Sunday, March 05, 2006

What the Heck - We've got Nothing to Lose!!!

Day 5 started with England declaring there second innings setting a target of 368 to win. It was fair for them to assume that 368 may not be attainable by best of teams in 90 overs. More importantly, they stood a better chance of winning the test considering that it was Day 5 and the pitch could be unpredictable.

A beautiful incutter castled Shewag's off stump for a shot that he would not want to remember. Reminded me of Saurav's off-drives without any foot movement. An awful shot to play. India were 1 for 1.

The morning session of Day 5 was so slow that India scored their first runs of the bat nearly after 5 overs. Such was their defensive mode of batting and run-rate, that it was pretty obvious that India were all set to play for a draw, or maybe was it because of Shewag's early departure.

The scene was set for Rahul "Wall" Dravid and Wasim "Straight Bat" Jaffer to play out the day, ball-by-ball, over-by-over, session-by-session to ensure a drawn game. And so did they execute the plan with utmost resilience and concentration. Dravid played 187 balls for his 71 while Jaffer 197 for his 100. They played so slow that the runrate was around the 2.2's, a number that is uncommon these days. Their display of batting was so perfectly defensive, that other than a run-out attempt, England didn't even come close to rattling them. Let go the good ones, punished the bad ones. Total Test Cricket material.

At tea time, India were about 220 odd runs away from a win in 35 overs. Flintoff and England knew that they were heading for a lame draw, at it was unlikely that either India would score 220 in a session or England would bowl them out. That's when magic happened.

India, under Dravid upped the ante. Destroyed the English bowling, in the process, Dravid reached his 50 and Jaffer his 100. The most surprising moment of the day, considering the way India played out pre and post lunch session, was in came Irfan Pathan after Dravid was dismissed. Was it a ploy to rattle Panesar? Wasn't sure. Pathan put bat to ball literally every ball for maximum result. Then walked in Dhoni at No.5. What happened to Sachin, VVS, and Kaifi.

It was a superb display of batting but the duo. These two are not the typical chancy pinch hitters. A batsman is good if he can play the ball comfortably in the V. Both did it with exquisite ease. Truly great batting performance by the duo. For the first time, it felt like India were genuinely chasing 200 in the remaining 25 overs. Not that they were trying to score by chance, all balls were treated by both with merit and all shots were cricketing shots. Then goes Pathan, and in walks Sachin.

For him the scene was set to achieve the one record that has eluded the master blaster, single handedly influence the outcome of a test match. Never has he won a test for India. He was as classy and cheeky in his shot selection as one knows him to be.

Quick fire 35 from Pathan, 16 from Dhoni, 28 from Sachin, and 7 from Harbhajan, with Laxman and Kaif yet to bat, set the stage for India for a great finish. What amazed me was the sheer batting talent India now has. Even the one off pull to between long-on and mid-wicket by Harbhajan was just swash buckling.

As Laxman, walked in, India needed another 108 to win in 13 overs. Two more overs of Sachin magic would get them to run-a-ball. And from there on there was Sachin, VVS and Kaif to ensure victory. The umpires offered light and India took it.

One may argue that was not the right thing to do. Well, that was the Indian strategy. Go for a win with wickets in hand. After slipping in Day 1, England took full control of the test till tea time of day 5. Indian attitude just rattled Flintoff and England. He was running out of ideas to control the run feast. Indian strategy took him by surprise. There were lengthy conversations between overs, messages sent out from the England dressing room. Total chaos was evident.

The point was made by India, just stole back the initiative from England and thus prevented the headlines reading in the lines of "England dominate as test ends in a draw". After what India did, headlines are bound to be re-written.

India go into Mohali, with a lot of confidence. They have an established opening pair in Jaffer and Shewag. Yuvraj will be back in the 11, probably at the expense of VVS, unfortunately and a good chance that Munaf and Shukla walk into to the squad at the expense of Shreesanth and Harbhajan.

What a team it would be? All in all exciting series, one which India now look forward with a "Never say never" attitude.

Should Dravid have upped the ante a bit sooner. Naah!!!. That was not the plan. Chappell and he had the test cricket hat on. A great Day 5 to witness. Excellent cricket. Lot of technical thinking, mind games, and strategies involved. Such test matches are rare to come.


At 11:00 AM, Blogger SumEDh said...

shukla who??? i guess u meant, chawla. amazing 5th day. india have the momentum with them...but weather mite play the spoilsport in mohali

At 11:18 AM, Blogger Aditya said...

Good Catch!!!
Its piyush Chawla!!!

At 9:36 AM, Blogger sumit said...

let see how INDIA perform on the last day of the Mohali test ... weather did play an imp role till today ... and am sure u need to write about the SA - Aus match ...


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