January 13, 2002

The Colonel leads the Indian victory parade

Astonishingly, even though India played her first one-day international in England in 1974, no such game had been staged in this country till the 1981-82 season. India had played limited overs games in England, New Zealand, Pakistan and Australia but it was only during the England tour of India that the first one-day international was held in India at Ahmedabad. England won comfortably by five wickets, which was hardly surprising given India's patchy record in this form of cricket.

By the time the second one-day international started at Jullundur, India had never beaten England, and on past record and present form there seemed little chance of the home team reversing the trend during the tour, particularly given the strength of the visiting side which had the likes of Botham, Gooch, Fletcher, Gower, Gatting, Willis, Lever and Underwood in their ranks. And the odds did not change even after a thick mist delayed the start of play, cutting down the overs per side from 50 to 36.

Sunil Gavaskar won the toss and, not unexpectedly, put England in to bat. The conditions were ideal for Kapil Dev and Madan Lal, and initial inroads were made, reducing England to 48 for four at the halfway mark of 18 overs. Gatting and Gower rescued them from the mire by adding 110 runs for the fifth wicket. They played the most innovative of strokes and also ran hard between the wickets. At the end of the 32nd over, England had raised their score to 120. The purple patch of the partnership came in the 33rd over, sent down by Ravi Shastri. Gatting launched a ferocious onslaught that resulted in 26 runs accruing from the over ­ 24 from the bat and two byes. All the 24 were scored by Gatting, courtesy four sixes. The partnership ended when Gower was run out for 53 but Gatting remained unbeaten with 71 in an England total of 161 for seven. His riposte, it was thought, would knock the fight out of India.

But Dilip 'Colonel' Vengsarkar, who opened the innings in the absence of Gavaskar, nursing a pulled hamstring that caused him to retire halfway through England's innings, soon took charge. He and Krishnamachari Srikkanth put on 41 runs for the first wicket as the runs came steadily. The 50 came up in the 14th over and the 100 in the 27th. By this time, four wickets had fallen but Vengsarkar and Yashpal Sharma were together, with Gavaskar, who had recovered, yet to come. Against that, England could still use their four regular bowlers ­ Willis, Botham, Lever and Underwood - in light, which was getting murkier towards the evening. This threatened to prove detrimental to the batting side's chances.

The fading light though could not curb Vengsarkar's glorious stroke play. He was in complete charge of the proceedings. All he needed was some support at the other end and this he got from Yashpal, a born fighter. The two ensured the runs came at a brisk pace, their fullblooded strokes and cheeky singles rousing the 40,000 crowd who were now cheering wildly.

Slowly, tantalisingly, the target narrowed down ­ 20 runs from four overs, 14 runs from three overs, ten runs from two overs. Botham bowled the penultimate over and conceded only two runs off the first five balls. The decisive nail in the England coffin, however, was struck when Yashpal hit the last ball of the over for a soaring six over the sightscreen. Fittingly though, it was Vengsarkar who made the winning hit in the following over and India were home with three balls and six wickets to spare. Vengsarkar remained unconquered on 88, Yashpal on 28; India at last registering their first victory over England in a one-day international. It was a moment to savour on that cool December evening in the Punjab.