Third Test

India v Pakistan

Nick Hoult


At Bangalore, March 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 2005. Pakistan won by 168 runs. Toss: Pakistan.

If his team had held out, Sourav Ganguly would have been the first Indian captain to win back-to-back Test series against Pakistan. Instead, he was booed as they lost a fascinating match to charged-up opponents, who somehow levelled a series in which they had largely been outplayed. India reached lunch on the final day with only one wicket down, but were bowled out with six overs to go.

"I see the series as one that got away," said Indian coach John Wright. "When you're expecting a victory and don't get it, it leaves an empty feeling." The crowd knew what he meant. It was not exactly honours even, as only one team felt satisfied. "This was good for Pakistan. Our young boys needed this," said Inzamam-ul-Haq. So did their older boys. In the fickle world of Pakistan cricket, a record of five losses in the seven Tests since coach Bob Woolmer had been in charge with Inzamam was virtually a plea for dismissal. Winning earned them both a respite, though Inzamam's over-enthusiastic appealing on a tense final day brought him a one-Test suspension.

The toss was the most crucial of the series: for the first time, he called correctly, and opted to bat on an easy-paced pitch. Pakistan's fifth opening pair in as many Tests went by the third over, but in Younis Khan they had a man in form, and in Inzamam a captain in trouble. Over six hours, they built the third-highest stand ever conceded by India, whose bowling lost its purpose and drive. Seven for two became 331 for two. While Younis played the straight man, Inzamam provided the punchlines, pounding delightful strokes off the front foot and becoming the fifth batsman to score a century in his 100th Test (after Colin Cowdrey, Gordon Greenidge, Javed Miandad and Alec Stewart). Later, Younis completed his second hundred in successive Tests. Initially defensive, he assumed control after Inzamam departed, driving on to 267, his own first-class best and the highest Test score by any batsman visiting India. Younis batted for eleven and a half hours, facing 504 balls, hit 32 fours and deposited Harbhajan Singh for six over long-on; despite draining heat, he was still sprinting threes at the end of the innings, having led Pakistan to their highest total in India. The tour had started with his place in doubt, but he was now the middle order's most valued member. "I have never played with fear; pressure does not affect me," he said. "If I get dropped tomorrow, I will go and play cricket somewhere else, and continue to enjoy it."

That view was seemingly shared by Sehwag, who thrilled the crowd with his second big hundred of the series and stormed on to another double, striking two sixes off Danish Kaneria plus 28 fours in 325 minutes and 262 balls. He passed 3,000 Test runs in his 55th innings, an Indian record. But support was patchy. Laxman was the only other man to reach 50, while Kaneria's persistence earned him five wickets and a 121- run lead for Pakistan.

Shahid Afridi launched a firecracker assault to extend that on the fourth afternoon. He battered 58 off 34 balls - reaching 50 in 26, only two balls slower than the Test record of 24 set by Jacques Kallis three weeks before. Once he had gone, Younis quietly orchestrated the innings and Inzamam declared 382 ahead. On an intriguing final day, India required 358 at nearly four an over. While Sehwag was batting, they jollied along at 3.67. But once he was run out, they slowed to 1.91. The world's most explosive middle order dug in, but all they managed to dig was a tunnel with no exit. Afridi dismissed Laxman and Tendulkar, who had just overtaken Sunil Gavaskar as India's leading run-scorer, and bowled Ganguly, whose stunned response summed up his decline. His failure was highlighted by India's attempt to cling on in the final session. Kumble was at his blocking best but, when Balaji padded up to Kaneria, it was all over, and the booing began.

Man of the Match: Younis Khan. Man of the Series: V. Sehwag.

© John Wisden & co.
 
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