The Last Redemption of Udal

The equation at the start of play was simple. India needed 295 runs to win the Third and final Test of the series against England at the Wankhede Stadium in Mohali, whlst the tourists required nine wickets to level the series. Four days of attritional contest were set to give way to a fifth.

Anil Kumble, on the night watch, fell early – pinned in front of the stumps by Matthew Hoggard – and was soon followed by Wasim Jaffer as the irrepressible Andrew Flintoff homed in on the opening batsman’s pads. England’s captain saw two loud LBW shouts turned down before Simon Taufel sent Jaffer on his way for a painstaking 10, constructed over almost one and a half hours’ occupation of the crease.

The loss of Jaffer brought Sachin Tendulkar to the middle, joining Rahul Dravid and forming a partnership that battled throughout the remainder of the morning session. Tendulkar started hesitantly, snicking Flintoff through the vacant third slip and squeezing the same bowler inches over his own head, but as Monty Panesar first overpitched and then fell short, India’s most experienced batsman began to offer more shots.

Four and one third days of attritional cricket were set to give way to a final two thirds – and then Dravid fell. Flintoff’s third ball of the afternoon bounced, seamed and kissed the outside edge of the Indian captain’s bat on its way through to Geraint Jones. Six balls later, Tendulkar pushed forward to an off-break from Shaun Udal that spun into the right-hander, flicking the inside of his bat and skidding off his front pad into the hands of Ian Bell at short leg. All of a sudden, India were five men down .

Inside the next fourteen overs, five became ten as Udal – who began this match with 3 Test wickets at an average of over 90 – sliced through the lower order. Neither Mahendra Dhoni, Harbhajan Singh nor Munaf Patel seemed to have the slightest desire to save the game – all three perishing to skied catches in the outfield.

Dhoni’s dismissal was doubly irresponsible, as he had been missed two balls before in identical fashion as mid-off Panesar completely misjudged the flight of the ball, caught in two minds over whether to attempt the catch or defer to mid-on James Anderson, before eventually seein the ball skew onto the turf a handful of metres between the tow fielders. Given a chance to reprieve himself two balls later however, the left arm spinner made no mistake.

In between Udal’s four man haul, Anderson accounted for a beleagured Virender Sehwag, whose 16-ball stay yielded nothing beyond aggravation for the back strain that kept him from the field the day before, and Flintoff induced an outside edge from Yuvraj Singh that flew to Paul Collingwood at third slip.

When Munaf’s smear found Matthew Hoggard at long leg, the home side had been skittled for a round 100, their innings concluding only three balls beyond forty overs of the final day. Udal had 4 for 14, Flintoff 3 for 14 and England a 212-run triumph – their first victory in India since Neil Foster’s 11 wickets at Madras, more than 21 years ago.

The two sides meet up once again in six days’ time for the first of seven One Day Internationals in Delhi. England play one warm-up match inbetween times, at Jaipur this Saturday, but with a side battered by the losses of Michael Vaughan, Marcus Trescothick, Simon Jones, Ashley Giles, Steve Harmison and Alastair Cook, even defeat in the shorter form is unlikely to take the sheen from a Test series draw that feels like a victory.

England 400
Andrew Strauss 128, Owais Shah 88
Shanthakumaran Sreesanth 4-70, Harbhajan Singh 3-89

India 279
Mahendra Dhoni 64, Rahul Dravid 52
James Anderson 4-40, Matthew Hoggard 2-54

England 191
Andrew Flintoff 50, Owais Shah 38
Anil Kumble 4-49, Harbhajan Singh 2-40

India 100
Sachin Tendulkar 34, Yuvraj Singh 12
Shaun Udal 4-14, Andrew Flintoff 3-14

England won by 212 runs

Cricket Web Player of the Match
Andrew Flintoff – 50, 50, 1-68 and 3-14

Cricket Web Player of the Series
Andrew Flintoff – 264 runs and 11 wickets

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