Offering a chance for redemption as it does,RobSteen has envisaged Test cricket as holding a mirror to life itself. Indeed, try imaginingHeadingley 1981 orEdenGardens 2001 without the 2nd innings, and it’s not hard to see his point. While such instances of Saturnalia are memorable in their rarity, every once in a while another breed of Test matches sends along a representative. These creatures witness pulsating tugs-of-war, some ebb, some flow, a myriad small battles and yet at the end of the first half, both teams find themselves exactly where they started off. The 2nd innings now assumes an invitation to seize the day, escape the equilibrium, and disrupt status quo. A bold statement, an audacious sleight of hand, or even a reckless gamble can leave the opposition broken in the wake. Tendulkar inChennai 1998, Warne inAdelaide 2006.
Let me turn to two precedents to make my point. A dozen years ago, the same teams battled for a dead rubber atBangalore. Of a more recent vintage, but the same species, is the CapeTown test on India’s tour of 2006-07. Strong Indian batting performances lit up the opening day on either occasion. While both games were India’s to boss, the opposition never let them shake off the tail. Secure in the knowledge that the burden of initiative was on India, they laid the mines, and hid in the trenches. The pressure of forcing the hand proved too much to handle. We slipped. When the balance is so fine, and lasts for so long, even one session of supremacy turns the game on its head.
We do not know yet, if the current Mohali test will fall under this category. It certainly threatens to do so. The team batting first was ahead by 24 runs at Bangalore, and by 41 at Cape Town. The numbers are similar. But in this case, India is not the prime mover. For an underdog Australian team, the position of playmaker could be unfamiliar territory. India have the relative luxury of being the holding midfielder. The 4th day’s play should go a long way in unravelling the mystery. Perhaps this time tomorrow, we will have a picture that is less foggy.
-i3j3Guest (TS Kartik)