Category Archives: Andrew Strauss

England Vs India: Test 3 Day 2 — Team performance from Team India…

It was a magical day for Team India. Almost everything seemed to go according to plan. India ended her first innings on 664 and in reply, England are 24 for 1. England need a further 440 runs to make India bat again!

It was a day where India, in my calculations, won all 3 sessions. The session-by-session score card reads 5-0 in India’s favour and with 9 sessions left in the match, I strongly believe that India have helped eliminate one of the 3 possible results. I do not believe England can win from here. It will take something of heroic proportions for England to win this game; for that to happen, England would have to win all 9 remaining sessions and India will need to play remarkably badly. With a series win on the line, I can’t see India playing consistently badly for the remaining 9 session. While I am not that confident of an India win — thanks to the benign nature of the pitch — I believe that a thrilling draw may still be on the cards.

The one factor that could weigh in India’s favour is British pride. Peter Moores, the England coach said at the end of day-2, “Everyone’s motivated because it’s the last Test of the summer and we’re playing to try and save the series. All the batters are going out to get a score, for themselves and for the team, and one thing that’s in our favour is the speed you can score at. The outfield’s very quick and the wicket is very good. The batters are looking forward to having a go on it, so we’ll just see where we get to.

If England goes out in a positive frame of mind, and with a view to still winning from here, India could squeeze in for the kill. Kumble can afford to bowl with 3-4 around the bat. Dravid could look to choke the runs at one end and attack all-out from the other end. This will be a test of Dravid’s captaincy aggression. There is not much in the pitch, but the batsmen have delivered the runs on the board. The pace and the aggression was dictated by the captains’ pre-match sound-bytes as well as his purposefulness while batting. It is now upto the captain to set the same tone on the field. That, mixed with Britsh pride and aggression may well give India the game. The next 3 days will tell us which way this cookie is going to crumble!

It was a terrific team performance from India. Just as Dinesh Karthik and Rahul Dravid laid the foundations on day-1, the second day saw Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid build a strong foundation in the first session. Sachin Tendulkar was keen to ensure that he batted England out of the game. Laxman on the other hand, mixed caution with class. He had once again done the hard work and also enjoyed the benefit of a let-off — once again from Matt Prior behind the sticks. However, yet again, Laxman could not press on the advantage and departed after yet another classy 50!

Matt Prior, whose chat level has been greater than his skill level, had a forgettable match thus far. His collection has been ordinary. He dropped Tendulkar and Laxman and he has given away 33 byes — an embarassingly high number! No doubt this was assisted by some wayward bowling. However, Prior will be embarassed to see his name in the record books.

After Tendulkar departed to a terrific ball, understandably disappointed at not reaching a century, we saw some unbelievable pyrotechnics from M. S. Dhoni. He displayed a stunning array of strokes. He played the pace bowlers with panache and simply culled the spinners. It was all devastating stuff. At the other end, Anil Kumble played like a 1-down batsman. He leaned into his cover drives and knelt as his off-drove with skill. And suddenly, Kumble was on the verge of an unlikely century! If he had played a batsman’s innings right through, the shot that got him his century was classic-Kumble though! He somehow got his bat to a ball that was pitched way outside his off stump. The ball was somehow squeezed through between bat and ground and between Priors’ legs. Kumble, who had charged down the wicket to meet the ball, dived back desprately into his crease and was all arms and legs! And lest the umpire declare the resulting four runs as byes, Kumble raised his arms in acknowledgement of potential congratulations even before the ball was halfway to the boundary! Ah, classic Kumble stuff!

I said at the begining of the game that it would be foolish for the press to merely focus on farewelling the Fab Four. Anil Kumble also made his debut in England in the same match that Tendulkar made his first century at Old Trafford. To not include him in the farewell celebrations would be a folly. Well, with his sensational ton here, Anil Kumble has scripted himself firmly into the farewell party! And there may well be more to come from this indefatigable and admirable war-horse!

If India made one mistake, it was in not declaring the innings closed immediately at that point. Dravids’ rationale for batting out an additional 4-5 overs escaped me.

India are clearly ahead in this game and need to go for the jugular. An additional spinner would have helped India’s cause. But they have started the bowling well thanks to a mindless shot from Andrew Strauss. He hooked a Zaheer Khan ball irresponsibly down Sree Santh’s throat at fine leg. But that is what mental fatigue does to you. After nearly 170 overs in the hot sun, the brain does tend to get scrambled and the muscles get weary. Who knows? An additonal 4-5 overs of time may have got India another wicket or two. And I do believe that it is the mental game that will get India ahead on day-3. There is nothing much in the pitch although there were some indications that Kumble will make the ball bite and jump. A bit of aggression and a lot of chatter mixed with attacking close-in fields could deliver India this game.

India could well have had another wicket if Ian Howell had been awake. His shocking match continued when he refused to give James Anderson out. He was struck plumb in line by a wonderful Sree Santh delivery although there was bat-pad doubt. And this is where Howell’s inexperience came through. A bat-first-then-pad would have been normally squeezed square of the wicket. If it did travel straight down the wicket, a bat-first-then-pad shot would have minimal power in it. This ball, however, screamed to the deep mid-on boundary thereby clearly indicating that it was a pad-first-bat-next shot. Howell’s inexperience yielded the benefit of doubt to James Anderson when there was neither a need for benefit or doubt!

In 2003-4 in Sydney, India had put 705 on the board against Australia. There again, Sourav Ganguly had delayed the declaration by at least half an hour. Who knows what that extra half hour would have given him and the team in that match? In that match, India did have two spinners in Kumble and Murali Karthik. In this match, India only have Kumble. So the road ahead is potentially hard for India. But the saving grace is that it is incredibly hard for England. They have almost certainly lost this series. The question in my mind is whether the final scoreline will be 1-0 or 2-0.

It has been a terrific team-batting-performance by India who had as many as eight 50+ parterships — a first in cricket!

India must now hope for an all-round bowling performance as it searches for an outright victory in this game…

— Mohan

England Vs India: Test 3 Day 1 — India attempt to step up…

Dileep Premachandran asked yesterday in a well-written Cricinfo article if India would be able to step up and cross that last hurdle in the 3rd Test against England at The Oval. It was a question that was posed yesterday on this blogsite too. So often — most excruciatingly in Steve Waugh’s final Test — India have not managed to cross this last hurdle.

But India did the right things right on Day-1 of Test 3. India won the toss, elected to bat and came out in a sensationally positive frame of mind. If this mindset was evident in the mercurial nature of of Wasim Jaffer’s batting, it was palpable in the purposefulness of Rahul Dravid’s stride. This team meant business and they would have reached a much more satisfying destination at the end of Day-1 but for the fact that a certain Ian Howell appeared to have got up on the wrong side of his bed! After giving a marginal caught behind decision to send Dinesh Karthik back to the hut, he chopped Sourav Ganguly at the knees with a shocker of a decision! India ended the day at 316 for 4. India had had a good day, but England are still in the game.

Karthik was playing extremely well and had composed his 91 runs in style; with confidence and energy. On that score he wafted with minimal footwork at a ball from Sidebottom for Matt Prior to pounce on the catch. The England players went up as though they had just won the lottery or a date with Catherine Zeta-Jones, or both! Ian Howell, the umpire, lifted the dreaded finger and Karthik had to make the slow long walk back. I did not hear the snick. Snickometer did not think there was a snick either. However, Karthik did say at the end of days’ play, “there was a small nick, there is no doubt about that“! Phew! One less effigy to construct and then destruct for the folks in Kolkata! The Ganguly decision, however, will have generated a few thousand effigy orders!

Up until that lapse in concentration, Karthik had batted very well. He was all poise, determination, inventiveness and concentration. A step down to caress Andreson through extra cover as well as an inside-out six off Panesar were special shots.

In the morning, after Rahul Dravid had won an important toss and elected to bat, proceedings ran against the normal script. Karthik, the normal aggressor was quiet while Wasim Jaffer, the dour accumulator was in his elements! It was a very different Wasim Jaffer that came to the crease this morning. Indeed, it appeared as though Jaffer and Karthik had reversed roles! We saw a quiet Karthik and a different player to the Jaffer, who normally plays well within himself. Instead, he was playing out of his skin! There were some great leaves by both Jaffer and Karthik initially. Of course, the bowling was shocking to start with. Karthik and Jaffer were served some dross by James Andreson, who gave both the openers ‘ample opportunity to have a look at the ball and what it was doing’. Both Anderson and Tremlett had poor opening spells and they did not make batsmen play enough. Although Sidebottom bowled tightly, he slid too many across face of the batsmen. The openers settled down and slowly opened their shoulders.

I liked the way the openers saw off the new ball. A shot by Jaffer to send an Anderson ball for 6 over third man was so Sehwag that one wondered if Sehwag himself would have been able to execute that shot any better!

The only way Jaffer was going to get out was through a brain explosion. And it did happen. He played a shot that would have done Sehwag proud! It was a strong statement from Jaffer, but I’d think he needs to work on his square-off-the-side strokes to do well in Australia.

India went in to lunch at 117-1 off 28. It was an innings that was paced well. India were well-placed with Karthik on 50, Dravid on 25 with Dravid looking very very determined.

Dravid’s stride to the crease was purposeful. He opened with two fours and looked extremely focussed, determined and positive. If he had a message to convey to the team, he did so with panache. In the days leading to this Test match, he had already telegraphed his positive intentions. He had said that the previous two Test matches were-result oriented even though they only featured 350 overs. He said that with 450 overs expected to be bowled at The Oval, he expected a result. This was positive and tone-setting stuff from the captain.

The hour after lunch saw some awesome batting; perhaps even the best batting-phase of the series from either teams. Dravid and Karthik were scoring at will. They took nearly 70 runs in 17 overs. In this passage of play it was interesting to note that England maintained a very good over rate too. One particular shot by Dravid was really special. Panesar had two men in front of Dravid — one at short extra cover and one at short mid off. The two fielders were really close to each other — within hand-shaking distance. A flighted ball from Panesar invited the cover drive. Dravid leaned into a classic cover drive and threaded the ball through these two fielders with unforgettable panache and sheer style.

He really did look set for a 100 or even higher! After all, the last time he played at The Oval, he had scored over 200 runs! And then suddenly the ball started moving around quite a bit. Although Dravid was bowled by Anderson off a beauty — and normally, it is a beauty that gets Dravid out — it was really the previous over from Sidebottom that probably set up the dismissal. It was a fantastic and searching over; an over in which Sidebottom swung the ball away and asked a few questions. Dravid had played and missed a few times in that over and was clearly annoyed with himself. The first ball of the next over was a terrific yorker length ball that moved slightly away. Dravid lost his middle stump!

Although the ball was a good one, but for the previous over, Dravid may have, on most occasions, presented a straight bat to the ball. Instead, he closed the face and tried a cute flick to leg, perhaps in an effort to score a few off Anderson to compensate for the tightness of Sidebottom’s line, movement and length that did not afford any “gimme” balls.

Soon after Karthik was out too. How Howell could have given that out, I really do not know. There was no sound of a nick. Nor was there any deviation. The benefit of doubt should have gone the batsman’s way. It did not.

All of this happened during a phase in play when it was a wee-bit gloomy and there was some swing around. Andreson was in the middle of a good spell of fast swing bowling. The 50-over old ball was suddenly seaming around. Was it the overcast conditions? Or was there some jelly beans involved too?

Ganguly and Tendulkar set about the reconstruction job. Once again, Tendulkar appeared shaky while Ganguly was playing reasonably well, albeit with some initial scares. I thought England bowled badly to Tendulkar. They overdid the “chin music” stuff to Tendulkar when fully pitched outswingers that invited the drive may have been a better option. Matt Prior, who was asked to “put a sock in it” had a forgettable day. He let through some 20 byes and dropped Tendulkar off Sidebottom! A costly lapse perhaps?

But both teams are still in the game. I’d say that India won 2 sessions (session-1 and session-3) with the middle session being called an even one.

The new ball is only 8 overs old. So, Laxman and Tendulkar will need to see off the first 10-15 overs and then start to play their shots. The stage is set for a crucial 1st session on day-2. If one of Tendulkar, Laxman or Dhoni make a big hundred, they can put the match beyond Englands’ reach. But if England manage to get 1 or 2 quick wickets, they are right back in the game. All of this makes for a fascinating day-2.

— Mohan

England Vs India: Test 2 Day 5 — No coach but many oval beans?

This was a terrific team performance by India to win the 2nd Test match against England. It was a good win indeed. And this was achieved without a coach!

David Lloyd can whinge all he wants about it being a lucky toss to win, but if England continue to wallow in their self-pity and if they continue to be lured by excuse-mongering, they’ll be in a sorry frame of mind when they go into the 3rd and final Test match of this series at The Oval.

Yes, it was a good toss to win. However, by pinning England’s loss on that one event, as the one-eyed — or is he totally blind(ed) — David Lloyd was trying to do would be foolish. I thought both Andy Flower, Englands’ Assistant Coach, as well as Peter Moores, the England Coach, got it spot on when they dismissed the importance of the toss. Andy Flower said that it would be tempting but weak to pin the reasons for the loss on the toss.

The Indian bowlers bowled well in this match. They put the ball in the right spots and they asked searching questions. I certainly haven’t seen Zaheer Khan bowl with as much guile, intensity, purpose and energy as he did in this match. He was ably supported by R. P. Singh. And although Kumble merely polished off the tail in both innings, he did the job. He would be disappointed with his showing — especially in the 2nd innings — and I am sure he would use the 9-day break between games to work on his shortcomings. Sree Santh had a sorry outing in this match (more of that later). But

But overall, the bowling unit performed well. The core unit was supported well by Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar too.

The Indian batting came good. The openers batted in a truly special manner. That set the platform for the Fab Four to accumulate the runs.

This was a wonderful team performance. In the past, several of India’s overseas victories have been set up by only a few people. I can think of Dravid, Dravid and Dravid. Did I mention Dravid, by the way? Think back to Headingly, Rawalpindi, Adelaide and Jamaica. Agreed Laxman contributed big-time in Adelaide and so did Agrarkar with his magic spell of bowling, but without Dravid’s brilliant 70+ in the second innings, India may have lost that one.

However, this victory was different. This was a good, solid team performance. Almost everyone played a part. Zaheer Khan did. R. P. Singh did. I thought his balls to dismiss Pietersen and Prior were the balls of this series so far. Kumble contributed by polishing off the tail in both innings — someone has to do it! Jaffer and Karthik did, with their solid opening partnership which dealt the Indian middle-order with a solid platform. The England 1st Innings score had been all but wiped out when the Fab Four got their opportunity. One cannot underestimate the value of this opening partnership. The Fab Four came into their own in this match. Although Dravid did not make enough, he did continue the foundation that the openers had provided. I thought Sachin Tendulkar and Ganguly played with much application and determination. I thought this may have been one of Ganguly’s best innings ever! VVS Laxman played well too…

The only players that missed out were Dhoni and Sree Santh.

From all of Dravid’s post match sound bytes, it does appear as though Sree Santh will be given a chop on the knuckles and a dreessing down. Ravi Shastri wanted an internal disciplinary action. I don’t know if the Indian team will go that far. But I do believe he will receive a dressing down. A visit to a shrink may be in order too.

Are India poor travellers? Dileep Premachandran and Siddhartha Vaidhyanathan from Cricinfo explode this myth. Suddenly, India’s away record is second to Australia’s! So much for the “stamp the visa and stamp out the team” tag that Team India has had to live with. In the last 10 years or so, ever since Ganguly took over the captaincy reigns, India have won in South Africa, Australia, West Indies, England (twice), Pakistan and Sri Lanka. If we discount the shocking series in New Zealand in 2003, India has won important games in all Test playing countries. Of course, I have not considered Bangladesh and Zimbabwe in this analysis.

Indeed, since 2000-01, India has won more matches overseas than it has lost! In that period, India has played 36 overseas matches, won 13 and lost 10! If we ignore the New Zealand series of 2002-2003 and all wins in Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, the results read: 28 matches, won 8, lost 8. This is better than any other team barring Australia!

The problem with India has been consistency, continued-focus and retained-intensity. As Dileep Premachandran argues, almost every good overseas win has been followed by a loss! What India needs is to put her foot on the pedal and leave it there.

The fact that the team bounced back from the near-defeat at Lords’ to a win at Trent Bridge augurs well for India. The determination to win was there and it was evident. Hopefully India will retain that hunger when they step onto The Oval. There is a chance — a brilliant opportunity — to create history here. I don’t believe the Fab Four and Kumble — all on their last visits to England, surely — won’t want to miss out on this opportunity.

I mentioned earlier on that England would be foolish to pin the reasons for their loss on the toss-loss. The reason I say this is because it takes the focus completely away from the ordinary performance of Alistair Cook, Andrew Strauss, Ian Bell, Paul Collingwood and Matt Prior. Yes, the England bowlers bowled well. They bowled under worse conditions than India did. And yet they stuck to their task manfully. However, to ignore the problems that Struass and Cook are having would be foolish. To ignore the impetuosity of Collingwood and Bell in the first dig would be silly. They played atrocious shots when the situation demanded that they respect the conditions as well as the bowlers a lot more. And Collingwood, after getting a start in the 2nd Innings could not keep going. Ian Bell, like Alistair Cook and Andrew Strauss, is in all sorts. Matt Prior should really focus on his game and not on his next sledge. He, like his co-conspirator in the India Team — Sree Santh — appears to have lost the plot. A visit to a shrink would be needed to get him to focus on the next ball rather than the next sledge!

Which is why I think David Lloyd is being one-eyed! He needs to open the other eye and realise that there are some real problems that need to be solved; some questions that need to be answered.

So, let us head to The Oval. Hopefully we well see some more of those oval sugary beans there too so that Zaheer Khan can get fired up once again.

Ian Chappell’s incisive comments on Day 1

We get cricket coverage in India via Star Cricket, a new channel from the Star group. I like listening to Ian Chappell’s commentary as he usually makes some excellent points. Here are some interesting examples.

  • Dravid’s captaincy – Chappell felt that Dravid was unnecessarily pressurising his opening bowlers with he 7-2 field and preventing the bowlers from bowling slightly more straighter to allow the ball to swing.
  • Dravid at mid on – Dravid has been one of India’s best slip fielders and he even got his 150th catch standing at first slip. But for most of the 1st and the 2nd sessions he was standing at mid on. Chappell felt that 1st slip was the best place for a captain to stand, next to the wicket keeper. He himself stood there and always got good tips from Rod Marsh. Continuous talking to the bowler especially when he was not bowling well was not helping things. Imagine some talking to Dravid as he was getting beaten outside the off stump? Bowlers also need to concentrate after every ball!
  • Fielding coach – A fielding coach cannot teach a Test cricketer to field. A cricketer should learn about fielding between the ages of 9 – 16 and these are the things that help him in the long run.
  • Putting pressure – Strauss had got to 49 and was given an easy single by Dravid standing at a deepish mid on. A 50 is an important landmark for a struggling batsman. An opposing captain cannot afford to relax and give him the chance to get his confidence back.

– Sanjay