From the start of the new millennium, India had started to master the art of winning Test matches away from home. But England remained an unconquered territory for 21 years with 1986 their last triumphant tour. However, the 2007 voyage of British Isle ended India’s thirst for victory as they won a series there after a gap of 21 years. A cliched term often used in the game states- ‘To win a Test you need to take 20 wickets’ and for the Indian team, under the leadership of Rahul Dravid, it was pace spearhead Zaheer Khan who led from the front.
4/59 (1st inn), TrentBridge, 2007
In the first innings, Zaheer took four wickets to skittle out England for 198. This was after India won the toss and opted to bowl. Making maximum use of conditions on offer, Zaheer dismissed opener Andrew Strauss and skipper Michael Vaughan early. The early blows were enough to rock the England batting order and they failed to recover from the initial setback. Towards the end of the innings, Zaheer came back to take two more wickets and complete the rout.
5/75 (2nd inn), Trent Bridge, 2007
Gritty knocks from five of India’s top-seven put India in command with a competitive score of 481 and a lead of 283 – Sachin Tendulkar top scored with 91. In reply, England resumed batting on the fag end of Day three. But on the fourth day, Zaheer started to get the ball do the talking. His first victim was Alastair Cook dismissed leg before for 23. From thereon Vaughan led England’s recovery and scored a fine 124. At 280/3 the match seemed like it was heading for a draw.
But Zaheer’s decision to bowl from round the wicket made the pitch turn the tide in India’s favour. The delivery that came into Vaughan got an inside edge and crashed on to his stumps. India had the much-needed breakthrough. Persisting with the angle, Zaheer scalped a well set Paul Collingwood and Ian Bell to put India on the cusp of a famous win. The last rites were completed by Kumble and others as Trent Bridge witnessed a dramatic England fall – Zaheer being the architect-in-chief. England was bowled out for 355 and India chased down a mere 73 runs with ease. This victory also meant that India had now won at least one Test in ten of their last 12 tours. Zaheer was deservedly adjudged as the Man of the Match.