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Memories of India-Aus at Bangalore

By Slone - 11 Nov 2003
November 11 2003

Thinking of tomorrow's match between India and Australia at Bangalore has brought back memories of an earlier match between the two sides at the same venue during the Titan Cup in 1996. It still ranks as one of my favourites. Here are my most enduring memories of the encounter. After Mark Taylor won the toss and chose to bat on what appeared to be a good batting track the Indian bowlers made good use of the initial conditions and the general slowness of the pitch to restrict the Australian batsmen to 215/7. The first innings was unremarkable with the only standout being the fighting knock played by Taylor to register his maiden ODI ton. With two good partnerships, first with Steve Waugh and then with Michael Bevan, Taylor helped his side post a fighting total. The Indian bowlers ensured that their batsmen did not have to chase a big score. So all in all a good contest looked to be on the cards at the innings break.

The second innings was as dramatic as the first was unremarkable. It had all the elements of a cinematic thriller. Sheer excitement, unending tension, several adrenalin pumping moments, punched by numerous twists and turns combined to make this a scintillating chase.

India began the chase on a somewhat mellowed note losing rookie batsmen Somasundar and Dravid quite early. But the master batsman Tendulkar held fort strongly at one end. Cue, the first twist of the innings, the dismissal of Azhar adjudged lbw to a ball that struck high on the kneeroll. Azhar first seemed to indicate that he had nicked the ball, then cut loose with a volley of abuse as he walked off, constantly stopping to stare at the umpire (the notorious SK Bansal) to make his displeasure very clear.

This was enough for the crowd to create a near-riot situation in the ground. The crowd reportedly threw bananas and AA size batteries at the Aus boundary fieldsmen, prompting Taylor to take his men off the field. After the officials made a request, Azhar himself had to come back out and patrol the periphery of the ground, appealing for calm, before the spectators settled down and let the game continue.

When the match resumed after a good twenty minutes, the Indian batsmen continued to fall at regular intervals, with only Tendulkar standing amidst the ruins. The pitch getting slower and lower with the ball getting softer and dirtier made run-scoring difficult even for Tendulkar. The pressure kept mounting. One particular delivery from Damien Fleming to Sachin pitched on length and reared up to waistheight, prompting Tendulkar to complain to the umpire about the state of the ball. But the ump flatly refused. This appeared to upset Tendulkar so much so that he apparently lost concentration. Just when it looked like he might be India's only hope he was trapped in front, with the team needing another 52 runs off 8 overs and just 2 wickets remaining.

This twist led to the Karnataka duo of Srinath and Kumble pairing up at the crease. Now both these batsmen were capable of a few slogs and wild heaves, but were they capable of applying themselves and holding their nerves to pull of a seemingly unlikely victory at this stage. With only Prasad to follow, many of my classmates who were watching the match with me began to file away quietly. But something prompted me stay on even though I had my exams the next day.

The pair began on a disastrous note when they tried to steal a non-existant single after a dab to Mark Waugh. But fortune smiled on them when the younger Waugh, one of the best fielders in the Aus side, failed to hit the stumps direct which would have certainly meant curtains. With the pace trio of Fleming, a raw Gillespie and McGrath probing away constantly, both batsmen resorted to nudges and edges to get singles. Srinath the more aggressive of the two, occasionally resorted to his trademark clout on the on-side to get the odd boundary, thus keeping the RRR from spiralling out of control. But even that didn't look like it was going to take India home. The tension in the room where I was watching the match and in the ground was palpable. Every face that I looked at both at the venue and at the room seemed to have a prayer on his/her lips.

But the batsmen appeared unfazed. Though the number of runs required was more than the balls remaining, the duo went about gathering singles calmly. At this point after every delivery, the camera would focus on 2 elderly ladies seated in the stands. Later on I came to know that these were the mothers of the 2 batsmen battling it out in the cauldron. Their faces held nervous smiles which pretty much reflected the mood of every Indian supporter. The target appeared to be getting closer and closer but there were not enough deliveries left. It was at this point that Taylor made a huge gamble. He needed to fill in 2 more overs apart from those to be bowled by the pace trio. Steve Waugh seemed to be the only man. He was given the 47th over. Though he lacked the pace he kept it tight. At that point the number of runs and balls were neck and neck. And Srinath took his gamble. Coming down the track he lofted a straight delivery all the way over long-on. The crowd went berserk and Waugh held his head in his hands.

The damage was done. And the look on the mother's face was priceless: a mixture of wonder and pride. And for the first time during the partnership the number of runs required was less than the number of balls remaining.

After that it was just a matter of a few more nudges and placements and the duo took India home with 7 balls to spare. And when the winning run was scored, the room where I was watching erupted into a cacaphony of celebrations. The noise completely drowned out the post-match ceremony.

But I happened to read Taylor's comments the next day where he blamed the match disruption for his players losing rhythm and consequently the match. Nevertheless, he grudgingly accepted that it was the grit of Srinath and Kumble that took the match away from them. And as an icing on the cake I aced the exams the next day!

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