Easy does it

The man of this particular match should be the curator.

Baby commentators are taught, along with the alphabet, to react to every incident with an instantaneous pitch diagnosis: “It’s keeping low”; “The bounce is very good”; “It is taking turn”; “The pitch has evened out”.

Sometimes, if you are particularly lucky – as happened during one particular period of play today – you get all four conflicting judgments in the span of a few overs. Must be something in their contract that says you get docked a Scotch or two if you don’t do this.

The Brabourne wicket started off on day one with bounce when the bowler extracted it; movement for when you got the upright seam to hit the deck just so; turn for bowlers prepared to give it a tweak; and full value for shots played by batsmen with the nous to handle a track that had something in it for the bowlers as well.

Consider the Samaraweera dismissal: Zaheer Khan, who on the day recovered both his lost rhythm and his smile, went around the wicket and hit the deck hard, back of good length and on the kind of line just outside the off that forces a batsman to play at it; the ball climbed and seamed away just late enough to find the edge and nestle in the soft hands of a diving VVS Laxman at second slip. It’s the kind of dismissal you look to see on day one of a Test; this was day four, and the ball was then exactly 58 overs old. Equally, when the spinners – particularly Harbhajan – bowled, there was turn off length and such perfect bounce that MS Dhoni, standing up, was taking them just above the waist. Moral of the story: good pitches can be made in India, if you have both the skill and the intent.

All of this has made for a fascinating fourth day’s play. Wickets didn’t tumble in a heap, as they tend to on rapidly deteriorating tracks; the bowlers had to work their victims out. Dhoni gave his bowlers well thought out attacking fields, the kind that allowed them to concentrate on one batsman at a time without worrying about him taking a single and sneaking away to the other end, and put a high premium on mistakes.

The most costly mistake of the day was the one made by Darryl Harper, though. Tillekeratne Dilshan got a bummer for the second straight time – the ball he was deemed out to hit him on the outside of the front thigh; it was clearly turning sharp, and bouncing enough to miss the stumps for both height and direction — and that was a pity, for he seemed to come out with positive intent. [Bajji has at the time of writing this only got the one gift wicket, but no matter. He did pretty much everything right: stuck to good lengths, gave the ball air, probed away around off, occasionally varied trajectory by going around the wicket, and built such a deal of pressure that he stymied any thoughts the Lankan batsmen may have had of trying to break out of jail. He has in the past bowled far worse for much greater rewards, and likely will again.]

His dismissal cued a period of play that tested the bowlers’ patience. Kumar Sangakkara dug deep into his reserves of will to grit his way through his ongoing bad patch; Paranavitana at the other end displayed good technique against spin, playing either fully forward or back, always with bat in front of pad, and always playing the ball below his eye line.

It took a peach of a delivery to dismiss the opener – and Sreesanth produced it in the first over of a fresh spell, when he angled one across the left hander, got it to bend in the air, and straighten on middle. Sree looks a whole different bowler when he cuts out the gratuitous theatrics and turns his focus inwards, on his craft. To his credit, despite the crowd repeatedly egging him on to kick over the traces, he stayed focused throughout this game, and bowled with considerable thought, skill and, when he needed it, pace. The ball that got Paranavitana was a beauty, but it was shaded by one he bowled to Mahela that had everything: pace up around the 139k mark, the full length, lift, and the kind of impossibly late moment that left even a batsman of Mahela’s class looking helpless.

Zaheer has sleep walked through much of this series; in the post-lunch session he suddenly rediscovered his rhythm and produced two lovely dismissals. The one of Samaraweera was the prettier one, but the take down of Mahela was a classic of conception: Zak started the over with a ball straightening on off; the next attempted to duplicate it, but drifted into the pads a touch and went for a couple; the third was angled across the right-hander, landed outside off and kept going, and then came the one angled across again, but this time hitting length around off, forcing Mahela to play, and seaming away just enough to find the edge.

Zak’s two quick strikes, in the 54th and 58th over, pretty much knocked the Lankans out of the game; Pragyan Ojha nailed it down tighter when, on the cusp of tea, he tactically worked out Angelo Mathews.

Ojha clearly has some distance to go before he gets comfortable bowling to left-handers. Against right handers, though, his use of flight and loop, the fuller lengths he bowls and the turn he extracts makes him a bit of a handful. To Mathews, he got the ball to turn sharply off length, looking for the edge; when he found it and saw the ball sneak through the slip cordon for a fortuitous four, he adjusted his length fractionally to the short side, providing more room for the ball to bounce, and again found the edge – this time to Dhoni.

Sangakkara and Paranavitana are still out there, with the Lankan captain showing some sign, after the break, of wanting to go down fighting. But with half the side back in the hut, a 170-run deficit remaining as I write this, and with four sessions to go in the game, this one’s done and dusted.

Time enough for series post-mortems later; time now for me to hit the road on a trip I’ve been pushing off all afternoon so I can watch “just one more over”.

Enjoy the rest of the game, and the weekend. See you guys Monday.

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10 thoughts on “Easy does it

  1. Nicely done, Team India. A long hard slog to the top (that’ how it always is, isn’t it?), but we finally made it. Congrats, kudos and thanks to all the players of this decade who contributed to this achievement.

  2. Hey Prem,
    Congratulations to you and all the followers of Indian team in particular and cricket in general for No. 1 ranking.

    KP

  3. Prem, Yes the pitch no doubt was good. I had prematurely termed it as a batting pitch based on initial 2 days of cricket. Yes, the curator also deserves to be the man of the match along with Veeru.

    IMHO, the way India swiftly closed the test, should have been done on the 4th day itself in a true number 1 ranked side style. Sangakara no doubt put up a spirited effort but MSD should have attacked more. One hopes that India starts thinking like Australia in 1990s and 2000s.
    Glad to see the team spirit . Dhoni has achieved much thanks to him as well as his team. Easy to call him lucky but if captain gets flak for the failures, he should also get the kudos he deserves for the successes. Well done, MSD and team!

  4. So, India wraps up the test in less than an hour. The things that I ponder would get covered under the win euphoria/#1 team spot are these:
    ~Yuvraj’s misfit for the test scenario. Suspect against rising deliveries, good spinners and lacks concentration for test area. Even, Gavaskar/Shastri keeps calling him a very good fielder; yes in portions, of late a lazy fielder. I noticed many misfields during this series.
    ~Bhajji:Should have been long rested. On this spinning track and throughout the series I have seen him brilliant only in patches. I would not say he is the best off spinner in the country.I still feel the commentary team lacked the criticism of whats *point-blank* truth. I wonder the cricketer-commentator relations matter when they are not seen criticizing when they should be doing the job.
    ~Laxman: Has lost the appetite for runs. Struggled to get singles and pierce the field. Time to look for fresh legs.
    ~Lack of fast bowlers: Had to dig out Sreesant from a bare cupboard.
    Hats off to Dhoni, Shewag, Dravid-the unsung hero of indian cricket, Sachin, Zaheer, Gambhir, Sreesant. Last but the least is the coaching staff. Good work guys!!! Cheers…

  5. prem,
    we talk lot about captains giving so much liberty to batsman to settle down when fielding side got lot of cushion, you said dhoni gave proper field. i was not watching but what you make of field set-up for 4th day.
    who is curator and why not play tests here than wankhede? where nither pitch nor spectator sitting is hospitable.
    some young & old looked enjoying test cricket at Brebourne.
    anyway which one you will prefer?

  6. subash: Is Robert Croft saying that Hawkeye made a mistake? When I saw it, I also initially thought it was out, and was shocked when Hawkeye showed that the ball was missing by a HUGE margin. If Hawkeye was mistaken, then I think a similar incident occurred in the previous IN – SL series. Sehwag was initially adjudged not out by the on-field Umpire. The decision was reviewed, and he was mistakenly given out as Hawkeye showed an incorrect ball projection.

  7. I was watching the sky sports feed of the match. During tea break, Robert Croft, the former England spinner was asked abt the Dilshan dismissal. He said, “As a spinner, and to my naked eye, that was out. Hawk eye seems to have made the extrapolation of trajectory from the deflection of the ball from the thigh pad, so it looks like Daryl Harper made a huge blunder, but to me, that was out”. Hmmm.

    • Madhu

      I am sorry to be so harsh but view whoring is OK if you do it once or if you have a unique point of view. Neither is true in your case.

      I suggest you remove this post.

      If you have something interesting to say, say it; else shut up.

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