Category Archives: South Africa

India win to even series

India won the match and managed to even the series. And, Dhoni won his first game as captain.

After the game, I tried to look back at the turning point of the game. Was it Ganguly’s 87 in the first innings, the 46 runs India added for the last wicket or even Sehwag’s double strike of Kallis and Smith? I think what contributed to India’s win was all of them put together – combined with the return of Ishant Sharma and India’s overall bowling effort. Even the part time bowlers chipped in with five wickets.

It hasn’t been a great series, though. I didn’t quite enjoy it the way I enjoyed the series played in England and Australia. I wonder if anyone else feels the same way. In any case the series is finished and IPL is scheduled to begin shortly. Can’t wait for that to happen…hopefully it won’t disappoint.

-Mahesh-

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India vs RSA :: 3rd Test :: 1st Day

This was a must win test for India and when South Africa raced to 52 for no loss at the first drink break, it didn’t look good for India. First, they lost the captain to a groin injury, then Dhoni in his first test as captain lost the toss which could yet prove crucial in this game. Then the fast bowlers failed to impress. It definitely wasn’t going India’s way.

Then something happened. Yuvraj Singh, came on to bowl and claimed the wicket of Smith. With in no time two more wickets fell. Chawla had earlier claimed the wicket of McKenzie and suddenly the score read 161 for 4. For the first time in this series, the pressure appeared to be on the South African batsmen. Wickets started falling at regular intervals and they were finally dismissed for 265.

India will definitely take that. The bowlers have done their job, and it is now up to the batsmen to do theirs. India will be at a definite disadvantage batting fourth in this wicket. The batsmen will have to give India a good lead to be able to beat South Africa. The South Africans will again be aiming to beat India with pace but spin may hold the key to this game and that may come in handy for India.

The SBS score card for the day would probably read India 2, RSA 1. The SBS score card for tomorrow is most likely to determine who wins this game, but it all depends on how well India start in the morning.

-Mahesh-

Bad loss

What a bad loss. Being beaten by an innings and 90 runs – that too at home – It’s gotta hurt. Not just the fans, but it must hurt the team members too.

India needed to bat out of their skins to save the game, but they didn’t. Sehwag started with a couple of sixes, but left in a hurry. When Dravid got out, the writing was already in the wall (pardon the pun). Jaffer went soon after and then it was left to Ganguly and Laxman to stop the slide. They started putting on a partnership and as it happens so frequently, Laxman got out against the run of play with his score in the thirties.

Ganguly and Dhoni tried to prolong the inevitable, but a poor umpiring decision put an end to Ganguly’s innings. Dhoni scored a fighting fifty and Pathan chipped in with some runs, but India was well and truly beaten.

India have made a lot of progress in the last year or so – one big loss shouldn’t take that away from them. But they seem to play better when they are the underdogs. The favourites tag doesn’t sit well with them – every time they are pronounced the favourites in a tournament or match, they seem to put in  a poor performance. I don’t think anyone would consider them to be the favourites in this series anymore…

In the series so far, Kumble hasn’t been his usual self and the fast bowlers have been ineffective. Ishant Sharma’s inclusion should boost the bowling. But it was the batting that let India down. The decision on whether to go with the extra bowler as they did in this game or pick Yuvraj as an additional batsman is going to be tough one. Will have to wait and see how this one unfolds.

But it is time for India to forget this match, regroup and try to level the series in Kanpur. India may be ranked No. 2 in the World, but at the moment they don’t look anything like the second best team – not by a long shot.

-Mahesh-

India vs RSA :: 2nd Test :: 2nd Day

Whenever India plays cricket and there is no TV coverage, I feel disappointed on having missed out. After India’s capitulation under one session yesterday and the beating they have taken on the field since, I am actually a bit glad for once that I am not watching the game.

It is highly unlikely that after conceding 418 runs lead (and counting) that India can save this match. I am sure a lot of Indians are praying for some kind of miracle. Well, we definitely need some divine intervention to save India from an innings defeat. There are still 3 full days left in the match and I can’t see India playing out a draw.

Watching the South African score, it is pretty clear that there were no demons on the pitch. If there were any demons, it must have been on the minds of the Indian players – how else can you explain losing all your wickets in under 20 overs in a test match?

South Africa are sitting pretty at the moment. Their top order has had plenty of batting practice and have scored runs by the truck loads. In their 3 innings so far they have aggregated close to 1300 runs – and we haven’t been able to take 30 wickets in 3 innings so far. Except for Prince, every batsmen in their team has scored runs. Of their bowlers, Dale Steyn has been outstanding taking 9 wickets in the two innings he has bowled.

India on the other hand are a far cry from the team that beat Australia in Perth. The bowling has looked ordinary and the fielding – well, the less said the better. But the most worrying thing is the batting, which is supposed to be its strength. Agreed India scored over 600 runs in the 1st test – but more than half of that came from the bat of Sehwag. You take his score out, and India would have been in big trouble in Chennai too.

There have been some notable failures and we can’t afford any of them in the second innings. Ganguly has to lift his game. He hasn’t scored too many runs since the Sydney test. Dhoni has done well in the shorter form of the game, but is averaging just 17 runs in his last 10 Test innings. He has to lift his game too.

Laxman has been amongst the runs, but he needs to learn how to control the strike when playing with the tail. Sadly, It is probably too late in his career to learn to do that. In Tendulkar’s absence, he was rightfully moved to No.4, but lasted just 7 balls. Hopefully, he can do a lot better in the second innings. 

We need Sehwag and Jaffer to get a good opening partnership and Dravid to hold the middle order together. I am not under any false pretence that India will save this game – all I want them to do is to put up a good fight and play for some pride.

-Mahesh-

No joke this one

I knew the match had started, but was away in a meeting. What is going to happen in one hour, right? Nothing spectacular, I would imagine. When I got back, I went over to CricInfo to check the scores. Imagine my surprise (shock!) to see India on 56 for 8 – that’s right 56 runs for the loss of 8 wickets in the 16th over! For a brief moment, I even hoped CricInfo was trying to pull a late April fools joke on us.

Surely the pitch can’t be that bad. Will have to wait and see if India even end up crossing 3 figures. This is one match that is likely to yield a result and it won’t favour India for sure.

-Mahesh-

India Vs RSA :: 2nd Test :: Preview

After playing out a laborious, painful and drab draw in Chennai, India and South Africa move to Ahmedabad. Of the three locations for this series, Chennai was most likely to produce a result. Now that that hope was buried I am not holding my breath, awaiting the results of the Ahmedabad and Kanpur Tests. Then again, the BCCI has pulled some surprises in the past and I for one would be most happy to be horribly surprised once again! Matches like the one we had in Chennai are bound to grind Test cricket to the ground in India, as Jamie Alter says on Cricinfo.

Sachin Tendulkar is not playing in this next Test. So that should give the team and opportunity to move Sourav Ganguly and V. V. S. Laxman up the order. This would give them an opportunity to play another bowler. My bet would be on Irfan Pathan playing instead of Sachin Tendulkar. The team would then need to decide on whether or not it wanted a mildly fit and listlessly lethargic R. P. Singh or the spin option of Piyush Chawla. I’d go for the latter. Although there is grass on the pitch, the Motera track has assisted spinners on days 3-5 of Test matches.

This would then give the following Team India: Sehwag, Jaffer, Dravid, Ganguly, Laxman, Dhoni, Pathan, Chawla, Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Sreesanth

After his splendid innings at Chennai, the South Africans are wary of Virender Sehwag. They have decided to target Sehwag with short stuff aimed at his rib cage! Not a bad ploy particularly if the South Africans are able to bowl rib-cage stuff from around the wicket. After all, Sehwag has shown his ability to handle anything short and outside off-stump! South African coach, Mickey Arthur, indicated, “We had a look at Sehwag’s fantastic innings. He cuts the ball very well but we saw he played his first pull shot only after scoring 312.

It would be interesting to see how Sehwag copes with this approach.

India Vs RSA :: 1st Test :: 3rd Day

What are some of the main traits of an opening batsman? They have to be patient, disciplined and maybe even courageous. Most importantly they should absolutely not take any risks.  This is exactly what makes them dull and boring as well. There have been exceptions along the way – Krish Srikkanth was one. He was dashing and people loved to watch him, but he was also inconsistent and unreliable. Matty Hayden is another, and there are probably a few more – but none,  in my opinion, come close to Virender Sehwag.

Sehwag – What can I say about him? The selectors should have kept faith with him during his slump and persisted with him. Actually, if you look back at his records, his test form has not been that bad – sadly, his ODI form was used as a measure and he was sacked from the Indian team after just one bad series in South Africa. He was kept away from the team that toured Bangladesh and England and when he was not even short listed for the Australian tour, his test career seemed completely stalled. As luck would have it, Gambhir was injured and Sehwag was picked in his place to tour Australia as the third choice opener and he even ended up playing the last two test matches.

You know what they say – “Form is temporary, class is permanent”. Sehwag did showcase his class under pressure in the last test against Australia with a fine 151, but with today’s knock of 309*, you can safely say that Sehwag is well and truly back. No other Indian has scored a triple century – but Sehwag now has two. There are probably another dozen or so records he broke today, but the important thing is that he managed to keep India in the game and put the team in a commanding position. Wasim Jaffer (73) gave him company and was involved in a solid start of 200+ runs. Rahul Dravid (65*)  gave him good company too in the partnership of 255 runs, but the day belonged to just one player – Sehwag.

At the end of day 2, the match looked like it was destined for a slow death and if India continue to prepare such pitches, Test cricket itself will die a slow death – actually make that a fast death! Virender Sehwag however managed to infuse life into the dull game and India are now in a position where they can even think about winning the game – it all depends on how much lead India take and if the pitch starts crumbling like a cookie when South Africa bat. All three sessions of the day belonged to India and the SBS scorecard reads 4-4.

The biggest threat to Sehwag today was the zapping heat and humidity and it was a relief to see him make it to the end of the day. The whole of India would be hoping that Sehwag bats at least another session tomorrow. If he does, he may end up breaking Lara’s record for highest individual score and more importantly will put India in a very strong position to take the match.

-Mahesh-