Sehwag assault leaves Test wide open

Out of form Rahul Dravid was dismissed early as India began their chase of a history-defying 387-run target in the first Test against England on Monday.

cricket Updated: Dec 15, 2008 11:03 IST
Hindustan Times 102 minutes of the Virender Sehwag mayhem, England were put on notice of what was possible, if not entirely probable as India ended the penultimate day on 131 for 1 after England called time on their own batting effort at 311 for 9. India need 256 runs from a minimum 90 overs while England have to prise out nine wickets for this fascinating Test match to end decisively.

No team has successfully chased 387 in Indian conditions but Sehwag is not one to be bogged down by historical baggage. What he does bother about is the next ball that is bowled to him and where he can hit it. England, for reasons only known to them, kept feeding Sehwag with deliveries short and wide outside the off stump and we all know that the only thing he likes better than that is his mother’s kheer.

In just 5.3 overs, the fifty of the Indian innings came up, with Sehwag doing most of the damage as Gautam Gambhir made full use of the best vantage point in the ground to watch his friend take the bowling apart.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni had a tough call to make and kept faith, sending Rahul Dravid at No. 3. That faith was repaid as Dravid and Gambhir (41 not out) batted through to the close without further damage. Dravid was assured in defence but his approach on the final day could be crucial. If he goes into his shell, the pressure on the other batsmen will mount and could force the error. India have begun well, but an improbable win is still miles away.

England know that they have done almost all they can to win this Test. Andrew Strauss added a second innings 108 to his effort in the first dig to become only the 10th Englishman to score twin hundreds in the match. Although they took their time to garner runs, Strauss and Collingwood (108) did enough to put England in a position where they could declare after tea. What they could not have bargained for is Sehwag's reality defying innings. From being virtually out of the game, India now have a chance to dream of making history.

Sehwag narrowly missed bettering Kapil Dev's Indian record for the fastest fifty, getting to the milestone in 32 balls. The punching of gloves on reaching the century opening stand was matched only by the look of helplessness and horror on the faces of England's finest. Sehwag and Gambhir had used up just 18 overs in bringing up what could be the most crucial century partnership of their association.

The 20,000-plus Sunday crowd that boomed Sehwag’s name at every crisply hit stroke was silenced as shadows lengthened on this historic cricket ground. Sehwag (83, 68b, 11x4, 4x6) tried to paddle Graeme Swann down the leg side and though the ball had turned a fair bit the off-spinner won the appeal. For some time Swann and Monty Panesar had been appealing frantically, knowing just how much their team was being hurt by Sehwag's batting, and finally a close call went in their favour.

First Published: Dec 14, 2008 10:22 IST