Leeds: India captain Saurav Ganguly said it was vital India did not let up ahead of next month's series-deciding match against England following its crushing victory here at Headingley on Monday. By winning the third Test by an innings and 46 runs, India levelled the series at one apiece and will head to the The Oval, where the fourth and final Test starts on September 5, looking for a win that will give India a first series victory outside the sub-continent since it beat England 2-0 in 1986.
The next match will also be Sachin Tendulkar's 100th Test - another landmark to add to his 30th Test century, which took him past Don Bradman's total of 29 on the all- time list. "We played well in this Test," said Ganguly. "But we will have to play well at The Oval. We must keep the same intensity." This was only India's 18th Test victory abroad but Ganguly defended his side's record. "We don't get enough credit for winning at home. A Test match is a Test match." And he said his side would always be under the spotlight wherever they were. "When we play at home there's pressure on India and when we play abroad there is pressure on India. But that's a good thing."
Although Tendulkar made 193, it was man-of-the-match Rahul Dravid's 148 which Ganguly said had been the key innings. "The game was set up on the first day at 236 for two. Dravid and Bangar batted splendidly," Ganguly said. "He (Dravid) is one of the great players in modern cricket. He turns up every time and does it for India. His innings was one of the best I've seen." Another factor in the tourists' victory was that leg spinner Anil Kumble and off spinner Harbhajan Singh, two proven world-class bowlers, were in the same side for the first time in the series.
And The Oval, where Surrey has employed Pakistan off spinner Saqlain Mushtaq to great effect in recent seasons, is sure to suit both of them. "It's August in England and all the wickets we have played on have spun. I made a mistake at Lord's (where India lost the first Test by 170 runs) in not playing two spinners (Harbhajan was omitted)," Ganguly admitted. "And at Trent Bridge (where the second Test was drawn) we were unlucky with Anil's calf injury."
But there was no doubting Kumble's recovery - the leg spinner finishing with match figures of seven for 159. He was particularly effective in the second innings where England lost its last six wickets for 44 runs. That was after a stand of 117 in 46 overs between England's Madras-born captain Nasser Hussain (110) and Alec Stewart (47), which threatened to halt India. "Hussain's was a great Test innings on that wicket," said Ganguly. He and Stewart batted very well to put on a hundred partnership. "But we knew if we could pick one, we could pick two or three wickets."
Both India spinners were well supported by the pacemen, particularly left-arm quick Zaheer Khan. "We've worked very hard on our fitness, especially Zaheer. He bowled for three days and was bowling at over 90 miles per hour on the final day," his captain enthused. Ganguly added that the recent contract dispute, which threatens the participation of India's leading players in next month's ICC Trophy One-day tournament in Sri Lanka had not affected his team at Headingley. That dispute remains unresolved with India having announced a squad of 25 'probables', leaving the way clear for its stars to return, as has happened in Australia and England.
Meanwhile, a disappointed Hussain admitted, "India played almost the perfect Test match, apart from a few dropped catches." He said it was unfair to blame his pace bowlers alone for the defeat. "Yes, we didn't bowl well. The bowlers knew they had to bowl a fuller length on this pitch but it is easy to say it and more difficult to do it. "Maybe it's the fields I'm setting, maybe it's because with the likes of Matthew Hoggard we've grooved them into bowling in the channel (outside off-stump) on a flat wicket. "But there was always going to be something likes this in series - at some point the India batting was going to click." However, Hussain said the burden of expectation was now on India's shoulders.
"There will be pressure on them in the last Test. They'll be trying to make history." Hussain added that he would be speaking to experienced middle-order batsman Graham Thorpe about his availability for the Ashes tour of Australia either on his way home or later this week. Thorpe has been out of action since the England's 170-run first Test victory at Lord's. After that match he announced he was taking an indefinite break from all cricket due to personal reasons caused by the break up of his marriage and discussions over access arrangements to his two young children.