Although the target set was a paltry 120, the signs from previous day were ominous. West Indies had skittled out for 140 in their second innings- their lowest ever score versus India. The bowl was flying thick and fast. There was noticeable movement in the air, on and off the pitch. There were still patches of green, both Tendulkar and Lara had asked for a pitch where ball came onto the bat. Bounce had become uneven by now. Bridgetown was anyway a West Indian citadel. India had never won a test, had drawn one and lost five matches at the Kensington Park Oval. The West Indies had remained unbeaten on this ground between 1935 and 1994, but had lost a test apiece to England and Australia in 1994 and 1995 respectively. There was hope, in that Sachin and Dravid had been among runs in the first innings, but the memory of the recent collapse on Day 5 at Mohali in 1994 was still fresh. Walsh, Kenneth Benjamin and Cuffy had bundled India for 114 (target 358) to level the series.
India had lost their last 6 wickets in the first innings for just 46 runs. Even West Indies had been reduced to 9/107 in their second essay, despite Brian Lara’s chancy, breezy 45. It was only Dillon’s heroics and Ambrose’s calm that had extended the lead from 86 to 119 runs. That Abhay Kuruwilla had managed to pick his maiden five wicket haul was enough to sow doubts in the minds of Indian batsmen, who must have asked themselves what was the attack of Ambrose, Bishop, Franklyn Rose and Dillon capable of?
India began the Day Four with two runs on the board and ten wickets in hand. Ambrose and Bishop kept the proceedings tight, but could not break through. But Franklyn Rose pitched one up which rose awkwardly and became an unplayable one for Siddhu, who was caught cuckoo at the third slip. Replays later indicated that it was a line- no ball. In the first innings, Sachin had been given out on a similar no-ball as well. Dravid hung around for more than half an hour, but could gather only two runs, even those by virtue of an edge that flew over the slip. Then a rising ball in the slot from Rose got his glove and was taken by the wicket-keeper. India were two down for 16, and needed Laxman and Tendulkar to steady the ship.
Laxman threw his bat on a couple of bouncers and got a four, then hit a lovely front-foot leg glance for his second boundary. But Rose broke his off-stump on one that pitched up, and on the same score, Bishop lured Sachin Tendulkar into a cover drive but drew his edge. Lara took a low catch in the slip, and India stood reeling at 4/32. Laxman had scored 19 runs, Sachin had contributed 4. The match was headed only one way from here.
Ganguly and Azhar hung around for a while, slammed two boundaries each, but both were clean bowled by big man Curtly. Sourav had left a big gap between bat and pad, while Azhar fell on one that kept ominously low. India were now six down for 51. Dravid could have dropped his wrists a bit, Sourav could have minded his bat-pad gap and Sachin could have restrained himself from playing that cover drive so early in his innings, but the fact remains that each of India’s top six fell to some incisive, unplayable bowling on a treacherous pitch. Indians had now thrown their wickets away, Rose-Ambrose-Bishop had earned their scalps.
Kumble hoicked one short ball from Bishop , which found his outside edge when the team total stood at 57. Mongia left one that sharply moved in and took the bails at 66. Kuruvilla gave a simple catch off a leading edge against Ambrose, and the last man, Prasad was bowled by Bishop. India folded for 81, and lost by 38 runs. Only one batsman, VVS (19 runs) scored in double digits. Bishop took 4, while Ambrose and Rose claimed 3 wickets apiece. Dillon was not required to bowl.
How did a match in which India had kept its nose ahead till the end of day three, end so badly for them? They had the measure of the West Indian batting in both innings. In the first innings, West Indies were 7/193 at one stage, but Chanderpaul (137*) and Ambrose (31) managed to stretch the innings till 298. In reply, Sachin and Dravid added 170 runs for the third wicket, and India were 3/249 at one stage, but lost last 6 wickets for 46 runs to get out for 319. Sachin played beautifully for his 92, and Dravid scored 78. But this first innings collapse, along with the vital 33 runs partnership between Ambrose (18*) and Dillon (23) for the West Indies in their second innings was to prove decisive.
Those were the early days of cable television in India. I was in class ninth. It was difficult to follow matches that were played in the West Indies, especially the second and third sessions, because of timings. Matches commenced at 7:30 pm IST and carried on till wee hours in the morning. Not only the skip Tendulkar, but also fans like us had hoped for a historic Indian win, but were shattered by the abject capitulation of Indian batsman. 81 was the 9th lowest Indian innings total in tests. This was the second time in three months that India had fallen below 100 runs in an innings (In fact India had scored 100 and 66 runs against South Africa at Durban in December 1996). India lost the series in 1996-97 by 1-0, and then again in 2002 by 2-1. It was only in 2006 that India finally managed to win a series in West Indies, but by then their great bowlers had long retired.
Sachin’s 92 runs-
Fourth innings highlights –
#barbadostest1997 #sachintendulkar #indiawestindies
#curtlyambrose #franklynrose #ianbishop #brianlara #MDillon #abhaykuruvilla