Few expected India to produce something bigger than the Eden Gardens miracle of 2001 and the turnout on Monday was by far the lowest compared to what was seen on the first four days of the fourth and final Test. Odds for an Australian win weren’t good either, so the crowd stayed away on what was a compensatory holiday here because the National Day fell on Saturday which is an off day anyway.
After four days of battle between bat and ball that wasn’t always pulsating, but interesting in varying degrees ranging from absorbing to pleasing, the final day produced some dull moments once it became clear that a stalemate was inevitable. It wasn’t the best ending to what had been a fascinating Test series in many ways, but that’s how the cookie crumbles sometimes.
Considering that it was too tall a task for India to notch up a score big enough and have adequate overs to bowl Australia out on a pitch that wasn’t exactly behaving like a last-day wicket, the story had to follow a predictable script. India’s task was to stay put and deny Australia an outside chance of dismissing them and then going for a hectic chase.
Things unfolded in that manner, although they were not quite memorable for the big four of Indian batting playing possibly their last Test in Australia. Rahul Dravid has been sidelined for three weeks following a hairline crack in his right middle finger after being struck by Brett Lee and the trio of Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and V.V.S. Laxman perished for scores far less than what they would have liked to.
Subdued after slam
THERE WAS also a revelation in the form of Virender Sehwag that completed an extraordinary comeback for the batsman. None gave him much of a chance when he walked out to open in Perth and after some modest but handy scores there, he kept getting better here with a fantastic 151. The knock was valuable because it helped India achieve what they had set out for on the final day and stunning because of the way it was paced.
Think of this. Resuming on 31, Sehwag scored all 32 runs India made in the first hour, completing his second half-century of the match in 78 balls in the process. Dravid retired hurt in this period without adding to his overnight score and Tendulkar was yet to open his account. Severe on most bowlers and particularly on Brad Hogg, Sehwag got the 50 needed for his 13th Test century in 45 balls before lunch.
India lost Tendulkar, Ganguly and Laxman in the second session which meant the situation demanded caution because the lead wasn’t much. Of all people, Sehwag turned out to be the most cautious and put his head down to score just 29 runs in 68 balls in the entire second session without hitting a four. He shifted gears again after tea after seeing that it was safe before nicking one for Adam Gilchrist to snap up his last Test dismissal. It signalled a tame end to a contest that was promising to be exciting even after the first three days.