an eagerness to bowl within his limitations gives him an added advantage. On his debut Test, he never seemed overawed by the circumstances and stuck to his task.
The 22-year-old’s ability to make use of the reverse swing will also put him in good stead. He has always looked more dangerous with the old ball in this Test and in slightly helpful conditions he can be the answer to India’s fast bowling woes.
That he also possesses a good yorker was evident when he bowled Matthew Hoggard this morning. Geraint Jones fell in the fifth delivery on Monday morning, a slightly slower ball that rolled on to the stumps after taking the inside edge of his bat. Munaf didn’t look back thereafter.
The pacer also played a role in finishing off their innings, a catch in the deep off a Flintoff slog gave Piyush Chawla his maiden wicket. Unfortunately,
Flintoff couldn’t prolong his innings as he ran out of partners. Nevertheless, the England captain showed character and proved that added responsibility would not burden him.
The Sehwag-Dravid association that put on 105 for the unbroken second wicket, guaranteed that the hard work of the bowlers were not wasted.
Sehwag was not his usual self as he took 65 balls for his 50, but accelerated once he passed that mark. Collingwood was carted around and Monty Panesar wasn’t spared either.
Meanwhile, the Indian selectors retained the same squad for the final Test beginning Saturday.