Nasser Hussain had set sights on taking to Headingley 2-0 up, but when India’s middle-order gems sparkle, even the Kohinoor gets eclipsed. And so it was at Trent Bridge Monday.
Captain Sourav Ganguly fell for 99 (second time in 60 Tests) and Sachin Tendulkar went at 92, but vice-captain Rahul Dravid did complete his (11th) hundred. So, with numbers 3 to 5 setting an example in the most demanding of situations, forcing a draw in the second Test eventually came easy.
Young Parthiv Patel and Zaheer Khan were unbeaten when Sourav effected the declaration with ten of the 105 overs remaining. By then, even Hussain realised it was all over. In fact, India had erased the demoralising 260-run deficit before tea itself.
“I’m not frustrated, just disappointed and tired. We couldn’t finish it off,” rued Hussain, while Sourav made the point about his team being capable of “doing better.” In time, Hussain and coach Duncan Fletcher may acknowledge that omitting Ashley Giles was a big mistake.
Patel didn’t score many runs, yet in those 82 minutes, he matured from a teenager into a man. Even Ajit Agarkar’s cameo came at quite the right time. After all, another wicket then and this Test could have seen a one-day finish. But if one team was hungry, the other was determined.
Clearly, Agarkar and Patel drew inspiration from the middle-order heroes. More important, they actually showed character when confronted with the pressure-cooker heat. Despite the very apparent minus in the form of the bowling, India definitely can count some pluses.
Beginning Day V on 99 for two, Dravid and Sachin were not separated till the second hour when part-time off-spinner Michael Vaughan (rightly adjudged MoM) got one to land in the rough and turn so viciously that even a Muttiah Muralidharan would have applauded.
That ball, of course, got Sachin who had loosened his defence. The maestro’s 92 came in 158 minutes and off 113 deliveries (17x4), while his partnership with Dravid was worth 163. That’s one collaboration which put India on the face-saving street.
But if Hussain had hoped to run through the middle-order, he found it even harder to breach the Sourav-Dravid wall. They understand each other well, understand each other’s game even better. A year ago, both helped a depleted India win the Kandy Test. This time, the theme of their partnership was different.
Late on Sunday, in a chat with The Telegraph at the Hilton, Sourav had spoken of the need “to bat like never before”. That only an exceptional effort would see India through. Well, till Sourav had that fatal lapse in concentration — that, too, only one short of what would have been his ninth hundred — he led from the front.
Hussain did get his quicks to try and soften-up his opposite number, but though Sourav did take eyes off an attempted Andrew Flintoff bouncer, he faced the challenge head-on. The game today has much to do with body language and Sourav didn’t give anything away. Rather, there were many of his customary drives through off and square.
Sourav’s 99 came in 247 minutes (159 balls, 13x4), the outstanding effort ending with an inside-edge off Stephen Harmison. Sourav had 68 very courageous runs in the first innings. Before losing the captain, though, India had lost Dravid and V.V.S. Laxman.
Dravid, appropriately saluted as Mr Consistent, was beaten by Dominic Cork’s late in-swing. His 115 came in 338 minutes and off 244 deliveries (16x4). As for Laxman, he didn’t have a meaningful contribution. Worse, he departed to a rank bad shot. It doesn’t always pay to be a compulsive hooker or puller.
The Sourav-Dravid partnership, by the way, produced 135 runs.
Stiff fine on Indians
Meanwhile, Match Referee Clive Lloyd has imposed a stiff fine on the Indians for their slow over-rate. Falling eight short, each player has been docked 40 per cent of his match fee. England also got penalised — every player will lose 10 per cent as the team was two short.
Following are excerpts
On over four years of international cricket
The going has been good in the ODIs, but... I haven’t played that many Tests so, in any case, I can’t give a definite answer about the sport’s longer version.
On whether he has realised his potential
Again, I can only answer keeping the ODIs in mind... I haven’t done badly... As for Test cricket, I would like to believe I’m going in the right direction. Of course, I need to play more regularly. I think this is the first tour where I’ve (consistently) been picked in both forms... I hope this continues.
On having begun on a high, in 1998
I did get my first 50 wickets in record time or whatever but, then, maintaining that isn’t easy. After all, the more the batsmen see you, the more ways they devise to neutralise you... Did that early success put pressure? Perhaps, yes... At times, expectations do work against you.
On where he needs to improve
(Grins) Look, learning never stops and, obviously, I would like to improve. Moreover, nobody is perfect. Experience does teach a few things and, talking specifically, my role has changed. Nowadays, I come first-change. As I’m no longer the strike bowler, I’ve largely got to stop runs in the middle overs (of the ODIs)... When the role changes, one has to adapt.
On being considered more for the ODIs only
A combination of factors has brought this about... My own performance at a given time, the performance of some of the other bowlers... The Test team’s composition...
On, at one time, having been ‘accused’ of not being honest about injuries
If I wasn’t honest, how did people conclude I’m injury-prone? I owe it to the team to be honest... (After a pause) Looking back, that stress fracture on my left foot (1998-99) did harm my career. But, then, such injuries can occur at any time. Then, returning from injuries isn’t ever easy. With experience, though, I’ve learnt to handle my body better.
On being mentally tough
If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t already have played a hundred ODIs... Temperamentally, I’m okay ... If I haven’t done well with the ball, I try and push myself while batting or in the field.
On that Lord’s hundred
Will always be special, though we lost... In fact, I’d always dreamt of at least one Test hundred and, frankly, it couldn’t have come at a better venue. However, I need to be consistent and, right now, don’t consider myself an allrounder. Of course, runs down the order help. If each of the last four can contribute 20-25, we’ll get a handsome 80-100 more on the board.
On whether he regrets having switched from batting to bowling when still a teenager
(Laughs) I’m glad I did... Otherwise, how would I have played for India? As a batsman, I wouldn’t have stood a chance.
On managing five Test ducks in succession on that 1999-2000 tour of Australia
Now that I have a Test hundred, I’d rather not think of those dismissals.
On surprising batsmen with the quicker ones
I’m probably stronger than what people think! That extra zip, which has always been there, comes naturally. More than the quicker ones, it’s rhythm that matters.
On whether he has tried to consciously learn from any bowler
I continue to be amazed by Glenn McGrath’s accuracy and consistency. Watching him from so close, both in India and Australia, has been an education.
On whispers that he often makes the side because he is Sachin Tendulkar’s buddy
Let’s leave this out... Let people say what they want to, I don’t wish to say anything.
On the cricketers who have influenced him
As a kid, I admired Viv Richards... For me, he was the ultimate... Then, I’ve always admired Sachin... I also have a very high regard for Sanjay Manjrekar, my first Mumbai captain.
On handling the pressures of international cricket
Good or bad, I try and read as little as possible of reports and articles in newspapers and magazines... That’s one sure way of reducing the pressure. At the same time, I don’t have complaints about too much cricket or too much travelling. After all, not many make the Indian team. I’m fortunate.
Finally, on marrying rather young, at 24
(Grins again) Both Fatima and I were prepared... Then, the up-coming calender is so packed... We probably wouldn’t have had the time for the next year or so.
He observed that the Indians have really picked up on the fitness aspect. “We twice scored goals in the last 10 minutes. In fact the Vietnamese coach asked me how we managed to keep so fit.”
When asked who has been the find of the tournament, he said: “The whole team. It was a total team effort and everyone played his part to perfection.”
Not releasing players
The coach reiterated that under no circumstances will any player be allowed to play in the local leagues before they embark on the England tour. “They have been asked to go home and relax for a few days before that trip. They are not playing any club games.”
However, it was learnt that AIFF secretary Alberto Colaco will himself talk to the India coach and try to persuade him to release the players.
Constantine, on the other hand, feels that these local leagues are of no use. “I have suggested the AIFF turn these tournaments into age-group meets. Then only can a proper pool of players be formed.”
Constantine said he will go through the video-tapes of his rivals in the group stage of the Asian Games. “I have arranged for the cassettes of China, Turkmenistan and Bangladesh. I plan to work out strategy in the coming week.”
It was learnt that Constantine is keen to get in touch with former India goalkeeper Hemanta Dora and have a session with him. “If I find him suitable for the job, I’m game,” he said. The coach, however, added that he also has a couple more names in his mind.
Captain Bhaichung Bhutia feels the Vietnam triumph will act as a huge boost to the team ahead of the Asian Games. “We played in the 3-5-2 formation and it worked. We created 30 odd chances,” a visibly happy Bhaichung said.
“The coach-player interaction has definitely improved. The junior players are always ready to come up for advice,” he said.
Defender Dipak Mondal feels the defence wasn’t upto the mark. “We did commit some errors that allowed early goals,” Mondal said. “But I’m sure we will be able to sort these problems out during the England tour.”
Among all the hullabaloo, medio Rennedy Singh was a lonely man. “It really pains to sit out the matches when the team is doing so well,” he said. A hamstring pull prevented him from playing any match. “It’s healing and I’m confident of making the England tour,” he added.
Meanwhile, Jo Paul Ancheri, who filled in Rennedy’s left-half position, was satisfied with his performance. “This is a completely new position for me and I think I did a decent job,” he said.
Praising the coach, Ancheri said: “I have played under so many coaches, but none has been so positive. Even when we were in the dumps, he maintained that we will win.”
Rajat proves a point
Meanwhile, Rajat Ghosh Dastidar, who was named the best goalkeeper of the tournament, said it was pleasing to be adjudged the number one goalkeeper of the team.
“Before the tournament got off, the coach said he will be playing all three of us (the two others being Sangram Mukherjee and Naseem Akhtar) in the competiton. So, the semi-final match was a make or break affair for me,” the goalie said.
“After that match, Constantine declared me as the number one. I’m happy that I could keep the faith of the coach in the final,” the Mohun Bagan goalkeeper said.
However, one cannot really doubt the firepower that East Bengal have today, especially in the presence of Mike Okoro who scored thrice. That took the Maidan debutant’s goal tally to seven after four matches.
Other goals for the home team came from Alvito D’Cunha and Surya Vikas Chakraborty. Somnath Pramanik threw one back for the railway team late in the match. While there is still debate over the East Bengal defence, not much of that was in view this day, what with home team activity more often than not restricted in rival territory.
Not that this is any ideal situation — the tougher the opposition, the leaner are the chances that a defensive overlap will help at the goalmouth — but probably wins like Monday’s do provide early morale boosters on which coach Subhas Bhowmick can hope to build a strong team for the National League.
In the sixth minute a Chandan Das prompt saw Subhas Chakraborty collect near the goalmouth, and finding the path not too easy, the latter back-passed to an advancing Okoro. The Poland-based Nigerian made the rest look easy.
Okoro made the next move, three minutes later, when he put Alvito in possession in the box. Alvito, though, failed to make use of this opportunity, and the ball was hastily cleared by a generally lackadaisical defence.
The East Bengal moves were now all over. While they started off using the flanks, later they were pushing up the middle as well.
Early matches had seen the home team use more of the right. Monday the left too seemed mobile enough, even discounting the weak defence.
The pressure bore further fruit in the 21st minute of the match when East Bengal forced a flag-kick. Subhas’ effort reached the goalmouth and this time Alvito made no mistake with his volley to put East Bengal 2-0 up.
Alvito, who had started the season on a rather low note, seems o be coming back to his known form. He can be fast on a dry turf and as deceptive as he is an opportunist.
The defensive third of the railway team was looking rather ragged and there was hardly any push outwards to reduce pressure. In the 35th minute Subhas went on a solo run and took three challengers in his stride. That allowed him to pass to an almost unmarked Alvito at the goalmouth, but the latter failed to convert.
Five minutes into the second session of play there was this lone railway attack. Goalkeeper Sandip Nandy was out of position, but Shankarlal Chakraborty made a timely goalline save.
Seven minutes later Surya Vikas made amends for the home-team lapse when he sent a fine swerving left-footed volley from just of the box, whistling into the netting.
By then the railway defence was in a shambles and not much was available anyway by way of attack either.
In the 70th minute Shankarlal tapped a pass to Okoro, who side-stepped the defence and then the goalkeeper to knock home East Bengal’s fourth goal. Yet Okoro’s hunger had not been satiated. A minute later he sent a free-kick from the right straight in for his third goal of the day.
The onslaught probably had the home team a trifle too heady and the defence, lax as it is, relaxed. In the process Arunava Sarkar went through a lapse and prompted to Somnath who headed in promptly.
East Bengal: Sandip Nandy, (satish Kumar, 85); Surya Vikas Chakraborty, Anit Ghosh, M. Suresh (Raju Singh, 72), Subhasis Roy Chowdhury, Shankarlal Chakraborty, Subhas Chakraborty (Malsawmtluanga, 53), Chandan Das, Alvito De Cunha, Mike Okoro, Kulathungan.
Eastern Railway: Tapan Karmakar, Santanu De, Nilanjan Guha, Santanu Bit, S. Dutta Bhowmick, Raju Mondal (Somnath Pramanik, 42), Subhranil Dutta, Kuntal Biswas (Arunava Sarkar, 56), Saikat Mondal, Architman Biswas, Samrat Roy Chowdhury.
Referee: Biswajit Bera.
New Brazilian arrives
Meanwhile, another Brazilian landed in the city to try out his luck with East Bengal. Douglas D’Silva watched Monday’s match and will be under trial from Tuesday.
After Bausdeb Mondal gave them the lead in the 49th minute, the National League champions were pegged back by a Sanjoy Majhi equaliser four minutes from the long whistle. Just when it seemed the glamour team would drop more points, Sunil Chettry flicked in the winner in the dying seconds.
“We are playing with three and a half players — Barreto, Basudeb, Dulal Biswas and may be Kajol Bhattacharya. The others do not have the right to play for Bagan,” coach Subrata Bhattacharya lamented later.
There was absolutely no co-ordination among the Bagan halves and the chances created in the first session were more the results of the opposition’s weakness than their own superiority.
The lack of resistance from the FCI players in the middle-third allowed the Bagan medios to move freely. Moreover, though FCI were playing with an off-side trap, their players did not know how to execute it properly. That did create a raft of chances for Bagan, only to be wasted. That the match remained goalless at the breather is a good enough indication of the lack of quality of the Bagan side.
Still, the green and maroon boys managed to go into the lead in the 49th minute when Jayanta Sen’s through pass found Dulal Biswas whose measured back-centre was placed into the net by Basudeb.
For the next 30 minutes, the soccer on display was next to atrocious. Bagan’s players seemed to be on an afternoon stroll, making things unbearable for the spectators. The glamour outfit could also have let in an equaliser in the 62nd minute when Sanjib Mishra’s right-footer curled over Bagan custodian Bibhash Ghosh, struck the cross-piece and went out of play. But even that that did not provide Bibhash the necessary wake-up call.
In the 85th minute, he missed a powerful goal-bound shot taken by Sanjoy Majhi from 25 yards. The ball ricocheted off the cross-piece, struck Ghosh on the rebound and rolled into the net.
But it seemed the FCI boys themselves could not believe that they could snatch a point from Bagan. In injury-time, Basudeb took a powerful shot off Dulal Biswas’ back-centre, which was flicked into the net by Chettry.
A relief for the fans all right, but things might not look so rosy if some drastic measures are not taken before their derby against East Bengal in a week’s time.
Mohun Bagan: Bibhash Ghosh; Yakubu, Kajol Bhattacharya, Sumit Sengupta (Santosh Singh, 34 min), Dulal Biswas, Amar Ganguly (Gourav Dutta, 20, Sunil Chettry, 61), Basudeb Mondal, Jayanta Sen, Lolendra Singh; Barreto, Sk Sanjeeb
FCI: Shibram Dey, Dipendu Roy, Tapan Giri, Dipak Mahato, Ranabijoy Singh, Satyaki Bose, Bidyut Dey Biswas, Nilavo Chakraborty, Biplab Dhar (Sanjoy Majhi 83), Sanjit Mishra, Pushpinder Dhandiyal (Subhashish Bhowmick)
Referee: Udayan Halder
The CAB had earlier planned to exclude seniors like Utpal and Devang Gandhi for these tournaments. However, the second-round defeat in the recent Karnataka state association-organised meet must have caused a rethink.
Rohan Gavaskar and Subhamoy Das will rejoin the squad after skipping the Karnataka meet. W.V. Raman, after attending a coaching course in Australia, is also likely to join the players in Chennai. The team will be picked Tuesday.
Mongia bid fails
Tollygunge Agragami’s bid for Nayan Mongia finally failed on Monday as the former India wicketkeeper quoted an ‘absurd amount’. Club authorities said they have said no to the player. They are, however, still hopeful of roping in Orissa paceman Debashish Mohanty.
According to information reaching here, Jeev had an impressive four-under with four holes to play. However, a 45-minute delay due to inclement weather seemed to upset his rhythm and he hit back-to-back bogeys on the 15th and 16th. A birdie on the 18th was not enough.
Christian Pena got the better of Brendan Jones and Naomichi Ozaki in a three-way play-off to emerge triumphant after the three finished tied at 19-under 269 after 72 holes.
Subrata is state coachThe IFA Monday named Mohun Bagan coach Subrata Bhattacharya and Krishanu De as coaches for the Bengal team for the Santosh Trophy in Manipur. IFA joint-secretary Ranjit Gupta said the probables will be named soon. Though Bhattacharya is busy with the club, he has agreed to share time between the two assignments, it was learnt.
The IFA also announced that Aloke Mukherjee will be in charge of the under-21s, with Nasir Ahmed being the goalkeeping coach. Mridul Banerjee and Pratap Ghosh will coach the under-19s, while Sujit Chakraborty and Tapas Chakraborty will be in charge of the under-16 team.
Ramit triumphsCity boy Ramit Tandon won the under-11 title at the recently concluded Hong Kong junior open squash championship held at the Hong Kong Sports Institute from August 7 to 10. In the final, he beat Fung Ngo Long 9-4, 9-1, 9-5.
Okolonko signsMohammedan Sporting signed in Nigerian Christian Okolonko for the ongoing season, which almost seals the fate of Abdulateef Seriki. However, the club authorities said that their match against Port Trust will be the final test for Seriki.
Snooker teaml The government has cleared a three-member national team to take part in the world under-21 snooker championships to be held in Riga, Latvia, from August 17 to 31. The players are Pankaj Advani, Manan Chanda and Sourav Kothari. S. B. Aggarwal is the coach.
One-frame meetFormer national champion Raju Jagtiani Monday had to struggle to beat unseeded Subrat Das in the Oswal Sports Club oneframe snooker meet.
Patterson TTJayanta Sarkar of Maniktala High School and Pallavi Kundu of Barrackpore Girls’ High School won the boys’ and girls’ individual titles, respectively, at the Patterson Memorial table tennis championships Monday.
The boys’ team championship went to Kendriya Vidyalaya who beat Bantra MSPC High School 3-2. The girls’ team title went to Jyotsnamoyee Girls’ High School, who beat Barrackpore Girls’ High School, also 3-2.
To day in SportFOOTBALL: CFL Super Division — Md. Sporting vs Tollygunge Agragami (Salt Lake), Ever-Ready vs Port Trust (Mohun Bagan). 1st div. Gr. A: CFC vs Howrah Union (SAP - I), Customs vs Wari (Md. Sporting), Police AC vs City AC (Rabindra Sarovar), ECL SA vs Kalighat (East Bengal), Bata vs Mohammedan AC (Tarun Sangha). Matches from 3.30pm.
SNOOKER: Oswal Sports Club’s one-frame meet macthes.