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.


Blogger Tifosi Guy said...


What you are forgetting while comparing the two tests though is the pitch ! The one in Oval ( if memory serves me right) was more responsive than this road they are playing on at the moment. That could eventually save India's bacon !

I don't see SL beating India on this pitch to be honest. It would take a monumental effort from Murali and monumental stupidity from India to lose.

3:39 PM  
Blogger Thiru Cumaran said...

I was thinking that they might accelerate a bit in the last session and give about 5 overs or so for India to negotiate b4 the end of day's play after getting a 200+ lead but the apparent 'go-slow' tactics made me realise what they were trying to do! :)

The pitch did turn a bit yesterday evening and the spinners did square up the batsmen once in a while, but I suppose the low frequency of it was due to their tiredness...but I just get the feeling that SL have the edge with the Indians bound to feel tired and the SL bowlers to feel really fresh after a break of nearly 2 days!

This tactic must have been the brainchild of Mahela....

8:41 PM  
Blogger Samir Chopra said...

TG: That Oval pitch was a dead one too. Not that much to distinguish it from this Motera track. The difference really will be in how India plays Murali (better than England did, for sure). A win will be difficult, yes, but the pressure will constantly be on India and it will take a long time before they feel safe.

CT: On a pitch like this one, there is no point in declaring that early; they might as well get as many runs as possible and hope to bat only once. The pity is that even though the pitch turned a little bit, India forgot how to attack.

9:30 PM  
Blogger Nathan said...

@ CT

Yeah, thats what I was expecting them to aim for as well, a nice 200 run lead, 5 overs to have a go at India, see if the nerves don't kick in. But then, two full days to play with and Sri Lanka batting last, I suppose time is a bit more on their side at the moment.

10:57 PM  
Blogger Subash said...

Samir, you rightfully pointed out that England got too cautious and played time while not focusing in getting runs. 1.5 RPO aint gonna cut it.

SL lost the plot by batting for too long to get the lead. Once they were 100+ ahead, needed to go at 5+ an over to have any chance of a win.

The key point in India's 2nd inning batting was that, on 4th day afternoon, they were still scoring faster than what SL did and we were the ones trying to "save" the game!

For all that Sanga is hyped to be, one thing he is not, is a tactician. Even for a wicket as flat as this, with no real turn or bounce, with 300+ lead, i would have fielders crowding the bat. You always have the option of spreading out if india get within a 100 too quickly, but he needed to do have a crowded field at least, for a whole session with murali bowling.

6:08 PM  
Blogger Soulberry said...

The fingers slipped though. I would have thought putting India into bat first thing on Day 4 (for India haven't handled the first session well except on the final day) and take their chances with two days.

India might have ended up setting a small target of 125-175, for India would have liked to do that instead of bat two days for a draw. Anything could have happened in the process...Indian batting could have collapsed trying to set a target...Lanka could have preyed on their patience. I felt Lanka missed a major trick there. Was it lack of confidence in their own abilities or an underestimation of Indian batsmen on their own ground...I don't know which...but one of them or both perhaps dominated the Sri Lankan captain's mind when he made those decisions he did.

9:46 PM  
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8:39 AM  
Blogger Samir Chopra said...

Subash: I didn't have as much of a problem with the timing of SL's declaration. But I think they failed badly to take advantage of the huge lead (as you point out, Sanga kind of fell down on the job).

SB: Definitely a slip-up on SL's part. If you've used up time batting, you must attack, if necessary extravagantly, to use the lead. They just didn't. And I'm not sure what they were worried about - there was no way they would lose!

11:29 AM  

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