Thursday, July 24, 2014

7th heaven for Ishant - 2nd Test, Lord's , England vs India


Ajinkya Rahane managed to get over the dangerous 20s syndrome shown by Indian batsmen and found himself a place in the famous honours board at the Lord’s. It was a top top knock considering, India were 145 for 6 towards the end of the 2nd session and in danger of losing whatever reasonable ground they were able to make in the first session.  And it was heartening to know when he revealed later that he watched Video’s of Mike Hussey’s batting to learn how to bat with the tail. Taking a leaf out of Mr  Cricktet’s book, Rahane did not try to farm the strike too often, instead trusting the tail enders and allowing them to share the responsibility as well. The pitch was so green that MS Dhoni and Co had a tough time finding it when they strode out in the morning. That is the greenest I have ever seen at the Lord’s , though it was an altogether different matter that England could not fully capitalize. They were way too short in the first session, had a good second session and the tired legs showed in the last session.  James Anderson was the standout bowler. He managed to attain reverse swing even on that spongy green top, and consistently troubled the batsmen though, throughout the day he wore the expression of a man who just had a 14 hour shift in a coal mine.  May be it is the impending hearing on his altercation with Ravindra Jadeja, may  be it is those backbreaking number of overs he delivered in the last 3 years, or may be it is just that he woke up at the wrong side of the bed! India finished the day with a score which looked highly unlikely by the end of the second session, which makes them the happier of the two sides when the day finished.


Thos who know Gary Ballance would be telling that he showed much less energy on the cricket pitch in amassing a well crafted 100 than when he danced half naked at midnight in a bar after the first Test! Whatever the means, his innings helped to keep England afloat though he would be cursing at the way he got out towards the end of the day.  In the first Test at Trentbridge, Ishant Sharma showed why he is playing in his 56th Test match despite a bowling average of 37.79. Today he showed how he ended up with such an average after 56 Test matches. When the pitch and conditions demanded a fuller length, he went back to his now notorious three quarter length and consistently beat the bat, without ever inducing an edge.  Dhoni was decisive most of the occasions today when it came to captaincy decisions. It was a relief that he did not try to match Cook’s decision to put 6 men on the boundary when India’s number 10 and 11 were batting on the first day evening!


By the close of play, what appeared to be a snoozefest of an innings from Murali Vijay carries more importance than actually seemed in the beginning. Throughout the day the momentum shifted hands in a way which only Test cricket can produce. India needed early wickets and got them which suggested that they would get a small but handy lead. But it was England who ended up with a 24 runs lead thanks to the last wicket heroics from Anderson and Plunket. India wiped the arrears of without much trouble before Joe Root at point pulled off a brilliant catch to send Dhawan back. India then appeared to be getting back in the game with the second wicket partnership between Vijay and Pujara but the Test came alive with 3 wickets in no time. Dhoni managed to see off the day without further trouble but the game is still on a knife edge. Vijay is still there and if India’s lower order can give him enough support, a target of 250-270 is well on the cards. One bad session or even a bad phase of 10 overs is what either team needs to lose the match. So expect a cautious but fascinating 4th day at the Lord’s tomorrow.


Ravindra Jadeja to win a Test match for India at the Lord’s with his batting. If someone had told me that an year ago, I would have promptly sent him to the remotest corner of earth to regain his sanity. Not anymore though.  Nobody would have blamed Alistair Cook for starting to think about his batting when India were 6 down with a lead of only 180 odd runs in bowler friendly conditions. Enter Ravindra Jadeja.  It is probable that he did not read the script or missed my point about cautious cricket on a defining day. The new ball is only 2 overs away. His senior partner is nearing a century and trying to pull India out of the mess. What does he do? He charges the bowler and nearly holes out. But once the nerves settled and sanity returned, he counter attacked with precision which forced the England bowlers to bowl short while bowling full and straight was the logical option. And he brought the sword too, which was on display when he reached 50. It was the Lord’s, holy turf and all that, and he was fooling around in the middle. It is safe to assume that he won’t getting X’mas cards from anyone from this England team. By the time he departed the lead swelled over 300 and there was a general feeling that the target has been achieved. And when England appeared to be making a decent start he returned and won a marginal LBW decision against Sam Robson with his first delivery. Ishant’s inspired spell and 2 wickets towards the end of the day makes India slight favourites to win this. But after 3 years and 15 overseas Tests, they won’t be taking anything for granted.


Couple of overs before lunch, Mahendra Singh Dhoni wore a magician’s hat and pulled out an Ishant Sharma sized rabbit out it. And the entire England team played the perfect audience to it clapping and encouraging, egging on and asking for more. An hour later after lunch, the show was all over.  The sight of an Indian bowler bouncing out the opposition was exhilarating. But a greater concern for England is to find that, of the 5 wickets which fell to short balls, 4 were down to temperament not technique. It is downright surprising to think that an England think tank with 80 odd support staff could not make any one in the team to understand that the short ball tactic from Dhoni can’t go on forever and sooner rather than later, he would be forced to take the new ball which would mean going back to full length with Kumar and Shami. Somewhere during that spell it went to their head and the battle became personal.  On a bigger picture, somewhere during the their ascent to the No.1 Test team in the world, among those 160 odd page cookbook and robotized training sessions, they lost the fun part of it. It became everyday work and Monday blues would have caught up with them as well, watching the thoughtless way they played.  Years down the lane, we will look back at this Test match and realize that it is one of India’s great overseas wins. Lord’s is added to the list of Headingly, Melbourne , Rawalpindi and Perth.  And on a different note, I am not a firm believer of poetic justice or moral victories. But there is tinge of karma in the joke that England have not won a Test match since they urinated on the pitch. At the end you get what you give.