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50 years of Wankhede: Looking back at some wonder games

Mumbai’s cricket hub has seen so many memorable games down the decades. HT selects a few for you

Mumbai’s ongoing Ranji Trophy final against Vidarbha is all the more special for the hosts Mumbai Cricket Association as it marks the golden jubilee year of the iconic Wankhede Stadium.

PREMIUM Wankhede has hosted many thrilling matches — the biggest in Indian cricket was the 2011 World Cup final triumph over Sri Lanka.

Located in Churchgate, the pitch is different from other Indian grounds. The red-soil track offers extra bounce and the sea breeze a hint of swing to help produce exciting cricket.

The story behind building the venue goes thus: MCA, then Bombay Cricket Association, used to host matches at the nearby Brabourne Stadium, owned by the Cricket Club of India. It wasn’t a smooth partnership and MCA built its own stadium after disputes with CCI over the allocation of match tickets.

Wankhede has hosted many thrilling matches — the biggest in Indian cricket was the 2011 World Cup final triumph over Sri Lanka. And the most emotional came two years later when Sachin Tendulkar walked into retirement after 200 Tests, and a moving speech. For heartbreak, it must surely be Kevin Pietersen’s sensational 186 and the Graeme Swann-Monty Panesar show that sank India in the 2012 Test.

Here is the HT list of five memorable games played at the Wankhede:

1979-80 Jubilee Test – India vs England

It is remembered as Ian Botham’s Test. In the best all-round performance seen at the ground, Botham scored a century and took 13 wickets to help England win the one-off Test by 10 wickets.

It is also remembered for the great sporting gesture by India skipper Gundappa Viswanath. At a crucial stage in the game, he recalled Bob Taylor after being adjudged caught behind off Kapil Dev. In reply to India’s first innings 242, England were in trouble but Taylor (43) ended up stitching a game-turning 171-run partnership with Botham (114) for the sixth wicket. From 58/5, England finished on 296.

Botham’s brilliant Test continued. After taking six wickets in the first innings, he ran through the Indian line-up in the second innings with 7/48. It was the greatest all-round performance in Test history till then. He became the first player to score a hundred and bag 10-plus wickets in the match.

India were bowled out for 149, leaving England to chase down an easy target of 98 without losing a wicket.

1991 Ranji Trophy final – Bombay vs Haryana

One of the unforgettable games at the Wankhede Stadium saw Kapil Dev’s Haryana pull off a sensational — and their only — Ranji Trophy triumph beating then Bombay. Who can forget the sight of Dilip Vengsarkar on his knees and in tears next to the square-leg umpire after his epic unbeaten 139 off 137 balls went in vain as Haryana snatched a two-run victory with just 14 deliveries remaining.

Other teams have caught up now, but beating Bombay at home in a Ranji Trophy final in that period was a challenge like none other in Indian cricket. Haryana accomplished the impossible. Bombay were the overwhelming favourites. They had Vengsarkar, Sachin Tendulkar, Lalchand Rajput and Chandrakant Pandit. Haryana’s hopes depended on the great Kapil Dev. They also had Ajay Jadeja and Chetan Sharma.

Opting to bat, Haryana posted a mammoth 522 thanks to Deepak Sharma’s 199. Scoreboard pressure told on the home team and conceded the first innings lead, dismissed for 410. Haryana then put on 242 in the second innings, leaving Bombay to get a stiff target of 355.

Reeling at 3/34. Two sessions, 321 runs to get, seven wickets in hand — a young Tendulkar brought the game alive with a stunningassault to smash 96 off 75 balls, with five sixes, in a 134-run partnership with Vengsarkar.

Vengsarkar stood strong but wickets kept falling at the other end. When last man, Abey Kuruvilla, a debutant, came to the crease, Bombay needed 50 more. Vengsarkar tilted the equation by hitting off-spinner Yogendra Bhandari for 26 runs in one over — 3 sixes and 2 fours. But needing three to win, it was heartbreak for the hosts when Kuruvilla was run out following a mix-up with Lalchand Rajput, who was the runner as Vengsarkar for suffering from cramp.

1996 World Cup — India vs Australia

The first Day-Night game played at the Wankhede Stadium ended in India’s defeat, but no home supporter was complaining at the end of it. The reason — Sachin Tendulkar.

At a packed stadium, Australia batted first and were powered by openers Mark Waugh and Mark Taylor’s 103-run partnership. They suffered a series of run outs to lose their way after Taylor fell, but Waugh completed a superb hundred (126) helping the Aussies post a total of 258.

India’s chase began in an electrifying atmosphere under lights. The crowds were silenced though by Damien Fleming’s three-wicket burst. He snared Ajay Jadeja for one, Vinod Kambli for a duck and skipper Mohammad Azharuddin for 10. Tendulkar, however, was unfazed. Starting his counter-attack with ferocious pull shots of Glenn McGrath, he spared no bowler. His battle with Shane Warne was a treat, the leg-spinner being the only bowler to hold his own against the Mumbai champion that day. Shane Lee went for 23 runs in his three overs, Michael Bevan for 28 runs his five overs and Steve Waugh for 22 in three.

Tendulkar though missed out on a hundred, and taking India to victory, after Mark Waugh, seeing Tendulkar charge out, slipped the ball wide to have him stumped. It was a rare game where the spectators walked away happy at the fight and fireworks of their Little Champion.

2011 World Cup final – India vs Sri Lanka

Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s winning six over long on at the Wankhede will remain imprinted in the memory of Indian cricket fans for years to come. The venue has hosted numerous high-profile games but none bigger than India’s defeat of Sri Lanka to become the first country to win the ODI World Cup on home soil. April 2, 2011, will thus hold a special place in the hearts of Indian cricket fans. The victory triggered a wave of celebrations across the country.

The drama started at the toss, which was done twice because the noise in the stadium rendered the first call by Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara inaudible. Sanga opted to bat after calling it correctly, and powered by Mahela Jayawardene’s sublime unbeaten 103, Sri Lanka put up a good total of 274. However, it proved the only hundred in the final in a losing cause.

India’s chase didn’t begin well as Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar fell to Lasith Malinga in succession. But Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli put on 83 for the third wicket to set the platform.

Once again showing his big-match temperament, Gambhir soaked in all the pressure and hit an invaluable 97 (122 balls). The most talked about move came when Dhoni walked went in to bat ahead of in-form Yuvraj Singh at No.5. The skipper vindicated his decision with an unbeaten 91 and the winning six. It was most special for Tendulkar, the victory helping the legend realise his dream of winning the World Cup.

2023 World Cup – Australia vs Afghanistan

The best innings of the tournament came at the iconic ground when Glenn Maxwell smashed an unbeaten 201 off 128 balls to single-handedly power eventual champions Australia to a dramatic three-wicket victory over Afghanistan.

Chasing 292, Australia looked down and out at 91/7. But battling cramp and exhaustion to the point that he was effectively batting on one leg for most of his knock, Maxwell produced a remarkable show of grit and courage.

Afghanistan missed their chance of killing the contest when they dropped Maxwell on 33. From there on, Maxwell transformed into a one-man army. The batter showed why the nickname of “Big Show” rests well on him by taking the bowlers to the cleaners with his 360-degree game. Among his 21 fours and 10 sixes plenty were reverse hits. Captain Pat Cummins was more a spectator in their 202-run unfinished partnership (170 balls), scoring 12 not out off 68 balls.

After a point, Maxwell was unable to move his feet due to cramp. After reaching his hundred, all he did was stand and smash the Afghanistan bowlers.

His epic innings was labelled as “probably the greatest” in one-day cricket by his skipper Cummins.


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