Coming of age…

Apparently the match was evenly poised with India’s noses slightly ahead at the end of day two, however, day three was something no one expected. Everyone thought the match was going to be a close one and with lots of ups and downs. Day three though was a day when India went up and South Africa went down.

Philander and Duplesis had forged a partnership that ensured India did not lead by too many, the first over of the day started badly for India with Ishant not fully warmed up and gave away a couple of boundaries and it seemed like South Africa might get away if Indian’s let up their intensity, however, Zak was on the money and Ishant got his lines right and South Africa were soon dismissed. It was also heartening to see Steyn getting some lifters and being rapped on the fingers. Morkel not getting behind the line and Philander too struck on his fingers. So many times has India had to face this and it was good to see it being dished out back.

Whilst India led by 36, there were still murmurs of dismissing India cheaply keeping a chase around 200, India though had completely other ideas.

This is a new India it seems, they do not want to flash and show talent or go for that boundary. This team was ready to buckle in, patient, determined, skillful and harsh on only the lose stuff. They respected the good balls, did play and miss on a few occasions but by and large did not play loose shots and kept a big prize on their wicket. South Africa had to get them out, Shikhar Dhawan might have been disappointed with his dismissal in the first innings, but in the second he can take heart that he was picked by a very good piece of bowling and that he did not throw it away. The ball before he got out was the one that made him play that ball and got him out.

Vijay and Pujara together gritted it out, however, you were wondering if just staying in and not scoring too many might mean the game goes no where. Aided by the unfortunate injury to Morne Morkel though they found that South Africa’s back up bowling after Steyn and Philander was just not going to be able to trouble. Kallis at 38 can maybe deliver 5-7 good overs. Vijay was unfortunate to fall the way he did, he missed out on a golden chance to bat whilst the bowlers were tiring and the sun was out.

However, Pujara knows nothing else but how to bat and bat and bat. This guy has some tremendous appetite for batting and in many ways reminds me of England Captain Cook, nothing seems to affect him nor too bothered, he just bats and bats and bats. After tea the way he cashed in and made sure his hard work earlier paid plenty of dividends was wonderful to watch. Kohli on the other hand was again calm and reassuring, any Indian fan who was worried about the loss of the legends might have breathed a sigh of relief.

Indian Batting Order's no3 and no4 prove their worth in their first challenge.

Indian Batting Order’s no3 and no4 prove their worth in their first challenge.

In the end it was good, proper, basic Test match cricket that India played better in the three days gone by. The batsman have applied themselves and tried to stay in and score of loose deliveries without doing anything flash or trying to do anything extraordinary. The bowlers have tried to bowl in the right areas with good intensity and not allowed too many pressure free moments. The fact that India have 3 proper seam bowlers is something we have not always had, plus the fact that Bhuvaneshwar and Umesh Yadav sit on the benches is also a heartening fact.

South Africa have been left with many questions really, frankly none of their top order batsman can claim they looked comfortable in their stay on the wicket, not even Smith who got a shaky 68. Infact Philander looked like the best batsman in this innings by a distance, he too was aided by a tiring bowling attack on day 2. Their bigger worry though might be their bowling, I was wondering why they never tried to give a bouncer work over to Kohli and Pujara? I thought they did not test the Indian batsmen enough in this area. Their lines and their lengths in my opinion can be still a little more closer to the wicket. India gave away a few straight drives and cover drives but I think that is what also got them wickets.

India must also thank the sun for coming out when they batted, whether it was the sun or their superior batting we can only find out if South Africa get to bat in the sun and they are still bundled out. All said and done the match has shifted completely in India’s favour by some wonderfully determined proper Test Cricket by our boys.

They can feel proud about how they have played so far and keep up the intensity as there is a Test Match to be won here.

Photo’s Courtesy ESPNCRICINFO

Evenly poised

End of day two and this Test Match keeps see sawing from one end to another. Whilst the first day the honour’s were shared the first two sessions on day two went to SA. The last session though was a total ripper, as India found inspiration in the old ball and 5 wickets were taken for 16 at one stage. However, tiring bowlers and a softer ball combined with some grit shown by Philander South Africa might want to think they escaped from a big lead. India will rue the missed chances. Smith caught at 19 would have made matters very very different. South Africa would still like to add a few runs, they have to bat last and just because of that India can consider their noses a little ahead.

At the start of the second day, I felt India could have maybe look for runs alongside defence. The problem with being cautious is that if you get out the game has just not moved ahead. India will have to find a way of mixing aggression with caution and also look for runs, singles are also runs by the way. Dropping the ball and scampering like mad is one option, brings the field in closer and then the boundaries follow. Also pressure doesn’t rise and the game keeps moving forward.

The Indian bowling performance will give a lot of heart to MS, he has an attack that can take 20 wickets in these conditions, whilst I expect Zaheer’s performance to imporove, I am sure he will be happy with the way Ishant and Shami bowled. Also in hindsight perhaps its better to play Yadav or Bhuvi in place of Ashwin. Whilst Yadav could give pace and bounce yet could be erratic, Bhuvi will not just move the ball around but also give Dhoni a lot of control. Unless something drastic is done by Ashwin bowling wise in the 2nd innings, I guess we must field a 4 pronged pace attack in Durban.

South African batting order will have a lot of questions, apparently Kallis has been short of runs for a while now and all of them were caught at the crease, talking of Indian batsmen not coming forward, so far actually Indian’s have shown a better technique. Indian’s will have to find ways to score a few more runs though.

Day three normally tells you the way this Test is headed, however, I suspect this one will go down to the wire and keep Yoyo-ing till the end.

Not for nothing do they call Test Cricket, Real Cricket. I can never understand or comprehend such riveting, see-sawing battles ever in a T-20 or an ODI!!

Thumping about in England

Frankly no one could see this coming could they? No I am trying my damnest hardest to try and not over bat these 4 ODI victories in the Champions trophy but I can’t help it. Its a world stage, the best teams are here and so far whatever has been flung at our team frankly only a few of the members have actually squashed it. The fact that Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni who were expected to shoulder the major burden if India were to get anywhere in this tournament have not had to actually break much sweat is in itself a pretty big achievement eh?!

 

I don’t know how long will Shikhar Dhawan’s fairy tale last, but the one thing I have noticed and I maybe wrong is players like Dhawan who have had to beat around the domestic circuit for a few years and have waited their opportunities, a similarity can be drawn to Micheal Hussey from Australia or even a Hayden who were groomed as Aussie players but then had to wait for their opportunities and play the domestic circuit for a while grab their opportunity when they get it like no end. We all know how Hayden made his comeback and the way Hussey reeled of runs you couldn’t believe that they had these guys out for so long of the Aussie team. Atleast in the Aussie case they were steam rolling their oppositions any which ways and so you could still justify it. But in the case of Dhawan it tells me and I hope it tells the selectors as much that from time to time you must fling the opportunity to untried players. I just hope Dhawan keeps his feet grounded and works hard on his batting and keeps getting runs. This is still early days and bowlers will try to sort him out, but whilst this fairy tale is going on and he is batting like a BOMB god save the opposition bowlers.

 

The final will be a big test, the pitches will aid swing and if its cloudy, the English attack is perhaps the best to exploit it and hence we will get to see another challenge flung Dhawan and India’s way.

 

The other most pleasing thing in this tournament has been how Bhuvaneshwar Kumar has bowled. 4 matches and he has got 4 openers in his first spell including India’s biggest nemesis in recent times Naseer Jamshed not just him but Gayle, Ingram and Kushal Perera. The early loss of wickets ensures the opposition is not just all set out to attack but also trying to keep wickets in hand. Again Bhuvaneshwar Kumar apparently looked like a very very steady bowler but ever since his entry into the Indian team he has been the biggest revelation. He has consistently picked up early wickets and that has to be attributed with being one of the main reasons of success of India off late.

 

Umesh Yadav still needs to find his feet in the ODI arena, he is a quickie who is perhaps confused right now whether to pay attention to direction or pace. The good thing is since India is winning, he will get a chance to play around the team and learn on the job. I still do think he must bowl it full and fast and go for wickets, yes, he will always be a touch expensive but his length, which I believe is an excellent Test match length will always give him a few wickets albeit at the cost of a few runs.

 

Another big slap on all critics including me has come from Ravindra Jadeja and his skipper who backed him so much to our bemusement, surely we all thought his bowling was innocuous, maybe at best 4-5 overs outside the subcontinent was all you could get from Jadeja and his batting on seaming and bouncing tracks was questioned but so far his batting is yet to be tested properly but then at no.7 in such a batting lineup his batting will be rarely tested and we all knew how well he could field. This fella after unbelievable criticism and ridicule has actually managed to quell all murmurs and has cemented his place in the team. The fact that his bowling came along so nicely in the Test series against Australia has helped him a lot. He gets in the team as a pure bowler, the one good thing about him is even if he has an off day I guess Dhoni will be happy to have him as he is pretty accurate and hence he can set fields to Jadeja. As a skipper I guess you want a guy who can bat, bowl and field all together with aplomb.

 

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Ishant has been patchy, I hope he can pitch it up more and change his own luck and not be known for his life as unlucky Ishant. Raina’s challenge will come against England, he has hardly got any opportunity this series. Karthik I think should do well, he is another case of a player who is all eager to grab his opportunity with both hands. Rohit Sharma finally seems to be delivering on the talent he possesses, if he can play to potential and be consistent at it not only will he win India quite a few ODI’s but perhaps be the replacement of Sachin in the Test team at no.4.

 

MS and Ashwin should do their stuff. The fact that the best ODI batsman in the world has had to do nothing in this tournament so far tells you how India have been thumping about in this tournament. Lets hope they can continue this momentum on Sunday for beating the Pommies will be sweeter than anything. It is this team that has beaten us at home in Tests and drubbed us the last time we were here and this will be some small revenge for it.