India survives hiccups for Test, series win

Published: Monday, March 4, 2002, 17:55 [IST]
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New Delhi: India introduced drama and excitement in what looked to be a comfortable run-chase before overhauling Zimbabwe's total to win the second Test by four wickets and make a clean sweep of the two-match series.The victory looked only a formality when India was cruising at 93 for three mid-way through the morning session on the fifth and final day on Monday while chasing a modest target of 122. But three crucial wickets of Sachin Tendulkar, Shiv Sunder Das and Rahul Dravid brought Zimbabwe roaring back into the match. With Virender Sehwag not scheduled to bat, having suffered a shoulder injury while fielding on Sunday, Zimbabwe certainly started eyeing its chances. However, Harbhajan Singh sealed Zimbabwe's fate with a cameo to bring up India's victory with a straight six off Heath Streak.

Harbhajan, when asked on Sunday whether India was in trouble having lost three early wickets, had quipped, "I still have to bat." And true to his promise he ensured a victory for India and won the man-of-the-match award, which was more in recognition of his bowling performance. "I know I can bat a bit and I was quite confident about it," Harbhajan said after the match. It was also a case of being third time lucky for the Indians, who were denied a 2-0 series win after winning the first Test on two earlier occasions. During its 2000 home series, India had to settle for a draw at Nagpur after comfortably winning the Delhi Test while on the return tour last year Zimbabwe came from behind to win the second Test and square the series 1-1.

India started the day in a business-like manner with Tendulkar thrashing Grant Flower for 12 runs in the very first over. Flower, who took two of the three wickets to fall on Sunday, started the proceedings on Monday morning as Zimbabwe searched for an early breakthrough to put pressure on the Indians who were effectively four down for 36 overnight because of Sehwag's absence. However, both Tendulkar and Das dispatched the ball to all corners of the ground and scored at a brisk pace. Tendulkar even pulled Grant Flower for a six over mid-wicket.

To its credit, Zimbabwe kept trying all the time and never gave up. Its efforts bore fruit when Tendulkar was trapped lbw by Raymond Price for 42. Five overs later, Das also fell for 31 while Dravid could manage just six runs before giving a catch to Andy Flower in the slips. India was six down for 105 needing another 17 for victory, and the only recognised batsman left was Sanjay Bangar who was at the crease. Zimbabwe stepped up the pressure on India with some tight bowling and appealed for almost everything.

On one such occasion, a Streak delivery hit Harbhajan Singh on his pads and the entire Zimbabwe team went up in a prolonged appeal, which however, was turned down by Sri Lankan umpire Asoka de Silva. Amid all these confusion, Bangar had to go and tell the umpire that the ball had actually run down to the third-man fence and four leg-byes needed to be credited to the Indian total. Two overs later, Harbhajan hit a Streak delivery to covers and both batsmen started off for a single. Realising the ball had gone straight to a fielder both ran back towards their respective creases.

But Travis Friend, who fielded the ball, took his chance and threw at the non-striker's end. The ball missed the stumps and went for four overthrows. And, in the excitement all-around, the official scoreboard failed to credit the four to Harbhajan Singh for quite some time. These two lucky boundaries eased the pressure tremendously as India reached within two runs of victory. Harbhajan then hit Streak for a glorious six over long on to bring up the win in style.

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