The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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A damp finish to drawn series

London: The elements forced an early end to the fourth Test and the series, at The Oval Monday, but even if rain hadn’t intervened, the match and the series would still have finished indecisively. The last occasion when the elements scuppered play throughout a day, at the same venue, was back in the summer of 1980.

As it turned out, India and England ended 1-1 — in the circumstances, a reasonably fair result. In fact, the teams also shared the MoM awards: Nasser Hussain and Michael Vaughan were adjudged best at Lord’s and Trent Bridge, respectively, while Rahul Dravid was voted No.1 in the last two Tests (Headingley and The Oval).

Appropriately, Dravid (602 runs) and Vaughan (615) were the Men of the Series. Among bowlers, the top spot was shared by Anil Kumble and Matthew Hoggard, each claiming 14 wickets — no award, though, was given.

India, of course, finished with slightly higher marks as they made a comeback (at Headingley) after losing the first Test, at Lord’s. Indeed, this was driven home by Sourav Ganguly.

“We played good cricket and we’ve had a good tour... We won the (NatWest) tri-series and, then, drew level in the Tests... Except that first innings at Lord’s, our batting was satisfying... As for the bowling, the mediumpacers could have done better,” the Indian captain remarked.

Though Sanjay Bangar didn’t take to this series as a rookie, Sourav acknowledged the Railways’ allrounder as “the find.” He added: “Bangar batted very well (at Headingley) and did what was expected of him as a support bowler. He proved handy.”

[The England captain also made special mention of Bangar.]

The others singled out by Sourav were (predictably) Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar, as also Zaheer Khan. Even Virender Sehwag, promoted as opener in this series. Then, in passing, the captain said “both spinners” had bowled well.

He didn’t speak of his own batting but, with 352 runs, again had a good series. “Yes, I’m happy with the way I played,” Sourav told The Telegraph.

In the West Indies, he had 322 in five Tests.

Sourav made a valid point when he talked about not consistently winning overseas. Specifically, he noted: “Clearly, our bowlers will have to learn to take wickets in all conditions... Twenty wickets even on flat pitches...”

Hussain, for his part, chose to look back on the entire summer (beginning with the series win over Sri Lanka) and felt his team had “some excellent performances.” He added: “I don’t think I’ve captained a more positive England side.”

Reacting to his being rather defensive during the Indian innings at The Oval, Hussain countered: “I adopted tactics I thought would be best suited for a flat wicket... In any case, with India having such quality batting and fine spinners, I couldn’t risk conceding a lead...”

Hussain’s response to a follow-up question, by the way, was pretty biting: “From the periphery, it’s an easy game... The tactics which work in one Test get criticised in the next or whatever...”

Looking ahead, to the Ashes in particular, he observed: “We now need to move ahead from being a competitive team to one which can win more often.”

Support for Fletcher

Meanwhile, Hussain has called upon the ECB to “immediately” extend coach Duncan Fletcher’s contract — which, at the moment, is till next September and is being debated upon. “His has been the single biggest contribution in getting us to where we have... He’s the finest coach I’ve worked with,” the captain declared.

Significantly, Hussain kept open the possibility of continuing as captain till after the February-March 2003 World Cup.

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