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India, West Indies play out thrilling draw after Ashwin's all-round brilliance

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Last updated on 26 Nov 2023 | 07:44 AM
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India, West Indies play out thrilling draw after Ashwin's all-round brilliance

On this day in 2011, the two teams produced one of the most unique results in Test history

West Indies were pegged far from being the favourites, anonymously, when they toured India for a three-match Test series and five-game ODI series in 2011 end. The Caribbean side had won just one series in more than two years, while India had lost only once in their last 12 Test series.

West Indies' Test side was also a team in transition as compared to India’s perfectly balanced red-ball side. Besides veterans like Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, and VVS Laxman, India had the likes of Virat Kohli, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ishant Sharma, who had already started brightly in their respective Test careers. In MS Dhoni, the side also had a fresh World Cup-winning captain, who was brimming with confidence. 

Hence, it wasn’t surprising when the hosts went 2-0 up in the series effortlessly, registering a five-wicket and an innings and 15-run wins in the first two Tests. The third Test at Wankhede, which was essentially a dead rubber now, was widely expected to go India’s way quite understandably.

However, the crushed Caribbean side decided to show up in Mumbai with Adrian Barath and Kraigg Brathwaite putting up a gritting 137-run opening stand. The pitch had very little for the bowlers in the opening few days, which was felt in the knocks of Kirk Edwards (86), Darren Bravo (166), Kieran Powell (81) and Marlon Samuels (61), as the visitors tallied 590 runs in just over two days.

The hosts got their fair share of support from the Wankhede turf as well, with Gautam Gambhir’s quick fifty giving India a strong foundation against a steep total. After Sehwag was dismissed early, crucial knocks by Dravid (82) and Tendulkar (94) saw India end Day 4 on 281 for 3.

The match was seemingly destined for a draw until the later parts of Day 4 witnessed an Indian lower-order collapse, as the hosts lost four of their wickets in the last 54 runs. The collapse could have started early, but a gritty 103 from Ashwin helped India trail by just 108 runs after their first dig. West Indies ended Day 4 on a strong note at 812, looking to see out a draw and avoid a whitewash.

On Day 5, Indian spinners Pragyan Ojha and Ashwin took six and four scalps to wrap up West Indies for just 134 runs in a dramatic turnaround. Suddenly, the hosts needed 243 runs in 64 overs on the last day to win the Test.  And with the series not at stake, they decided to give it a shot as Virender Sehwag’s 65-ball-60 provided India with exactly the start they would have hoped for.

The volatile nature of the pitch, however, made it equally difficult for Indian batsmen, and before they realised, they were 165/5 with the likes of Gambhir, Sehwag, Dravid, Tendulkar and Laxman all departing.

A young Kohli was holding one end up but found no support as Dhoni (13) departed soon, leaving Ashwin to be India’s last hope with the willow alongside Kohli. However, Devendra Bishoo stunned the crowd by getting a top edge off Kohli to take the match right down to the wire.

With 19 runs needed off four overs, Ishant Sharma came out to support Ashwin, and the two reduced the margin to six runs off the last two overs.

Ishant had to see off Ravi Rampaul in one of the most tension-filled overs in a dead-rubber game, and the pacer eventually was caught LBW on the fifth ball of the 63rd over. Ashwin had Varun Aaron coming in at number 9 and reducing the deficit to just three runs off six balls for a win.

A feisty Fidel Edwards had an easy job - beat pace bowler Varun Aaron’s bat - and he did that for the first three balls before a misfield by Samuels saw Ashwin get the strike. With West Indies fielders looking to save two, India couldn’t lose on the last ball, and Ashwin escaped a huge LBW appeal on the penultimate delivery.

India needed two of the last ball and Ashwin smashed one down long-on. Interestingly, the bowling all-rounder took a slow first run and decided to scramble for the winning run only after Aaron forced him. He was never going to make it as India ended up scoring the same number of runs - 714 - as West Indies to draw the match.

Such a thing had happened only once in the history of Test cricket when England drew a game against Zimbabwe in Bulawayo in 1996-97.

Man of the match, Ashwin said post-match, “At the end, I thought I should take the safer option of defending out one ball and then attacking the last ball, but it didn't work out.

"I didn't think it was going to go this far down to the wire. We thought we could prise them out and chase the score down, but in the end, it was a very good and tight game."

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