Home > Features > Moments in history >

Mohammad Azharuddin scores third hundred on the trot

Mohammad Azharuddin's third hundred on the trot

Mohammad Azharuddin picked up gaps with remarkable ease, bisecting the fielders by sending balls to uncanny angles to score 122 © Getty Images

On this day exactly 28 years ago, Mohammad Azharuddin turned a ball to square-leg to reach his third century on the trot since debut. Arunabha Sengupta remembers the fabulous start to his cricketing career.

In the course of one month, Mohammad Azharuddin had captured the imagination of the country.

On the last day of 1984, he had announced himself with a rasping drive through the covers at Eden Gardens. The debut century had followed, crisp and classy, after several rain interruptions and an interminable rest day. The cricketing world had sat up to take notice of the springy footwork and the nimble artistry of his strokes. From the very first moment on the field, he radiated brilliance. He was special, lovingly touched by genius.

At Chepauk, as India lost the fourth Test to trail 1-2 in the series, his effort had been akin to a ballet on the burning deck. The second successive century had seen his magnificence on the on-side punctuated by some scintillating square cuts, each stroke bearing the stamp of god-gifted ability. And all of it was scored after coming in at 22 for three, with innings defeat looming in front.

In between the fourth and the fifth Tests, he had delighted the cockles of even more hearts with two sublime cameos in a couple of One-Day Internationals. They had been two gems of fluid stroke-play, both amounting to 47, one complete and one unbeaten, both breath-taking in their ethereal beauty while ruthlessly plundering runs. Even when he lofted two sixes over mid-wicket, they were more like the brushstrokes of calligraphy rather than blows of a damaging weapon. Rhapsody with rapid-fire.

And now, at Green Park, Kanpur, he was promoted to number three, an out of form Dilip Vengsarkar pushed down the order. Captain Sunil Gavaskar, himself having a torrid time in the series, had his stumps uprooted by a Norman Cowans breakback, and Azharuddin walked in early to rousing cheers around the stadium.

Krishnamachari Srikkanth was going strong at the other end, and Azhar settled down to demonstrate some fascinating wrist-work against the spinners Pat Pocock and Phil Edmonds. Srikkanth, dropped twice in the innings, walloped the ball whenever humanly possible – and slashed gamely when not. In contrast, Azhar was class itself. He picked up gaps with remarkable ease, bisecting the fielders by sending balls to uncanny angles, with the youthful spring of the step followed by the manoeuvrings of those wrists.

The pair added 150 in just 37 overs before Srikkanth flashed at Neil Foster to get an edge. With the dismissal the momentum of the innings was lost. Mohinder Amarnath batted over an hour and a quarter for a painstaking15, and Phil Edmonds tied the batsmen down to near scorelessness with some accurate left-arm spin.

Azhar, who had posted his fifty in quick time and was steadily approaching an unprecedented third straight hundred since debut, suddenly found it difficult to score. Having reached 90 with an hour’s play still left in the day, he could add only eight more before close.

Off the last ball of the day, Dilip Vengsarkar pushed one to cover and scampered a single – thus ensuring that the young man did not have to come out and face the first ball the next morning. Vengsarkar and Azharuddin did not often see eye to eye down the years, but that day one had to applaud the gesture of the senior pro.

Third century on the trot

Unbeaten on 98, Azhar later claimed in an interview that he had slept ‘aaramse’ that night (soundly and without a care).However, the same was not true for his growing number of fans who waited with bated breath for the morrow.

And in the fourth over of the morning, the Hyderabadi turned Neil Foster off his hips to square leg for a brace to reach his landmark. Off came the helmet, the bat was raised and the eyes looked heavenwards – gestures to be repeated on many more glorious moments in the career of this gifted batsman.

Hundred accomplished, Azhar blazed away for a while before pulling a harmless short ball from Chris Cowdrey into the hands of mid-wicket. Azhar walked back to standing ovation, the 122 runs compiled in six and quarter hours with 16 superlative hits to the fence.

What happened next

Vengsarkar roared back into form, scoring a well-paced century and celebrating it by taking three consecutive boundaries off Edmonds. India batted into the third day to pile up 553.

However, on a slow, dry pitch, England batted long enough to drag the game towards stalemate. Debutant off-spinner Gopal Sharma, the first player from Uttar Pradesh to represent the nation since the infamous Maharajkumar of Vizianagaram, picked up three quick wickets to provide a glimpse of hope.

When India batted again, on the final day, Azharuddin played another superb little innings. Nonchalantly lifting balls into the crowded outfield, he reached his 50 in just 38 balls, and remained unbeaten on 54 from 43. India declared after just 13 overs at 97 for one.

England, however, had no intention of chasing down the 234 runs off the available 46 overs. They finished at 91 without loss to take the series.

(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/senantix)

India tour of Australia 2014, Practice matches

Nov 24, 2014 (05:29 IST)   at Glenelg, Adelaide

Hong Kong tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Nov 24, 2014 (10:00 IST)   at Colombo

Pakistan vs New Zealand in UAE, 2014

Nov 26, 2014 (11:30 IST)   at Sharjah

England tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Nov 26, 2014 (14:30 IST)   at Colombo

Zimbabwe tour of Bangladesh, 2014

Nov 26, 2014 (12:00 IST)   at Dhaka

More

Zimbabwe tour of Bangladesh, 2014

Nov 23, 2014  at Chittagong

Bangladesh won by 68 runs

South Africa tour of Australia, 2014

Nov 23, 2014  at Sydney

Australia won by 2 wkts

Hong Kong tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Nov 22, 2014  at Dambulla

Match abandoned without a ball being bowled

Hong Kong tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Nov 21, 2014  at Dambulla

Match abandoned without a ball being bowled

Zimbabwe tour of Bangladesh, 2014

Nov 21, 2014  at Chittagong

Bangladesh won by 87 runs

Photos

Australia vs South Africa, 3rd ODI at Canberra

Videos

SL vs Eng: Buttler practices wicketkeeping in nets

Bangladesh vs Zimbabwe 2014, 2nd ODI at Chittagong: Highlights

Australia vs South Africa 2014, 5th ODI at Sydney: Highlights

Quinton de Kock’s century in vain as Australia register two wicket win over South Africa

Saeed Ajmal: 99 per cent bowlers will fail 15 degree test

Tamim Iqbal, Anamul Haque register second-highest opening partnership for Bangladesh in ODIs

Australia Australia vs South Africa Australia vs South Africa 2014 Bangladesh Bangladesh vs Zimbabwe Bangladesh vs Zimbabwe 2014 India New Zealand Pakistan South Africa South Africa tour of Australia 2014 South Africa vs Australia South Africa vs Australia 2014 Zimbabwe Zimbabwe tour of Bangladesh 2014 Zimbabwe vs Bangladesh Zimbabwe vs Bangladesh 2014

Sri Lanka vs England 2014: Moeen Ali, Alastair Cook’s form bodes well, says Mark Ramprakash

Mithali Raj: India women confident ahead of ODI series against South Africa

Sri Lanka vs England 2014: England’s 2nd practice match washed out

Bangladesh bring up 100th win in international cricket

India vs Cricket Australia XI, 1st Tour Game Preview: India eye good warm-up to kick-off tour Down Under

Bangladesh vs Zimbabwe 2014, 2nd ODI at Chittagong: Highlights

Australia vs South Africa 2014, 5th ODI at Sydney: Highlights

Saeed Ajmal: 99 per cent bowlers will fail 15 degree test

Tamim Iqbal, Anamul Haque register second-highest opening partnership for Bangladesh in ODIs

ICC World Cup 2015: Australia in risk of overkill

Fan of the Day

Niharika Shah

Niharika Shah

681 Posts | 6 Fans

Video Highlights: Virat Kohli vs Australian cricketers

Watch Free Live Streaming & Telecast of Indian Super League (ISL) 2014 Football 37th Match between Kerala Blasters FC vs Atletico de Kolkata

PK Tharki Chokro making: Rancho aka Aamir Khan and Munna Bhai aka Sanjay Dutt shake legs to this folk number

Simbu-Hansika’s Vaalu slated for Christmas release!

Yeh Hai Mohabbatein: Will Raman and Ishita help Mihika with her plans?

Alibaba to launch its Taobao marketplace in international markets: Reuters

8 reasons to add rosemary to your diet

eBay India ‘Black Friday’ sale kicks off today

How many calories do bananas have?

Also on cricketcountry.com

Play Fantasy Cricket & Win

Cash Daily! Click here