Chennai 1998, Chennai 1999, Amstelveen 2004 , three matches and at the end of all three the team I was rooting for at the stadium lost. Come Ashes 2009, had tickets for day four of the Headingley test and didn’t see any play. The Australians walloping England within three days. With such a dire track record, I didn’t give much thought about the England – India test series. But thanks to twitter my interest was piqued enough to try and get tickets.
What then followed was a curious tale of my own emotions on what to expect when I went for the tests at Lords, Trent Bridge and Edgbaston.
I was initially meant to be at Lords for days three and four (Saturday and Sunday), but due to reasons out my control wasn’t there. Was anyway meant to be at London for some personal business the following Monday, so ended up queueing early Monday morning at Lords along with Subash
(who had flown in from the US the previous day to watch the first two tests) to get tickets. Which we did. He ended up watching the whole day, while I joined him after the first session.
My expectations for the day was for India to comfortably bat out the day and leave Lords unscathed even though England had the upper hand for most of the test. When I had got to the ground eventually just before the first session was finishing, India had lost half their side and were up against it to save the test. Truth be told I wasn’t full of hope on finding out the score and it duly panned out that England wrapped up the win an hour after tea. At the ground and watching the remaining batsman bat, I was not overtly impressed with what I saw. Just trying to defend with over two sessions to play was a tactic fraught with risk, and no one exemplified it better than Tendulkar, who eventually got out after 40 minutes without a run. The loss was bad enough to view, but there was enough fighting talk from lots of folk around that India would be back at Trent Bridge. Quietly I was also expecting the team to turn it around at Trent Bridge.
The Trent Bridge test started well enough for India with England being bowled out on day one inspite of the Broad/Swann partnership that took their team score beyond 200. Watched the morning session of day two and saw Laxman and Dravid comfortably negotiate all what England threw at them and score at a decent clip. It got me saying – right things are starting to fall in place and I’ll have a good third days play to look forward to. On my way down to Nottingham , it went – Dravid century, Yuvraj looking good and then a Broad hat trick.. India going from 270 odd for four to 280 odd all out. In the train was dumbstruck but hope arose again when Cook got out cheaply in the second innings.
So there I was at Trent Bridge day three, a test match to be set up for a win. India still having a lead of around 50 to play with, England had 9 wickets left. Sat down with Subash and we set about setting small targets – England to be two minimum, ideally three down before the lead was erased and take it from there. Strauss was duly claimed by Sreesanth early enough, and I again went – right a few more wickets and test set up for India to win it.
Mini session by session England went about erasing, accumulating and eventually trashing it around. Even then, there was this chance with the second new ball with England ahead by over 250 but six wickets down, and crying for one burst from either Ishant or Sreesanth to clean up the tail. Never happened. End of day – score card shone brightly , England scored 417 for loss of five wickets. Any hope of the test being won was eliminated, again was a case of batting out a draw. Least said about what followed the better.
So it came to pass, I had tickets for days four and five at Edgbaston. The way the test had shaped up, India were right up against it. A minimum of 193 overs to bat out and draw the test (again !) and save their number one ranking for one more test. Set off early Saturday morning expecting to see the famed batting line up grit it out, fight for it and initially take it into day five, and then do it all over again. Yes I still had that optimistic thoughts running through, and repeated it many a time on twitter as well.
Within the first hour, the entire optimism wasn’t just dented, it was blown to smithereens. Sachin’s 40 was a treat to watch, and cruelly cut short in the worst possible manner – run out while backing up. Gambhir lasted one ball, Dravid went without referring a caught behind, and Laxman didn’t look all comfortable in his stay. Made for deflating viewing at the ground. Amit Mishra initially, and then Praveen Kumar and Dhoni hit out in a futile show of aggression. Was extremely small succour for the Indian supporters on the ground. It was more a case of when England would clean up the rest and the entire ground was in one party atmosphere. Duly arrived an hour and bit after lunch. England thrashing India to win the series and claim the number one ranking.
I was at Lords only for day five, and saw the third days play at Trent Bridge, and the fourth days play at Edgbaston. Each time I was at the ground mentally it was from – confidence at Lords, to huge expectations at Trent Bridge, to hoping for a miracle at Edgbaston.
Just wonder if the Indian team’s thinking went along similar lines…