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March 16, 2001

Justin LangerPostcards from Langer
Thursday March 15, 2001

One of the Greatest Ever Test Matches

It is uncanny that on the morning of day two of this historic Eden Gardens test match, Coach John Buchanan addressed the team by saying this could be on of the greatest test matches we will ever play. How he came to the prediction is questionable, but whatever prompted his foresight after ninety overs of day one, he was right on the money.

Losing is never easy, especially when you are used to winning, but on this occasion we were beaten by a very determined Indian team who were quite obviously out to prove their critics wrong. After the first test match in Mumbai, the fickle press corps tore the Indian team to shreds, blaming the captain, the inept batsmen and the poor bowling depth. From our viewpoint, this was positive on the surface because the criticism could have destroyed any confidence or unity within our opposition ranks. Unfortunately, the barrage seemed to act as a motivating factor for the likes of Ganguly, Laxman, Dravid, Tendulkar and Singh, who had a look in their eyes of conviction in what they were trying to achieve.

After the Steve Waugh led fight-back in our first innings and the awesome display by our bowlers on day two, every person following this match throughout the world would have expected another easy Australian victory. India was following on, we had everything to play for, and the momentum of the game was flowing our way. Enter VVS Laxman who played the innings of a lifetime and Rahul Dravid, who is always a fighter of high quality. Suddenly, a seventeenth straight Aussie victory was looking less likely, with the odds tilting towards a draw by the end of day five.

"The crowd had swelled with every wicket, as the patriotic Indian supporters, all 100,000 of them, started shouting and screaming with the intensity of a raging inferno. Never have I heard a roar like this"

By lunch today, those odds were leaning even heavier towards that draw, with ten wickets in hand and sixty overs to face on a pitch starting to turn more by the minute. When Slats was out, the Indians, both on and off the ground, started sensing a sniff of victory. That sense heightened when I was out sweeping and Mark Waugh was out without troubling the scorers. What we were hoping would singe out to a tame draw after tea, was a little more tense when the second break came in the afternoon. With Matty Hayden looking in total control and our master-batting captain at the crease the atmosphere within the changing room was a little tense but controlled and confident.

Regardless of the score at tea, the climate outside the changing room was electric. The crowd had swelled with every wicket, as the patriotic Indian supporters, all 100,000 of them, started shouting and screaming with the intensity of a raging inferno. Never have I heard a roar like this. For five days the crowd has boomed to over eighty thousand a day. Now with the climax of the test reaching it's pinnacle, the final session was sure to be entertaining no matter what the result.

Sachin Tendulkar If the noise was loud when the player's re-entered the arena, imagine the passion and force of the masses when 'Tugga' was caught at leg slip off the confident Harbhajan Singh. It was like being on a surfboard at the base of a tidal wave! The tension in the air was suffocating as Ricky Ponting and Adam Gilchrist left the ground without scoring. Still the in-form Matt Hayden stood firm. That was until the enigmatic Sachin Tendulkar trapped him in front of the wickets. Out lbw for another superb 60 odd runs. It was almost as if Sachin hadn't played a part with the bat so he owed it to the crowd and his teammates to have an influence with the ball. Such is the nature of the player. As the wickets continued to fall, our aspirations of staying one nil up in this series were faltering. India was that tidal wave that we have become so used to over the last sixteen test matches. This time though, we were on the surfboard about to be smashed into the hard sand of reality. The reality that says cricket is never to be taken for granted.

When Glenn McGrath was given out padding up to Singh, India rejoiced a monumental and well-deserved victory. Standing on the outfield was overwhelming as the thousands of Indian supporters lit newspapers and waved them victoriously in the air. This series, which looked to be ours in a canter only two days ago, is now building up to be the greatest fight of our cricket lives. The challenge is immense and although we went down today, sixteen out of seventeen test matches is something we are intensely proud.

This has been as hard and draining a five days as I have experienced.

From Calcutta


Wednesday March 14, 2001

Laxman & Dravid at Eden Gardens

VVS Laxman A full day in the field without a single wicket is rare, especially in a test match. Jimmy Adams and Brian Lara achieved a similar feat against us in 1999 at Sabina Park, to rescue West Indies cricket from what seemed like a forgone disaster. Having been bowled for forty-four to lose the first test in Trinidad only days before, Jimmy and Brian called on reserves of courage and determination to save their cricket-loving countries from the depths of despair.

Similarly, VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid batted like gladiators here at Eden Gardens to have the home side in a position of strength at the end of day four. Having been in the field for over two and a half days, you can be sure my feet and legs are aching like no-ones business. In the heat and humidity of Calcutta's home of cricket, it has been a very, very tough day at the office.

"Walking onto the ground this morning Ricky tapped me on the shoulder, smiled and said 'hey Lang, how good a feeling is it walking onto the ground with a hundred under your belt."

Walking onto the ground this morning Ricky tapped me on the shoulder, smiled and said 'hey Lang, how good a feeling is it walking onto the ground with a hundred under your belt.' Neither of us could have imagined that tomorrow morning Laxman be walking onto the ground with a double century beaming down at him from the scoreboard. His innings has been as good an accomplishment as you could ever wish to witness (that is unless you have been in the field chasing his leather!). His timing has been as precise as a Rolex watch and his stamina and temperament in extreme conditions, compares to Pat Farmer (Australia's hero ultra, ultra marathon runner.) He has had an answer to everything we have thrown at him, placing the ball to all parts of the ground with an air of grace and elegance.

At the other end, Rahul Dravid exorcised a few demons against us, playing a magnificent array of drives and cut shots. Where he has often struggled against the mastery of Warney, he today looked at ease against our champion leg spinner, using his feet and taking up the challenge. Contributing one hundred and fifty runs to this colossal partnership, Dravid has played the perfect Jimmy Adams style role to VVS.

The highlight of my day, besides the unbelievably vocal crowd, was my first over in test cricket. Bowling the last six balls of the day was a buzz to say the least. It would be fair to say that I rate as one of the worst bowler's playing the game, so Steve Waugh was obviously scraping the barrel for ideas when he threw me the ball. Although my over conceded three singles, I am thrilled to now be in the statistic charts for bowling in a test match. No one can ever take that away. If anyone has a remedy for sore and aching feet, after what seems like an Hawaiian marathon at Eden Gardens, I will be happy for the advice.

Tomorrow is going to be a tough day, on a pitch starting to turn and jump like a spitting cobra. That is what test cricket is all about and I am looking forward to the challenge.

From Calcutta



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