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At Chennai, October 17, 18, 19, 20, 2002. India won by eight wickets. Toss: West Indies. Test debuts: G. R. Breese, J. J. C. Lawson.
At the end of this match, Hooper summed it up by saying: "We didn't play cricket." Pithy, and apt. The West Indian batting lacked application, their bowling lacked discipline and their fielding lacked motivation. India won on autopilot to claim their first Test series victory over West Indies in nearly 24 years; unlike the First Test, they had their moments of frailty - but the tourists were already down, and almost out.
The saga of relaid-pitches-gone-wrong continued at Chennai. The fast bowlers got little assistance and not much bounce, while the spinners extracted plenty of turn and often got the ball to rear up viciously. On the first day, West Indies ground to 45 for one by lunch, but that was one of their best sessions. Oddly, in a move reeking of bad strategy and low confidence, too many of the top order tried to bat out time rather than score runs - Hinds had a mere 18 to his name after facing 97 balls in more than two hours. The pitch would deteriorate, but it wasn't quite that bad yet. Only Hooper counter-attacked and, on his 32nd birthday, Kumble picked up four for ten in 8.3 overs after tea to finish with five in a Test innings for the 20th time.
Sehwag and Bangar were batting by the close, and gave India another solid start. Sehwag was dropped twice in the 40s, but played with refreshing freedom. Once he was out at 93, though, the Indians lost their way. Dillon bowled with uncharacteristic accuracy, but wasn't backed up by his fielders; Jermaine Lawson, on Test debut, bowled with raw pace but little control. Still, they reduced India to 190 for five by the end of a second day cut to 62 overs by rain and bad light. Tendulkar made a subdued 43, Ganguly got a doubtful decision first ball, and Dravid was beaten by sheer pace - Lawson's first Test wicket thus protecting Everton Weekes's record of five Test centuries in a row.
When the third day began under floodlights, off-spinner Gareth Breese claimed the last recognised batsman, Laxman, as his own maiden wicket. But India's tail wagged viciously. Harbhajan Singh, perfecting his helicopter-rotor swing, and Srinath, baring all three stumps with exhibitionist frenzy, played entertaining cameos to create a lead of 149.
Sarwan was the rock for the West Indian second innings, but his colleagues sank around him. He made an elegant, five-hour 78, playing the spinners with deft footwork and solid defence. He added 96 with Hinds and 72 with Hooper, both of whom attacked with gusto. But the cause was desperate - no other man reached double figures. On another floodlit morning, Sarwan saw West Indies to 200 for the first time in this series but, once he went, they lost their last six for 21. Harbhajan took three in a single over, and the only setback came when Ganguly collided with Kumble attempting a catch, and was carried off on a stretcher.
Ganguly's batting was not needed. Sehwag celebrated his 24th birthday with a 30-ball blast, and India reached their target of 81 in light drizzle just before the clouds opened up to rain literally, as well as metaphorically, on a battered West Indian side. They had lost the series in less than seven days' playing time.
Man of the Match: Harbhajan Singh.
Close of play: First day, India 31-0 (Bangar 6, Sehwag 24); Second day, India 190-5 (Laxman 18, Patel 1); Third day, West Indies 186-4 (Sarwan 62, R. O. Hinds 1).
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