Tail batting has been a crucial part of the longest format of the game and India’s recent exploits with the tail have been downright woeful. A couple of intermittent knocks from individuals have proven to be India’s messiah in the tough English conditions.
In the wake of Shardul Thakur’s blistering half-century yesterday, India was reminded how imperative of a role the tail can play in shaping up the destiny of a Test match.
We will take a quick glance at five eminent knocks from the Indian tail that saved or won the day for India in Test cricket.
#1 Washington Sundar and Shardul Thakur versus Australia at Brisbane, 2021
It was the series decider between India and Australia and the hosts were off to a blinder, thanks to a blistering knock from Marnus Labuschange. India was jolted to a rude awakening in the first innings as Shubman Gill fell early.
Pujara, Rahane, Rohit Sharma and Mayank Agarwal chimed in with handy cameos but none of them was solid enough to pose a serious threat to Australia’s menacing total. India wobbled at 186 for the loss of 6 when Thakur and Sundar joined forces.
The duo stitched together an incredible stand as they piled 123 runs for the seventh wicket, bringing India close to Australia’s monumental figures. Sundar managed 62 while Thakur smashed 67 and India amassed a total of 336 in the first innings in response to Australia’s 369.
#2 Mohammad Shami and Jasprit Bumrah versus England at Lord’s, 2021
Rohit Sharma’s 83, KL Rahul’s century, Mohammed Siraj’s blistering bowling and every other Indian heroics were pushed to the back burner as it was the partnership of Shami and Bumrah that completely changed the course of the game.
India piled a significant 364 in the first innings that were surpassed by England as they posted 391 in response.
Indian batting was off to a very shaky start and they were down to 209 for the loss of 8 with Shami and Bumrah at the crease. Things changed completely when Bumrah and Shami took the attack to the mighty English.
The duo batted exceptionally well to propel India to 298 without any further loss of wicket. Shami blasted a 56 while Bumrah scorched the English bowling with a decent 34. The rest they say is history.
#3 Ishant Sharma versus Australia at Mohali, 2010
Australia pounded India furiously in the opening innings as they garnered a scintillating 428 riding on the knocks of Shane Watson, Ricky Ponting, Tim Paine and Mitchell Johnson.
India fought back strongly as Sehwag, Dravid, Sachin and Raina pulled off a quartet of brilliant showdowns to stem Australia’s lead.
Despite Australia being off to an absolute blinder, Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma soon reeled them in and they were bundled out for 192 runs. Chasing a modest total of 216, India was in dire need of a saviour as they lost wickets at regular intervals.
Laxman kept on fighting at one end and then it was Ishant Sharma who managed to hold the other end of the fortress with a controlled and yet a heroic knock. He racked up crucial 31 runs from 92 balls and almost ushered India to the doorstep of a victory before Hilfenhaus trapped him in an LBW. After a couple of nervy moments, Ojha, the last man in and Laxman sealed the deal for India by a solitary wicket.
#4 Ajit Agarkar versus England at Lord’s, 2002
This was special from one of the most underrated all-rounders of Indian cricket. Ajit Agarkar hammered a few impeccable strokes to help India reach an emphatic 397 in the second innings despite the nation crumbling short by 170 runs.
India’s abysmal batting in the first innings confined them to 221 runs in front of England’s 487. Sehwag, Dravid and Laxman fought valiantly but it wasn’t enough to deny England a colossal lead.
The hosts managed to garner 301 runs in the second innings and left India a mammoth target of 568 to chase.
India started well but a middle-order collapse cost them dearly as they were left reeling at 6 for 170.
Ajit Agarkar took over the proceedings from there and carved a few exquisite strokes to keep India afloat in the face of destruction. He stayed unbeaten till the very end with an extraordinary century that saw him packing 109 runs.
#5 Ravichandran Ashwin versus Australia at Sydney, 2021
This wasn’t even human from Ashwin. It was an out-of-the-world effort from the off-spinner to save the day for India alongside Hanuma Vihari.
More importantly, the duo was injured and they were visibly in pain and yet managed to bat out almost 50 overs to keep India alive in the match and the series.
Chasing 407 in the final innings, India lost all hope when Pant was removed by Lyon. With almost 50 overs of play left and Jadeja unable to bat, India seemed desperate for a miracle.
A miracle never really happened but Ashwin and Vihari stood there in the middle until the day was called and kept India in the series which they would eventually go onto win in the last Test.
Ashwin managed to garner 39 runs from 128 balls while Vihari managed to gather 23 runs from 161 balls.