It was the first international cricket match in India after the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attacks. Chennai was being treated to a quintessentially absorbing Test match that venue seems to magically produce more often than any other Test ground in the world.
On the fourth afternoon, India were set 387 to win. Given that 316 was the highest team score in that match so far, and given that India had managed just 241 in the first innings, it was perhaps more a case of England needing ten wickets to win.
No one would have been thinking of victory in the Indian camp. Perhaps not even Virender Sehwag, even while hammering 83 off just 68 balls. Often a monster player when expectations were low, Sehwag’s assault changed the game completely in those hundred odd minutes.
When Sehwag was dismissed, India were 117 for 1 in the 24th over. India entered the last day with 256 to win and 9 wickets to spare. From a position where usually sanity would only allow thoughts of survival, suddenly contemplating a win was not fanciful at all.
The Indian batsman, barring Dravid (ironically so, because he had been India’s premier batsman in the last few years), all responded. Though Gambhir was dismissed for 66, Laxman made 26, Yuvraj an unbeaten 85 and Tendulkar remained not out with an inevitable century as India reached home with 6 wickets to spare.
Tendulkar was the highest impact batsman in the innings (for the most runs he made as much as the partnerships he built and for staying not out at the end), followed by Sehwag and Yuvraj but the Man of the Match award went to Virender Sehwag, who had ostensibly turned the match upside down with his blitzkrieg. Not many would have disputed this choice given the unexpected space he made.
However, there was an English player who had 41% higher
Opener Andrew Strauss scored 123 out of England’s 316 in the first innings and 108 out of 311 in the second, where only Paul Collingwood crossed double figures among the specialist batsmen, besides him. He batted for an incredible twelve-and-a-half-hours in the match, and was the single-most important reason why this match had that famous finish.
He was the man who set up that match, almost single-handedly.
To forget about all that purely because the high octane final phase made pulses race is misleading and well, ungrateful.
Jaideep Varma/ Soham Sarkhel
NOTE: Impact Index has undergone an upgradation in November 2015, and though 95% of its findings remain the same, there have been some minor shifts. This piece was updated post that, and is up-to-date as of August 2016.