Third Test Match

Pakistan v India

At Rawalpindi, April 13, 14, 15, 16, 2004. India won by an innings and 131 runs. Toss: India.

With three and a half days of almost flawless cricket, India not only bettered their thundering victory at Multan for magnitude, but won their first Test series away from home for an entire decade. It was also the first time they had won series in both formats on the same tour, discounting England in 1986, when they won the Tests but were awarded a tied one-day series on run-rate.

For Pakistan, the defeat brought to a head the impatience of a nation: two months later, the coach, Javed Miandad, was sacked. Veteran commentator Omar Kureishi described the fourth day, when they finally capitulated, as "the blackest in Pakistan's cricket history", though - match-fixing scandals aside - losing by an innings to Matthew Hayden's bat alone in October 2002 was surely worse.

Like the previous Test, this match was made on day one. Bitten at Lahore, India chose to field when Ganguly, back from injury, continued Dravid's luck with the toss. There, India had been 107 for four at lunch; here, Pakistan were 96 for four. This included the key wicket of Inzamam-ul-Haq, set up beautifully when Nehra (who replaced Agarkar) had him hunch over an in-swinger before slanting one across for the nick.

Any hopes of recovery were thwarted by Balaji, who extracted three wickets in a nine-over spell after the interval, bending away the middle-aged ball late in its trajectory to leave Pakistan tottering at 137 for eight. The top score was a committed 49 from Mohammad Sami, his highest in Tests; that and a comical 25 from Fazl-e-Akbar managed to lift Pakistan to a modest 224. As Ganguly reflected later, extracting the advantage with the ball on the opening day was perhaps the difference between this and his previous quests for an overseas victory. It led to his 15th win as captain, beating Mohammad Azharuddin's record for India.

With Ganguly's return, the debate for India revolved around the second opener. Chopra, Sehwag's regular partner, had failed twice at Lahore, whereas Yuvraj Singh had stroked an exceptional century. Chopra was dropped - but instead of Yuvraj or Ganguly climbing up as was indicated, the wicket-keeper, Patel, was promoted. Though the decision was poorly received, Patel vindicated it with a Test-best 69 while seeing out some crucial hours of play on the first evening and next morning.

It was a colossal 270 from Dravid that put the series beyond Pakistan. In its significance, the innings could stand alongside any ever played by an Indian. Even Dravid agreed, though, that he was not at his most fluent, particularly on the second day, which he ended unbeaten on 134. He was given the benefit of the doubt after an adjacent lbw shout on 21, carelessly dropped at point on 71, and again spared when caught behind off bat-and-boot on 77. In between, he mistimed more than he had sometimes done through entire tours.

Dravid's strength, however, is in raising his game when most needed. The following day he blossomed. He had already glued together the innings through century stands with Patel and, most delightfully, Laxman; he completed a third with Ganguly, and 98 with Yuvraj. It was a phenomenal physical effort. Between his 73 overs in the field and 175 overs at the crease lay a mere ten-minute break: Sehwag had been out first ball. In all, Dravid batted 12 hours 20 minutes - India's longest Test innings - faced 495 balls, and struck 34 fours and a six. His fifth Test double-hundred was an Indian record, one ahead of Sunil Gavaskar.

Dravid's task was made simpler when, late on the second afternoon, Shoaib Akhtar fell in his follow-through and injured his left thumb and a rib, soon after castling Laxman with a rapid out-swinging full toss. He left the field after six further balls and did not return except to bat. It was the last thing Pakistan needed: their bowling had already been depleted by the absence of Umar Gul, whose replacement, Fazl-e-Akbar, churned out dross to the tune of 162 runs for a single wicket in 41 overs. Dravid finally fell on the third evening attempting, of all things, to reverse-sweep Imran Farhat's part-time leg-spin. Seven runs later, India were out for an even 600. As in the first innings, the Pakistan openers fell in consecutive overs, leaving the others to battle back from 327 runs behind with two days remaining.

They did not even come close, despite the best efforts of India's fielders, who dropped six catches in the first hour next morning, four of them off Balaji. But the potency of his swing, exaggerated by cloud cover, could not be repressed. Before lunch, he added two more wickets, including Inzamam with a peachy away-curler and, between those two, Patel held a superb diving catch down the leg side off Yasir Hameed's glance. For Pakistan, the only pride came via Asim Kamal, defiantly unbeaten on 60 despite a painful elbow.

There was a final twist when Shoaib came out and smote a manic 14-ball 28, all in boundaries, which contrasted greatly with his mulish obduracy in the previous Test. Eyebrows were raised, Inzamam hurled a few barbs moments after the defeat, and Shaharyar Khan and Ramiz Raja, the PCB chairman and chief executive officer, questioned Shoaib's commitment to the team. They ordered a "medical inquiry commission" to see if he had exaggerated his injury or not; it led to further estrangement and nothing more.

Man of the Match: R. Dravid. Man of the Series: V. Sehwag.

© John Wisden & Co