The Kolkata Test
The last day of the Kolkata Test was tense and gripping.
Hashim Amla batted as if in a trance. Not one bowler troubled him.
Amit Mishra bowled with a big heart, but got only one wicket on the last day.
Ishant Sharma hurled the ball down in furious anger, though not always on the right line.
Harbhajan Singh was on a mission to win the game for his team.
When AB de Villiers, Duminy and Steyn fell within 10 overs just before tea, India looked liked they would win comfortably. However, the South African tail was defiant and India dropped some crucial catches. Wayne Parnell batted for nearly 20 overs, Harris resisted for a while, and Morne Morkel proved to be one of the toughest number 11's to dislodge.
With only half an hour for the end of play, Dhoni tried Sachin and Sehwag. Yet, Morne didn't budge. Amla went on the back foot and defended calmly. Didn't Amla feel the pressure? What is this man? How is he so serene?
The Indian players were watching the number one rank slip from them with every passing minute. There were only 10 minutes remaining, when Dhoni brought Harbhajan back. He had gone past Morkel's outside edge a couple of times before, and this time he went around the wicket and bowled the straighter one that sped off the pitch, evaded the bat and crashed into Morkel pad below the knee roll. Bhajji knew he had his man and jumped into a full-throated appeal that the umpire agreed with. The finger went up and Bhajji bolted. He ran to lap up the roar of his favorite Garden and reminded the press box in no uncertain terms that he is the 'Man in the Arena.'
This is Test cricket!
The series was drawn 1-1, and India were still the number 1 Test team. One yearned for another match just to watch these gladiators battle again. Maybe, just maybe, if there was one more game then the Indian bowlers could figure out how to dismiss Hashim Amla - the invincible monk.
Who knew VVS could do that?
When, VVS Laxman dropped a straightforward chance at first slip when Hashim Amla was batting on 60 of Harbhajan Singh, I was thinking how India's misses Rahul Dravid at first slip. The way Amla was batting before and continued to bat after that drop, it was enough to dispirit all Indian supporters. This guy is seriously good, an obtrusively batsman whose strength is totally underestimated.
Things were looking extremely bleak in the drinks break of the second session, when Dhoni had a long chat with his bowlers first and then the entire team, obviously trying to motivate them. Whatever he said worked because Ishant Sharma bowled a hostile spell right after that, bowling his trademark fast in cutters just short of a length along with a generous number of bouncers that had Amla hopping at the crease. That was the moment that inserted some purpose into the Indian bowling. Sharma didn't get a wicket, it was Zaheer Khan who got rid of both century makers, Amla and Alviro Peterson.
However, the moment that captured the fightback for me was VVS Laxman, he of the dodgy knee fame, turn from first slip and hustle after a top edge sweep from Kallis to pouch a fantastic catch dropping over his shoulder. Who knew Laxman could turn and run and like that? Have you seen him turn for a second? it is like watching some heavy earth moving equipment from Caterpillar.
Harbhajan triumphantly raised his arms to the Kolkata crowd. He was back!
Bhajji was unstoppable after the Kallis wicket. It really was like when he was bowling to Australia in the 2001 series. The amount of revolutions he put on the ball generated sharp bounce and made him really dangerous. It was fantastic to watch.
What a day of cricket!
Just watched Jacques Kallis run in and hurl the ball at 143.5kph in the Nagpur Test.
He also scored 173 runs in the first innings.
How can one person do all that?
Kallis has almost 11,000 runs and 260 wickets in Test cricket.
In my humble opinion he is the most talented all round cricketer since Gary Sobers.
I think his batting average will only drop by 10 points to 45 should he bat left handed.
What a player!
We are lucky to see him play.
India v. South Africa Test series
I am excited about watching India and South Africa in a Test series. Unfortunately it is only a 2 Test series; still this is infinitely better than the initial plan of playing 7 one day matches.
I enjoyed Dale Steyn's assessment of bowling to Virender Sehwag, particularly this nugget:
“We have been in a situation where we have got him out for nought, we have been in a situation where we have got him out for 300. We have basically got a plan for every run that he has got!"
The Indian batting line up is definitely weakened without the injured Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman, and South Africa have a great opportunity to dismiss India for a low score if they get through the openers, Sehwag and Gambhir.
I am pretty happy with the selection of the Test team. Subramaniam Badrinath deserves this chance. I have been waiting for him to be picked to be play Test cricket for a while now. He has already proven his temperament by winning a one day game for India by batting well against Murali and Mendis. I saw him play in the IPL, and he has done well in the 20:20’s too. It is pretty remarkable the way he has adjusted to all forms of the game. I believe that he is as ready as anyone can be for a Test debut. Rohit Sharma is lucky to be going from being dropped from the one day team, to now being selected for the Test team and most likely make his debut because of Laxman’s injury. However, he has scored a lot of runs in the Ranji season, so he has earned his spot. The only newcomer who has proven himself at the Test level is Murali Vijay, who has done very well as the backup opener. Plus he is an excellent fielder close to the stumps, and this will definitely help the Indian spinners, Harbhajan Singh and Amit Mishra/Pragyan Ojha.
The ones who missed out: I watched Dinesh Karthik keep in the second Test against Bangladesh, and his collection technique is worrisome. He doesn’t seem to watch the ball all the way into his gloves, and I think the only reason his keeping hasn’t been totally horrible is that he is a very good athlete who is quick on his feet. The whole slip cordon looks much safer when Dhoni is keeping. Dhoni may not look fluid while keeping, but he is very effective. I am not surprised that Karthik has been dropped. Wriddhiman Saha I think is a natural keeper and is rated highly by Brendon McCullum. We don’t need bad keepers costing us Test matches, we have already tried the Parthiv Patel experiment.
Manish Pandey is an exciting prospect. I didn’t see him bat in the Ranji final, but I saw his 100 in the 2009 IPL in South Africa, and I thought he played some great shots along with the streaky ones. I don’t know yet if he is ready for international cricket. He might well be, as indicated by his 144 in the second innings of the Ranji final, but he should play the ODI’s first. It was highly unlikely that he was going to be selected for the South Africa Tests.
Abhimanyu Mithun has done very well in the Ranji trophy and I think he was picked because he has the pace. The express bowler always gets an earlier look in than the other bowlers. Which is fair, enough, however, R Vinay Kumar will be wondering whether he will ever get picked.
Alright, let us enjoy some Test cricket!