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Dec 31, 2008

Indian Cricket in 2008: A review (Part 2)

In the second part of the series, we review India's performances in the second half of the year.

Asia Cup

India were pitted against Hong Kong and Pakistan in their group. India won both their games easily and defeated Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in the Super Fours to set up a final clash against Sri Lanka. In the finals, Sri Lanka unleashed on India their newest mystery spinner Ajantha Mendis - he had been rested in the previous game - and the Indians were clueless against him as Mendis ran through the Indians to pick up 6/13 and complete a crushing victory. India hadn't seen the last of him though.

India in Sri Lanka

This was one of the few Test series which was dominated largely by one man - Ajantha Mendis. With his unpickable varities of googlies, flippers, leg breaks and 'carrom balls', the famed Indian batsmen were clueless against Mendis, who went on to take a record-breaking 26 wickets in his debut series. Virender Sehwag was more succesful against him due to his aggressive approach but he could only win his side one Test match as India went down 2-1. The series will also go down in history as the first one to implement the umpire-referral system where in a player could challenge the on-field umpire's decision if he felt hard done by it. The jury is still not out on that system yet.

India put the Test loss behind them and won the 5 match ODI series 3-2 after having lost the first game.

Australia in India

India were hurting after their loss in Australia earlier in the year and the series provided the perfect platform to avenge the defeat. Sick and tired of the controversy surrounding his selection, Sourav 'Dada' Ganguly declared he would be retiring after the Australia series.

The tourists arrived in India with two inexperienced spinners. 36-year old Bryce McGain had to return home due to a shoulder injury while off-spinner Jason Krejza was thrashed in a warm-up game, which prevented Ponting from using him until the final Test.

In the first Test, Australia had India on the mat but a wonderful rearguard effort from Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan proved to be the difference. MS Dhoni, the stand-in captain in the second Test, didn't lose his Midas touch as India won quite convincingly at Mohali. It was the same Test in which Sachin Tendulkar broke Brian Lara's record and went past 12000 Test runs.

Anil Kumble aggravated his injury in the drawn third Test and announced his retirement after the game. Dhoni maintained his 100 percent record as captain in Nagpur where Krejza picked up 12 wickets on debut but still ended up on the losing side. Nagpur was also host to one of the most bizarre periods of play. India were in a spot of bother in their second innings but instead of going for the kill, captain Ricky Ponting opted to go in with part timers to make up for the slow over rate. The partnership proved to be telling as Australia fell 172 runs short and lost the series 0-2. India went from strength to strength but the misery for Australia wasn't over just yet as they lost their first home series in 16 years, going down to the Proteas.

England in India

England would have never imagined that they would be so comprehensively outplayed when they arrived in India. After being dismissed for a measly 98 against Mumbai in a warm-up game, England failed to recover. Yuvraj Singh single handedly destroyed their attack in the first two ODIs and even though the victory margins became less embarrassing as the series progressed, England never really looked like they would win a game.

But the unfortunate terror attacks in Mumbai meant that the last two ODIs were put off with India leading 5-0.

England would have not tarnished their reputation had they not returned for the Test series. But they did, and with a full-strength squad despite reports that some of the leading players might be opting out.

Twin centuries from Andrew Strauss could not save England in the first Test as India scripted the most memorable of victories. Virender Sehwag's blitzkrieg of an innings, Gautam Gambhir's 64, a brilliantly compiled century from Sachin Tendulkar and Yuvraj Singh's mature 85 helped India chase a mammoth 387 at the Chepauk.

The second Test couldn't match the first in terms of excitement but it will be remembered for a gutsy and dogged innings from Rahul Dravid. Dravid had struggled to even make it to double figures in the recent past but silenced his critics with a typically patient innings.

India in 2008

Tests Played: 15 Won: 6 Lost: 4 Drawn: 5

ODIs Played: 29 Won: 19 Lost: 8 No Result: 2

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