January 28, 2002

Sehwag and Tendulkar batting display stuns England as India race to victory

It appeared that England had got off to an incredible start to their innings when Nick Knight and Marcus Trescothick put on 71 for the first wicket in ten overs. It seemed that England's total of 218 for 7 in 39 overs after a mid-innings collapse was a competitive target on a pitch lacking pace and bounce. In fact, almost any total they might have posted would have been in range of India led by Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar. They served up as destructive a batting display as could be imagined to win by eight wickets with very nearly ten overs to spare.

There are not many batsmen who stand comparison with Tendulkar but, in this form, Sehwag did. The physical similarities between the two have often been noted before. Now they were matching one another shot for shot with, if anything, Sehwag the dominant partner.

The England bowlers and fielders were rendered impotent as the first fifty arrived after only 33 balls had been bowled. The second fifty came from 34 balls and the match, as a contest, was as good as over.

There are any number of similar statistics that illustrate how quickly Sehwag and Tendulkar took their side to such a thorough victory, but figures can never be adequate to convey the splendour of the strokeplay that tore the attack apart. It was quite simply a stunning display that was magnificent to behold - unless you happened to be out there as an English fielder.

Those same boys in blue would have been very happy with their own start to a day that begun late because of a wet outfield. The match was reduced to 39 overs a side and Nasser Hussain took first use of a wicket on which chasing might prove to be difficult.

It might have been if the target was in the region of 270 as looked possible early on. Knight in particular took the opportunity to put his lack of runs behind him and go for it from the outset. He was especially savage on Ajit Agarkar who retired from the attack with figures of 3-0-27-0.

Harbhajan Singh was brought into the attack to bowl the eighth over and was swept for a boundary second ball and reverse-swept by Knight for another next ball to bring up the fifty, before four leg byes had the effect of increasing rather than slowing the scoring rate.

Javagal Srinath was the epitome of calmness at one end while the storm blew at the other, and he should have had Trescothick caught by diving wicket-keeper Ajay Ratra when he had only two. Trescothick did get out in the 11th over when he hoisted Anil Kumble to deep mid-wicket off a somewhat ungainly slog having reached 18 off 21 balls.

Knight continued in company with Andrew Flintoff who had been promoted in the order. Flintoff did hit an impressive straight six off Kumble to bring up the hundred in the 15th over and had 18 from 19 balls in total when the combination of the superstition-laden 111 and a drinks interval proved too much. He was caught at deep extra cover straight after the break.

Knight had brought up his fifty from 57 balls with his seventh four, and a massive total appeared likely when England had reached 144 for 2 in the 24th over. The addition of 22 runs in the space of five and a half overs for the loss of 4 wickets reduced that forecast from massive to merely challenging.

The reverse-sweep that had served Knight so well let him down when he had 74. Hussain drove a return catch to Harbhajan Singh, Michael Vaughan swung unworthily across the line and Paul Collingwood played on.

Graham Thorpe played sensibly if unspectacularly on his return to the international fold, Ben Hollioake kept his Surrey colleague company until chipping to mid-on, and there was every reason to believe that it had become difficult, in the conditions, to find the boundary with the old, soft ball when the pace was taken off the bowling. It was a good theory.

Trescothick had been forced to take up the gloves when regular 'keeper James Foster reported in sick and he very nearly claimed a notable scalp off the first ball of the innings. Darren Gough strayed down the leg side, Tendulkar went to flick it away, Trescothick tumbled to glove the ball but the umpire signalled a wide.

Trescothick did put down a big deflection by Sehwag when standing up to Hollioake, but otherwise he had a reasonably comfortable passage. To be honest, not much got past the bat.

The fielding was found wanting and the bowling ineffective as the Indian openers, drove, flicked, nudged, bludgeoned and forced the ball to all quarters. Try to cut off the singles and they went over the top. Put men back and they expertly found the gaps. Take pace off the ball and they waited for it.

Sehwag's innings came to an end when he eventually miss-hit Collingwood to mid-on, but not before he had reached 82 from 62 balls with 14 fours. He deserved a century. Sourav Ganguly, who had retired in the middle of an excellent bowling spell holding his left thigh, came in at three to make some clubbing blows before being deceived by a slower ball from Gough.

By then it was 179 for 2 in the 25th over. There was time for Dinesh Mongia to fire off some elegant strokes - one off the back foot through the covers was as good as any on the day - before Tendulkar decided the time had come. He casually lifted Jeremy Snape straight for six and the entertainment was over - regrettably or mercifully depending from which camp it was being viewed. There had been so much crammed into 68.4 overs of non-stop action.