Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Flashback! : The Triumph of 2006


That was the  last time the Indian Women's Team played a test match.

They played two actually. At Leicester and Taunton.

Against England. A team who had just blanked them in the ODI series 4-0.

But they had some history by their side. The last time they played a test against England in England, Mithali Raj scored an unbeaten 214, then a world record.

More records would be broken. More history would be made.

Mostly, by Jhulan Goswami.



The first test played there seemed destined to end in a draw. As a Cricinfo report at the end of the second day said "this test has got bore-draw written all over it."

India managed a lead of 75 in the first innings, only for Claire Taylor to wipe it out, stroking 115 in her second dig. England led by 270, with just under a day left for India to bat out.

India had batted laboriously in the first innings. The pitch was slow. It didn't seem too much of an ask, until India lost three of the top four for ducks. At 74-6, India seemed to have gifted England a series lead. Then all-rounders Amita Sharma and Rumeli Dhar banished all such thoughts with fighting half centuries. Along with Jhulan goswami, India's pace trio would combine to cause England much grief with both ball and  bat.(Jhulan Goswami had scored 69 in the first innigs, after a surprise promotion to bat at no. 3)

England 0, India 0.



2006 was the year that Taunton, venue for the second test, was christened the Home of Women's Cricket in England.

Jhulan Goswami certainly felt at home there.

India batted first and used two wicketkeepers to open the innings (although only Karuna Jain later donned the gloves.) The wicketkeepers gave India a watchful start. 38 runs and a blunt new ball later, Sulakshana Naik fell. Two runs later, so did Jain. 40-2. Suddenly not such a watchful start.


Anjum Chopra and Jhulan Goswami had been team mates at Air India since Jhulan was a wayward teenage  tearaway. They were two of the handful of women cricketers who Air India offered permanent jobs, and combined to script many a victory for Air India against arch rivals Railways. So it seemed fitting that Anjum  shine with the bat in this match, even if her showing was to be eclipsed by Jhulan's with the ball. Anjum Chopra made 98, agonisingly short of a richly deserved century. By the time she was dismissed, India had recovered from being 40-2 and eventually crossed the psychological barrier of 300.


The pitch was not a bowler's paradise. In India's 1st innings, Isa Guha bowled more than 40 overs. In England's second innings, Nooshin Al Khadeer  bowled 37 overs. Preedi dimri and Amita Sharma bowled 61 overs between them. It was that kind of pitch. Which is exactly why Jhulan Goswami's 1st innings figures of 13-4-33-5 were incredible.

To say she sliced through the top order is not an exaggeration. She allowed none of the top three to reach double figures. She came back to pick up the resilient Edwards, who batted low due to illness. To get a measure of the quality of her wickets we need no highlights or eye witness accounts. We only need to read the scorecard. LBW, caught behind and bowled. Beaten, edged, and knocked over. Classic fast bowlers wickets. And she was bowling fast.

At the other end, Amita Sharma and Rumeli Dhar were doing what they did best : swinging it. Each picked up a pair of wickets, again either LBW or caught behind, and the Indian fast bolwers cartel had nine wickets between them. England were blanked out for 99 in 51 overs. For the first time ever against India, England followed on.


Somewhere out there, I imagine,  is a benevolent spirit who watches in admiration over every record that is broken in cricket. The Indian Women had just summoned it. And perhaps it lingered on, having heard that Indians  are such good hosts, and I further imagine it would not have been disappointed.


In the 1st test at Leicester, Laura Newton and Claire Taylor had scored more than 200 runs between them. But at Taunton, with England following on, they were both gone. England were 34-2, still 173 runs away from an innings defeat. The Indian girls may have thought they had a foot in the door of victory. The England captain Charlotte Edwards had other ideas.

She combined with Caroline Atkins to almost shut India out of the match, with a mammoth 178 run partnership, Edwards reaching her century in the last over of the third day. They tired the Indian attack, who were toiling desperately to create history. They batted out the rest of the day, even defying the second new ball. England needed to survive day four to save the test, and had eight wickets in hand.


c Chopra b Goswami

A familiar sight on the Indian Domestic circuit. Usually at first slip for Air India, Anjum Chopra had arguably the best view of India's fastest bowler (besides maybe the batsmen ) in the  days before the BCCI took over. She was perfectly positioned to accept and edges that Jhulan's late movement drew, lest they elude the 'keeper.

Anjum's 98 runs had set up this match and given the bowlers a total to bowl at. And Jhulan's fifer had brought them this close. It seemed fitting that India's hope  be renewed on the fourth morning by Anjum taking the catch when Jhulan dismissed Edwards, after adding only five runs to her overnight score.

Edwards c Chopra b Goswami

Amita Sharma proved once again to be the perfect foil by removing Atkins, and the rest followed after some resistance, Nooshin Al Khadeer's persistent off spin claimed three well set middle order scalps, and Jhulan returned to haunt the tail.

Her 2nd innings figures read 36-21-45-5

Match figures of 49.2-25-78-10


Its hard to keep Mithali Raj out of any game involving India. Opposition teams would love to do that. Indian teams would probably love it even more, but on only a handful of occasions has the team prevented the onus from falling on Mithali. Even more rarely has she failed to deliver.

The 2nd test was India's for the taking. The target was 98. Everyone knew England had scored just 99 in their 1st innings. Anything was possible. It was a 4th day pitch. It was last innings of the Test. It was the last innings of the series. England were giving it everything. They had absolutely nothing to lose.

The experiment of opening the innings with Rumeli Dhar had failed. But the two wicketkeepers again proved useful. Runs were scored, some confident, some nervous. Suddenly, three wickets fell within three runs of one another. But Mithali Raj was still at the crease.

She scored 22 not out. Little more than one third of her 1st innings score of 65. But three times more important. India reached 98 for the loss of 5 wickets.

India won.

In 2006.

The Spirit of breaking records departed from Taunton as a thoroughly satisfied guest.


The author was neither present nor has she spoken to anyone involved in these events. The above piece has been produced purely on the basis of scorecards and reports of those times.  Any accusations of national bias and rose tinted admiration for Jhulan Goswami are altogether accurate.