At Mumbai (Wankhede Stadium), November 22-26, 2011. Drawn. Toss: West Indies. Test debut: V. R. Aaron.
It was the kind of equation that wouldn't have fazed Kohli in one-day internationals, where he had made four centuries in successful run-chases. India needed 19 from five overs, with four wickets in hand. But Test cricket, to paraphrase Kohli's post-match reaction, is a different beast and, when he slashed Bishoo straight to Sammy at short third man, India's pursuit of 243 from 64 overs started to unravel. Rampaul, bowling with pace and acumen in enervating heat and humidity, then reverse-swung one past Sharma's defensive push, leaving Ashwin, a veteran of three Tests, to see India home.
He had stroked a 117-ball hundred in the first innings, but - with the debutant Varun Aaron, at No. 10, for company - it was Ashwin's error of judgment that probably cost India a 3-0 series sweep. Having allowed Aaron a single off the last ball of the penultimate over, Ashwin had to watch as Aaron either swing - and - missed or picked out a fielder. By the time he did finally sneak a single, India needed two from two balls from Fidel Edwards.
The first was inside-edged on to the pads, with the fielders closing in quickly enough to prevent a run. It meant that India, eight down, could not lose. Ashwin then thumped the final ball to long-on. But he was slow to set off and, as Aaron galloped back to the bowler's end, Ramdin - on as a substitute - threw to the wicketkeeper. Ashwin was well short, and Sammy and his West Indies team celebrated as though they had won. As the Indians pondered on what they had thrown away, Ashwin, the Man of the Series, later tweeted: "Can anyone tell what differently cud have been done?? instead of saying cud have run the 2...moment I completed 1 the throw was over my head." Only once in 2,018 previous Tests had a match ended as a draw with the scores level after the fourth innings, when England failed to beat Zimbabwe at Bulawayo. That too had ended in a run-out but, unlike England's coach David Lloyd back in 1996-97, the Indians made no claim to have "flippin' murdered 'em".
That the match went to the last ball was peculiar in itself. Only 22 wickets had fallen on the first four days, prompting Sunil Gavaskar, who had negotiated a few crumbling dustbowls and turners in his time, to mime boredom-induced sleep in his morning pitch report. But with the slow bowlers extracting a little more bounce from the surface, West Indies were shot out for 134 before lunch, losing their last eight wickets for 43. India were cruising at one stage, 101 for one at better than five an over, with West Indies having dropped Sehwag three times. But once he miscued a daft reverse paddle- sweep, India suffered a collapse of their own, with the well-set Dravid following Tendulkar, not just past 13,000 Test runs, but back to the pavilion. Laxman squandered a start, Dhoni struck one straight to cover, and it was left to Kohli - recalled for his fourth cap - to pilot the chase. He had made just 76 runs in three Tests on the tour of the Caribbean earlier in the year, and there were more than a few nerves in his first-innings 52. His 63 second time round got India so close, but in truth West Indies deserved a share of the spoils, with Sammy unable to bowl because of a hamstring strain, and Bishoo reduced to a fatigued hobble.
Most of the match had centred on the batsmen, with Bravo - who added 164 for the third wicket with Kirk Edwards and 160 for the fourth with Powell, in for the injured Chanderpaul - following his Kolkata century with a dazzling 166; West Indies carried on into the third morning. (Had Ashwin completed that second run, their 590 would have been the highest first-innings total in Tests to have led to defeat.) The best crowds of a series that drew only lukewarm interest then trooped in to witness Tendulkar's latest attempt to reach three figures. He had got to 94 when Rampaul induced a loose shot that ended up in second slip's hands. And Mumbai went quiet.
It was left to Ashwin and Kohli to stave off the embarrassment of the follow-on, before a slow-burning game caught fire in the final three sessions. Ojha and Ashwin took all ten wickets to fall in the second innings, finishing the series with 42 between them, but the last words came from Rampaul and Fidel Edwards. One more run, and India would have had their first 3-0 whitewash since trouncing Sri Lanka in 1993-94.
Man of the Match: R. Ashwin. Man of the Series: R. Ashwin.
Dileep Premachandran is an associate editor at ESPNcricinfo