Sunday, November 21, 2010

Nagpur night coming up

After a sub-par performance in the first two tests, India seem set to move into a winning position in the third test. Plenty of things can still go wrong of course: SRT and Dravid could dawdle even more than they did yesterday, and some quick wickets could make India's 300-run lead into a 200-run one. Which would then be followed by yet another Kiwi batting bonanza, facilitated by more blunt bowling from India's spinners. But all of that seems unlikely (even my spinning that out sounded a bit stretched). India should win this. What is of more interest to me is how they will do it. Dhoni insists that playing test cricket is about "taking care of the basics so that the results will follow". We'll soon see if India's "basics" include knocking out a doughty opponent quickly now that they have them on the ropes.

Incidentally, I don't suppose it has escaped anyone's attention that Tendulkar will be looking to score his 50th test century when play resumes "tonight". It's a mind-boggling statistic, and while I look forward to it, I will have to turn down the volume if it happens because I don't think I will be able to handle the hagiographic gushing emanating from the commentators.

Labels: , , , , ,

Sunday, November 14, 2010

How appropriately fourth-day

This has been an interestingly old-fashioned test in terms of scoring rates. New Zealand made 258 on the first day; the two teams combined for 270 runs on the second; and then, on the third, India made their own 258. Wickets too, have fallen in old-fashioned fashion: test cricket likes its first innings to be completed by the third day so that things can get nicely cooking on the fourth and fifth day. In keeping with that, India are batting with just one wicket left, striving to push this rather unlikely 86 run lead into the ever-more respectable territory (as of now, it is up to 101, which is handy, even while not as threatening as the one that looked possible when Sehwag and Gambhir had put on 160 for the first wicket).

Much depends now, on whether India are capable of taking 10 Kiwi wickets quickly and cheaply enough to give themselves a chance of winning. In my mind, that equation works out to: don't take more than 100 overs to dismiss New Zealand. The numbers work out then. A significant postponement beyond that will make the run-chase a bit more of a stretch.

Meanwhile, what about Harbhajan Singh the batsman? Already the highest run-getter in this series, he is on 99, looking for his second ton. And he's done it with a quick single, followed up by a typically flamboyant celebration and a hug-laden encounter with Sreesanth. An almost perfect 10th wicket partnership.

Labels: , , , , ,

Sunday, November 07, 2010

The Kiwi is a dangerous bird

No shit Sherlock.

And so it has come to pass, that India are struggling for survival against a team that they were supposed to have crushed 3-0. Now, I don't suppose anyone in the team (or even the media) really believed that margin would be the correct one. Indian pitches aren't very result-friendly; the Indian bowling, all too often, goes on a holiday (as does the batting); and the New Zealanders, somehow, always manage to punch above their weight.

But at 296-1 on the first day, with Sehwag at 173*, one might have been pardoned for thinking that things were going according to plan. India would get 600, and win by an innings (or perhaps 300 runs if they had to bat again). All would be well. Instead, the first hint of what was to come was India's subsequent "slide" to 487, a sub-par score given their start (especially when one considers that it took a 69 by a No. 8 to get them there).

When the Kiwis batted, 27-2, and 137-4 might have been intimations of the match's supposed pre-written script. But a debutant centurion, and a prodigal son (one who must thank his stars that his country plays test cricket against India) had other ideas. When the New Zealand innings ended, Indian spectators were in the curious position of having been exposed to the third consecutive test on home soil this season that has followed the "dead-heat with high scores in the first innings" template.

Part of this template unfortunately includes a batting collapse by the team batting first. In the series against Australia, it had been the Aussies going in first. Now, it was India, and the collapse duly followed.

The template has been preserved to an uncanny degree: VVS Laxman is still there, heading into yet another fifth day and fourth innings, with the tail to keep him company. Harbhajan has the chance to make up for his undistinguished bowling with yet another scrappy performance with the bat. India will have to consume at least 45 overs tomorrow if they are to survive, and even that might not be enough, given that in McCullum, Taylor and Ryder, New Zealand have three dangerous batsmen, capable of stepping up the pace if needed for a victory chase.

No matter what happens tomorrow, this will have been a very good test. It will teach self-styled pundits some modesty (hopefully); calling draws too early is never a good idea, and neither is writing off a team. Well done New Zealand.

Labels: , , , ,