Third Test

India v England

At Bangalore, December 19, 20, 21, 22, 23. Drawn. Toss: England.

Dank weather which had more in common with Manchester than Bangalore initially encouraged England to think that they could still pull off a victory to tie the series. But the overcast skies - floodlights were in use throughout - increasingly bore unseasonal rain. As a hard-fought series petered out, the depression clung not just over the Bay of Bengal but also over the England dressing-room.

A chief source of that depression was the criticism of their negative bowling tactics against Tendulkar, apparent throughout the series, but here employed more bloody-mindedly than ever. The unedifying spectacle of Flintoff and, in particular, Giles aiming outside Tendulkar's leg stump left both Hussain and Duncan Fletcher unrepentant and, in Hussain's case, resentful that an inexperienced team's attempts to compete in alien conditions had not been given unreserved support. Denis Lindsay, the ICC referee, needed all his man-management skills to prevent a reasonably well-behaved series spinning out of control at the last.

Tendulkar is a special talent, and the need to curb him encouraged extreme tactics. First Flintoff conjured up memories of Bodyline by banging the ball in short from round the wicket. Then Giles deliberately landed his slow left-armers a foot outside leg stump, where the wicket-keeper, Foster, stood in readiness. On the third morning, 90 per cent of Giles's balls pitched outside leg, and Tendulkar padded away more than half. But even if Hussain felt he could justify his methods, the umpires had the power to rule these persistent negative deliveries as wides; in the broader interests of the game, they should have done. An ICC cricket committee meeting in March agreed that steps should be taken to ensure as much.

It was the buccaneering leg-side blows of his partner and acolyte, Sehwag, that finally tempted Tendulkar into indiscretion, shortly after he passed 1,000 Test runs in the calendar year. When he charged at Giles to be stumped for the first time in his 89-Test career, England were convinced their suffocating tactics had been suc-cessful. But Tendulkar had made 90, and, if he required four and a half hours, then the lost time was to England's disadvantage. They, after all, were chasing the game. The crowd, for once, were not exclusively obsessed with Tendulkar - they had their own local hero to cheer. By dismissing Hoggard on the second afternoon, lbw as he tried to sweep, Kumble became the second Indian (after Kapil Dev) and fourth spinner (after Shane Warne, Muttiah Muralitharan and Lance Gibbs) to reach 300 Test wickets, achieving the landmark in his 66th game.

Hussain had won the toss again, but the chief talking point on the first day was the controversy when Vaughan became the seventh batsman in Test cricket to be dismissed for handling the ball. His reputation as a perpetually blighted Test batsman - one he would do well to ignore - had arisen largely because of some freakish injuries, but here a mental aberration undid him. Vaughan was batting with more authority than at any time in his Test career when, on 64, he missed a sweep at the off-spinner Sarandeep Singh. As the ball became tangled beneath him, he first smothered it, then brushed it away from his crease, a lapse that would be condemned in a club match. The ball was not heading for the stumps, but that was irrelevant under Law 33. India were entitled to appeal, although Vaughan complained, unwisely, that it was "against the spirit of the game". Hussain's admission that he would have appealed himself "nine times out of ten" put this gripe into perspective. Had Vaughan simply tossed the ball to a fielder, an appeal would have been unlikely.

His dismissal, at 206 for four, demanded retrenchment. Instead, Flintoff naively belted his fourth ball to mid-wicket to extend his miserable sequence to 26 runs in five innings. Ramprakash completed an impressive fifty before he was adjudged caught at slip off Sarandeep. It took another plucky innings by the improving Foster on the second morning to lift England to 336.

A relaid pitch had made selection difficult. India chose three spinners, replacing the last of Mohali's debutants with Sarandeep, and employed Ganguly as a token new-ball bowler, but this was a mistake: it was the swing of Srinath that bore most threat, and England's seamers who forced a 98-run first-innings lead. Flintoff 's new-ball bowling, full of heart and skill, was in stark contrast to his leaden batting; Hoggard rediscovered his out-swinger, compared Bangalore to Headingley and stomped happily back to his mark, singing and pulling the strange faces that persuaded his team-mates to nickname him Shrek after the animated green ogre in the children's film. These two each collected four wickets for the first time in a Test innings. But rain, which allowed less than 16 overs during the last two days, ruined everything.

Man of the Match: A. Flintoff.
Man of the Series: S. R. Tendulkar.
Close of play: First day, England 255-6 (White 30, Foster 14); Second day, India 99-3 (Tendulkar 50, Dravid 1); Third day, India 218-7 (Kumble 10, Harbhajan Singh 0); Fourth day, England 33-0 (Butcher 23, Trescothick 9).

© John Wisden & Co