First Test Match

India v West Indies

At Mumbai, October 9, 10, 11, 12, 2002. India won by an innings and 112 runs. Toss: India.

The writing was on the pitch. The Wankhede Stadium's newly relaid surface had none of its predecessor's liveliness, and was underprepared - the match had been brought forward by two weeks so that Tendulkar could play his 101st Test on his home ground, where a stand was renamed in his honour. It was a consolation prize, as his 100th had come at The Oval a month earlier. The wicket heralded no brave new age, but harked back to the 1990s, when India won repeatedly on dustbowls that never gave visitors a chance. West Indies duly crumbled in three and a half days.

Not that the Indians needed help. They were charged up, eager to banish the demons of losing in the Caribbean five months earlier. It was an overwhelming team performance: they fired in every department, with an intensity in stark contrast to their opponents. They seized the initiative early and never let go. When Ganguly opted to bat, Sehwag and Bangar shared India's first 200-run opening partnership since Gavaskar's final series in 1986-87, and their best opening stand against West Indies. Bangar was patient, playing a compact game, making the bowlers do all the work; Sehwag gave the first hour to the bowlers and then took the breath away with his belligerence. His 147, off 206 balls, was studded with 24 fours and three sixes.

India ended the day on 278 for two, but the second day was not the run-fest it promised to be. Tendulkar and Ganguly were out early, and Dravid and Laxman added a dour 105 in 53 overs. Rather than push home the advantage, they tried to avoid losing it; along with the momentum, the pitch deteriorated.

Laxman was stumped just before tea, and just after it Dravid completed his hundred. It was his fourth consecutive Test century, one behind Everton Weekes's record. The four innings spanned 29 hours, and combined resolute, orthodox defence with elegant, classical strokeplay. Through it all, his mind never wavered - though his body finally gave way to dehydration. He was struck with cramp during his 99th run, but limped back for another one, thanks to Patel's exhortations, before he was helped off. Patel's next three partners fell in eight balls. Then Srinath, who had revoked his retirement, helped him lift India to 457.

With the pitch fast falling apart, Harbhajan Singh and Kumble looked like the men to watch on the third day. Instead, it was Zaheer Khan who bowled the key spell. After West Indies slid to 59 for four, Hooper, in his 100th Test, and Chanderpaul threatened a recovery. Ganguly then made an inspired post-lunch move, bringing back Zaheer. On a humid afternoon with the pitch offering no assistance, he wrenched out three crucial wickets in 21 balls.

West Indies followed on that evening, 300 behind, and had no chance on the fourth morning, when the pitch appeared more suited to beach cricket than a Test match. Now Harbhajan and Kumble were unplayable, and took all ten second-innings wickets between them. Seven went to Harbhajan, who belied his reputation as a man relying more on surface than on air, flighting the ball beautifully. His guile would have delighted his one-time critic, that perfectly classical off-spinner, Erapalli Prasanna.

Chanderpaul had been last man out in the first innings and was last man standing in the second. By the end of the game, he averaged 89 against India and was handling their spinners magnificently. With an ungainly shuffle across the wicket, he played the ball late, with soft hands and perfect balance, and neutered the bowling instead of demolishing it. In this game, he was a near-immovable object, batting six and a half hours. But Harbhajan and Kumble were the irresistible forces that blew away his colleagues to ensure India's first-ever innings victory over West Indies.

Man of the Match: V. Sehwag.

Close of play: First day, India 278-2 (Dravid 28, Tendulkar 35); Second day, West Indies 33-2 (Sarwan 20, Dillon 4); Third day, West Indies 91-1 (Gayle 34, Sarwan 9).

© John Wisden & Co