|Anil Kumble on way to his maiden Test hundred on the second day of the third and final Test against England at the Oval on Friday
London: Absolutely no disrespect to Anil Kumble, but nobody would’ve bet even one pence on the leggie becoming Team India’s first centurion in the ongoing Test series.
Yet, at the Brit Oval on Friday, Kumble gave such a tweak that it broke England’s back beyond repair. He did so with a first of his own — an unbeaten hundred (110 in 216 minutes and off 193 balls; 16x4, 1x6).
With the veteran, used to making headlines for wrong ’uns of the conventional kind, creating that little piece of history with the bat, India reached an awesome 664 (highest against England) in innings No.1 of the final npower Test.
While twists and turns can never be totally discounted, it’s inconceivable that England will be able to force a win and, thereby, draw the three-match series.
Realistically, it’s more a matter of how quickly Michael Vaughan’s men capitulate. The wicket is quite good, but...
By stumps on Day II, England were 24 for one and an early finish is projected. It should’ve been two down, but the truly disgusting Ian Howell denied Sreesanth nightwatchman James Anderson’s wicket.
Before anything else, England must score a further 441 to avoid the follow-on. So, everything points to Rahul Dravid becoming the third Indian captain (after Ajit Wadekar and Kapil Dev) to win a series in these parts.
Lucky to get away with a draw at Lord’s, the Indians have upped their game since. Evidence came quickly, at Trent Bridge. The good work has continued at the Oval, where the Wadekar-led team scripted history 36 summers ago.
Resuming at the overnight 316 for four, the Indian innings continued till 36 minutes before the scheduled close. A minute more and the Dravids would’ve batted for 12 hours! Not that enough records hadn’t been rewritten by then.
The innings saw eight 50-plus partnerships and, as significant, every single Indian reached double figures. The tally of fours and sixes was no less impressive — 81 and nine.
In looking for culprits, England’s supporters are going to zero in on ’keeper Matt Prior. He dropped Sachin Tendulkar on 20 (Thursday) and, in the second day’s seventh over, let go V.V.S Laxman on 41. Eventually, they scored 82 and 51, respectively.
Besides the misses, Prior conceded 33 byes. Enough reason for him not to socialise with his mates for the next few days. At least.
While Kumble’s achievement is bound to get more kudos, the fiesty Mahendra Singh Dhoni played a lovely innings after the overnighters departed.
Dhoni, in fact, picked on the England bowlers to celebrate his appointment as India’s Twenty20 captain. He also used the outing to warm-up for the forthcoming ODIs.
A second Test hundred was there for the asking when Dhoni got a trifle carried away, falling in attempting a hattrick of sixes off Kevin Pietersen. Dhoni’s 92 came off only 81 balls (121 minutes, 9x4, 4x6).
“What an innings and what an attitude... Dhoni was terrific... Once he was back, I asked what was on his mind. His answer was simple — ‘two balls remained in that over... I was looking for a six and a four’... Dhoni’s special,” awe-struck chief selector Dilip Vengsarkar told The Telegraph.
Kumble, who has always had a sound defence and could give the leather a whack, said he was “absolutely happy” and “enjoyed” himself.
Not wanting to deny No.11 Sreesanth his due, Kumble added: “I’d been 24 short of the hundred when the ninth-wicket fell, but Sreesanth promised he would hang around for me to get there... He did.”
England’s coach, Peter Moores, cut a brave face. Away from the public glare, though, he’s sure to admit he’s aged after Lord’s.
For the record, he maintained: “We’ve got to take it session by session... For a chance, we’ve got to win all nine (sessions) that remain... You don’t (first) try to save the game as that’s a negative approach...”
Good luck to Moores and England.