On May 25, 2007, India posted a mammoth total against hapless Bangladesh at Sher-e-Bangla Stadium, Dhaka after the first Test at Chittagong was drawn because of intermittent showers. At Dhaka, four Indian top-order batsmen: Wasim Jaffer, Dinesh Karthik, Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar each scored a century and batted Bangladesh out of the game. Sarang Bhalerao revisits the game where a 52-year-old record was almost broken and several new records were created.
On March 17, 2007, the so-called tournament favourites India had to deal with a harsh reality. Bangladesh comprehensively beat India by five-wickets at Port-of-Spain and pulled the rug from their esteemed neighbours’ feet in the 2007 ICC World Cup. Sombreness had substituted pragmatism and India’s campaign was set in jeopardy. There was turbulence in the psyche of the players. The nation was in a shock. Only six days after that severe jolt India suffered yet another loss, at the hands of Sri Lanka and their World Cup campaign ended prematurely. The sudden exit was one of the grimmest episodes in the history of Indian cricket.
Indian coach Greg Chappell was sacked, to compound the matter. Several players spoke against Chappell publicly. The coach versus players debate had sparked a controversy. Former India spinner Ravi Shastri was appointed as India’s coach, albeit for an interim period for the tour of Bangladesh, as India were grappling with the World Cup disaster.
The Indian team went to Bangladesh with a vengeance, having a point to prove. They beat Bangladesh in the three match ODI series 2-0. In the first Test match in Chittagong, rain played spoilsport and the match was drawn. So when India arrived in Dhaka they wanted nothing less than a win. Bangladesh won the toss and put India into bat.
Wasim Jaffer and Dinesh Karthik opened the batting for India. Jaffer had registered his first pair in Test cricket in the previous match so he was nervous. Karthik on the other hand had scored a half-century in the previous game and looked in good touch. The opening duo played themselves in and didn’t give any opportunity to the Bangladesh bowlers in the first session. But Jaffer offered a chance in the second ball after lunch but Mohammad Rafique failed to latch onto it and leather chasing was in store for Bangladesh.
A perfect platform was being setup as the openers exemplified courage. They saw off the new ball, accelerated later and offered liberation to the batsmen to follow. Karthik in particular took on the bowlers with his quick feet and changed the momentum of the game. He had scored 60 from 69 deliveries after lunch as compared to 22 off 84 balls in the first session. He was lucky to survive a caught behind decision in the afternoon session off Mohammad Sharif. Lady luck eluded Bangladesh.
At the stroke of tea, Karthik was forced to retire owing to the heat and humidity. In came Rahul Dravid to join Jaffer, who was batting solidly; his driving was sublime and the pulls off the short balls were played aesthetically. Jaffer brought his fourth Test hundred with an on-drive. Batting at 138, the heat and humidity had taken toll on Jaffer’s body. He couldn’t bat any further. Sachin Tendulkar joined Dravid who took on the feeble attack with élan. At the start of his innings he scored a flurry of boundaries. He was finding the middle of the bat regularly.
Dravid finished the day with an unbeaten 88. Even in the final few minutes of play he was able to take the attack to the opposition. A six over long-on off Mohammad Ashraful late in the day just highlighted Dravid’s confidence. Tendulkar survived the final few minutes anxiously but India didn’t lose a single wicket.
India thus had four batsmen coming out to bat on the first day which was a rare instance. Their score of 326 was the best among the instances where the team had lost no wickets on the first day of the Test beating Australia’s 18-year-old record of 301 against England at Trent Bridge. This was also the first instance when both the openers had retired ill and the four batsmen combining a score of more than 300 in the Tests.
On day two, Dravid brought up his 24th Test hundred and signs looked ominous for Bangladesh. Tendulkar by this time was looking rock solid. The duo added 127 for the so-called first wicket. At 408, India needed five more runs to equal Vinoo Mankad and Pankaj Roy’s 52-year-old record of 413 for the opening wicket. But batting on 129, Dravid spooned an easy catch to point off Rafique. It took Bangladesh 108.2 overs to pick up India’s first wicket. Habibul Bashar’s decision to field first had grossly backfired.
Karthik, who was unbeaten on 82, returned and completed his maiden Test hundred just a ball before lunch. After his century, he took on the bowlers. The lofted shots off the fast bowlers and the slog-sweep off the spinners showed the levels of his self-assurance. Batting on 130, he top-edged a pull off Mashrafe Mortaza and was dismissed.
Tendulkar helped himself to his 37th century. His unbeaten 122 was the final nail in Bangladesh’s coffin. It had taken wind out of Bangladesh’s sails. It was also the first instance where the first four top-order batsmen had all scored a century in the same innings in Test matches.
India posted a mammoth 610 in the first innings and Bangladesh succumbed to an innings defeat. Zaheer Khan took seven wickets in total on a flat deck and he was awarded the Player-of-the-match. India had taken a sweet revenge over Bangladesh.
In Dhaka, it was one-way traffic from the moment India took strike. A thumping win highlighted that India had moved-on after the catastrophe in West Indies.
India 610 for 3 decl. (Wasim Jaffer 138, Dinesh Karthik 130, Rahul Dravid 129, Sachin Tendulkar 122*; Mohammad Rafique 2 for 181) beat Bangladesh 118 (Zaheer Khan 5 for 34) & 253 (Mashrafe Mortaza 70, Mohammad Ashraful 67; Ramesh Powar 3 for 33) by an innings and 239 runs.
(Sarang Bhalerao hails from a family of doctors, but did his engineering. He then dumped a career in IT with Infosys to follow his heart and passion and became a writer with CricketCountry. A voracious reader, Sarang aspires to beat Google with his knowledge of the game! You can follow him on Twitter here)