The third test between India and West Indies, in Mumbai during 22-26 November, 2011 was nearly abandoned for a listless draw. It ended in a draw alright. But with a nail-biting and edge-of-the-seat finish that nobody could even dream of. And, the end result was indeed a big boost for Test cricket plagued by frequent boring and drawn matches.
When West Indies scored a massive 590 batting first the match was very much alive, depending on Indian batting it could have swung either way. But India replied well and ended the third day in a sound position. Then onward the only interest left in the match was Sachin Tendulkar’s century of international centuries. The fourth day saw Tendulkar getting out just six runs short of that historic moment. After some hiccups India reached a safe 482 with Ashwin’s first ever test century. The West Indies saw the day off at 89 for 2.
The last day’s play was anticipated by all to be another reminder of drawn test matches. But what a day it turned out to be with no less than 17 wickets crumbling in heaps and the flattest pitch suddenly getting a lot of turn.
The West Indies scripted yet another chapter in their history of mindless batting collapses. From a fairly good position of 89 for 2 the team lost the remaining eight wickets for just 45 runs, getting all out for a mere 134 runs. Team India with a target of 243 runs in 64 overs smelt victory for a rare 3-0 series win over the once mighty West Indies.
Team India with good contributions from Sehwag and Dravid were tantalizingly placed at 188 for 5 with just 55 runs to win in the last hour of the match. The crowds, though thin, started celebrating a great and an unexpected victory.
But the test was never destined to be a smooth ride for any team on that fateful day. Skipper Dhoni could not do much in the second innings too getting out for 13 runs. But the young duo of Kohli and Ashwin took the score to just 19 runs short of the target with five overs left and at that point victory seemed a mere formality. In the first ball of the last five overs Kohli got out and the responsibility of winning was left entirely to the bowlers.
Suspense, drama and agitation started to increase rapidly with run-getting becoming extremely difficult. But the course was still clear because even with occasional singles the target could be easily achieved. It was not to be. The match went to the very last ball with India still needing 2 runs for victory. Ashwin could manage only one and the incredible test ended in a draw with scores level.
Ashwin won both the man of the match and the man of the series prizes with his series total of 22 wickets and his first test century. The West Indies skipper Darren Sammy expressed happiness at being able to sign off with at least a draw. Losing after scoring a huge 590 in the first innings would have left a terrible feeling, he added. The Indian captain described it as a great victory for Test cricket.
The Mumbai Test between India and West Indies will be remembered as one of the greatest matches in the history of Test cricket. And, why not! The last day turned the match on its head taking everybody–experts or fans–by total surprise. It provided the twists that you long to enjoy in a suspense movie!
India won the home cricket test series 2-0.