Neither Virender Sehwag nor Gautam Gambhir would have had an idea that this was the last time that they both were batting together in Test cricket. It proved to be an ultimate end to the most successful opening pair of India, who collectively amassed a total of 4412 runs in 87 innings, sharing the stage for a total of eight years i.e. from 2004 to 2012, till this series proved to be the final one for them together.
Gambhir was dropped from the Test squad soon after the completion of the series, Sehwag was retained but the next series against Australia proved to be the last one for him. He failed to score in the first two Test and thus was replaced with Shikhar Dhawan in the third Test match, who pounced upon the single opportunity by scoring an amazing 187 at the pace which Sehwag used to play.
The England series changed the composition of the Indian team, new openers were called in place of senior openers who were ousted from the team at that time, the stature of Vice-captain (ODI) Virat Kohli grew in the dressing room and new young guns started knocking doors of the team. One of them was Ajikya Rahane who had been out with Indian team for 17 Test matches before he finally made his Test debut at Feroz Shah Kotla against Australians in the final Test match of Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
Before this England series, India had defeated New Zealand in Test series in the month of August/September; this was a platform of revenge for Indian team who were whitewashed by England in England in the year 2011. That was the tour that brought Indian team on the floor, just four months after winning the World Cup. They lost the Test series, ODI series and T20 series as well. Indian team went with just hopes in their eyes and returned with nothing. Till now, the Indian team has just won one Test against England in nine Test matches played there in past 5 years.
So, following that defeat of 2011 series, it was a perfect platform for the Indian team to take revenge with England.
England arrived here on October 29 2012, for playing 4 Test matches and T20 series before taking a to and fro ride back to play the ODI’s as well. They were given 3 practice games before the commencement of the Test series, first against Suresh Raina led India A, second one against Surya Kumar Yadav-led Mumbai A squad and finally against Amit Mishra led Haryana side at Ahmadabad. England team had an upper hand in all the three games and had assimilated quite well in the practice games.
Chapter 1: A Poor Start For England –
(Sehwag & Gambhir sharing a laugh)
First Test, 15-19 November 2012, Ahmedabad
On a gloomy day in Ahmadabad where winters had just started, Indian team locked horns with the visiting party in the first Test match of the series. Nick Compton was handed the Test cap ahead of the Test, Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir started the proceedings for India with the bat. Both led a good base for the Indian team with the openers going back for lunch with a score of 120/0 on the scoreline.
(Pujara celebrates a ton)
Viru, as we know him scored 79 runs in the first session of the first day on just 66 deliveries. Gambhir played an innings eponymous to his surname as he consumed 103 deliveries to put up 37 runs for himself. The important thing was that both had shared a century partnership after a brief period of 2 years with last one coming at centurion in the year 2010. Team India had a right start on the first day of the play itself, Sehwag went on to a century before getting out to Swann. Later, Gambhir was also bowled by Swann on a personal score of 45. Pujara highlighted the Test match as the Saurashtra batsman who was playing second Test series after his comeback scored a double century to seal his place in the squad at least for rest of the series. Team India declared on a titanic score of 521/8.
Then came the revenge time when Indian spinners made England batsmen dance to their tunes. The England team cringed in front of Indian bowlers doing a total surrender on a score of 191. Pragyan Ojha scalped a fifer, Ashwin snared 3, Zaheer Khan and Umesh Yadav took a wicket a piece.
After being asked to follow on, England team showed some resistance in the second innings playing a total of 154.3 overs scoring 406 runs but the lead was quite minimal as India was asked to chase 77 runs in the second innings which they undoubtedly did easily. Pujara was awarded the man of the match award for his classic double-century in the first innings.
The Indian team had an effective start giving England the taste of their own bread. After the loss, instead of being broken from inside, England captain showed pragmatic behaviour pledging to go hard in the second test at Mumbai.
Chapter 2: Sense Of Rejuvenation For England –
Second Test, November 23-26, Wankhede Stadium Mumbai
(Anderson gets Gambhir early)
After posting a great win over England in the first Test match, a confident Indian team arrived Mumbai, the hometown of Sachin Tendulkar with a hope of walking on the same track i.e. winnings track. Unlike the first Test match, the Indian openers failed to provide a good start this time as Gambhir was trapped in front of stumps by Jimmy Anderson on the second ball of the day.
Indian team ended their innings with a score of 327 with Pujara again coming to rescue with a century behind his back.
Earlier, England team, after being crushed in the first Test match made a slight change in the squad bringing in Monty Panesar to exploit the conditions to its best. He didn’t disappoint taking a fifer in the first innings.
Indian team was confident on defending the first innings total as they had added an extra spinner in the squad Harbhajan Singh. Surprisingly, England team was uncontrollable on that and the following day, they went on to post a prodigious total of 413 taking a lead of 84 runs over India.
(Panesar & Swann celebrating England’s win)
Despite this, the home side was confident of tackling this lead but happened next will blow anybody’s mind. Indian team was trapped in its own spin net which they fancied for England. Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann tested the experienced Indian batsmen on a turner at Wankhede and packed their bags on a mere total of 142 which meant that England had to chase just 57 runs with still a day to go.
Without any delay, the England peers chased down the target at a run a ball pace without wasting any time, taking an extra day off from the duties. Despite taking 11 wickets in the game, Panesar was not given the honours of being Man of the match as Kevin Pietersen stole the show with the bat scoring 186 runs. This was the first loss for Indian team on home soil after a period of two and a half years with the last one coming against South Africa at the state where Wankhede is situated, Nagpur.
Chapter 3: England Take Lead, India Under Pressure
Third Test, 5-9 December, Kolkata
(Cook clips it towards on-side)
After leveling the series, both the teams turned their faces towards Eden Gardens in Kolkata, a pitch which is known to be slowest in India but surprisingly M.S. Dhoni dropped Harbhajan Sing in favour of Ishant Sharma. For the third consecutive time in the series, Gambhir was set to face the first ball of the Test match. This time, the Indian openers were getting to a good total before a miscommunication between Sehwag and Gambhir led to Sehwag sacrificing his wicket trying to get the third run which Gambhir deferred despite having a spot for it there.
Despite toiling for more than a day, it was the English bowlers who could be stated as the winners as Indian team could score just 316 runs. ‘Just’ term signifies the failure of the Indian team to exploit the home conditions, a thing which England did to its best in 2011 when India was there.
In reply, riding on a 190 from Alastair Cook, England team stamped a massive total of 523 runs on the board gaining a lead of 207 runs over India. This was the Test which Indian team had to save by hook or by crook as a loss in this meant that Indian team will be losing out on a chance of taking revenge from England, losing out this Test meant the end of the dominance of India even on home soil. Everything was at stake with giants like Gambhir and Sehwag taking on strike once again. An odd 80 runs partnership was just which they could contribute before the successors closed the doors on a score of 247 with Ashwin contributing 91* out of this total.
(Kevin Pietersen thanking crowd for the support)
Being asked to chase 41 runs on the final day, Ashwin and Ojha tried to churn out a sweet-drink from a pond which is full of stale fishes. England team was 3 down on a score of 8, hopes were still alive in the hearts of fan like me who were hoping for a miracle but Ian Bell rang the right numbers to post a second consecutive win over India. Though the pair of Ashwin-Ojha tried to look like England team is crumbling in the chase but they were never, it was just a hiccup which was cured after few jerks.
All hopes of winning the series were in cold storage now with pressure building upon Dhoni to answer the questions which were now unanswered. The respiratory system of Dhoni critics was back to normal, they were out of their graves criticising Dhoni. It was media pressure only which forced Dhoni to call it a day in Test cricket 2 years later or else in my opinion if there were no media in India, then Dhoni would have continued to play Test till 2023 or maybe beyond that.
Chapter 4: England Force A Draw, Win Series 2-1
Fourth Test, December 13-17 2012, Nagpur
(England camp celebrating the win)
This was the Test which was of paramount importance for Indian cricket team, winning it would have created some sense of rejuvenation but losing was like sprinkling salt on the most wounded part of the body. Making some important amendments in the squad, M.S. Dhoni brought in debutant Ravindra Jadeja and Piyush Chawla. It was the first time since the time of spin quartet when India was playing 4 spinners; though they did play 4 pacers at Perth on tour of Australia but spin, yes, it was for the first time since the spin quartet. Joe Root was also handed debut cap by Paul Collingwood before the start of the day.
For the first time in the series, it was the England openers who faced the first ball of the Test match. Indian bowlers were right on the money with a double blow in the first 11overs of the game with England two down on a score of 16, Trott and Pietersen then came to rescue sharing 84 runs for the third wicket. Debutant Joe Root showed his class on the debut scoring a half century in a tight situation helping England team to post 330 runs on the board. At once, it looked like England team will bow down under pressure but instead; they rebounded posting a good score on the board.
In reply, a denied Indian team batting line-up posted a score which was somewhat matching to that of England but still fell short by a margin of 4 runs. Just like young Joe Root, Virat Kohli also stood out for his team scoring a century in the ferocious situation.
Almost 290 overs were bowled in the game with 160 overs still to go. Looking at the conditions, there were no hopes that a result would be computed at that point of time. In a hope of looking to turn the tables in the final two days of the game, Indian bowlers started an unprecedented attack but England batsmen were all over it forcing Indian bowlers to toil the rest of the game.
(KP enjoying series win over India)
Despite getting an early breakthrough in terms of score, the Indian team was not able to get wickets in quick succession. With each passing over, the job of Indian bowlers was getting harder and harder with no signs of success in the near future. England team comfortably forced a draw and took away the series by a margin of 2-1.
It was one of the biggest upset faced by the Indian team, probably the second worst thing that happened to Indian cricket after an early ouster from World Cup 2007.
Indian team was thrashed in their own den; the lion looked like a wet cat that surprisingly ran away from the mouse.
What followed –
- It proved to be the last Test series in which Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag played together.
- Sehwag last appearance came in the year 2013 before he finally retired on 19 October 2015. Gautam Gambhir made a comeback in Indian team the following year but was dropped. He again made a comeback in 2016 and is now a member of the Indian team.
- Piyush Chawla is yet to play a Test match after that series.
- Virat Kohli raised to prominence post that series and became the permanent captain of Indian Test team in just a period of two years.
- India is yet to win a Test series against England.
- Ashwin became the spearhead of Indian spin department overtaking Ojha, who hasn’t played Test match from past 3 years.
- Joe Root also rose to prominence and is now on the list of one of the best batsman currently playing the game.
- Ajinkya Rahane finally made his debut in the Test series that followed against Australia.
- Murali Vijay became the permanent opener of the Indian team, a place which he still owns despite having many partners during this period.