India v Australia, 1st Test, Bangalore, 5th day October 13, 2008

India avoid Sydney repeat

Cricinfo staff

Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman, who flopped on the last at Sydney in January, shepherded India to safety © AFP

This was how it was supposed to end at the Sydney Cricket Ground last January, with India batting spiritedly to save the game after a challenging Australian declaration had left them with just over two sessions to tilt at windmills. Sadly, what happened on the field on January 6 was largely obscured in the aftermath of several controversies, and jibes back and forth about the misunderstood spirit of cricket.

India were bowled out in 70.5 overs that day and even allowing for an ordinary decision or two, that was simply inexcusable. They weren't faced with Laker or Warne either. Instead, it was Michael Clarke's left-arm spin that pushed them over the precipice as the shadows lengthened over one of the game's most famous venues.

VVS Laxman and Sachin Tendulkar were two of the prime culprits on that occasion, both succumbing to a superb mid-afternoon spell from Stuart Clark. They faced just 50 balls between them, and it was left to Anil Kumble and Mahendra Singh Dhoni to try and lead India to safety, a task they almost accomplished before those five deliveries from Clarke undid all the hard work.

When Tendulkar arrived at the wicket on Monday morning, India still needed to bat nearly 75 overs to survive. And when Laxman joined him after a clever slower ball from Mitchell Johnson had dismissed Gautam Gambhir, there were still 56.2 overs to be bowled. Had one of them fallen then, it could conceivably have been curtains. Apart from a weather-aided escape at Lord's last year, India's record at saving games on the final day is pretty undistinguished, with the cataclysmic collapse the rule rather than the exception.

The declaration from Ponting was perfectly timed. In Sydney, Australia had batted on for 24 overs and taken the lead to 332 before sending India in. At the Chinnaswamy Stadium, with 299 required from 83 overs, an Indian win wasn't completely implausible, though Virender Sehwag's early exit made it a statistical possibility rather than a realistic one.

One of the recurring criticisms of Tendulkar down the years has been his fourth-innings record. Of the 39 centuries, only two [Old Trafford, 1990 and Chennai, 1999] have come in the last innings of a game. There have only been three half-centuries [49 in total] and the average [33.60] is way below his overall figure. Though the news crews and reporters were gearing up to herald Brian Lara being eclipsed as Test cricket's leading scorer, it was infinitely more important that he stay at the crease long enough to make the game safe.

With Gambhir and then Laxman providing the support, he just about managed to do that. It wasn't always pretty. It never is when men that love to play their strokes are reduced to survival mode. There were anxious moments too. The odd ball would go through at shoestring height, while Cameron White got one to take off past the outside edge of Tendulkar's bat in a manner reminiscent of the old Kumble.

By the time White picked up the most prized wicket a debutant could hope for, 52.2 overs had elapsed and the light was fading rapidly. Tendulkar had made 49 from 126 balls, seldom moving out of second gear. Perhaps mindful of one final-day collapse too many, there had never been any suggestion that he would go for the runs.

Laxman ended up facing 142 deliveries, and he and Sourav Ganguly, whose dismissal was one of the flashpoints for the war of words in Sydney, saw it through to the murky end without undue alarms. Despite being off the field for 39 minutes soon after tea, there were no further lapses in concentration in the 15 overs that followed.

Australia gave it everything, and you wondered how much of a difference Andrew Symonds, another of the Sydney protagonists, might have made. Clarke won the plaudits that day, but Symonds too took three wickets, including Dhoni. White bowled tidily enough, but there was no dramatic turn or variation to trouble a batsman of Laxman's class.

There was no let-up in intensity from either side, and though a few words were exchanged, there was an absence of the malice that so soured relations in Sydney. When the players walked off soon after tea once the umpires decided that the light was poor, Matthew Hayden and Ganguly chatted amiably enough, while Clark and Brad Haddin exchanged pleasantries with Laxman. Clark, who has family in Bangalore, even tried out Laxman's bat, though Ponting will hope that his skills with the willow aren't unduly tested as the series progresses.

So, a day that started with Kumble dropping a return catch - will wicket No. 617 ever come? - ended with his team ceding no ground at a venue where they have so often been outclassed during the past decade. They had batted 73 overs, 13 balls more than they managed at the SCG, and lost just four wickets. It wasn't a victory and it didn't feel like one either, but once again, Australia knew that they were in for a proper contest. How often can you say that in today's unipolar cricket world?

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Jaya on October 14, 2008, 5:52 GMT

    Hi, I wonder how the author forgot to mention Sachin's brilliant 176 runs came in fourth innings of Eden Garden Test between India and West Indies which helped to draw the match and clinch the series in 2-0. In this match Laxman also scored 150 runs (approx) with sachin. Thanks!

  • Warrick on October 14, 2008, 3:26 GMT

    If you check the records apirthvi2000 you will find Tendulkar made 155* at Chennai (March 6-10, 1998) in the 3rd innings of the test match, not a hundred in the 4th innings to save or win a game.

    The article clearly states "One of the recurring criticisms of Tendulkar down the years has been his fourth-innings record", not the second Indian innings.

  • Rajaram on October 14, 2008, 2:43 GMT

    I like the frank comments of AnotherCricketFan. Have you read Aesop's Fables, "The Emperor wore no clothes"? Sachin Tendulkar is that Emperor. Typical of Indians to talk about poor umpiring when it hurts them. They forget easily that Sachin Tendulkar was given not out lbw to Michael Clarke,when he was CLEARLY out - and went on to score a century in Australia.The Aussies are far more mature - they did not cry foul like the Indians. The fLab four should be dropped fast.During THIS Series itself. Do you expect only 50s from them?

    And here's a parting shot.Who's the underdog now?(in their own country?!?)

  • Self on October 14, 2008, 1:32 GMT

    Cannot agree more, its hard to repeat Sydney for starters, 1) You need 14 member Australian team with 11 playing and 3 umpiring. 2) You need a world that believed with/without all cricket associated tantrums , Australian team far outclassed others in every aspect of cricket. 3) You need the overconfidence of Ponting & Co, desperate to stoop any lows, to get the coveted record of nonstop-wins squared by infinity. 4) You need to erase the media/memory footprint of all Australian greats and cricket lovers who publicly despised their once impeccable team.

    True, Sydney is a hard repeat and I hope it stays that way, for I strongly believe Cricket needs freedom from Oppressing culture not just in the playing team which is the most awful feeling as a TV watcher, but also from Governing authorities that started from Lords, partnered with Sydney and now has an uninvited Delhi claiming stakes.

  • Jack on October 14, 2008, 0:46 GMT

    The authors' analysis is flawed. Without regurgitating the deplorable events in Sydney, it was slothful umpiring that did India in. It was the worst officiated game in the history of professional sports. You can't have seven decisions go against one team and not impact the results. A 1-1 tie would have been the most equitable result of the hotly contested series.

    Kumble must be glad that he did not get suckered into another take-the-fielder's word on catches agreement with Ponting for the current series.

  • Gurpreet on October 14, 2008, 0:15 GMT

    In the Sydney test, if the bad decisions never occurred in the first place then the tail enders would not have been their to face Clark. So people need to stop saying that it was India's fault. It was contributed by the umpires and the cheating Aussies who appealed when they knew it wasn't out - Good example is the Dravid dismissal. The bat was behind the pad but Gilly still appealed. But yes, the collapse should not have happened that day and I am glad it didn't occur today.

  • The on October 13, 2008, 19:44 GMT

    This article is baloney.. One can equally argue that the Australians dont look like shining winners without all three umpires on their side... One can also argue that the Australians are not such a big force without catching pacts and sledging...

    Please stop spouting one sided nonsense...

  • Venkat on October 13, 2008, 18:32 GMT

    Please stop this Tendulkar-is-still-great routine. It stinks to the sky. Being an Indian, I am so thrilled that Ponting or someone else will be at the top of the world for a long time than our over-appreciated, under-performing, over-stayed-longer-than-needed, cancer of Indian cricket.

    Dravid is close one his heels with 20+ tests lesser than him - everyone wants to axe him, Sourav is there with him on ODI numbers - but he is ignored too. Stop this. Tendulkar may have been one good batsman before - not anymore - and he does not deserve any praise.

  • Yogesh on October 13, 2008, 18:07 GMT

    If Tendulkar and Laxman had been given out incorrectly today the the result would have been same as Sydney. In any test innings, not all batsmen score. 2 or 3 batsmen score most of the runs. If they are given out incorrectly or are bowled out by good bowling, the inning is as simple as that.

  • ashok on October 13, 2008, 14:58 GMT

    Of the 39 centuries, only two [Old Trafford, 1990 and Chennai, 1999] have come in the last innings of a game. I want to correct this statement please chek your record guys their are three not two centuries in second forgot the hundred he made in chennai on 6th march 1998 when india won that match and warne was hit all against the spin for sixes.check sachin's profile test number 1405.

  • No featured comments at the moment.