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Chennai Test provides lift for India

Phil Long | 07:01 UK time, Thursday, 18 December 2008

The train journey north from the venue of the first Test in Chennai to Chandigarh always promised to be a long, long trip but, after England's last-day defeat it provided time for contemplation of the mixed emotions stirred by India's incredible win.

With my faded England polo shirt on I was gutted that the team had thrown away an opportunity to achieve arguably their most surprising away Test victory since Graham Gooch's men beat the mighty West Indies in Jamaica in 1990.

But with my Indian travelling flip-flops and cricket lover's hat on, it was a pleasure and a privilege to have witnessed a game that had everything that a Test could contain and, coming when it did, providing a small but timely fillip to the whole of India.

Before the match, talk of the presidential levels of security surrounding the game was the main topic for most travelling fans and it was with a certain amount of trepidation that we approached the ground on the first morning.

We needn't have worried though as the checking of tickets, searching of belongings, frisking of supporters and storing of bags was thorough and even handed and thankfully without some of the utterly ridiculous and inconsistent rules employed at other Indian Test and one-day international venues.sachincelebrate438.jpg

With an excellent view, and a cracking array of South Indian delicacies inside and outside the ground, the 200 rupees (£2.75) a day invested by the England fans determined to come out to India and support the team provided fantastic value even before the Test match itself had begun.

Virender Sehwag's knock on day four was brilliant but it will be the final day that will live longest in the memory of those there.

As the day progressed, and each run required by India was chalked off, the stands steadily and surely filled up - and the decibel level emanating from all corners of the ground increased.

By the time Sachin Tendulkar and Yuvraj Singh embarked on their match-winning partnership there was little point attempting to talk to anyone other than the person next to you and the level of noise was cranked up even further as India approached their target with Tendulkar 90-odd not out.

By that stage, both the Indian majority and small England minority of about 150 fans, were urging him on towards his 41st Test hundred.

When the Little Master was on strike in the 90s there was an ear-splitting roar of anticipation before each ball but when Yuvraj faced the bowling, he was implored not to score a boundary and deny his partner the chance to reach three figures.

The fact that the sweep for four not only brought up his century but also sealed India's historic victory was almost too much for the stadium itself and much of the concrete seating was noticably shaking and vibrating as pandemonium ensued.

Later, as the Tamil Nadu Express trundled northwards from Chennai to Delhi those of us perched in Sleeper Class had a chance to chew over the 'forgotten' aspects of the Test.

Andrew Strauss's two centuries, Graeme Swann's two wickets in his first Test over and Paul Collingwood's fighting century (does he score any other type?), KP's double failure with the bat, Monty's bowling, Steve Harmison's inability to perform in Tests away from England and the West Indies and whether or not Ian Bell uses hair straighteners were all discussed at length to help pass the time.

No, I'm not making that last subject up - 34 hours is an awfully long time on a train!


  • Comment number 1.

    Colly seems to specialise in producing centuries in a losing cause! First Adelaide, then Edgbaston this year v South Africa, and now Chennai. All matches England could and should have won.

  • Comment number 2.

    Thanks Phil!
    An entertaining blog as always.
    KP is good captain when we are winning. Looks worse than average when things start to go other way!
    Give chance to Cook. And quickly.

  • Comment number 3.


  • Comment number 4.

    Great blog Phil!!
    Although I agree with your comment that 'Virender Sehwag's knock on day four was brilliant but it will be the final day that will live longest in the memory of those there' , I have my own reason for it.
    Over the past few years I was beginning to agree with the belief that none of Tendulkar's 40 centuries in test cricket came when India had little chance of winning or in the 4th innings to save a test for India.
    About a decade ago India came close to winning on this very ground against Pakistan. Sachin's wicket at 136 got him the man of the match but cost India the match by 12 runs.
    This century, In my humble opinion, is his best ever and even though it has come at the twilight of his career, it makes me a little embarassed for ever thinking the way I did about the little master.

  • Comment number 5.

    I'd rather ask 'manucastle' why he's made a judgement on KP's captaincy on the basis of 2 tests.

    That's like saying Bradman was all at sea and shouldn't play tests when he got a duck. (and even he got a couple)

  • Comment number 6.

    That was a lovely article Phil. Not only from the cricket perspective, but to talk of Indian food and Indian rail travel makes me feel like running off to India for the next Test at least! Thanks mate for your all round outlook. Just talking cricket would have been a bit boring but to mix it with food and travel makes it worthwhile reading your articles!

  • Comment number 7.

    I thought KP was too defensive on the final day. He needed to take wickets. It was pointless trying to defend 250 runs on the final day. What was the point bowling with fielders in the deep? Tendulkar and Yuraj scored the runs without taking any risks. I thought he should have been bowling with just a Fine Leg and maybe a Cover-point in the deep and made the batsman go over the top. The odd ball was keeping low or kicking up from a length and it might have induced mistakes.
    Anyway when you think Ponting or even Dhoni, they would have bowled with more attacking fields. I hope KP learns the lesson. Fantastic advert for the 5-day game.

  • Comment number 8.

    great blog phil.

  • Comment number 9.

    Great blog Phil... maybe you should've expanded a bit on the Soth Indian delicacies on offer! Which dishes appealed most to you?

  • Comment number 10.

    Nice post, Phil, but the link you provided to Tamilnadu Express seems somewhat out of date. I haven't seen a "double diesel engine" train on one of the main routes (Delhi-Chennai, Mumbai-Kolkata etc) for at least a decade now.
    Keep up the good work!

  • Comment number 11.

    I think its difficult to criticise KP after only a few games. I wonder if the same criticism has been levelled at Ponting after their recent defeat in India???? England fans must realise that we are playing a cracking team that has the potential to replace the Australians at number 1 in the world rankings in the not too distant future. My concern for England is that without Freddie the bowling looks pretty woeful. Anderson and Harmison are far too inconsistent, Broad is still developing and Panesar looks completely one dimensional with little or no variation in flight or pace which makes him easy to milk for the Indian batsman. Swann has done OK but lets face it he isnt going to bowl sides out is he? Batting wise I think we will be OK but I bet Owais Shah is wondering what he has to do to get into the side. Anyone remember his England debut on the last tour??

  • Comment number 12.

    where are you Phil? I have looked for you in the stands as I want to buy you cup of chai for you're great blogs, but I cant find you. Are you in the pavillion or maybe not at the cricket.

    How can you write a blog if you not at the cricket? From clown-man.

  • Comment number 13.

    Phil, this is good stuff. What superb writing!


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