India's 20 best Test wins - Part 4


Dravid delivers a double masterclass

India vs. West Indies, Jamaica, 2006

India had only won one series outside the subcontinent in the 20 years before this tour, and that was in Zimbabwe. They were favourites to win this series despite the absence of the injured Sachin Tendulkar, but the scoreline was still 0-0 going into the fourth and final Test at Sabina Park. A tricky pitch with unpredictable bounce awaited, and, having chosen to bat, India were 3 for 2 in no time. Wickets kept falling at one end, but the man who walked in at No. 4, Rahul Dravid, delivered a masterclass at the other, staying at the crease for more than five-and-a-half hours to score 81 and take India to a total of 200.

It was enough to secure a first-innings lead of 97, with no one in the West Indies line-up showing comparable patience and application. India's advantage, though, seemed to be slipping away when they slumped to 6 for 2, and again Dravid stood alone, his 68 helping set West Indies a target of 269. It proved a touch too far out of reach, despite aggressive half-centuries from Ramnaresh Sarwan and Denesh Ramdin, as Anil Kumble steadily chipped away to pick up a six-wicket haul and deliver India a 49-run win. Kumble was the only man in India's side born before April 1971, when India had last won a series in the West Indies.

By Karthik Krishnaswamy

Sreesanth steamrolls South Africa

India vs. South Africa, Johannesburg, 2006

If S Sreesanth's career were to be remembered for one match, it would have to be the one in which he steamrolled South Africa on a pacy Wanderers pitch to set up India's first ever Test win in the country.

The pre-match talk was about how South Africa's pace attack would bully India into submission; the post-match chatter sought to examine how the opposite had happened. A large part of the answer lay in performance of the wiry 23-year-old pace sensation from Kerala.

Bowling with pace and swing, Sreesanth took a five-wicket haul to blow South Africa away for 84 and give India a 165-run first-innings lead. India ultimately set South Africa a target of 402 and romped home to a 123-run victory.

But one of the most memorable passages of play involved the contest, in India's second innings, between Andre Nel, the bowler, and Sreesanth, the batsman. Sreesanth did not particularly relish the nasty bouncers Nel directed at him. He had even less of a liking for the nasty words. With tempers mounting, Sreesanth slogged Nel for a six down the ground and broke into an elaborate, bat-twirling, hip-gyrating jig.

It was the touch of madness that underpinned so much of Sreesanth's compelling intensity and match-turning brilliance. At the Wanderers in 2006, India was grateful for it.

By Sirish Raghavan

Zaheer Khan bowls India to what turns out to be a series-winning Test

India vs. England, Trent Bridge, 2007

This Test was to become a marker of Indian excellence in that English summer. India got away with a hair-raising draw at Lord's, settled under Nottingham's grey skies, and ended up looking more at home than the home team. India's bowlers made good first use of a damp wicket, England all out for 198, Sreesanth succeeding in annoying the opposition and getting their wickets. A scratch opening combination of Dinesh Karthik and Wasim Jaffer negated the new ball with a century stand and India's greatest middle order - Dravid, Tendulkar Ganguly and Laxman - revelled in what was to be their final England tour together.

As India pushed past 450, there came the jelly beans. Scattered on the pitch to annoy Zaheer Khan, all they did was rile him into producing what he was to call "his best spell overall." India were ahead by 283, and Zaheer returned to give England an exhibition of high-quality swing bowling. A bowler at the top of his craft, Zaheer used the width of the crease, went round the wicket and moved the ball both ways to produce befuddling angles for the batsmen. By the time he was done with 5-75, England were all out for 355; India was to knock off the 73 required, and take the first step towards winning an away series in England in 21 years.

By Sharda Ugra

India rebound after Sydney shambles

India vs. Australia, Perth, 2008

It was a Test win especially significant in light of what had gone before. Australia, then the No. 1 ranked team, had won their previous 16 Tests. Of greatest salience was the last of those 16 wins - in the 2nd Test against India, at the SCG.

Australia had won that match by 122 runs, but controversies surrounding umpiring decisions, unsportsmanlike conduct and a highly charged incident between Harbhajan Singh and Andrew Symonds had caused bad blood between the teams and almost led to India's withdrawal from the tour.

When India arrived at the WACA, 2-nil down in the four-match series, they were not greatly fancied to end Australia's streak. This was, after all, a venue where no subcontinent team had won a Test. Moreover, the demoralising defeats in Melbourne and Sydney, and the distractions that followed the latter defeat, had presumably left them ill-prepared to take on the world's best side at one of the more daunting Test venues.

Or so one thought. Instead, India turned out a spirited team effort to beat Australia by 72 runs. Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid laid the platform in the first innings, VVS Laxman directed a crucial rearguard effort in the second, and opening bowlers RP Singh and Irfan Pathan led the wicket-taking operation. And who can forget the dazzling spells of a 19-year-old fast bowler who repeatedly got the better of Ricky Ponting? That bowler, now 28, is Ishant Sharma, the only remaining link between that team and India's current Test XI.

By Sirish Raghavan