Mumbai : A heart-stopping finish to the third and final cricket Test between India and the West Indies, a match pregnant with all possible results, including a tie. Clever thinking by the man of the match and series Ravichandran Ashwin took out the possibility of India losing and made sure it was a draw with the scores level.
Surprisingly, the Test sprang to life after four high scoring days with the wicket giving the spinners enough turn and bounce to pack all excitement into the final day’s play, which saw 17 wickets crashing.
It was only the second instance in Test cricket when scores were levelled and the match ended in a draw, the first one was at Bulawayo when England, chasing a winning target of 205, ended up 204 for six.
This Test was the closest as India, needing 243 runs to win, finished at 242/9. Needing two runs off the last ball, Ravichandran Ashwin was run out going for the second after making sure he had touched the base.
In fact, the excitement was pitch high as all the possible results till the penultimate ball of the Test kept a tense crowd at the edge of their seats.
In the morning, Ojha (6-47) and Ashwin (4-34) hunted in a deadly combination to bowl out West Indies for 134, quite a contrast to their 590 in the first. The visitors resumed at 81/2 in the morning, but could add only 53 runs, losing eight wickets.
That left India chasing 243 in a possible 64 overs in a little over two sessions for a clean sweep of the series. Ultimately, India had to be content with a 2-0 series win.
The tenacious West Indies showed admirable grit to fight back and force a draw.
India kept losing wickets throughout the chase and it was left to the young pair of Ashwin (14) and Varun Aaron (1 not out) to score three runs in the last over of Fidel Edwards.
Edwards pinned Aaron down in the first three balls before the pace bowler survived getting run out to give the strike back to Ashwin.
Ashwin, who scored a century Friday, blocked the fourth ball to rule out an India loss and also a tie.
He struck the last ball to long on and dashed to the other end, and was late in turning quickly for the winning run. He lost the race by a big margin as Carlton Baugh collected a good throw from the deep to whip off the bails. The West Indies players erupted in joy as they knew they have snatched a draw from the jaws of defeat.
India have to blame themselves for making a mess of the run chase as most of them fell to some innocuous deliveries on a slow turner. Sehwag looked like finishing the match in no time with his aggressive strokeplay but he was also guilty of attempting an horrendous undescribable shot after chancing his arm to make 60.
Gautam Gambhir (12) was the first to go soon after lunch, driving a full-length Edwards delivery straight to point.
The next two wickets — Sachin Tendulkar (3) and Rahul Dravid (33) — fell to two good catches by Kirk Edwards and Dinesh Ramdin, both dismissed by off spinner Marlon Samuels, as both were foxed by the slow nature of the pitch.
The West Indies had suddenly bounced back.
In the last session, India needed 95 runs in 30 overs.
V.V.S. Laxman, the perennial fourth innings player, added 42 runs with Virat Kohli (63) before top-edging a pull of Ravi Rampaul (3-56), who again bowled with a big heart.
Kohli, however, was in great touch and looked set to take the team across the line with Mahendra Singh Dhoni, but the captain was caught low by Kirk Edwards at short-cover.
Kohli then added 35 runs with Ashwin before his cut landed in the hands of Devendra Bishoo.
That opened up the match for West Indies. India needed 21 runs off 29 balls and Rampaul and Edwards bowled with such verve that the end result is a tribute to their never-say-die spirit.
It looked like a draw all through the first four days and even the fifth day’s suspenseful events could not alter the result.