Third Test

England v India

Tanya Aldred

At Leeds, August 22, 23, 24, 25, 26. India won by an innings and 46 runs. Toss: India.

England can usually rely on Headingley for home comforts. So it was a nasty shock that this year the old girl turned against them, embracing instead India - out-of-form, contract-disputing India. It was they who were invited to Geoffrey Boycott's pre-match curry buffet and it was they who breathed in the dank Leeds air, looked up at the furious age-old leaden skies, mastered the demons in the pitch, and served up a win by an innings - something they hadn't achieved overseas since routing a Packer-scarred Australia at Sydney in 1977-78.

It was a magnificent performance, built on a sublime first-day century by Dravid which Hussain graciously described as one of the finest he had seen. With that in the vaults, Tendulkar and Ganguly had the licence to play, and play they did - Tendulkar smoothing his way to his highest Test score against England, and Ganguly producing a knockabout hundred that would have been at home in a seaside cabaret. It was the first time all three had made a century in the same innings, though they had come close only two weeks earlier at Trent Bridge with two nineties and a hundred; Tendulkar passed David Gower to go seventh on the all-time Test runs list. The really unexpected part of the tale was that this excellent batting was matched by wise, wily bowling from an attack much mocked even at home. Anil Kumble, who famously struggles away from his dust-bowls, merrily spun his buoyant leg-breaks along to seven wickets and thoroughly deserved his first Test victory outside the subcontinent in 12 years. Agarkar, Bangar and Zaheer Khan did much of the rest - out-Englanding the England bowlers in their mastery of line, length, accuracy and patience.

For England it was a big step backwards. Seemingly weary from the start, they were outfoxed on the opening day by the Indians, who Boycottishly refused to play at any balls they did not have to, and then took the opportunity to pile frustration on frustration. There were more runs from Vaughan, though not on the heroic scale that he was increasingly favouring, and that England needed here; there were valiant efforts from Stewart and an innings of angry defiance from Hussain on the final afternoon, but it was not enough after the initiative had been lost so clearly on the first two days. The return of Caddick, which had been sung joyfully from the treetops, made no difference: he was wayward and looked in desperate need of a few rounds on the gallops. It had become rare to see England drop so many catches - four in 35 minutes on a slapdash

Saturday morning, including Parthiv Patel three times in his 11-ball innings. The watching Western Terrace, never ones to suffer in silence, vacillated between disbelief and hysteria, and the laughter that followed each drop, and each of the four consecutive fours Harbhajan Singh heaved off Alex Tudor, cannot have helped the mood when England eventually padded up.

The game had started slowly after Ganguly, fearlessly going against all Headingley precedent by picking two spinners, won the toss and batted. Sehwag gloved a catch in the seventh over; Dravid and Bangar settled back and worked to rule - the first 50 came up ten minutes before lunch, to much foot-shuffling in the crowd. Dravid was immaculate from the start, watching each ball like a seamstress and ignoring the ones which thudded into his shoulder, helmet or chest. Bangar was an admirable sidekick but his demise was greeted with excitement as the crowd prepared for Tendulkar, Yorkshire's prodigal son, who despite his year here as a 19-year-old had never made a first-class century at Headingley. Now, in his 99th Test, as visitors quaffed champagne in the hospitality box Yorkshire had named after him, he did it, overtaking Don Bradman's total of 29 Test hundreds as he stroked the ball round the ground. But the highlight of the match was not the moment of his longed-for century; it was the silly session late on Friday afternoon when, as the skies darkened, he and Ganguly saw four lights on the scoreboard, disdained them, and ran amok, scoring 96 off the first 11 overs of the third new ball. Together they added 249, an Indian fourth-wicket record against England. Ganguly, swinging his bat like Thor, celebrated his hundred by slamming the next two balls for six.

India's total was their highest against England when Ganguly declared. England began brightly, as if not missing Marcus Trescothick at all. Vaughan again dashed on to the attack, but after he drove loosely at the skinny Agarkar, England stalled. All the main batsmen bar Flintoff got a start, but nobody came close to the big hundred the situation demanded. India had batted for two days before losing their fifth wicket; England managed less than four hours. Stewart was admirable in his defence and hit 11 fours with typical flourish, but there is only so much you can do when just one of the last five makes more than a single.

England's follow-on wasn't necessarily doomed, but India were showing intensity in the field and somebody was going to have to produce the big innings that had thwarted Sri Lanka in a similar situation at Lord's in May. Vaughan couldn't help for once, Butcher lost patience after a solid start and Crawley completed a double failure, so it was left to the old sweats, Hussain and Stewart.

They came together in rich late-afternoon sunshine on Sunday and by the close Hussain had 90, Stewart had 40 and England had a chance. Hussain, reckless at times in his willingness to take the aerial route, was outstanding - 66 of those 90 runs had come in boundaries. He went on to his hundred the next morning but fell soon afterwards, and with him went England's hopes of going to The Oval with a lead still in their pockets. Kumble and Harbhajan twirled and fizzed and showed that spin could be a weapon anywhere in the right hands. Stewart stuck around without ever finding his fluency and Flintoff, who had bowled 27 overs when clearly unfit, completed a forlorn pair. Hussain admitted afterwards that it had been "almost unprofessional" to pick him.

Before the match Geoffrey Boycott, Fred Trueman, Ray Illingworth and Brian Close gritted their teeth and posed together to open the new East Stand - though such was the financial mess at Yorkshire that no one had much of an idea who was going to pay for it. But the most poignant moment came on Saturday afternoon when the ground stood in complete silence, in memory of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, the schoolgirls from Soham whose disappearance had captured the sympathy of the nation.

Man of the Match: R. Dravid

© John Wisden & Co
 
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