This is not about James Bond. There is little I can add to cricket connections of James Bond or Ian Fleming after Arunabha Sengupta’s wonderful piece. While the movies are not filled with references (there are exceptions: for example, Bond compares Hugo Drax to Jack Hobbs in Moonraker), but the blockbuster movies on the most iconic spy in fiction typically stay away from the greatest sport ever created. America is not the greatest market for cricket, you see.
Of course, the books never shy away from cricket. It was only expected, for cricket ran in the Fleming blood. Ian’s nephew Matthew Fleming led Kent and played ODIs for England: why do you think The Spy Who Loved Me mentions Kent County Cricket Ground otherwise?
Oh, and Matthew’s great-grandfather Charles Leslie played Test cricket as well, while Charles’s son John played for Oxford. Interestingly, The Spy Who Loved Me featured Derek Mallaby, who played cricket for Oxford as well. There may be a connection there as well.
But this is not about James Bond. This is not about the Malden Wanderers cricketer called James A Bond, either. Neither is this about Ian Douglas Keith Fleming, a Demerara-born who played 5 matches for Kent (again Kent?) in the mid-1930s.
This is not even about Ashish Nehra, the ageless wonder from Delhi who has been around since time immortal, steaming in with new ball in hand for India. Nehra-ji (it is blasphemous to refer to him without the ‘ji’ these days) is India’s newfound cult hero, a man who does not seem to lose pace, energy, or fervour. Legends have retired, governments have fallen and countries have been created, but Nehra-ji has outlasted them all.
No, this is about a dismissal, in a cold, wet morning in Hamilton. The Test is a much-remembered one. India had lost the first Test at Wellington by 10 wickets. The pitch was so green that Daniel Vettori did not get a single over. Shane Bond, Daryl Tuffey, and Jacob Oram ran rolled India over for 161 and 121, while Mark Richardson batted for almost seven hours for a gritty 89.
Hamilton was no different. Things became worse when rain washed out Day One in entirety and a reasonable part of the second day. Tuffey scythed through India with a lethal spell: he conceded a run off the 40th ball he bowled, and at one stage his figures read 7.5-6-5-4. India, after being 40 for 5, had somehow reached 92 for 8 at stumps.
What they will tell you
India were bowled out for 99, Bond and Tuffey taking 4 wickets apiece. A superb response came from Zaheer Khan, whose 5 for 29 helped India skittle out New Zealand for 94 later in the day. It was the first time in history that both first innings in a Test ended in two-digit scores.
Tuffey and Oram then bowled out India for 154. India had reached 57 for 2 at one stage, Rahul Dravid scoring 39 and Sachin Tendulkar 32. Virender Sehwag blasted an 18-ball 25 from No. 7, but that was it. No, Vettori did not bowl here as well.
When New Zealand came out in pursuit of 160, it was only the second time in history that all four innings featured in a single day’s play. Richardson made sure nothing went wrong that evening, and though Nehra reduced New Zealand to 105 for 5, Oram and wicketkeeper Robbie Hart ensured a 4-wicket victory.
What they will not tell you
The moment came earlier on Day Three, the day when records tumbled. India resumed the day on 92 for 8, as mentioned above. Nehra stole a single before Parthiv Patel edged Oram to Hart. Tinu Yohannan walked out to join Nehra, and kept out the two remaining balls.
Bond charged in. He had already claimed 3 for 33 including Sehwag and VVS Laxman. What chance did Nehra (yet to become Nehra-ji) have?
But since this was Nehra, not everything went as per expectation. He casually tonked Bond into the stands over square-leg, just like that. Nehra moved on to 7 off 3 balls.
A fuming Bond went up to his mark. The next ball was pitched on off. To his credit, Nehra brought his bat down as fast as he could, but the ball took the outside edge; and Stephen Fleming took a low, tumbling catch to his left at first slip.
And as Nehra walked back, the scorecard (if we assume three-digit entries, of course), read
NEHRA c FLEMING b BOND 007
And cricket paid the perfect homage to a legend. It was only obvious that at some point of time Nehra would go on to become Nehra-ji.
India 99 (Shane Bond 4 for 39, Daryl Tuffey 4 for 12) and 154 (Daryl Tuffey 4 for 41, Jacob Oram 4 for 41) lost to New Zealand 94 (Zaheer Khan 5 for 29) and 160 for 6 (Ashish Nehra 3 for 34) by 6 wickets.
Man of the Match: Daryl Tuffey.