It’s often presupposed that any team visiting India is bound to be a little tentative in the second innings, primarily due to alien conditions and turning wickets in the final days of a Test. But in the last four years, there have been a few visiting batsmen who’ve put up a tenacious fight in the second innings to either delay the inevitable or steer their side to safety. Alaistair Cook’s remarkable 176 against India almost saved the Test for England, and his knock deserves rich accolades considering the fact that the match was set to end well inside four days.
However, this is not the first time he’s essayed such an innings in India, and this certainly isn’t the first time the Indians have let taken their foot off the accelerator. Six years ago, during the first Test of the 2006 India-England series at Nagpur, Cook scored an unbeaten 104 in England’s second innings that set the hosts 368 to win the game. During the course of that innings, he became the youngest Englishman to reach a Test hundred in 67 years. The target seemed out of reach for India on the final day and both teams settled for a draw. Cook has now returned as a skipper. And there is little doubt that he’s improved enormously as a batsman. Sadly though, there was no escaping from the jaws of defeat this time around.
Below are a valiant second innings hundreds by overseas batsmen:
Hashim Amla 123 not out
Eden Gardens, Kolkata, February 2010
As many as seven centuries were scored during the course of this match. Having opted to bat first, South Africa could manage just 296 in their first innings, Hashim Amla (114) and Alviro Petersen (100) doing the bulk of the scoring. In reply, the Indians declared at a mammoth 643 for six, with Virender Sehwag (165), Sachin Tendulkar (106), VVS Laxman (143 not out) and Mahendra Singh Dhoni (132 not out) all easing their way to tons. A deficit of 347 required a superhuman effort from most batsmen to overcome, but unfortunately for the Proteas, only Amla put up a fight with a stoic century. His unbeaten 123 took 499 minutes and 394 deliveries, as South Africa could muster only 290 in their second innings, thereby conceding victory to India by an innings and 57 runs.
Brief scores: South Africa 296 (Alviro Petersen 100, Hashim Amla 114; Zaheer Khan 4-90, Harbhajan Singh 3-64) and) & 290 (Hashim Amla 123 not out; Harbhajan Singh 5-59, Amit Mishra 3-78) lost to India 643-6 declared (Virender Sehwag 165, Sachin Tendulkar 106, VVS Laxman 143 not out, Mahendra Singh Dhoni 132 not out) by an innings and 57 runs.
Darren Bravo 136
Eden Gardens, Kolkata, November 2011
West Indian southpaw Darren Bravo almost single-handedly managed to save the game for West Indies in the second Test at Kolkata. Having won the toss, the Indians had no hesitation in batting first in front of a surprisingly sparse crowd at Kolkata. They amassed 631 for the loss of seven wickets, riding on 119 by Rahul Dravid, 176 not out by Laxman and 144 by Dhoni, before bowling West Indies out for just 153 in their first innings and asking them to follow on. In the second innings, Bravo, who claimed to have made a few changes to his technique in order to adapt better, offered resistance with a splendid 136. He received some support from Adrian Barath (62) and Marlon Samuels (84). But once Bravo became the fifth West Indian wicket to fall at 401, the rest of the batting caved in and India won by an innings and 15 runs. Despite Bravo’s efforts, the Test concluded within four days, but it could have been wrapped up much earlier had it not been for him.
Brief scores: India 631 for 7 declared (Rahul Dravid 119, VVS Laxman 176 not out, MS Dhoni 144) bt West Indies 153 & 463 (Adrian Barath 62, Darren Bravo 136, Marlon Samuels 84; Umesh Yadav 4-80) by an innings and 15 runs.
Paul Collingwood 108 & Andrew Strauss 108
MA Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai, December 2008
This Test will forever be etched in the memories of the Indian players and a majority of their supporters. England had the upper hand for most part of the match. They put 316 on the board batting first and bowled India out for just 241, thereby gaining an impressive lead of 75 runs. Andrew Strauss, who’d already scored 123 in the first innings, essayed 108 in the second innings alongside Paul Collingwood, who also scored 108. The duo were involved in a 214-run partnership and virtually batted the hosts out of the game, setting them an unrealistic target of 387 to get in just over four sessions. But Sehwag (83) got India off to a flyer in characteristic fashion, and India now needed a possible 256 on the final day. A vintage Tendulkar then scored an unbeaten 103 and masterminded one of the best successful run-chases in Tests to overshadow the fantastic efforts of Strauss and Collingwood.
Brief scores: England 316 (Andrew Strauss 123, Alastair Cook 52, Matt Prior 53 not out; Harbhajan Singh 3-96, Amit Mishra 3-99) & 311-9 declared (Andrew Strauss 108, Paul Collingwood 108; Zaheer Khan 3-40, Ishant Sharma 3-57) lost to India (241 (MS Dhoni 53, Harbhajan Singh 40, Andrew Flintoff 3-49, Monty Panesar 3-65) & 387-4 (Virender Sehwag 83, Sachin Tendulkar 103 not out, Yuvraj Singh 85 not out) by six wickets.
Cook’s effort in the Ahmedabad Test is yet another addition to this list. Just as the English were beginning to see a small ray of hope, they came crashing down. Nevertheless, the above mentioned batsmen have shown that it is possible to flourish in such conditions, but it’s unfortunate that they couldn’t help their side to cross the line.
(Karthik Parimal, a Correspondent with CricketCountry, is a cricket aficionado and a worshipper of the game. He idolises Steve Waugh and can give up anything, absolutely anything, just to watch a Kumar Sangakkara cover drive. He can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/