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Home > Cricket > Columns > The Wisden Verdict on India
December 13, 2001

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Masterful and professional

Rahul Bhattacharya

Today was a victory for the thousands who had taken a working Thursday off and chugged in on two-wheelers to soak up some Sachin. But quietly, systematically, England have gnawed their way into a series-levelling position.

It was inevitable that the century would come: he rarely plays a three-Test series without making one. To watch Sachin in a Test match is not very different from watching him practise on its eve. On Monday at the nets, as in the lead-up to the Mohali Test, he rehearsed leaving it alone against a white plastic ball that swerved and leapt up exaggeratedly at him. Before lunch today, he slowly digested the fall of Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly and took almost half an hour to move from 16 to 17 and then made sure he didn't do annthing silly. For professionalism, see the first session.

For genius, see over No. 8 after lunch. Matthew Hoggard glistened in to bowl to a cunning 8-1 field and speared it in just outside off stump. He was flicked away to midwicket. Two balls later, he bowled a touch wider, and was dispatched wider on the leg. Nasser Hussain titled the scale to 7-2, but Sachin managed to get it between both fielders for three more as Hoggard nodded his way back to fine leg. Meanwhile, Ashley Giles, who had reduced Tendulkar to merely solid in the morning was now being pin-pointed in between the two men behind square. It was the work of a man who always adjusts.

Sachin Tendulkar No stroke was more glorious than the straight six that announced the beginning of a Richard Dawson spell, and none more momentous than the pull that brought up the hundred, followed by an untypical exultation that came across almost like an 'up yours'. In a 118-run partnership he outscored VVS Laxman 87 to 27 and for a brief period Ahmedabad was worlds away from a country whose House of Parliament was under siege. But by getting out when he did, it became yet another masterful Tendulkar ton that hadn't done the job for India. He needed to make at least 170 today.

It's no secret that Laxman bats best with his place on the line. Today, he went back five years when, as a 22-year old debutant on this ground, he gritted a crucial half-century with the lower order. Like then, nobody gasped at his strokes today. It was Laxman without frills, and very valuable. But he was eventually choked to death by Hussain, and Giles, who proved to be the bowler with the most enticing flight in this Test match.

If things go very well for India, they'll still be chasing 300 in the last innings. They'll have to find ways to contend with defensive - and imaginative - fields and stifling bowling. They will need to avoid errors and they will be entitled to ask for runs from the their No. 5 batsman, Sourav Ganguly.

Rahul Bhattacharya is a staff writer with India.

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