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-

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-

India Vs RSA :: 1st Test :: 2nd Day

A match that was destined for a slow death looks headed for a painful death at the end of day-2 of the Chennai Test match between India and RSA. At the end of day-2 on a flat, docile, graveyard of a pitch the South Africans had made 540 all out. In reply, India made a brisk 82 for no loss off 21 overs.

It was a hot, energy-sapping day that saw a continuation of some ill-directed bowling, bad fielding, ill-tempered admonishment between some of the Indian players, some careful batting, a solid (if not spectacular) batting display by Hashim Amla, a solid (if not spectacular) bowling display by Harbhajan Singh and a confident response from Wasim Jaffer and Virender Sehwag. All of this on a pitch that looked less interesting and more dead than it was on day-1 — if that was at all possible!

Virender Sehwag admitted that the Indian fielding was somewhat shoddy. There were times when Kumble remonstrated openly with Laxman; Harbhajan with R. P. Singh; Harbhajan with Sree Santh; Dravid with Sreesanth… It seemed that it was open season on venting frustrations against anyone — and the younger players seemed to cop it more than the seniors!

The India bowlers toiled all day. They had to be extremely patient. It did not help that the umpires seemed to work against them too. I felt sorry for Sree Santh when what looked like a plumb LBW against Mark Boucher wasn’t given by New Zealand umpire Tony Hill. “What was he thinking? Had the heat fried his brains?” were questions that popped to my mind! Replays showed the thinnest of inside edges! Similar questions with some choice expletives popped out when Asad Rauf did not spot a glove-deflection off Paul Harris to Rahul Dravid at slips off the bowling of Harbhajan Singh. The fact that Rauf did not spot the deflection or the accompanying dead give-away (batsman’s head snapping backwards to see if the catch was completed) would have left the already enervated players even more deflated and exhausted.

The South Africans batted extremely well though and battled the hot conditions as well as steady bowling from Kumble and Harbhajan Singh. Hashim Amla, in particular, looked solid as a rock. Sree Santh bowled a good morning spell but fell away after that. R. P. Singh continued to bowl like a millionaire.

In reply, thanks to Sehwag’s 61-ball 50 and Jaffer’s patient 21 off 65 balls, India reached 82-0. There is still a huge total to overhaul though and it may be that India need to bat on and on and on for getting even close to manufacturing a result in this game. Either that or the Indian batsmen have to throw their wickets away in a stunning array of rash strokes. I can’t really see the bowlers doing too much on this pitch!

I give the first two sessions of the day to South Africa and the last one to India and so the SBS at the end of day-2 reads: India, 1 : South Africa, 4.

— Mohan

India Vs RSA :: 1st Test :: 1st Day

A flat pitch, bad luck (in the context of the toss result), bad fielding, hot and humid conditions, a four-bowler policy and some good batting from the South Africans all conspired together to leave the South Africans slightly ahead at the end of day-1 of the 1st Test between India and South Africa.

Harbhajan Singh in his post-match-interview said that the Chennai pitch was, “very very flat”. One day… Some day, the BCCI will realise that pitches need to be good to retain the attraction that Test cricket has for many in this world. We live in eternal hope. Many “Pitch Committees” have come and gone. But all we are left with, as a legacy of these successive committees, is a pitch for more jobs for the boys. Former cricketers come and go, but the pitches appear to be the same. Bone dry and boring!

What we saw yesterday was a flat, dry pitch that did nothing for the bowlers. The pitch bore a stunning resemblance to the boring pitches that were prepared for the Pakistan series. This is an early call to make, but it looks very likely that we are set for yet another (yawn!) long, slow and boring series! In his article on Cricinfo, Siddhartha Vaidhyanathan argues that some of India’s best recent victories have come on sporting pitches! It amazes me then that BCCI cannot recognise this and prepare lively pitches in India too!

No doubt, this pitch will take some spin from day-3 onwards, but a look at the pitch yesterday was enough for words like dry, flat, unresponsive, boring and insipid to jump to the forefront!

It is, therefore, amazing that India chose to go into this Test match with only 4 bowlers! On a dry pitch and in hot-humid conditions, a four-bowler policy would have been terrible had India lost the toss. India did lose the toss and it was, indeed, terrible.

The pace bowlers bowled like millionaires and leaked runs! There were fours flying off the bats of Neil McKenzie and Graeme Smith. Although India did reign in the rampaging South Africans in sessions 2 and 3, the early damage had been done. South Africa hit a total of forty-five fours on day-1! While the dry, sapping heat and poor fielding could account for some of those fours, I think the bowlers need to put their hands up and admit that they had a bad day at the office! A 5th bowler was called for.

After seeing the fielding-heroics in CB series in Australia, where a young Team India threw themselves around to stop any white object that flew towards them, the fielding standards in the Test team was expected to be poor. But one did not quite expect the shoddy display that we did see! Harbhajan Singh himself admitted, “I think we have given around 20-30 runs in our fielding and that makes a big difference. I hope tomorrow we put in a good performance in bowling, batting and fielding. It would have been nice to stop those 30 runs and see the scoreboard at the end on 270 for 4.” Even Yuvraj Singh, substituting for Sachin Tendulkar, cut a sorry figure on the field. It was ironic that the oldest man on the park had the most spectacular fielding moment of the day when Anil Kumble dived to his left to snatch a return catch!

I score the first two sessions to RSA and score an even third session. So, my Session-By-Session score for this Test would read India, 0 : RSA, 2. India will hope for a better day-2 in this Test match.

— Mohan

India Vs RSA :: 1st Test :: Preview

After a well-earned, short break, India is going to play some cricket; this time at home against South Africa.

This comes a day after Sunil Gavaskar took careful aim at England and Australia in a newspaper column of his!

The South Africans have been smart with their scheduling — they have spent the last month in Bangladesh and are possibly acclimatised. Even though the opposition wasn’t as strong as India, they should have also acquired a feel for the nature of the pitches they might encounter in India. They toured Pakistan not so long ago too. So even though the only practice game that they had (against India ‘A’) was canceled, South African Coach, Mickey Arthur, wasn’t too concerned. As a result of this confidence in the conditions, the team flew back to South Africa on 14 March for a quick refresh before heading back to the sub-continent.

Although some of their players have hit form at the right time — including Greame Smith — the team has been dogged by a colour-based-selection policy. This even saw Charl Langeveldt pull out of the tour — the player did not wish to be included just on the basis of his colour! Greame Smith, the South African captain said, “We need to find a way to deal with these issues so we can concentrate on the cricket.”

Jacques Kallis weighed in to the selection debate and called the selection-saga “frustrating”. He said it is best that “the task of choosing the side is left solely to the selectors in the future.”

Langeveldt was initially included ahead of Andre Nel to fulfill a quota obligation. This has resulted in the charismatic Andre Nel threatening to quit cricket! And now, we have the Langeveldt pull-out! No replacement has been named for Langeveldt!

Amidst this backdrop, the first Test of the three-match series starts in Chennai on Wednesday 26 March 2008.

The Indians have found themselves in a bit of controversy too, since their victorious return from Australia. This has revolved around M. S. Dhoni’s alleged seniors Vs juniors comment as well as the fitness of a few players. A few have also questioned the need to continue to invest faith in Yuvraj Singh in the Test side. Anil Kumble, Team India Test captain, put down the seniors Vs juniors issue as a pure media-play and nothing else.

The two sides, meanwhile, are evenly matched, in my view. The South Africans have done well in India in the past and although they will play against a Team India Test squad that is largely refreshed by the inclusion of a few well-rested “seniors”, this may be a closer series than many Indians would like to accept!

South Africa (possible): Graeme Smith (c), Neil McKenzie, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, Ashwell Prince (vc), A. B. de Villiers, Mark Boucher (wk), Paul Harris, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Makhaya Ntini

Reserves: Jean-Paul Duminy, Robin Peterson, Monde Zondeki

India (possible): Virender Sehwag, Irfan Pathan, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, V. V. S. Laxman, M. S. Dhoni, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Sreesanth/Chawla, R. P. Singh

Reserves: Wasim Jaffer, Yuvraj Singh

While the South Africa lineup does not have too many doubts surrounding it, the Indian squad is, as always, punctuated by the opener conundrum and its corollary — the 4-bowler-policy. Anil Kumble has declared emphatically that Rahul Dravid will bat at #3. So, unless the team decides to go with only 4 bowlers — a risk in the humid and hot Chennai conditions — I do think that Pathan will open to accommodate an extra pace bowler (Sreesanth) or spinner (Chawla). The rest of the team picks itself and has, apart from Harbhajan Singh, Dhoni and Tendulkar, a “well-rested” look to it.

This will be a series which will, to me, indicate whether India now has it in them to add the word “consistent” to the adjectives that are used to describe the team. Indeed, this whole year will present an opportunity for Team India to prove that it can be consistently good at the highest level. A good result for Team India will mean that its #2 spot will be consolidated on the ICC Test Table.

— Mohan