Friday, November 27, 2009

The century of wins

India have now won 100 tests. Check out this Statsguru report showing the 100. Play with it a bit; there are some interesting numbers in there. Some are revelatory, some are humbling. One interesting stat for now: India have won 57 tests since SRT made his debut in 1989.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Sreesanth turns the screw

Well, this is the second time in a few years that I've gotten up in the morning to find out that Sreesanth has bowled India to a match-winning position. The Kanpur pitch suddenly doesn't look like a road, does it? 13 wickets on the third day, after 2 on the first and 9 on the second. And wonder of wonders, we actually have an enforced follow-on on our hands.

Those early wickets by Sreesanth in the morning made the rest of the day into a classic struggle against a big scoreboard in which the batsmen eventually came out distinctly second-best. Sri Lanka's second innings, and the Jayawardene runout, showed that the pressure has built up to very uncomfortable, and indeed unbearable, levels.

Cliches about prodigal sons aside, this return by Sreesanth is very impressive. He hadn't earned his selection but he sure has earned a spot in the eleven by this performance.

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Monday, November 23, 2009

India v. Sri Lanka, Second Test kicks off

Right. So, Ishant Sharma and Mishra are the victims of the call for bowler's heads to roll. Ojha and Sreesanth are the lucky entrants. I won't pretend to be too knowledgeable about Ojha's recent form but as far as Sreesanth goes, he's lucky to be in there. Not that I mind excessively; Sharma has been as blunt as a roadside barber's razor for a while. But Mishra's dropping is painful. He bowled on a dead pitch and his captain didn't know how to set fields for him. Not a very good way to groom a young leggie. But hopefully the Gavaskar-Shastri combine in the comms box will be pleased with this particular pound of flesh.

Sri Lanka have dumped a quick (Prasad) and brought in Mendis. Three spinners is a lot, even in India, and in a strange way, its an acknowledgment of the first test mistake and a selection forced by injury

India win the toss and bat. Here we go, with a single off the first ball.

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Walking: What is it good for?

Old wine in a new bottle. A modified version (one concentrating on the ethics of walking alone) of an older piece David Coady and I wrote is available in Res Publica, a publication of the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics (at Melbourne University).

The older piece alluded to above is titled "Not Cricket", and was published in Sport in Society, Volume 10, Number 5, September 2007. That entire special issue, titled "At the Boundaries of Cricket", is worth checking out.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Sri Lanka's fingers on India's throat

Is this test match between Sri Lanka and India a boring one? Not at all. What we are witnessing is that quintessential test match tactic: strangling your opposition (or cooking them over a slow fire, take your pick of the appropriately purple expression). Sri Lanka are now 165 runs ahead with two days to play. They have the world's best offspinner in their side, and a captain desperate to get his country's first win in India. And they also know how to pull off a win like this. They did it against England in 1998 after all.

In that Oval test, England made 445 batting first (and took 158 overs to do it). Sri Lanka replied with 591 (and took 156 overs about it). Late on the fourth day, England resumed and got stuck. They took 129 overs to make 181 and succumbed by ten wickets late on the fifth day. Murali took sixteen wickets in the match, including nine in the second innings (Stewart was run out). England made two big mistakes: they didn't make enough in the first innings (445 was about 100 short of safety) and in the second innings they were far too cautious. India have already committed the first of these errors (and they have already conceded a bigger lead than England did).

There the similarities should stop. India should, and will, play Murali better. They will not be as cautious as England were (admittedly, that's not saying much). But facing a lead of 250 on the fourth day of a test is never a comfortable experience. It won't be for the Indian team.

This match has been cooked up nicely. It could still turn into a draw, but it will take some battling. Sri Lanka's decision to leave out Mendis could look worse by the time the game is over.

A familiar sight

A winter's late afternoon. Indian bowlers, wheeling away, over after over. Touring batsmen, grinding away. The field, spread out. Lazy throws back to the wicketkeeper. I think I'll go back to bed.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

India versus Sri Lanka (late 2nd day)

From the comments section of the last post (written in anticipation of the 2nd day's play):
The Indian score as it stands now, could easily turn into a 430 all out
And Sri Lanka have done well so far at 236-3 as play heads into the last half-hour.

This is always a tricky little session of play and the key for the bowling side is to prevent it being a routine playing out of time. The fact that the spinners are on should prevent that from happening, though honestly the fields for neither bowler look particularly aggressive (come to think of it, Harbhajan going round the wicket doesn't strike me as an attacking move). But credit where it's due: Sarmaweera and Jayawardene could have had something to do with the way things are playing out right now.

Time for the morning coffee.

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Monday, November 16, 2009

The Wall: Solid, yet not immobile

Rahul Dravid's 177* yesterday will surely rank as one of his best, from an external and internal perspective both. Its not often that a side can finish the day at 385-6 after being 32-4 at one stage. Three batsmen made it possible but Dravid's innings was the most significant. Even more important was the fact that the fightback was not centered around mere wicket preservation; runs were scored too. Dravid and Dhoni scored centuries at a strike rate of 70, which means four runs an over (4.2 if you want to be precise). (I missed most of the day's play but am able to catch up now with the stored replay and highlights; thanks be to the wonders of streaming broadband video). I'd wondered whether Dravid was finished in all forms of cricket; on the evidence of this innings, he most emphatically is not.

When you can have days like this, test cricket will do well. Interestingly, while the morning crowd was not gigantic in numbers, it was loud enough to frame the action appropriately. Watching cricketers in white playing with classical test cricket fields was a reassuring sight, and a good reminder of why I prefer this form of cricket the most: it just looks and feels better, dammit!

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

A big day

November 15th: six years cigarette-free, 20 years of SRT in test cricket, my dad's birthday. A pretty big day, don't you think?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Serendip to the rescue

Sri Lanka's tour of India is off to a very soggy start. Two days play washed out and it's not clear there will be any play on the third. Thus, the Lankan lads are looking at going into the first test, which starts on the 16th, without any match practice. Two factors combine to make this not into a terribly big deal: tour matches don't seem to have the importance they used to (not in the kind of international calendar we have these days) and the Sri Lankan team is visiting from, well, Sri Lanka, and not England (conditions won't be so terribly unfamiliar to them). They will back their spinners to cause discomfort to the Indians (despite Mendis' decipherment, I'd be very surprised if he is not played with due respect), and they have the bats to exploit the conditions.

Yet, despite this fit with local circumstances, which has also existed in tours previously, Sri Lanka have not won a test in India. This is a rather strange business. The problem, of course, is that they are playing India in the same conditions, which fact suddenly dispels some of the strangeness of this particular achievement. But it does add a little spice to the proceedings, already enlivened by Sangakkara's channeling of the 'final frontier' in his pre-tour interviews.

For their part, the home side is up to it's usual tricks of over-inflated squads with curious selections (Sreesanth, really?) and dubious scheduling decisions (I'd much prefer if tests were only allocated to the big five of Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Kolkata and Chennai). Now that Dhoni has lost some of his aura (despite this year's loss of aura in one-day internationals, it will, willy-nilly, infect perceptions of him in test cricket as well), his moves might be watched just a little more closely.

I, for one, am intrigued. My personal battle with the timezones lies ahead.

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