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December 15, 2008
India 241 (Dhoni 53, Flintoff 3-49) and 387 for 4 (Tendulkar 103*, Yuvraj 85*, Sehwag 83, Gambhir 66) beat England 316 (Strauss 123, Prior 53*, Cook 52) and 311 for 9 dec (Strauss 108, Collingwood 108) by six wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
How they were out
After all the turmoil of recent weeks, India couldn't have picked a better moment to create history, completing a famous six-wicket victory in Chennai by chasing down the fourth-highest total in Test cricket. And there could be no better figure than Sachin Tendulkar to mastermind the uplifting success with a century of such serenity that he made the pressure-cooker environment seem like an afternoon in the park. Along with Yuvraj Singh, he added an unbroken 163, sapping the England spirit that had carried them into such a dominant position.
The closing stages were dominated by scenes of a hysteric crowd cheering dot-balls as Yuvraj ensured Tendulkar had time to reach his 41st century. The moment came with perfect symmetry as Tendulkar swept Graeme Swann to fine leg to reach the hundred and complete victory. All the previous times India have come up short in run-chases, and claims that Tendulkar doesn't contribute at crunch times, will be forgotten.
At the end of the third day Gary Kirsten, a man of few words, said he believed this Indian team was capable of anything. Now, after following their victory over Australia with this triumph, the momentum of the side is starting to feel unstoppable. The batting faltered in the first innings, but they never lost confidence in their own ability, highlighted by Virender Sehwag's bombast, Tendulkar's calm and Yuvraj's flair.
England have been through such a range of emotions that it will probably take them a while to dissect what has gone on. They performed above expectations for much of the game, but on the final day wilted against a great batting line-up. Their bowlers couldn't summon up the same consistency that was successful earlier in the match. They failed to break through in clusters, with Andrew Flintoff's third-over removal of an out-of-form Rahul Dravid and James Anderson's curtailing of Gautam Gambhir's stylish 66 proving false dawns. Each time another Indian batsman would bed in on a pitch that never quite developed into the viper it promised to be.
The stand between Tendulkar and Yuvraj was worthy of such a significant occasion - when they came together the match was still in England's favour after Graeme Swann had VVS Laxman taken at short leg shortly after lunch. Yuvraj struck two early boundaries off Swann and made it clear he was going to play his natural game, rather than prod around as in the first innings. England tried everything to unsettle him, but this time he didn't get sucked into any verbals with Flintoff, instead just turning away and giving the silent treatment. Steve Harmison ended up hurling the ball back at him from his follow-through, but Yuvraj calmly patted it away and bit his tongue.
The presence of Tendulkar was vital. He remained entrenched and massively focused after overcoming a testing start against Flintoff, who was the only pace bowler Kevin Pietersen could rely on for control, and ensured Yuvraj focused on his batting. He manoeuvred the spinners with great skill and Pietersen was always a few deliveries late with his field changes. The England captain will learn with time, but his team's tactics had been strangely negative since lunch yesterday, although Sehwag's innings clearly impacted their mindset on the final day.
The closest England came to breaking the decisive stand was when Yuvraj swept at Swann and all the close fielders went up for a gloved catch. It was only the bowler who believed in the lbw shout, and replays showed it was hitting halfway up middle stump. Swann found turn and bounce, reward for giving the ball a tweak, although he had a tendency to drift too straight rather than making the batsmen drive. However, he can hold his head high after a promising debut.
Monty Panesar, on the other hand, was again hugely disappointing and remained wicketless from 27 overs while conceding nearly four an over. For the second time in three Tests, following South Africa's successful chase at Edgbaston, the pressure of a final-innings situation that should have suited him perfectly instead caused him to seize up. He was cut and pulled far too often and even when he tried to build pressure, by bowling over the wicket to Tendulkar, runs still ticked along.
Once the target was below three figures Yuvraj began to express himself by pulling Panesar for six then attacking the new ball. That had been England's last chance, but the batsmen were so well set that it barely made a difference. The belief was surging through India and Yuvraj even brought out one of his one-day specialities, clearing his front leg to launch Anderson over mid-on. This innings could be the making of him.
He offered a half chance on 55, gloving a short ball from Harmison down the leg side, but Matt Prior couldn't take it tumbling to his right, and a more clear-cut opportunity when Prior missed a leg-side stumping late on. However, by then only 20 more were needed and any chance of an England fightback had long since disappeared. This experience will be tough to take, but extenuating circumstances should allow them a greater degree of pride in their performance. Nothing, though, will take the glory away from India, and after a performance like this nothing should.