Virat Kohli (left) and Mohammed Shami have their work cut out, but there is a precedent they could follow: the Hamilton Test 2002-03 (File photo)
Eighteen wickets need to fall on the last day of the World Test Championship (WTC) final for India to win (unless there is a declaration). Former players V.V.S. Laxman and Craig McMillan, who are commentating on the match, might remember the Hamilton Test of 2002-3 between the two nations, when 22 wickets fell in a day.
Laxman and McMillian played that match. So did their illustrious teammates such as Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Stephen Fleming and man of the match Daryl Tuffey, the seamer who was tricky to play on a devilish pitch. Such were the green surfaces prepared for the two-Test shootout that respected left-arm spinner Daniel Vettori did not bowl a single delivery in the entire series.
Among the several curiosities and ironies of the contest was that India were then coached by a New Zealander, John Wright.
The Hamilton Test was as affected by rain as the WTC final. There, too, the first day was washed out. The second saw some play, and India emerged from the hail of bullets with 92 for 8.
Then came day three, when 22 wickets would fall. India’s first innings ended at 99, although not before a six from Ashish Nehra. Then New Zealand collapsed for 94, Zaheer Khan taking five for 29.
This marked the first time in Test history that both teams scored less than 100 runs in their first innings. And it was the first time that a team scoring less than 100 runs took a first innings lead. Truth is stranger than expert predictions.
More was to happen on the day. India were bowled out for 154.
New Zealand had to get 160 to win, which they did with four wickets in hand, thanks to Fleming’s 32 and a late-order partnership between Jacob Oram and Robbie Hart.
“Good-bye to New Zealand and its green tops, seaming pitches, and awkward bounce. Good-bye to Daryl Tuffey too. I am sure that most Indian batsmen have recurring nightmares of facing the tall, burly fast bowler,” Erapalli Prasanna wrote on espncricinfo.com.
In 1976, Prasanna’s 8 for 76 in the second innings had helped India win the first Test against New Zealand in Auckland.
It’s not goodbye to Southampton yet. And the Ageas Bowl, too, is offering the bowlers movement and bounce. Even Virat Kohli was hit on the helmet by a Tim Southee delivery that rose like a pole vaulter. But going into the final day, things are more evenly poised than in Hamilton, when New Zealand had a clear target. India are ahead by 32 with eight wickets in hand. And Kohli is at the crease.
The weather forecast for the last day is favourable. Finally, the World Test Championship is living up to its hype. Indian fans would like to see a heap of wickets, just like in Hamilton, but with a different result. In the meantime, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma & Co. could take a look at what Zaheer and Tuffey did right in Hamilton, when, not far from the Waikato River, the ball did its fire dance.