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When India Lost An Opportunity in West Indies

On 31st March 1997, India had a great chance of winning an away test match but what happened next was a brilliant bowling performance.

ST
Last updated: 31.03.2019
West Indies team celebrating

Till early 2000, Indian test team was a very poor traveller with hardly any success in countries like Australia, South Africa, and West Indies. On 31st March 1997, India got a brilliant opportunity of winning a test match in Barbados.

As a captain, it was the first test match for Brian Lara and he was keen to make a mark. In the first innings, West Indies scored 298 thanks to the maiden test century by Shivnarine Chanderpaul. He was slowly becoming a dependable middle-order batsman for West Indies along with Lara and Hooper. For India, their pace spearhead Javagal Srinath was out due to injury and Venkatesh Prasad led the pack and got five wickets in the first innings. India replied strongly with 92 from the captain Sachin Tendulkar and 78 from Rahul Dravid. With India on 273 losing only four wickets, a lead around 100 was very much possible. But West Indian bowling trio Ambrose, bishop, and Rose ran through the Indian lower order and they were all out for 319 with a lead of just 21.

In the second innings, the tall Mumbai fast bowler Abey Kuruvilla registered his only international five-wicket haul. Lara scored a useful 45 and Ambrose and Dillon added vital 33 runs in the last wicket. Despite good bowling throughout the innings, Indian bowlers again failed to close the innings and West Indies reached 140. Still, the target for India to win their first test match in West Indies since 1976 was just 120 runs away and they had more than two days to get these runs. The only concern was the pitch at Bridgetown which was becoming more and more difficult to bat with every passing minute with irregular bounce and cracks.

On 31st March, India started the 4th day with 2 runs on the board and openers VVS Laxman and Navjot Singh Sidhu batting. Sidhu was first to go as a Franklyn Rose delivery bounced awkwardly from the good length and got the shoulder of his bat to get caught at slips. Dravid nicked one to the keeper with India at 16/2 in the 13th over.  Laxman played some streaky shots to reach 19 but was Rose’ third victim when he was bowled with India on 32/3.

From there, the senior bowlers Ambrose and Bishop took over. Tendulkar was pouched by his opposite Lara for four. Both Ganguly and Azhar were bowled by Ambrose on unusually low deliveries. With lower order providing minimum support, India were all out for just 81, their seventh lowest score then. Ambrose and Bishop took three and four wickets respectively and gave West Indies a win from jaws of defeat. For India, it was a shocking loss and great chance missed. Their wait for the elusive overseas test match extended till 2001.

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