Category Archives: Strauss

England Vs India: Test 2 Day 4 — England turn to jelly…

Zaheer Khan’s excellent bowling put India firmly in the drivers’ seat at the end of day-4 of the 2nd England Vs India Test. He had a terrific first session in which he got Alistar Cook out with a beauty. But his best balls of the session weren’t rewarded. He bowled some peaches to Michael Vaughan and Andrew Strauss that went unrewarded. He said that he had been spurred by a few pink jelly beans!

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Zaheer Khan was referring to his exchange of pleasantries with Kevin Pietersen when Zaheer was batting on day-3. This had apparently been sparked by the presence of jelly beans on the pitch. Zaheer Khan flicked the offending beans away from the pitch only to find a few more on the pitch the very next ball! He apparent used that as a spur to bowl, on day-4, what was the best spell of his career so far, thereby turning the jelly-throwers into jelly themselves!

This has been a series marred by on-field pranks and verbals. I do believe Vaughan and Dravid have a responsibility to get their players to focus on the game instead. A bit of lip is perhaps good for the game. Matt Prior seems to think so anyway. But a continuous carry-on takes the sheen away from what has been a terrific contest between bat and ball. The worst offenders have been Sree Santh and Matt Prior. In my view, they should be given a hair cut, thrown into a cold shower, clipped behind their ears and asked to focus on their games instead.

But to be brutally frank about it, it was a slice of luck that brought India back into the game. Dravid took the 2nd new ball as soon as it was due. At that point, the game appeared to be slipping away from India’s control. England had squared off the deficit and were moving ahead with alacrity. Vaughan was batting well and Collingwood was steady at the other end. After having bowled Anil Kumble and Sachin Tendulkar for a few overs to usher in the new ball, Dravid took it as soon as it was due.

And talking of Sachin Tendulkar’s bowling, it must be that Dravid sees more in his bowling than most others. Or is it a case of the captain being in awe of his illustrious team-mates’ prowess? Who knows what the reason is, but it still was baffling to see Tendulkar fling leather for a few overs before lunch when the best man on the park had bowled a stirring spell of 6 overs in which he had taken 1 wicket for 9 runs. That apart, Dravids’ handling of his bowling resources was good. His field placings were good and he handled Sree Santh reasonably well too. He egged his players constantly. This was once more evident as soon as the new ball was taken.

Instead of getting on with the game as soon as the second new ball was taken, Dravid called for a mid-pitch huddle instead! This was certainly a first! Vaughan and Collingwood looked on in bemusement! Even the umpires looked. David Gover said with dripping sarcasm, “Hello, hello! The game will have to wait. We have a meeting going on”, or words to that effect. Dravid must have pleaded for some more intensity and focus. And that’s what he got. The Indians seemed hungry and desperate and altered the course of the match!

The first over with the new ball, bowled by Zaheer Khan, went for 14 runs and the second over, bowled by Sree Santh went for quite a few too. Dravid may have been wondering about his decision to claim the new ball. He may also have been wondering if his huddle-assemble-call had had any effect at all! However, a few overs into the new ball, Zaheer Khan thudded a fast ball into Vaughan. It clipped the bottom of Vaughan’s thigh pad and ricocheted onto the stumps.

India had prized the door open. And thanks to some smart cricket, India proceeded to smash the door open.

It was appropriate, in my view, that Zaheer Khan got Vaughan’s wicket. In the morning session, just as Sidebottom had made Tendulkar dance to his tunes on day-3, Zaheer Khan had Vaughan in all sorts of trouble. Vaughan had been extremely lucky to have survived that amazing spell of intense swing bowling from Zaheer Khan. Incidentally, Zaheer Khan is the 4th highest wicket taker in the list of left-arm-seamers. He is in illustrious company — Wasim Akram, Chaminda Vaas and Alan Davidson are the others. Zaheer Khan had bowled to Vaughan like a champ. Just as Tendulkar congratulated Sidebottom on day-3 after that left armer had completed his spell, Vaughan too seemed appreciative on more than one occasion!

Zaheer Khan was clearly the best bowler on view. He bowled with purpose and venom. While one could say that he was lucky with the Vaughan wicket and the Andrew Strauss wicket — a lazy, post-lunch waft — the deliveries that got Alistair Cook and Ian Bell was brutes. And the manner in which he set up Collingwoods’ wicket was smart.

I don’t believe Zaheer Khan was supported well. R. P. Singh was the only other India bowler who, in my view, bowled well. He is, in my view, a smart young bowler with maturity that defies his 22 years. Micheal Atherton claimed that the two left arm seamers, together, bowled the best spell of left-arm swing bowling that he had ever seen, apart from the spells bowled by the great Wasim Akram. I am quoting almost verbatim. David Gower’s response to that statement was, “High praise indeed.”

Although Kumble’s figures, at 3 wickets fro 104 runs, read reasonably well, he did have a poor day at the office. He did not pose too many threats and he did not ask too many questions.

But the worst culprit was Sree Santh. He started steadily but was mostly erratic. He nearly felled Pietersen with a terrible beamer. The fact that Pietersen got out a few balls later may have meant that Sree Santh had rattled him with the beamer. It just showed that Sree Santh wasn’t on top of his game. He once bumped into Michael Vaughan on his trudge back to his bowling mark. It may not have been a deliberate shoulder-contact. Nevertheless he has been fined for this transgression. Fair enough. He should concentrate on his game more.

Overall, Sree Santh had another ordinary day at the office. He bowled some good spells. But there was some tripe chucked in there for good measure too. On a day when Zaheer Khan was bowling probably the spell of his career so far, what one needed was a steadying support at the other end. Sree Santh definitely did not provide this support. He was erratic at worst and enigmatic at best. In amongst his beamers and over-stepped-by-2-feet no-balls, he even managed to deliver a ball from about a foot behind the bowling crease! This young lad needs to learn to channel his energies and his undoubted skills more effectively.

His reaction to being denied Collingwoods’ wicket was shocking. Collingwood had just gloved a Sree Santh ball to Dhoni behind the stumps. This was Howell’s chance to get in on the getting-it-wrong act. Sree Santh reacted by going around the wicket and bowling two deliberate no-ball bouncers. In both, his front foot had over-stepped by about 2 feet! That could be nothing other than intentional and deliberate!

Dravid immediately removed him from the attack next over and brought on Ganguly instead. Good call.

The contrast with R. P. Singh was stark. Singh had just scored a Pietersen’s snick to Dhoni and was celebrating with the slips by the time he turned back to see Simon Taufel deny him his glory. The snick was so obvious Blind Freddie would have given it out. Taufel’s nightmare series was merely continuing. Singh, meanwhile, merely trudged back to the top of his run and proceeded to bowl what I thought was the ball of the series so far. The next ball was a viscious inswinger that swung at terrific pace from about a foot outside off to catch Pietersen plumb in front.

Singh produced a similar delivery later on to dismiss Matt Prior.

Aaah! MAtt Prior! I think this goof is another one that needs to spend more time in the nets and less time practicing his sledges. He gives the impression that he takes the verbal/aggression side of his game a bit too seriously. If he took his batting as seriously as the sharpening of his mental game, he’d probably be a better player for it. When he got in, he was understandably, given the verbal make over by the Indians — and in particular from Sree Santh, his professional counterpart in the Indian team. Instead of getting on with his game, Prior reacted to the sledges. He air-kissed, winked, smiled and said something himself. It wasn’t surprising that he was out soon and sent packing.

Despite the wickets of Cook, Strauss and Pietersen, in my view, England had taken the 1st two sessions of the day and my session-by-session scorecard read 5-4 when we got to the second new ball.

Vaughan had played delectably. His balance and his poise were amazing. His front foot drives and his cover drives were poetry. His reaction to the verbals — and the shoulder-to-shoulder from Sree Santh — were lessons in how to cop it — Matt Prior should take note. The England captain was on top of his game. He had played a captains’ knock with little support from the rest of the bats. Along the way, Vaughan had also survived a first ball scare from Kumble. Kumble had started his spell with a fast-low top-spinner that thudded onto Vaughan’s pads. I am not sure why that was given not out! The nightmare on umpire street merely continued! But Vaughan put all of that behind him and built a wonderful innings.

Alistair Cook has a balance problem that has been rudely exposed by the Indian seamers. He has been found out to the inswinger thudding into his pads and on 4 times out of 4 in this series, he has been out in the same manner. A few years ago, Justin Langer had a similar exaggerated head-lean-to-the-left to compensate for the ball sliding down his leg side. Agarkar had exposed this weakness in his batting. Cook is going through a similar phase and needs to address this weakness. Strauss had lent support to Vaughan but his lazy post-lunch waft at a wide ball was a stupid lapse in concentration, especially from one who is vice-captain of the team! Pietersen came and went. Only Collingwood was able to lend support to Vaughan. The two of them had a good partnership going. England were motoring at that stage. And that’s when, with the second new ball, the game turned on its head. Vaughan was out and Ian Bell came into play.

The Indians had been pre-warned that Bell had received a viscious knock to his head in the nets. Zaheer Khan greeted Bell with a bouncer. He then bowled a beauty to trap Bell adjacent. R.P.Singh produced a peach to get rid of Prior and Collingwood was snapped up by Karthik in 1st slip. This was a smart catch take inches off the ground. Kumble wiped off the tail, India were left with 73 to make. They had won the last session decisively and should go on to win the Test match.

The session-score reads 6-4 and that is an apt reflection of India’s dominance of this match.

England Vs India: Test 2 Day 3 — England claw back…

On an intriguing day of Test cricket, England had their first good session of the ongoing Test match between England and India at Trent Bridge.

However, things did not go Englands’ way to start off. India had a solid first session on day-3 and did exactly what the doctor ordered — to see off the new ball and keep the scoreboard ticking. Ganguly looked assured and played with hunger. He was often seen egging his more illustrious partner on whenever Tendulkar played and missed to Sidebottom. The fire and hunger seemed to back in Ganguly. So also the swagger. He had even hooked Tremlett for a huge six over squre leg! And what’s more, to rub salt into the bowlers’ wounds, he made Tremlett wait at the top of his bowling mark as he turned sideways to admire the shot on the grounds’ TV screen! He was doing a Ganguly as only Ganguly can! This was a session that was India’s all the way. The forecast would have been ominous for England at lunch time. The scoreboard read 338/3. India had made 82 runs in 28 overs, had seen off the new ball and were playing Panesar with aplomb. Tendulkar was on 87 and Ganguly was on 53. Tendulkar was looking good for a century and even though Ganguly was 47 runs away from a three-figure mark, it seemed almost inevitable that he’d cross the three-figure mark too — he was playing as well as I have seen him play in a long time.

The first session of day-3 was clearly Indias’. Our session-by-session score card would have read 5-0 to India after 6 sessions of the match had been played.

At lunch time, England would have been looking for inspiration from somewhere. Maybe even an extra pair of legs! Maybe a fresh body? And that they did find. Suddenly, in the post-lunch session, it appeared as if England were playing with 12 players!

They clawed their way back into the match and even recruited an Australian to help them along in their journey. Tendulkar and Ganguly were sent packing by the Antipodean and England managed to get Dhoni out with their normal complement of players. Session 2 of day-3 had belonged to England.

Simon Taufel had a bad day at the office and unfortunately, the next time one of our Indian media pundits (or couch potato fans) adjust their spectacles, settle themselves comfortably into their chair/couch, dig the record book to say “it has been X innings since Ganguly/Tendulkar scored a century“, or “the last time Tendulkar/Ganguly scored a century was against a minnow“, the fact that the two players were robbed of certain centuries will have been forgotten. The record books merely state “SR Tendulkar lbw b Collingwood 91” and “SC Ganguly c Prior b Anderson 79“. And that is all there is to it. And that is all the scoreboard can say. You accept the good with the bad and move on. As Ganguly said phlegmatically, in his post-match, “You have to live with it“.

Just as Cook was not out, but given out in Englands’ first innings, the Indian team has to live with these two shockers from the normally good Antipodean.

And we should not really be making a big deal out of these screw-ups. We have to accept the good with the bad and move on. That’s exactly what Tendulkar did, and after a brief mind-fuse, Ganguly seemed to have accepted it too.

However, the worrying thing for Taufel would be his form. He has made some good decisions in this series so far. Of that there is no doubt. But he did send (if I am not mistaken) Dravid and Pietersen packing in the first Test. His handling of Cook, Tendulkar and Ganguly in this current Test could be the onset of a pattern. Just as players need to look at their form and their match preparedness, perhaps it is time for Taufel to stand back to take stock?

Jonathan Agnew, in his BBC blog, says that these two decisions ultimately “did not affect India’s position unduly“. Firstly, it is irrelevant whether or not it did. Secondly, I think it could well affect India’s position. Time will tell. However, I predict — perhaps foolishly — that there may well be a few more twists left in this match! More of that later.

England used their luck as a platform to claw their way into the match. Some will even say that they created their slice of luck — and that would be fair enough in my books! They stuck to their task manfully. Apart from Anderson who had suddenly started to look like the Anderson of old, all the other bowlers stuck to their task. Sidebottom and Panesar were particularly impressive. Their fielding never waned. Their players continued to chirp and chatter. One such monologue from Pietersen had perhaps crossed the line. It certainly caused Zaheer Khan to advance towards the slips cordon, threatening to introduce Pietersen’s face to the bat makers’ label. Perhaps Pietersen had asked about Zaheer Khan’s bat contract! As Andrew Miller says on Cricinfo, England need to talk less and bat more.

But then they did claw their way back into the game. Session-3 of day-3 also belonged to England, in my books. Although they did let Kumble get some runs and, in the process, develop a 50-run partnership with Laxman, they did polish off the India tail. They then batted sensibly and positively for the remaining 16 overs to end the day at 43 for no loss. England was helped by some poor bowling by Sreesanth. He seemed to be all over the place. He seemed to have lost his balance, his rhythm and his composure. He seemed horribly undercooked. Nasser Hussain, in his TV commentary, commented that Sreesanth did not bowl a single ball of pace in the morning nets! He bowled leg-spin instead! While Sreesanth appeared to be falling apart, Hussain commented, “I have no sympathy for the lad really.” Sreesanth’s final over of the day lasted nearly 7 minutes as he stuttered and spluttered his way to completion in an embarassing manner. It didn’t help either that Zaheer Khan and R. P. Singh seemed to be intent on bouncing out Strauss and Cook. But Sreesanth was the major disappointment for me. He would, I think, need an extended session in the nets with Venkatesh Prasad. If he doesn’t get his act together — and quickly — we could well see Romesh Powar as an extra spinner in the team for the 3rd and final The Oval Test match.

The match is delicately poised. My session-by-session score card reads, India 5, England 2. India is clearly in front. And they will be looking to Anil Kumble and Zaheer Khan to deliver them the goods. They’d need a solid bowling performance on a somewhat unhelpful pitch. The first session of day-4 could again hold the key. India should, I believe, adopt a batten-down-the-hatches-at-one-end policy while they attack from the other.

England have another 240 to get India to bat again. If the England openers build a good foundation, like the Indian openers did, then a Pietersen cameo can help wipe off the lead. From there on, it could be anyones’ match, in my view. England have their work cut out. But India have not done enough to ensure they do not bat again. As I said earlier, I don’t think the chapter on this Test match can be written, completed and set off to the sub-editors’ desk. The pitch is still playing reasonably well. Day-3 may have been the best day for batting, but I did not see any signs that would indicate that the pitch would deteriorate dramatically on day-4. The odd ball is keeping low, which would lead me to conclude that day-5 could be extremely tricky on this pitch. Which is why I don’t agree with Jonathan Agnew. Another 60-70 runs would have meant that India cannot lose this match. Although India is clearly in the drivers’ seat, if England have an exceptional day-4, it could lead to an extremely interesting day-5 of this game. The weather forecast is for two good days.

All I can say is “bring it on”.

— Mohan

India’s back in the game, Or are we?

A lot of people consider test cricket to be boring. Nothing really happens for overs and overs. Plus when it rains, there is nothing much either players or spectators can do. But for the connoisseur, test cricket is the real cricket. The game is fought over 5 days and fans know that something exciting can happen in just a matter of few overs that can turn the game upside down.

England went into the day with a slight edge over the Indians. England’s plans would have been to get the score well over the 400 run mark. After all, they had Pietersen, Bell and Prior – all accomplished batsmen, who had scored heavily in the recently concluded test series against the West Indies.

From India’s point of view, the dressing room talk would have centered around how they can restrict the English to less than 350.

England had started Day 1 really well and were cruising at 200 for the loss of just one wicket and even after Strauss fell, they were 250/2 at one stage, with both the captain and Pietersen in good flow. England at that stage were probably thinking of a score of around 500-550. Then the game turned on its head – two quick wickets to end the day, heavy rains the next day and some inspired bowling from India with the new ball meant that eight wickets fell for just 46 runs. England were all out for 298 and India were back in the game.

When India came out to bat, their first target would have been to see off the new ball without the loss of any wickets. That was not to be the case as Karthik and Dravid fell in the 9th and 12th over respectively. Tendulkar and Jaffer then started to build a partnership and just when things were starting to look up for India, Sachin fell for 37. India would have done well to have finished the day without the loss of any further wickets, but Jaffer got out for 58 with just 3 more overs remaining for the day. India finished the day with 145 for 4 (compare this to England’s 268/4 at the end of day 1) and have lost the ground that they gained earlier.

All is not lost yet. India now need a couple of good partnerships to take the lead. India need a lead of at least 75-100 runs to still be in the game and that is what they would be looking to do. But as I said earlier, it only takes a few overs to turn the game upside down…

-Mahesh-

England Vs India: Test-1, Day-1

After a frenetic-paced start, England had moved to a sedate 268 for 4. Cricinfo declared that “honours were even” on Day-1 although the start line of the report by Andrew McGlashan gives one the impression that he may have been watching the wrong match! He writes, “England spent the early part of the season feasting on plenty of help-yourself offerings from West Indies“!

At the close of play — when bad light stopped play — both teams ended the day perhaps on par. At lunch, England had moved to 116 for 1 off 28 overs. The fact that they only scored a further 152 runs in the remaining 52.3 overs that were bowled in the day perhaps implies that India pulled things back a bit through tight bowling. In reality, it was a bit of tight bowling and a bit of over-cautiousness on the part of England.

Sreesanth got better as the day progressed. He was not really helped by his fielders. The main culprit was, of course, Dinesh Karthik with that sitter of a let-off of Strauss, just prior to the lunch break. R. P. Singh impressed all day. He bowled to a plan. He bowled a good lenght and got the ball to move all day. Anil Kumble was… well… Anil Kumble. The biggest disappointment was Zaheer Khan. He did not shoulder the responsibility of senior pace bowler well. He went to sleep on the wheel through either excitement or ineptitude or both. He had just got up on the wrong side of the bed. On top of his woeful and directionless bowling, his fielding wasn’t crash-hot either. Overall, for him, this was a day to forget.

India need a few quick wickets — especially that of the dangerous Kevin Pietersen — early on Day-2 to pull things back. Pietersen did not seem to be totally on top of Kumble and it may be the wily fox that provides India the early breakthrough. If India lets Pietersen get away, this could be a long road back…

I’d give Session-1 to England. Session-2 was, I’d think, even with Session 3 going to India. So, a session-by-session tally would read 1-1 at this stage.

Dravid’s captaincy was strong and good. Ravi Shastri, in his report, indicates that Dravid perhaps over-attacked too much too soon. Perhaps, but he gambled initially and wasn’t helped by his bowlers who started the day terribly. One of them — Zaheer Khan — stayed in that mould right through the day! He switched Sreesanth’s end around and removed Zaheer Khan, who was really bowling terrible stuff. R. P. Singh came in to the attack and bowled some sensible stuff. He didn’t panic in my view. He was merely being pragmatic.

— Mohan