The Indian performance at Headingley has been nothing short of magnificent. With the team playing as a unit at last , they stunned their critics and supporters alike on their way to one of the most famous wins in Indian cricket history.
The seeds of this win were possibly sown at Trent Bridge where the Indian batsmen came up with a commendable display in the face of relentless pressure to eke out what might possibly turn out to be a series-defining draw. Sourav Ganguly had presciently observed after that Test - and he was a brave man to voice those thoughts at that point of time - that the "great escape" had opened up the series.
He and his team-mates proceeded to prove precisely this at Headingley. The right beginning was made when the Indian thinktank ensured that the best combination took the field on Thursday. Playing Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh, despite Headingley's reputation of being seamer-friendly, was a wise move and as later events proved it played a more-than-significant role in ensuring a series-levelling win.
Backing his reading of the pitch and the conditions, Ganguly made yet another vital decision after winning the toss - he elected to bat despite the overcast conditions. This possibly took the Englishmen by surprise, for their new-ball bowlers were soon spraying the ball all over the place. Seizing the opportunity that their waywardness presented, Sanjay Bangar and Rahul Dravid displayed praise-worthy application to fashion a 150-plus secondwicket partnership that laid the platform for a mammoth Indian first innings total.
Bangar's grittiness and resolve during the stand was impressive. As for Dravid, it was one of his finest knocks. He came in when the conditions were heavily loaded in the favour of the bowlers and his determination and application showed the way to the remaining batsmen.
The scintillating partnership between Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly that followed firmly wrested the initiative and must have rattled the Englishmen no end. Tendulkar's 30th Test ton was a true milestone - it went on to play a major role in ensuring one of the most impressive Indian Test wins ever.
After the batsmen had done their job in the most glorious fashion possible, it was the turn of the bowlers to came to the party. Summoning their best when it was most needed, they maintained a good line and length for once and dismissed England for a cheap score in the first innings. In the second innings too, they made a promising beginning and exercised almost complete mastery over the early batsmen. It was only when Nasser Hussain and Alec Stewart got together that they seemed to lose the plot.
Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh, in particular, gave the impression that their primary objective lay in restricting the scoring-rate. It was a baffling ploy to say the least, for their best chance in earning a wicket lay in tempting the batsman into injudicious strokeplay. Fortunately, Hussain's dismissal on the fifth morning meant that the spring was back in the steps of the Indian bowlers. With Stewart too following soon after, the Englismen were quick to wilt. The innings and 46 runs victory which ensued was just reward for what was a true team effort from the Indians.
Now, the caravan moves on to the Oval where my illustrious teammate Bhagwat Chandrasekhar engineered one of the greatest Indian Test wins in 1971. I am sure that 31 years on, a confident Indian team, with due help from their excellent spin duo, would be able to ensure that history repeats itself.