India v England, Chennai, 2008
It isn't often that cricket becomes a distraction in India. Kids watch it with hours to go for exams. Adults peek at the score in spite of deadlines at work. But after the Mumbai attacks in November 2008, the nation was in mourning. A bombing took place at the hotel the England team was supposed to stay at for the first Test.
Kevin Pietersen and his men left for home to be with their families. Backroom talks began. Assurances were given. The BCCI shifted the match to Chennai, with 5,000 policemen for protection. England came back. That mere fact made this series noteworthy. The five days of play at the MA Chidambaram stadium were the encore. India chased down 387, then the fourth-highest chase in Test history. Yuvraj Singh produced his best innings in a year, and Mumbai's own Sachin Tendulkar hit the winning runs, securing a 41st Test hundred in the process.
It was the fourth hundred of the match. Andrew Strauss had two against his name. There was an important one for Paul Collingwood in the second innings. England gained the advantage of scoreboard pressure and a pitch with footmarks the size of large pizzas. That was fine for Virender Sehwag. He came in and dined out. Without his 83 off 68 balls, India may never have believed they could win. "When the chase began, I didn't give Dhoni and Co. more than a 10% chance. Sehwag, however, changed everything," Kapil Dev said.
Before the series Tendulkar had appeared in an advertisement. "I play for India, now more than ever," he said. He wore blue. He was solemn. But he was also reading from a script. It was make-believe. What he did in Chennai though was very real and the pain of Mumbai eased, if only a little.
By Alagappan Muthu
Sri Lanka v India, Colombo, 2010
In the previous match between India and Sri Lanka, a run-fest on a featherbed at the Sinhalese Sports Club, there were five centuries, including two double-centuries. VVS Laxman made 29. But at the P Sara Oval, with India 62 for 4 chasing 257 to draw the series, Laxman showed yet again why he was such a highly valued member of India's middle order.
On a tricky fifth-day pitch, against the biting offspin of Suraj Randiv, and battling back spasms to boot, Laxman made a treacherous run chase look routine. He stroked 12 fours in his unbeaten 103 to steer India past the target with five wickets in hand.
With him, at the moment of victory, was Virender Sehwag -- not as a batting partner, but as a runner. That, too, was fitting given Sehwag's contribution to the victory in the form of a hard-hitting century in India's first innings and three wickets in Sri Lanka's second.
But the moment belonged to India's long-time middle-order saviour. The match situation, Laxman explained later, had "superseded" his back pain. And he, in turn, had superseded the match situation to come up trumps once again.
By Sirish Raghavan
India v Australia, Mohali, 2010
Octobers in north India used to be a great place to be once upon a time, with festivities and a slight chill in the air. Now they are just part of an extended seemingly never-ending summer. In 2010 though, over in Mohali we had a Test so perfect it belonged to the perfect Octobers of old. Australia won the toss, had to be watchful against the new ball, and Shane Watson played an innings close to perfection. India replied to Australia's 428 with 405, leaving the Test ripe for explosion once the pitch started to break up.
When the pitch obliged, Ishant Sharma fashioned a top-order collapse, the spinners chipped away at the middle and Zaheer Khan ran through the lower order, giving India 216 to win. At 76 for 5 an injured VVS Laxman walked out, played some of the most beautiful shots that can be imagined under duress, drew every ounce of support from the lower order and his runner, and on his injured back carried India to a one-wicket win. In the process he shielded Ishant Sharma once Mitchell Johnson's bouncers got too much, and even swore at Pragyan Ojha for not being alert to a run.
By Sidharth Monga
South Africa v India, Durban, 2010
Having suffered an innings defeat in the first Test, India did not begin the second encouragingly, as a Dale Steyn six-for rolled them over for 205 on a green Kingsmead pitch. But their bowling attack, so lacklustre in Centurion, had teeth and direction with its leader Zaheer Khan back after recovering from a hamstring strain. Zaheer took three wickets, including those of both openers, and Harbhajan Singh ran through the lower order, as South Africa folded for 131.
A lead of 74 was crucial but not quite match-winning, and South Africa had India on the mat again when Steyn, Morne Morkel and Lonwabo Tsotsobe reduced them to 56 for 4 in their second innings. It was a situation made for VVS Laxman, and his 96 was the decisive innings of a match in which no other batsman made more than 39. Set 303 to win, South Africa only managed 215, with Zaheer and Sreesanth picking up three wickets each. Sreesanth also produced the ball of the match, a brute of a lifter that an airborne Jacques Kallis could only fend to point.
By Karthik Krishnaswamy