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Defining moments of a historic series

The Caribbean Test series turned out to be a roller-coaster ride for India, writes Atul Sondhi.

india Updated: Jul 05, 2006 19:27 IST

What a roller-coaster ride the Test series turned out to be for India. The visitors were seriously threatened in the first and the third Tests before chalking out a historic win.

But it was a win, which would not have been possible without some brilliant individual performances, which bonded the team extremely well. Here are some of them.

Sehwag's mesmerizing spell at Antigua

Still looking in daze after an improbable 1-4 loss in the ODI series, India had folded up for a measly 241 in their first innings. A confident West Indies batting line-up had overhauled the total for the loss of just four wickets.

Then turned up Sehwag, the makeshift off-spinner, and bowled two magical deliveries, snapping the vigil of Chanderpaul and Bravo, the ODI hero for the West Indies. That restricted the hosts' lead to 130 rather than an unmanageable 250 plus.

If that was not enough, Sehwag capped this performance with another great spell of two wickets for 32 in the second innings. India finished just one good ball short of victory, but it must have given the team tremendous confidence in the ability of its support bowlers.

Double trouble for Windies

After just a single on the score sheet in the first innings atAntigua, the pressure must have been immense on Wasim Jaffer.But he had some rich experience of the West Indies pitches from the last tour of 2001-02, when he had mustered two fifties from five innings at 30 plus average.

The Mumbai batsman put that experience to good use in the company of skipper Rahul Dravid in the second innings. A splendid double century compiled over eight hours and a potentially match-winning 203-run partnership with the Indian skipper created a platform from where there was not looking back.

Jaffer's knock complemented his partner Sehwag's effort with the ball. The Mumbaikar eventually finished withthe first 50-plus series average of his career.

Sehwag's blistering attack

What a first day at St Lucia it was! Sehwag was on rampage, carting the West Indies bowlers to all parts of the ground.He made 99 runs in pre-lunch session, and missed the distinction of becoming only the fifth player to complete a century before lunch on the first day of a Test.

Highest individual score before lunch(on the first day of a Test)

112Charles MacartneyAus v EngLeeds1926
108Majid Khan Pak v NZKarachi1976-77
105Don BradmanAus v EngLeeds1930
103Victor TrumperAus v EngManchester1902
99Virender SehwagInd v WIGros Islet2006

The dashing opener could still be repenting the loss of such once in a lifetime opportunity but it was a strike, which had bamboozled the West Indies. The ferocity of Sehwag'sassault can be judged by the fact that by the timeJaffer scored his first four off 56th ball of his innings - taking his score from 17 to 21 -- Sehwag had hit 14 fours and two sixes in his 88 off just 60 balls.

Dravid and Kaif followed with two big centuries apiece and the West Indies could only pray for weather intervention, which they got on the fourth day. A full day play was washed out on the fourth, and Lara's century did the rest on the final day.

Harbhajan's twin five wicket hauls

In the third Test at St Kitts, Harbhajan's four wickets for 31 runs in a four over spell came rather late in the day, but went on to show that Harbhajan had not lost either his confidence, or class, even as he was overlooked for the first two tests.

The overall analysis in the 1st innings at St Kitts at 5 wickets for 147 runs was not too impressive as the West Indies laboured to 581. However, those five wickets were enough to retain him for the 4th Test, as India gambled with just two pacers at Jamaica.

The Turbunator paid back with another five-wicket haul in the final Test, this timeoff just 27 balls. A first innings lead of 97, thanks to that spell at Jamaica, proved to be decisive.

Kumble's magic

The smiling assassin played a decisive role at Kingston. First he stole the thunder with a perfect demonstration with straight bat. A display, which even provoked a diplomatic Dravid to ask other batsmen to take cue from Kumble.

The 93-run partnership between Dravid and his state-matein a score of just 200 turned out to be the biggest, and the best of the match. But even that would not have been enough without Kumble's bowling exploits in the last innings.

Kumble's 6 for 78 was his third best performance outside the subcontinent, and a memorable one as India won the Test.

Kumble's best performances overseas (outside sub-continent)

8-141AustraliaSydney2003-04 Drawn
6-53South AfricaJohannesburg1992-93Drawn
6-78West IndiesKingston2006Won
5-104West IndiesPort-of-Spain1996-97Drawn

Sreesanth vs Gayle:''The wicket of Gayle was crucial as he does not hit sixes, he hits twelves!'' exclaimed Sreesanth after the series was over.Indeed, Gayle was fully capable of single-handedly taking the Jamaica match out of India's reach with his ferocious stroke play. But the Kerala speedster allowed him just 6 balls in two innings. That had magical impact on the rest of the bowlers, and it showed in the end result.

Tale of two skippers

Lara played too safe and was too vocal with words, especially when it came to criticizing the selection. That may have played on the mind of some of the bowlers.

On the other hand, Dravid never bothered to criticise the arsenal at his disposal, and played with what he and Chappell thought was the best eleven.

Dravid's men did not disappoint. They surely could not let a leader down, who had always led by example and shone with words.