Who had the best batting average for India when the Rahul Dravid-led side won a Test series in England in 2007? And, who was the only Indian batsman to score a century in that historic series win?
The Indian team had a batting unit comprising of Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Sourav Ganguly, MS Dhoni, Wasim Jaffer and Dinesh Karthik, but the answer to the aforementioned questions is Anil Kumble. Apart from taking 14 wickets in India's first Test series win in England since 1986, Kumble also scored 162 runs in five innings at an average of 54. And, it was on this day, the legspinner from Karnataka scored his only international century at the Oval.
India were 1-nil up coming into the third and final Test. The visiting side somehow managed to save the first Test at Lord's, courtesy MS Dhoni's gritty knock and heavy rain on the final day. Then, Zaheer Khan's brilliance with the ball and a combined batting performance gave India a stunning victory in the second Test at Nottingham.
THE MAJESTIC KUMBLE
The surface at the Oval was superb for batting and the Indian batsmen made the most of it after Dravid won the toss and opted to bat first. To put things into perspective, every Indian batsman managed a double-digit score in the first innings and there were eight partnerships of 50 or more.
Karthik (91) and Jaffer (35) got India off to a decent start before Dravid (55) went on to score his first and only fifty of the series. The likes of Tendulkar (82), Ganguly (37) and Laxman (51) all contributed and India were 417 for 6 when Kumble walked out to bat. The visiting team had enough runs on the board but they needed a bit more to ensure England were completely shut out of the match.
Dhoni (92) was going ballistic at the other end and Kumble played his part by rotating the strike. The two added 91 runs for the seventh wicket and got India past the 500-run mark. In the process, Kumble got to his fifty, off 109 balls, playing second fiddle to Dhoni. England bowlers were tired and kept bowling half-volleys and wide balls and Kumble made the most of it.
The right-hander found decent support from Zaheer and RP Singh but was still 24 runs away from the landmark when India lost their ninth wicket. Coming in at No. 11, S Sreesanth however kept his cool and told Kumble "you deserve a hundred and I'll hang around. You don't worry." Kumble finally got to the landmark with an inside edge that flew through Matt Prior's legs to the fine-leg boundary. The entire Indian team and the crowd rose to their feet and celebrated Kumble's moment.
"We had a team meeting a couple of days back and I just mentioned that it's about time our batsmen scored a hundred in the series, but I never thought I'd have to do it (laughs). Jokingly, I mentioned it again at tea time when I was batting on 60, saying: 'Maybe it's my turn to go out there and get a hundred'," said Kumble.
Kumble got to his maiden Test hundred in his 118th match (151st innings). It's the most number of Tests any batsman has played to get to his first Test hundred. Earlier, Chaminda Vaas got his first Test century in his 97th match. This was also Kumble's first 50-plus score outside India.
India amassed 664 in the first innings and then bowled England out for 345, with Kumble picking up three wickets. The visiting side then slammed 180/6 (decl) in the second essay and set England a target of 500. The home team managed to survive the final day but couldn't get anywhere near the total. Kumble was named Player of the Match for his efforts.