Saturday, March 18, 2006

A tale of two tests

Two test matches around the globe offering contrasting tales. In one, a pretender to the throne shows it is not ready for the big-time, and in another, a champion whose decline has been eagerly talked up by hopefuls, shows its not ready to go just yet. India, with a 1-0 lead, and a won toss, handed the advantage back to England, and Australia, coming off a shock defeat in one-day cricket that was supposed to traumatize them, handed out a seven-wicket thumping to South Africa.

I'm still a little stunned by India's decision to have bowled first, and its not clear I'm going to be able to say anything coherent in this post. But let me try. First, I'd have thought the team would have been waiting for an opportunity to win the toss and bat first in this series so that a) runs could be put on the board to put England's batting under some real pressure and b) the weakness against Kumble, shown up well in Mohali, could be exploited again in the fourth innings (yes, I know Patel took seven but I'd rather back the experience of Kumble in this setting). Anyway, enough muttering about tosses. Lets hand out some praise to the men who took advantage of batting first: Strauss and Shah. I only saw the pre-lunch session, whatever I saw convinced me that India was in trouble. Both looked solid; check out Strauss's wagon wheel to see his strengths square of the wicket; and Shah's confidence suggested a man playing in his 20th test, not his first. Had it not been for the late pickup of two wickets in the last session, India could have been flogged even worse (Shah's retirement helped as well).

I fear for India tomorrow. I suspect that the moment India's bowlers have been dreading all series long is finally here: the Freddie Flintoff Blastoff Special. The stands at the Wankhede might take a beating, the folks in the cheap seats will have fun throwing the ball back to the fielders, and whatever happens after that, it will not be India going for a win. Prove me wrong, please.

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