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India’s overseas victories where pace bowlers dominated – Part 1 of 2

S Sreesanth was a revelation when India toured South Africa in 2006/07 © Getty Images

Ishant Sharma bounced England out on the final day at Lord’s to help them register a victory at the hallowed turf after 28 years. Though Ishant’s spell may be a first for Indian cricket, where the opposition was bounced out, there have been a few performances overseas where the seamers have been the difference between the two sides. Nishad Pai Vaidya revisits those encounters in this two part series.

Ishant Sharma’s spell at Lord’s was remarkable in more than one way. When was the last time one saw an Indian pacer bounce the opposition out? That may have been a first for Indian cricket, but history is replete with a few Indian victories overseas where the pacemen rose to the challenge and asserted their dominance. While they bowl on unhelpful surfaces at home and toil, they have thrived on an occasion on two having found good conducive surfaces overseas. In this part, let us revisit India’s victories at Melbourne (1981), Lord’s (1986), Headingley (1986) and Johannesburg (2006) when the seam bowlers made the big difference between the two sides.

Australia vs India: Melbourne, February 7-11, 1981

Result: India win by 59 runs

It was a Test match that was full of drama and excitement. India had come to Melbourne for the last game of the three-match Test series and were 0-1 down in the series. Gundappa Viswanath’s ton in the first innings took India to 237, but it was easily overhauled by Australia as Allan Border took them to 419. Facing that huge deficit, the openers Chetan Chauhan and Sunil Gavaskar almost wiped it off with a 165-run stand, which ended with that dramatic dismissal of the latter by Dennis Lillee. Gavaskar nearly fashioned a walkout by pulling his partner out to protest the decision, but better sense prevailed thanks to the team manager. India were bowled out for 324, leaving Australia with 143 to get late on day four.

In an interview with CricketCountry, Chauhan said, “To be very honest, I didn’t think we would defend the total. Australia was a strong side with their batsmen [were] in form.” However, at the end of Day Four, Karsan Ghavri struck twice to reduce them to 24 for three. The talismanic Kapil Dev wasn’t in full flow as a hamstring injury held him back. But on Day Five, he was raring to go and single-handedly ripped apart the batting line-up. At 50 for four, it was still anybody’s game, but Kapil turned it around by first bowling Bruce Yardley and then getting the prized scalp of Allan Border. He then ran through the rest of the line-up, bowling them out for 83. Five out of the last six wickets fell to Kapil. Len Pascoe was run-out. India drew the series 1-1.

England vs India: Lord’s, June 5-10, 1986

Result: India win by five wickets

The 20-year-old Chetan Sharma had seen the tough side of life at that raw age. In April 1986, he suffered the ignominy of being smashed for a six off the last ball by Javed Mianded at Sharjah, a shot that scarred India for years when they played their arch-rivals. Battling all that for months, Chetan arrived in England with a point to prove. And, he did it in some style at the Mecca of Cricket in the first Test of that tour. In the first innings of the match, Graham Gooch went about scoring a hundred, but Chetan was making waves at the other end. After a good start, England were dented by Chetan as he snared David Gower and Mike Gatting in no time. Allan Lamb also followed soon after as Chetan reduced England from 92 for one to 98 for four.

Gooch then managed to construct a good partnership with Derek Pringle. The pair had added 147 before Chetan came back to snare the wicket of the centurion by getting through his defences. As India went about wrapping England up for 294, Chetan dismissed Paul Downton to complete his fifer. India were then led by Dilip Vengsarkar’s third consecutive Test ton at Lord’s to put up 341. Kapil Dev then ensured England only scored 180. India knocked off the 134 runs to win with five wickets in hand.

England vs India: Headingley, June 19-23, 1986

Result: India win by 279 runs

Having won the first Test at Lord’s, India had momentum on their side when they arrived in Yorkshire for the second Test. After electing to bat, India could score only 272. But, when England walked out to bat, India’s pacers used the conditions to great effect. Madan Lal, Kapil and Roger Binny combined to rout the Englishmen for 102 and put India in complete control of the Test match. While Kapil dismissed Gooch, Madan and Binny took care of the rest with a splendid display of seam bowling in helpful conditions. Apart from one wicket, all the other wickets were taken by the seamers. Binny recorded remarkable figures of five for 40 in 13 overs. Madan finished with three for 18 in only 11.1 overs.

With that huge lead with them, India were led by Vengsarkar’s ton as they set England a target of 408. Again, the bowlers put in a splendid effort to help India win by a huge 279-run margin. However, Maninder Singh was the leader with four wickets. Binny and Kapil scalped two apiece.

South Africa vs India: Johannesburg, December 15-18, 2006

Result: India win by 123 runs

This tour to South Africa had been one of the toughest for India. In the one-day series, they were whitewashed 4-0 and their only win on this sojourn until the first Test came in a solitary T20 International (T20I). With all this in the backdrop, selectors turned to Sourav Ganguly, who had been out of the side for months. And, the former India captain made a remarkable return with an innings of 51 not out on a tough pitch to take India to 249. The total did not seem too big, but S Sreesanth’s spell put things in perspective. In a matter of a little over 25 overs, South Africa were blown away by this force. Bowling with a flowing action, and a great seam position, he swung it at a good pace and snared five wickets for 40 runs to bowl South Africa out for 84.

In reply, India kept stumbling and losing wickets, but VVS Laxman’s crucial 73 and Zaheer Khan’s 37 lower down the order helped India set South Africa a target of 402. Sreesanth wasn’t to be kept out of action. After smashing Andre Nel for a six, he went for that unforgettable dance-step to mock his adversary. Zaheer, Sreesanth and Anil Kumble shared the honours in the final innings to ensure India won by 123 runs.

(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_45)

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