Virender Sehwag over 100 tests has given Indian fans plenty to talk about. Whether he’s hitting the ball to all corners of the field with disdain or getting out attempting an audacious shot, the Delhi batsman has never provided Indian fans or test cricket with a dull moment while at the crease. Playing his hundredth test match in Mumbai today, we look back at some of the best innings by the butcher of Najafgarh.
147 against West Indies in Mumbai (2002)
His third Test century. Sehwag began carefully at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai, but soon found his rhythm and the West Indies bowlers had no answers as he cut and drove at will. In all he struck 23 fours and 3 sixes, and in another sign of things to come, when from 96 to 100 with a boundary (this time a four). His strike-rate was 71.06, sedate by his eventual standards, but it was a harbinger of things to come. Sehwag, the opener, had arrived.
195 against Australia in Melbourne (2003)
A shell-shocked Australia did not know where to turn as Sehwag took charge on the opening day of the third Test at the MCG. Brett Lee, Nathan Brackan and Stuart MacGill all suffered as Sehwag unveiled his range of audacious strokes, in particular, the cut over the slips. The pick of his shots, according to ESPNcricinfo was “a soaring six off Stuart MacGill’s second ball of the day, played inside-out over extra cover with a free and easy swing of the bat”. Twenty-five fours and five sixes were the final tally before he holed out trying to get from 195 to 200 with one blow. India may have lost the match, but Sehwag won the hearts of everyone who witnessed his innings.
309 against Pakistan in Multan (2004)
The first Test triple-century by an India batsman and fittingly it came against the old enemy. On a flat track in Multan, Sehwag galloped to the then fastest double-hundred on sub-continental soil on the first day. His 150 came from as many balls and the 200 from 222. There was no let up on the next day either. He went past VVS Laxman’s 281 with viscous square cut (one ball after being dropped) and then smashed Saqlain Mushtaq over the mid-wicket boundary to go past 300. In all, he struck 39 fours and six sixes and set-up a memorable win for India.
254 against Pakistan in Lahore (2006)
Pakistan had racked up the small matter of 679 f0r 7 declared when Sehwag and Rahul Dravid took guard. They would not be separated for the next 410 runs; Dravid’s contribution was 128. Sehwag continued his love affair with Pakistan’s bowling. His knock came at better than a run-a-ball, and required less than five-and-a-half hours. Surprisingly, it contained just one six, but there was plenty of destruction none-the-less. Aside from Shoaib Akhtar, every other Pakistan bowler went at 5 an over or worse, with poor Danish Kaneria being spanked for 69 runs from his 10 overs.
180 against the West Indies in St. Lucia (2006)
This was Sehwag’s only century over the course of 14 Tests but what an innings it was. If he was not piercing the field on the offside, he was going over it on the legside as he raced to 99 from 75 balls in the morning session, falling just one run short of being only the fifth player to make a century before lunch in the first session of a Test. One over from Dwayne Bravo in particular exemplified the innings: a six over long-off to bring up his 50, a four past backward point, another four down to long on and finally a wonderful straight six over long to end the over.
319 against South Africa in Chennai (2008)
Mickey Arthur, the then South African coach, called it the best Test-match innings he had ever seen. “I didn’t think in my wildest dreams they would score at such a rate,” Arthur said. “Again that’s only due to one man.” It was the fastest triple century in terms of balls faced and the highest score by an Indian. Rahul Dravid, who was at the other end, told ESPNcricinfo that “it was phenomenal, simply exceptional batting.” It lasted 10 minutes shy of nine hours, took 304 balls (a strike-rate of 104.93) and contained 42 fours and five sixes. Sehwag also became just the third batsmen after Brian Lara and Sir Don Bradman to make two Test triple-hundreds.
83 against England in Chennai (2008)
In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on Mumbai in November that year, Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar gave India a reason to smile again. India needed to score 387 to win as the fourth innings began. That they got there was because of the start Sehwag gave them. In the first five overs alone, he crushed seven fours and a six, an upper-cut over third man, now one of this trademark shots. By the time Graeme Swann had Sehwag lbw, he and Gautam Gambhir had added 117 in 22 overs and England never recovered. Sixty-eight of Sehwag’s 83 runs came in boundaries (11 fours and 4 sixes).
293 against Sri Lanka in Mumbai (2010)
There was nowhere to hide for Muttiah Muralitharan and company at the Brabourne Stadium. Sehwag looked like a man among boys and even the great Sri Lanka offspinner wilted in the face of his onslaught. This was a man at the height of his powers, reverse-sweeping Muralitharan like he was a net bowler. The records he broke include the most double-centuries by an Indian, the second-highest scorer of 250-plus scores, and the most runs by an Indian in a day. His first hundred came off 103 deliveries; the second from just 65. In all, he made 284 runs from 239 balls on day three, striking 40 fours and seven sixes. It was as brutal an innings as one will ever see.
173 against New Zealand in Ahmedabad (2010)
This was the final century in Sehwag’s purple of purple patches, a stretch where he made seven hundreds in 12 Tests and was out on 99 once. He opened his account by driving Chris Martin through the covers, patiently took two runs from the third ball of the over, then slashed two more fours through point. That set the tone for the rest of the innings and it took a knee injury to slow him down and finally derail him. It was Sehwag’s 14th score of over 150 in Tests.
117 against England in Ahmedabad (2012)
Two years without a Test hundred had tongues wagging about how much Sehwag had left in the tank. His eventual riposte was to put England to the sword on the opening day of the series, setting them on their heels and giving India the momentum from the first session. Only Swann was able to contain the India opener, whose 117 came at a run-a-ball, as Sehwag did what he pleased with the bowling.