Today is 20th October , a day on which in 1978 one of the greatest ever cricketers and batsman to have played for India, Virender Sehwag was born. Sehwag started off and also made his test debut vs South Africa as a middleorder player scoring a 100 on debut. It was the vision of the then captain Saurav Ganguly in an effort to find a spot for Sehwag in a strong batting lineup , to subsequently play him as an opener in tests against all odds with surely some whispering murmurs going around in the same team about the viability of having Sehwag ,with such a high risk swashbuckling batting style as an opener. That move catapulted Viru to greatness as he reeled off many a dazzling big hundreds ,with some of those attaining such greatness in strokeplay and strike rate that it was impossible to replicate them by any other Indian batting great during his era or beyond. Thus as we wish Sehwag a very happy birthday we go down memory lane to reflect on his astonishing 319 vs South Africa at Chennai in 1st test of 2008 series.
319 v South Africa at Chennai 2008 : Sehwag had just made his Indian comeback in the Australian test series having played a classic 151 to save the last test at Adelaide, which again gave him the confidence to perform big in test cricket. While the purist consider his 201 notout at Galle on a difficult pitch as one of his greatest knocks in a low scoring match, none could match the audacious strokeplay of his dazzling 319 at Chennai vs the Proteas. South Africa batted 1st and played for nearly 2 days piling up 540 with hundred from Amla and sizeable contributions from rest. After fielding for 2 days in extreme oppressive heat of Chennai , Sehwag batted towards the later stages of 2nd day and already showed indications of things to come with a rapid unbeaten 51. On the 3rd day of the test ,the cricket world witnessed one of the greatest masterpieces of that era in terms of stroke playing excellence. The only aspect that worked in Sehwag’s favour was the flat batting deck. Otherwise he had to fight the oppressive heat and a high quality South African bowling attack having Steyn, Morkel, Ntini ,Kallis and left arm spin of Paul Harris all of whom have taken 1500 test wickets between them when they finished their careers. Runs were flowing with his signature cuts , coverdrives and slashes. The Proteas were bowling with an array of slips and fed Sehwag outside off with the hope of finding an edge as the Steyns were trying to find a way to intoxicate Sehwag but he was unstoppable with his screaming offside shots. The bowlers then tried the short stuff on his ribs which were promptly placed in vacant areas and few were even flicked and pulled disdainfully to the fence. Harris tried to intoxicate Sehwag with his spin but they were promptly deposited in the crowd on into the fence. It was a chanceless innings and an awesome display of high quality breathtaking strokeplay all round the stadium which had the capacity crowd onto its feet . Chennai witnessed audacious strokeplay , scarcely seen on cricket field against a bowling attack of 140 kph plus velocity by four legends of South African attack . 42 fours and 5 sixes facing 304 balls with his triple coming in 278 balls !! After batting for 10 minutes short of 9 hours ,Sehwag was finally dismissed by Ntini as he snicked a catch to Neil McKenzie in slips off a slash. The whole stadium was first in stunned silence and then broke into a rapturous standing ovation as Sehwag ,with his face crimson red by now after his long stay on the field for 4 days in extreme heat showing immense stamina, made his way to the dressing room after a great partnership with Rahul Dravid (111) with India now 481/2 just barely 60 runs behind South Africa. That 400 to surpass Lara was not to be but Chennai had just witnessed a batting masterclass.
319 remained his highest test score definitely the best ever test innings played by an Indian in terms of stroke playing excellence against a top quality fast bowling attack.