India v Australia, 4th Test, Nagpur, 2nd day November 7, 2008

A sober and significant innings

Cricinfo staff
Another opportunity may present itself to Sourav Ganguly in the second innings, but it's equally likely that we have witnessed his last substantial contribution with the bat for India

Today Sourav Ganguly was more assured against Jason Krejza than on day one © Getty Images

Another opportunity may present itself to Sourav Ganguly in the second innings, but it's equally likely that we have witnessed his last substantial contribution with the bat for India. If that is the case, his swansong was not a breath-taking innings filled with memorable drives shooting through the off-side. Instead, it was a serene effort with little flash.

This innings will be remembered perhaps only because it was Ganguly's final Test; its role, however, was significant in steering India towards a formidable first-innings total in their quest to wrest the Border-Gavaskar Trophy from Australia's grip.

His dismissal came against the run of play for, up to that point Ganguly was steady - gently accumulating his runs - without particularly dominating the bowling. The calmness was consistent with several of his recent efforts but two factors distinguished this one from others.

Ganguly ran sharply between the wickets, urged by his partner Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Perhaps the timing wasn't quite right, or maybe the outfield was slower in the morning, but several strokes were chased down by the Australian fielders, forcing the batsmen to run. Ganguly responded to Dhoni's energy and the pair ran three runs thrice in the first four overs of the day.

The other aspect which stood out, because of its absence, was the scarcity of front-foot drives against the fast bowlers. Although he scored 32 out of his 85 runs between backward point and cover, Ganguly hit only two boundaries through that region. His off/leg-side split was 45-40, usually its heavily tilted towards the off side. The scoring pattern was undoubtedly shaped by the fast bowlers' lines to Ganguly. They rarely gave him width outside off stump, and balls on a driveable length were few.

Ganguly batted within these constraints - Ricky Ponting had men close at midwicket and just behind square - but didn't let them shackle him, nudging and flicking off his pads to rotate strike. His only off-side boundary - a cut off the back foot - against a fast bowler came when Mitchell Johnson offered width. Johnson quickly returned to his stock line and struck Ganguly on the body with a short ball. He eventually called for a chest guard while facing Shane Watson, from round the stumps, and pulled a short one through midwicket.

Ganguly's strike-rate against each of Australia's fast bowlers was below 40 but against the offspinner Jason Krejza, he ticked along at 81. Ganguly had a couple of uncertain moments against Krejza last evening when he had to check his shot after mistiming a couple of advances down the pitch. Today's start was more fluent and he didn't wait more than four balls from the offspinner before stepping out and hitting into the stands at long-on.

Ganguly barely celebrated his half-century - he had been there 34 times already - and raised his bat and fist. His sights were set on doubling his score and he motored towards the target. Krejza eventually went over the wicket, pitching the ball outside the leg stump. Ganguly responded by padding away several deliveries, waiting for the length that would allow him to sweep and nudge.

The end, therefore, when it came was sudden. Dhoni had fallen a ball earlier and it seemed like Ganguly could hardly believe that he had edged the ball. He swung his bat in exasperation and turned to head towards the dressing-room. His walk was extremely slow and he stopped to turn around and watch the replay - the thick edge, the low trajectory of the catch, Michael Clarke's excellent reflexes in grabbing the ball inches from the ground. A magnificent opportunity had not been taken and Ganguly just about raised his bat to the cheers of a small crowd before swishing it in disappointment once again as he passed over the boundary.

He fell 15 runs short of possibly ending his Test career in the same way he started it. He failed to join four batsmen who have scored centuries in their first and last Test: Mohammad Azharuddin, Bill Ponsford, Reggie Duff and, ironically, Greg Chappell.