So near, yet so far for Virender Sehwag... © Getty Images
So near, yet so far for Virender Sehwag… © Getty Images

June 10, 2006. Virender Sehwag already had a triple-hundred under his belt, but this was lightning even by his standards. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at the day when Sehwag missed out on being the fifth batsman to score a hundred in the first session of a Test.

A new-look India landed on Caribbean shores in 2006. Sachin Tendulkar had opted out of the tour. Sourav Ganguly had been axed. The new ball was shared by S Sreesanth and Munaf Patel, with the experience of two Tests apiece. The first Test at St John’s also saw a debutant tearaway called VRV Singh.

Some old names had survived: Rahul Dravid, now at the helm, had emerged as India’s premier batsman of the era; VVS Laxman was around, as were Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh; and then, there was the marauder at the top of the order — the man who had taken the world by storm but was yet to play a Test on West Indian soil: Virender Sehwag.

St John’s witnessed a cliff-hanger: India conceded a 130-run lead before Wasim Jaffer carved out 212; Dravid set West Indies 392, and West Indies were reduced to 226 for 7 with 125 balls to go. In the end, No. 10 Fidel Edwards and No. 11 Corey Collymore had to play out 19 balls to save the Test.

Sehwag had a decent outing. He played two quick cameos — a 37-ball 36 and a 58-ball 41, but more importantly, it was his off-breaks that worked for India. Joining hands with Kumble (3 for 86 and 4 for 107) Sehwag finished the Test with 2 for 32 and 2 for 39.

Oh, for a run!

There was a tinge of green at Beausejour Stadium, but Dravid still chose to bat. Irfan Pathan came in for Sreesanth, but Harbhajan was still injured; India went in with three seamers, Munaf and VRV being the others. For West Indies, Fidel Edwards sat out due to a hamstring injury, which paved the way for his half-brother Pedro Collins.

Brian Lara started with Collins. Jaffer got off the mark in the second ball. The third ball, a tad short on off, was punched through extra-cover. Sehwag had got off the mark with a four off the first ball.

Jerome Taylor shared the new ball, and after seven overs India reached 27 without loss. Sehwag was on 15 from 13 balls. He left the first ball of Taylor’s over and defended the second. The third ball was leg-glanced for four; the fourth was smashed straight past Taylor; and the sixth was played deliberately between slips and gully for another.

Dwayne Bravo replaced Taylor, who came back to switch ends. Sehwag was not beaten before the third ball of the 11th over. It was his day. Wisden later quoted him saying that he had “never hit the ball more cleanly”.

The boundaries flowed. India reached 58 without loss from 11 overs. Sehwag’s 44 had come off 32 balls. Then Bravo started the 12th over. Jaffer flicked the first ball for a single.

Sehwag hit the next ball nonchalantly over long-off to bring up a 33-ball 50. He shouldered arms to the next; the fourth ball was cut ferociously past point to the fence; the fifth sped to the long-on boundary; and the sixth soared over long-on. India were 79 from 12 overs. Sehwag’s 64 had come from 37 balls.

Out came the chroniclers. Only four times have batsmen scored hundreds in the first session of a Test: will Sehwag join the elite list?

Runs Batsman Match Venue Year
103 Victor Trumper England Old Trafford 1902
112 Charlie Macartney England Headingley 1926
105 Don Bradman England Headingley 1930
108 Majid Khan New Zealand Karachi 1976-77

It was not an easy ask. West Indies had five specialist seamers in their side (Collymore and Ian Bradshaw to go in with Collins, Taylor, and Bravo), which meant the over rate would take a toll.

Collymore bowled the 15th over, and the first two balls saw two boundaries from Sehwag. There was another four off Bravo’s next over, and yet another off Collymore’s next; it was not until Bradshaw came on that there was a rein on the scoring rate.

India reached 120 in 20 overs (Sehwag was on a 64-ball 91), but Sehwag got to face a solitary ball from the next two over (Jaffer hit two fours in the 22nd).

The clock ticked over. The over rate had been abysmal. The 25th over would certainly be the last before lunch. India were 133. Sehwag was on 93 from 71 balls.

Lara persisted with Collymore. Sehwag played the first ball back to him, but his eyes lit up when the next one was pitched short. It was too close to be cut, but the blade slashed anyway; the ball flew over first slip.

97 from 72. 3 to score from 4 balls.

He pushed the ball to mid-on and set off. Jaffer responded, but the single pushed back Sehwag’s chances to have a go at history. After a dot ball, Jaffer managed to flick one to get Sehwag back on strike. He had to score 2 runs off the last ball before lunch. Nobody had done it in almost 40 years.

Collymore bowled. Sehwag exposed the stumps and went for an almighty heave, but could not time it. The ball rolled along the ground to mid-off. There was no run in it, but Sehwag had already called for it and Jaffer had responded. The direct throw did not hit the stumps; Sehwag survived; but could manage “only” 99 by lunch.

The match

Sehwag got his hundred three balls after lunch, and smashed his way to a 190-ball 180. Dravid (146) and Mohammad Kaif (148 not out) added 179 for the fifth wicket, and declared on the second afternoon at 588 for 8.

Munaf’s quick blows, followed by some excellent bowling from Kumble, left West Indies in tatters at 106 for 5; Bravo and Denesh Ramdin put up a gutsy show, but Sehwag came on to round things off with the last three wickets. Dravid enforced the follow-on after a 373-run lead.

West Indies finished Day Three on 43 for 1. The next day saw no play. The light was terrible, and there was no sign of improvement. “God is a West Indian,” commented Greg Chappell.

Once again West Indies lost quick wickets, and things looked hopeless at 52 for 3. Then Lara went into a rare defensive mode, dominating proceedings with 120. Shivnarine Chanderpaul helped him put on 129, and Bravo, 71.

The Indians dropped catches. Yuvraj Singh and Kaif, who set grounds on fire while manning point and cover, looked helpless at bat-pad and kept dropping catches. Even Dravid and Jaffer, regulars at slip, grassed easy chances.

There were still 80 balls left with 4 wickets to defend when Bravo fell, but Bradshaw hung on with a 40-ball 1 before Munaf claimed him. Ramdin and Taylor then ensured a draw.

What followed?

– West Indies took control of the third Test at Basseterre, thanks to hundreds from Daren Ganga and Ramnaresh Sarwan and quality bowling from all four fast bowlers. Lara did not enforce the follow-on despite a 209-run lead. India were set 392, their top four men all scored fifties, and India finished with 298 for 4.

– The fourth Test at Sabina Park witnessed history on a pitch that favoured bowlers from the first session. India scored 200 and 171; West Indies, 103 and 219. Dravid showed the way with 81 and 68; Kumble scored a gutsy 45 and took 6 for 78 in the fourth innings after Harbhajan wrecked West Indies with 5 for 13 in the first. It was the first time in 35 years that an Asian team won a Test series in West Indies.

Brief scores:

India 588 for 8 decl. (Wasim Jaffer 43, Virender Sehwag 180, Rahul Dravid 146, Mohammad Kaif 146*; Pedro Collins 4 for 116) drew with West Indies 215 (Chris Gayle 46; Munaf Patel 3 for 51, Anil Kumble 3 for 57, Virender Sehwag 3 for 33) and 294 for 7 (Brian Lara 120, Shivnarine Chanderpaul 54, Dwayne Bravo 47; Anil Kumble 3 for 98).

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Chief Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs here and can be followed on Twitter here.)