Second Test

India v Australia

Paul Weaver

At Chennai, October 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 2004. Drawn. Toss: Australia.

There were some fine performances in this match, most notably the batting of Sehwag and Martyn and the bowling of Kumble. But it will be remembered, chiefly, for the tortured conjecture that followed its soggy ending. The fifth day's play was washed out without a ball bowled and with the match tantalisingly poised.

With all their second-innings wickets in hand, India, probably, would have knocked off the 210 more runs they required to level the series. They certainly thought so, and Australia's acting-captain Gilchrist sheepishly admitted as much. But on the fourth evening McGrath and Warne were still confident the game could be won and wore fierce gleams in their competitive eyes. Still, McGrath had already been lashed for 18 off two overs, and when play was called off at 1 p.m. next day, the Australians departed for their mid-series break in high spirits, clinging to their 1-0 advantage, while the Indian dressing-room looked a sullen place. The happiest man was probably the quick-thinking Australian journalist who opened his curtains early that morning, saw the drenched city and immediately secured odds of 13 to 1 against the draw with a Sydney bookmaker.

Australia had been the more assured side at the start of the match, when Langer and Hayden added 136 for the first wicket. But then they lost ten wickets for 99 runs, the last eight tumbling for a mere 46. They were savaged, as at Sydney ten months earlier, by Kumble's brisk top-spinners. He took seven wickets for 25 runs in 61 balls, doubtless encouraged by a pitch that had more pace and bounce than he had been able to divine at Bangalore. He finished with 13 for 181 in the match, taking his total to 42 in five Tests against Australia since December 2003. India were assisted, though, by Australia's peripatetic tendency. Three of their players - Gilchrist, Gillespie and Kasprowicz - walked without waiting for the umpire's decision. Some interpreted this as an attempt to regain the moral high ground, for their players had been stung by criticism of Sehwag's controversial dismissal in the First Test. Kasprowicz had already been given not out for a catch at silly point, and his decision to go, after a moment's hesitation, so bewildered the umpire, David Shepherd, that he shook his head until perspiration flew from his florid countenance. Shepherd was already chatting to the non-striker Katich when he looked up and saw to his amazement the batsman heading off.

Warne bowled almost as well as Kumble. His record in India had been a poor one, with just 24 wickets at 51 before this match, and a lack of form and fitness had blighted his previous tours. Now, though, he took six for 125. His second wicket came in his fifth over of the second day when he had Pathan caught by Hayden at slip. It was his 533rd Test wicket and for the first time in his wonderful career he was the outright leading wicket-taker in the game, one ahead of his great rival Muttiah Muralitharan. "I would have been happy to take one Test wicket when I started my career," he said afterwards. One of his victims was Sehwag, who scored a blistering 155 out of 233, an innings which included 21 fours. There were also half-centuries for Kaif and Patel, who added 102 for the seventh wicket.

India led by 141. And they had the chance to win inside four days. But they were frustrated by a fine century from Martyn, his eighth in Test cricket, though he was missed behind the wicket before he had scored. His four-hour stand with the nightwatchman Gillespie enabled Australia to take the match into the fifth day, when the unexpected arrival of the north-east monsoon confirmed their safety.

Man of the Match: A. Kumble.

© John Wisden & Co