Tag Archives: Amit Mishra

India Vs Australia :: Test 4 :: Nagpur :: Day-3

The first session of the days’ play turned out to be attritional cricket at its very best. It was like two heavy weights sizing each other up before delivering a punch. Neither team wanted to land a blow and expose themselves to an upper cut or a hook. This is how the morning was played out.

India bowled Ishant Sharma and Zaheer Khan for much of the session. And almost all of what they bowled was at least a foot outside the off stump of the two left-handers: Mike Hussey and Simon Katich! For almost the entire morning, they bowled to an 8-1 off-side field!

India had decided that the runs had leaked the previous day and wanted Australia to make the running in this innings from here on in.

This was a test to see whether Australia could indeed make the running. We saw Australia adopt such — outside off-stump — tactics for much of this series when behind the eight-ball. Now it was the turn of Australia to make the running.

This tactic required a shedding of the ego. Dhoni was basically admitting that his strike bowler, Harbhajan Singh, was not capable of getting the sharp turn that Jason Krejza got. This took a lot of courage. It could also bomb badly in Dhoni’s face, but it was certainly a different tactic.

Australia did not take the bait and played safe cricket instead. The two left handers left most of the balls alone. Some of the balls closer to the stump were played straight to a fielder.

For the whole of the morning, just 24 overs had been bowled! This was really a bad over rate. Interestingly, it was the first time in the series we saw Mark Waugh frothing at the mouth about over-rates! It was also the first time that India had really offended on this count. The over-rate was really terrible and several times one wondered what the conversations were that several Indian players were having!

But India wanted to slow the game right down. And it did. Just 42 runs were scored by Australia in the 24 overs! Harbhajan Singh bowled just a few overs before lunch. Australia’s Innings scoring rate had dropped to 3.5 rpo.

One could assume that India had given up on the game — when we hadn’t yet reached the half-way stage of the game! However, another way to interpret it would be that India, with a 1-0 series lead, was asking Australia to make the running if it dared and if it wanted to! It was akin to a soccer team playing defensive, protecting a 1-0 lead. This wasn’t a strategy that one could scoff at. It was a valid one. However, for Dhoni’s sake, I do hope it does not bomb on him.

Simon Katich was dropped by Rahul Dravid in the slips off the second over of the morning off the bowling of Ishant Sharma.

Just before lunch, Zaheer Khan was getting some reverse swing and it was through that that he trapped Simon Katich LBW for a well made 102 off 189 balls. Remembering that he had made his 100 off 139 balls, his last 2 runs had taken a painful 50 balls!

But I do think that the dropped catch of Katich actually worked in India’s favour! Remember that Katich was on 92 off 120 balls at the end of the 2nd days’ play! He was dropped after facing only 5 balls today. Off the dropped catch he took a single to move to 95 off 126 balls. In other words, Katich scored just 7 runs more after the dropped catch, but ate up 63 balls for it!

It was hard to understand Australia’s tactics! Yes, they could not afford to take risks and thrash the ball around, but for a well-set batsman to take 63 balls to make 8 runs was a bit hard to understand even though the Indian bowlers were bowling an off-side line to an 8-1 field.

Australia went to lunch at 231-3 in 73.0 overs. Although Australia had only made 42 runs and lost a wicket, I give this as an even session. The SBS Score reads India-2.5, Australia-4.5;

After lunch, India continued with Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan. They were bowling to a left-right combination. This would make India’s defensive tactics that much harder.

A half hour after lunch, we hadn’t seen Amit Mishra or Virender Sehwag have a bowl in the day!

Harbhajan Singh was bowling flat and fast. There wasn’t a doosra in sight and unlike Jason Krejza, he was bowling far too straight for any grip off the foot marks.

When the 80th over was being bowled, Ishant Sharma was in the middle of a spell. Clearly the nw ball wasn’t going to be taken. At the other end, Harbhajan Singh continued to bowl. And there was still no sign of Amit Mishra, Virender Sehwag or the new ball!

Just before the post-lunch drinks’ break, Ishant Sharma bowled a truly wonderful delivery to square Michael Hussey up. The resulting edge was pouched by Dhoni and the score was 255-4. Clarke was gone for a painful 8 off 43 balls. Hussey was still there on 81 from 210 balls!

This got Shane Watson to the crease. It would be interesting to see his approach to the game. There was an opportunity for him to play the style of attacking play that he can and does play regularly.

At the post-lunch drinks break, Australia was 259-4 off 87 overs at a rate of 2.97 rpo. In that session, 14 overs had been bowled for 28 runs with the loss of 1 terrific wicket.

At the half-way stage in the Test match, Australia was 182 runs behind.

There was still a long way to go for Australia in this game. If Australia wanted to win this game, they had to play more brave cricket. This wasn’t, in my view, a win approach. Australia have to try and bat only once in this match. The match was delicately balanced.

This was gripping Test match cricket being played here. The sparring continued between these two proud competitors.

Karma struck again just after the drinks’ break! And the man that Karma struck down was Michael Hussey, the first Australian to admit that the Australians would be happy to see Gautam Gambhir rubbed out of this game!

Hussey tapped a ball from Harbhajan Singh to forward short leg and set off for a run. M. Vijay leapt to his right, grabbed the ball and threw it to Dhoni off balance. Dhoni gathered the ball and broke the stumps. Hussey was gone, run out, for 84 off 216 balls with 8 4s. Australia was 265-5 off 90 overs, still 176 runs behind.

Whatever happens from here, this was already India’s session. It was just top cricket from the Indians. After choking the Australians in the 1st Session, India was right back in the game. Ironically, it was through pace bowling and ground fielding! Who would have thought, especially after Jason Krejza’s 8-fer in India’s 1st Innings!

Immediately after, Shane Watson played on to an over-spun ball that bounced from Harbhajan Singh and it was 265-6! Watson was gone for 2 off 22 balls! Australia had lost 3 wickets for 11 runs in 6 overs!

The ball was 93 overs old and although Virender Sehwag had bowled 1 over up until then on day-3, there was no sign of Amit Mishra! The commentators were ruing Dhoni’s defensive strategy in the mornings’ play. The results were starting to make the commentators look a bit sheepish!

As I’d written in the morning itself, these were brave tactics from India. Now, if they would only tighten up the over rate!

After 47 overs had been bowled in the day, Amit Mishra came in for a bowl.

Brad Haddin was off the mark of the 25th delivery he faced. At the other end, White was on 4 off 20 balls!

In the last session, White and Haddin continued to bat well to frustrate the Indians. Haddin put on 50 runs with White before he was caught freakishly at slips by Dravid off Mishra. The remaining tail-enders put on a few more runs before Australia was wrapped up for 355. White batted well for his 46.

But truth be told. This was an amazing performance by India. It was ugly cricket all right. But in this heavy weight boxing bout, Australia had lost its way. India made sure that it shadow boxed and shadow boxed till it was given an opportunity by an opponent that had seemingly lost the ability to punch. When that opportunity was presented, India slowly but surely crept up on the champion side to come away with an 86 run lead. In the context of this game, this could be plenty.

Australia had scored just 166 runs in the day, from 86 overs, scoring at 1.93 rpo. The innings run rate was just 2.62 rpo. Australia had played into India’s hands today. Jason Krejza’s brilliant debut performance was wiped away by strange tactics from Australia’s batsmen.

This The last session belonged to India too. The SBS Score reads India-4.5, Australia-4.5;

My SBS Score reveals that the match is evenly poised. But of course, it does not take into account the future scenario that Australia will have to bat last on this pitch. Nor does it take into account the fact that Australia has to win this match, while India does not have to!

India will look to play steady and minimal-histrionics cricket for the first two sessions on day-4. Australia has its work cut out. Australia will need an exceptional 1st Session of play to claw its way back into the game. It is possible. You can never write off this Australian side although, on today’s evidence, I am not convinced that this Australian side really wants to win this match!

An exciting day’s cricket awaits us tomorrow.

— Mohan

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India Vs Australia :: Test 3 :: Delhi :: Day-4

In all interviews I heard since the end of day-3, talk has been about Australia trying hard to save the game. Even Matthew Hayden, in his post-match interview, talked only about Australia saving the game. He said (and I am paraphrasing), “We know we can’t win, so we have our backs to the wall.”

I find this strange. Thanks to a superb batting display on day-3, Australia are in a position where they can win the game too! I know that this is a slim possibility, but it is probable!

Australia is only 275 behind.

If Australia bat all day today and make 350 runs (say), they will be 75 runs ahead at the end of days’ play. Another 75 runs tomorrow might mean that India will have to play last on this pitch!

Another scenario is that if Australia are all out after scoring say 50 more runs, Dhoni will need to make a choice as to whether or not to enforce the follow on (with tired bowlers in his ranks) or play on for a while and unleash a fresh set of bowlers on the Australians batting last. He may not want to give the bat-last advantage to the Australians by enforcing the follow on.

Moreover, if Australia avoid the follow-on, India will have to set a target. The target will depend on the extent of the lead and also on India’s aggressive intent. This won’t be easy.

So, I am a bit puzzled by the negative Australian attitude. They must think more than just “saving the game”, I feel. The game is still a bit open — although favouring the Indians slightly — in my view.

The absence of Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble has hurt the Indians a lot in this Test match. But them’s the breaks.

The first session will be vital for both teams. Australia cannot afford to lose early wickets. Indian heads will droop if Australia bats out the first session without losing a wicket. Australias’ approach will be to bat out and see out the 1st session.

After 8 days of pressure-less cricket, the pressure is on the Indians for the first time since the Bengaluru Test. India will be looking to wrap the series in Delhi. The Indians will not want to go into the Nagpur Test just 1-0 up in the series. If India go into Nagpur either 1-0 (or worse, 1-1), the momentum could shift completely to Australia. As I maintained, in a back-to-back situation, the draw at Bangalore worked in India’s favour. So will a draw here in Delhi. The momentum will have shifted in Australia’s favour.

So the Indians will be desperate to win here at Delhi to maximise its chances of regaining the Border-Gavaskar-Trophy.

Session-1:

After a happy-birthday-tune to celebrate V. V. S. Laxman’s birthday, proceedings got underway with the talented Zaheer Khan bowling to an aggressive and recently-fined Shane Watson.

Off the 4th over of the morning, Michael Clarke was dropped at mid off by a leaping Ishant Sharma off the bowling of Amit Mishra. These catches ought to be taken. India could well pay dearly for this lapse. Mishra had the measure of Michael Clarke in yesterdays’ session and had started in pretty much the same vein this morning. However, for success, bowlers need to depend on fielders unless of course you are Virender Sehwag (two clean bowled and 1 LBW)!

The morning was going Australia’s way. The partnership between Clarke and Watson was developing well. Watson was starting to play his shots and look more confident with each ball. Mishra continued to bowl a hit-me ball every over. The dropped catch seemed to have dropped shoulders just that little bit on the field. After 8 overs, Australia had scored 31 runs with not much fuss — apart from that dropped catch — and the deficit was only 244 runs!

Ishant Sharma, the culprit of the catch let-off, came on to bowl. But with him and Mishra bowling a hit-me ball every over, Australia started to slowly but irrevocably draw closer to their first target for the day — avoiding the follow-on. Something needed to happen for India.. and soon. Watson, in particular, was batting quite well, despite the odd edgy stroke past the thinly populated slips area.

I thought Dhoni missed a trick here in not starting with Virender Sehwag, the best of the three spinners on view yesterday. Mishra was more inexperienced than Sehwag, who would have kept it tight as well.

Sehwag ultimately came in for Mishra in the 11th over of the morning. He started off with a maiden over! For India, the way to do this would have been for Ishant Sharma to swallow his ego and bowl a line outside slightly wide of the off-stump and attack with Sehwag and Mishra from the other end. However, Ishant Sharma continued to bowl and attacking line and leaked runs.

After another Sehwag maiden over, drinks was called. At drinks break, Australia had scored 57 runs from 14 overs. This was just what the doctor had ordered for Australia. Australia had reached 395-4.

Interestingly, Anil Kumble came in for a bowl after the drinks’ break! Here was a warrior striding in for his team after 11 stitches to the little finger of his left hand, with 2 of his fingers taped together, a few cortisone injections and perhaps even a plastic plate inserted to protect the left hand.

I was surprised that Kumble was allowed to bowl. Isn’t there a requirement that he had to spend as much time on the field as he did off it before he could bowl?

With Kumble and Sehwag on, the bowling was tighter and runs were harder to come by. I thought that Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma and Amit Mishra bowled quite badly this morning. For the first time in the series, the Indian bowling looked insipid and lazy — somewhat like the Australian bowling has looked this series (with due apologies to fans of the Australian team who visit this blog)!

And the tightness of the bowling caused Sehwag to bowl Shane Watson. Sehwag seems to have made up his mind to not depend on the fielders in this match! He has 3 clean bowleds and 1 LBW thus far in this game. This ball pitched well outside off stump, spun sharply and clipped the top of Watson’s leg stump. I have little doubt that the tightness of the Kumble-Sehwag bowling was what caused this wicket to fall.

We had a new man, Brad Haddin, at the crease and suddenly things were happening. There was more in the pitch, it seemed. Sehwag (at 66-4) had his best figures in a Test match. Since his introduction, Sehwag had bowled 3 maidens and had taken a wicket! Watson had departed for a well-made 36 in a partnership of 73 runs off 20.1 overs with Michael Clarke.

In the next over from Kumble, Clarke danced down the wicket to hit it over the top. The boundary gave Clarke his half-century and also brought up Australia’s 400.

In Kumble’s next over, he hit Haddin bang in front of the stumps. Hadding was a foot down the pitch, but wasn’t playing a shot at the ball, which struck him in front of middle stump! Umpires are loathe to give these balls out even though the batsman does not offer a stroke to it. I find this a strange policy.

Soon after, the follow-on target was avoided. The first target had been achieved for Australia. It was a mammoth effort from a team that had had 8 days of Test cricket under the pump and behind the 8-ball. Although they were helped by an easy pitch and by the absence of Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble yesterday, this was a great backs-to-the-wall effort. The fact that all top five batsmen made a half century (with none of them, yet, going on to make a century) was an indicator of the superlative team-effort that Australia had put in.

I felt that although Kumble was bowling tight and although it was fabulous stuff from a committed Indian warrior, he missed a trick by not bowling from around the wicket and into the ‘rough’.

Sehwag was bowling brilliantly. He was showing us a complete repertoire. The top spinner, the slow spinner, flight, the one that goes straight and the faster one. It just showed how badly under-used this talented cricketer is in India.

And then, after some 85 overs since his last wicket in Test cricket, Anil Kumble bowled a slow-through-the-air googly to get Brad Haddin stumped brilliantly by Dhoni. The indefatigable warrior had struck for India. Australia was 426-6.

Haddin was gone for 17 off 35 balls with 1 four and a six.

In the very next over, Gambhir almost created a a half-chance at forward short-leg as Michael Clarke poked at a Sehwag delivery. It was a hard one to convert to a catch. The fact that Gambhir almost made it into a catch should augur well for India’s close-fielding stables.

At lunch, Australia had reached 436-6. India had bowled 31 overs and Australia had made 98 runs, losing 2 wickets. Australia had made the runs at 3.16 rpo.

In the pre-lunch session, India had bowled 31 overs. This is how teams should approach their cricket. Not in the recalcitrant, unprofessional, lazy and sloppy manner in which Australia treats the viewing spectator. And while Australia thumbs its lazy nose at the ICC establishment, the ICC goes around finding the next Asian to ping for a wrong-doing when the wrongdoers are right under its nose. What I struggle most with is the manner in which Match Referees allow and encourage such recalcitrance from Australia, the world champion team when it comes to over rates.

Australia will be happy to wipe off the deficit and reach the follow-on target. India will rue the missed catch and also the bad bowling from Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma and Mishra that they started off with.

Given that Australia lost two important wickets, I call this an even session too. The SBS Score reads: India 5.5, Australia 4.5!

Session-2:

Surprisingly, India started with Zaheer Khan bowling after lunch. Given that Kumble and Sehwag did all the pre-lunch damage, this decision was somewhat surprising, unless Kumble wanted to change the end from which he was bowling.

Sehwag bowled from the end that Kumble was bowling pre-lunch. So it may be that Kumble was using Zaheer Khan to help him swap ends with Sehwag — not a bad ploy.

Australia will be looking to do a Zaheer-Harbhajan-Bengaluru in this session being about 170 behind India. The closer they could get to India’s total, the better it would be for them.

A few overs after lunch, Virender Sehwag became India’s one of the most employed bowler in this innings! At this stage, Sehwag had already bowled 35 overs, which was the same number of overs that Mishra had bowled! Given Kumble’s injury and Harbhajan Singh’s absence, this was a tremendous bonus for Anil Kumble and further underlined Sehwag’s value in this team.

Zaheer Khan continued to bowl. The tactic was somewhat unclear to me although Zaheer Khan was getting the ball to tail in to the right hander.

The folly of the Zaheer Khan strategy had become more obvious as the runs started to come quite freely. One of the advantages of Kumble bowling in tandem with Sehwag was that both ends offered little by way of release of pressure. There was hardly any venom in Zaheer Khan’s bowling for the batsmen to try anything silly off Sehwag’s bowling. India was missing a trick by not bowling either Mishra or Kumble here, I felt.

After three overs of the Zaheer Khan spell, Kumble brought himself on to bowl. Australia had moved to 465-6, only 148 runs behind. The complexion of the game was slowly starting to change. At the other end, Sehwag was changed for Amit Mishra.

Australia had developed a string of partnerships — with not a single player (yet) going on to make a century — and another one was developing between Cameron White and Michael Clarke. Their partnership had reached 50 runs and the danger signal for India was that they had done it really easily!

Mishra has upped his pace and was bowling with less flight and faster through the air to try and get some purchase from the pitch. Kumble was trying, in the meanwhile, to bowl a few tight overs.

[I could not write more last night. This piece is written more for completeness and has been written a day later.]

India continued to play ordinary cricket and let off Michael Clarke a few more times before they were able to wrap up the innings.

I was disappointed by Australia’s approach. Australia batted on till it got to 39 runs behind India’s tour.With just 13 overs left in the days’ play, there was no way India was going to make the running on a pitch that was offering nothing much to the bowlers even on day-4. I thought Australia should have declared at least 100 behind. This would have forced India to make the running in this match. Remember, India does not need to win this match, although India would like to. Australia has to win this match although, by drawing this match, it keeps its hopes alive in the series. So the attacking ploy for Australia would have been to declare about 100 runs behind India’s total. Unfortunately, that was not to be. What we saw was the initiation of a defensive ploy from Australia and a continuation of this ploy by India.

I gave the 2nd session as well as the 3rd session of day-4 to Australia and so, the SBS Score reads: India 5.5, Australia 6.5!

— Mohan

India Vs Australia :: 2nd Test :: Mohali :: Day-3

Epilogue as Prologue:

Unlike other days, I don’t think the first session of day-4 should matter too much! Even if India lose a few quick wickets, there are enough runs in the bag now and India will not be forced to go into a shell. It will need a bagful of wickets by the Australians for India’s intent to dramatically change. India are in front and will look to press home the advantage in the first session of play on day-4. If Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir are still together at the end of the first hour, I will not be surprised to see M. S. Dhoni walk in at the fall of the 1st wicket! I think India will look to play steady cricket for the first hour before putting their foot on the accelerator.

Declaration target:

To me, it is the middle session of day-4 (and not the 1st session) that will be important. I believe that that is the session when declaration calculations will come into play.

Without getting too far ahead of myself, I feel India should set Australia a target of about 500-520 runs in 125 overs. In other words, I think India should bat about 50 overs on day-4 to score about 200-220 additional runs. If Australia makes the 520 runs (at somewhere between 4 rpo and 4.15 rpo) in the 4th innings here, they absolutely deserve the victory and more!

Defensive mindset:

I have been maintaining since the start of this series that Australia’s defensive mindset, more than anything else, could prove its downfall in this competitive series against India. Nothing proved this more than day-2 of the 2nd Test at Mohali. Australia adopted a defensive mentality right through the day and ended up in a somewhat ordinary position. Yet, despite Michael Clarke’s departure off the last ball of the day, the situation was still recoverable. After all, India had recovered from 163-4 to make 469, thanks to a positive mindset! Australia had ended the day at 102-4 and still had Michael Hussey and a batting order that ran deep.

Session-1:

However, Australia started somewhat tentatively and paid the price for it. It didn’t help matters that Ishant Sharma and Zaheer Khan bowled brilliantly. Sharma, in particular, was making the ball “talk” on a placid pitch!

Soon after Michael Hussey compiled his half-century he got a terrific delivery that moved just a bit after pitching outside off-stump. Hussey poked at it and the resulting edge sped past Rahul Dravid to the 3rd man fence. Ishant Sharma has developed this habit of making new opportunities immediately after he has had a catch dropped or a plumb LBW denied — as he demonstrated in the Ponting dismissal the previous evening! After being denied a plumb LBW by Rudi Koertzen, he produced a slightly better delivery to remove the Australian captain just 2 balls later! This is probably why Ishant Sharma is referred to as “Instant Karma“! This time, after an edge had gone for a boundary, Sharma bowled the next ball just slightly back of a length and just inches outside off stump. Hussey had to play/poke at it and the resulting edge was gleefully accepted by M. S. Dhoni.

Once again, reverse swing was the main “weapon” that Ishant Sharma and Zaheer Khan were harnessing. Right from the 10th over of the innings, the ball had been “reversing” and here, Ishant Sharma and Zaheer Khan were giving nothing away.

This wasn’t the start that Australia wanted on day-3! India were suddenly looking at lead margins, especially after Harbhajan Singh bowled an absolute ripper to have Brad Haddin clean bowled! That was a stunning ball from the turbaned finger spinner. It spun a proverbial mile, had terrific loop and crashed into the stumps.

We soon had a double spin-attack when Amit Mishra was brought on. Mishra was getting a fair bit of purchase from the pitch. This was understandable. He is a wrist spinner, in the Shane Warne mode. Unlike Harbhajan Singh, the finger spinner bowling at the other end, Mishra does give the ball a fair tweak. His lack of height also helps in him being able to lob the ball way above his eye-line. He bowled several balls at 78 kmph mark and allowed the pitch to do the rest.

Cameron White was in a shell. He made 5 runs off 23 balls when he was deceived by flight, loop and the googly from Mishra, his opposite number in the Indian team. White, a fellow leg spinner, did not pick the wrong ‘un, which sneaked past between bat and outstretched pad, to clang into the leg stump. This was an absolutely beautiful piece of bowling by the young leg spinner.

Australia went to lunch on 174-7 in 66 overs with Watson on 32 and Brett Lee on 5. This was clearly India’s session and the SBS score read [India 5.25, Australia 1.75]. India was way in front at this stage and it would need something special from the Australians to get back into the game.

Session-2:

Indeed, Australia did put on something quite special after lunch. Shane Watson has been a bridesmaid in Australian cricket for long. In all the time that his prowess has been trumpeted, he hasn’t actually delivered much at all. It didn’t help that he kept breaking down every time the wind speed picked up!

But here, he played a terrific hand and in Brett Lee, he had a willing and able ally. The thing, however, that was most in their favour, was the positive intent. Unlike their more illustrious batting colleagues, Watson and Lee played their shots and did not allow the situation to get on top of them. So much so that, at one stage, one thought that they could pull off a Harbhajan-Zaheer type miracle for Australia! They played with terrific ease and nothing seemed to rattle them.

During the afternoon, Zaheer Khan indulged in a bit of banter with Brett Lee. Soon after, Brett Lee exchanged air-kisses with Ishant Sharma after taking an excellent Sharma bouncer on his back. It was all pretty competitive and good-natured.

Of course, our friend Malcolm Conn at “The Australian” saw it through a radically different lens and wrote this piece of prose about that passage in play:

…the pair brought up their 50 partnership, Zaheer Khan failed to gather a defensive shot from Lee at the first attempt and went to throw before having words with the Australian.

Lee smiled broadly and both batsmen laughed when Zaheer, who was storming about the pitch, turned his attention to Watson.

Then Singh aimed up at Watson for a concerted conversation as the mid-afternoon drinks break arrived.

Immediately after drinks Lee continued to smile broadly when the first delivery with the second new ball, from Ishant Sharma, was short and struck Lee in the back as he turned away.

By the end of the over it appeared that umpires Rudi Koertzen and Asad Rauf had heard enough. They stood mid-pitch with the batsmen and waited for Dhoni to run past.

As he did Koertzen pointed to the stand-in skipper and spoke to him before Dhoni and Watson had another chat as the keeper took his position behind the stumps.

Zaheer was at the centre of a spat while batting in the first Test, twice confronting wicket-keeper Brad Haddin and then complaining to captain Ricky Ponting after the gloveman disagreed with Zaheer about the drizzly, murky weather.

Shane Watson, one of the players that shared the “spat” stage with Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma hosed down any suggestions of a violent spat between the teams and said,

“There was actually a lot of extremely friendly banter I thought. Obviously it was challenging but me and Brett were having a great time out there. The quicks were having a good crack and the umpires just came together and said ‘we don’t want this getting out of hand.’ It was never going to get out of hand. It was friendly banter and there should always be that in any sport, especially Test cricket when everyone is challenging each other. It makes things pretty enjoyable. You don’t want to be out there and it’s really dull and boring and no one says anything. You want a bit going on to keep everything going.”

So much for Malcolm Conn’s wild theories about World War III about to break out!

When Shane Watson was on 44, I thought the umpire Rudi Koertzen made the worst mistake I have seen any umpire make — and I mean, even grade cricket umpires!

Ishant Sharma bowled a beauty off the first ball of a new spell to Shane Watson. The ball jagged back from a good length spot and hit Watson on the pad, about half way between knee-roll and shoe. When ball hit pad, Watson was bang in front of middle-and-off-stump. The ball was certainly going to hit one of the stumps about half-way. Unfortunately, this stump that the ball would have hit was neither off stump or leg stump! In other words, I have not seen an LBW shout that was more convincing than this one! Yet Rudi Koertzen pursed his lips, almost chided Ishant Sharma for appealing, and said, “Not out”!

Unfortunately, though not surprisingly — given the hate-filled and bitterness-colured lens that he possibly watches his cricket through — this incident did not make Malcolm Conn’s report on the days’ play!

The new ball did not make much of a dent in Australia’s progress. Slowly, yet steadily, Shane Watson and Brett Lee ate into the lead. This was impressive batting, to say the least.

Just before the Tea break though, Harbhajan Singh bowled a beauty – a doosra — to have Brett Lee caught by Rahul Dravid in the slips.

Australia went to Tea on 249-8 off 93.0 overs with Watson on 66 and Mitchell Johnson on 2. This was Australia’s session, thanks to the positive mindset displayed by Watson and Lee. Perhaps the other Australian batsmen can take a leaf out of the books of these two?

The SBS score read [India 5.25, Australia 2.75].

Session-3:

The moment Brett Lee went, one could sense that the end of the Australian innings was near. And indeed, the end came swiftly. Exactly 7 overs after Tea, Amit Mishra took the last two wickets (Shane Watson was out LBW and Peter Siddle was stumped by M. S. Dhoni) to secure a 5-fer on debut. This was an impressive performance by the young lad on a pitch that didn’t really afford too much assistance to the spinners. I’d like to believe that he could be quite a handful on a turning pitch.

Australia was all out for 268 (India had a lead of 201) off 101.4 overs in 454 minutes of batting. Australia made its runs at 2.63 rpo. The Indians bowled their overs at about 13.5 overs per hour (Note that the Australians had bowled at 13 overs per hour).

India came out swinging. There were no second-innings shackles to hold down Virender Sehwag who came out in a belligerent mood. He played sensibly in the company of the company of the aggressive Gautam Gambhir to get India off to a rollicking start.

The two India batsmen were ably assisted by a overly defensive Ricky Ponting! Ponting should have tried to get Sehwag out! Instead he spread the field from the very first over and that allowed the Indians to pick up singles almost at will. The bad ball was spanked to the boundary. The defensive tactic did not actually pay off! By the end of the days’ play, India were travelling at about 4.34 runs per over! So the sense of that ploy wasn’t actually clear to me!

India finished the day on 100 off 23 overs (at 4.34 rpo). The SBS Score reads [India 6.25, Australia 2.75]

End points:

It was a pleasure to watch Harbhajan Singh and Amit Mishra bowl yesterday on a placid pitch. The deliveries that got Cameron White and Brad Haddin bowled were particularly pleasing. Amit Mishra may cherish the wicket of Michael Clarke as perhaps his best ever, but I liked the way he teased Cameron White out with a ball that had flight, dip and zip off the pitch. Similarly, the ball that Harbhajan Singh bowled to Brad Haddin was a corker. Not many batsmen would have been able to keep that away from the stumps. The pitch was not conducive to spin bowling — particularly finger spin. There wasn’t much bounce and although there was some turn, it was quite slow. Yet, the two Indian spinners bowled well in tandem. But one thing worked in favour of the Indian spinners. They bowled attackingly. They asked questions constantly and continually. They pressed for wickets. They played with a positive mindset.

Ranji player watch – bowlers

Who are the players to watch out for in the Ranjis this season? Thought I’d compile my list starting with the bowlers.

Fast/Medium bowlers

  • Ishant Sharma, New Delhi 
  • Ranadeb Bose, Bengal 
  • Munaf Patel, Maharashtra
  • VRV Singh, Punjab
  • YoMahesh, TN

Apart from Bose and YoMahesh the other fast bowlers have represented India and Munaf Patel (not withstanding his Challenger Trophy performance) looks the most likely to break back in to the team first. But first he has to play a full season without breaking down. Pankaj Singh from Rajasthan didn’t make the cut into my list, but I’ll still be watching how he performs.

There are some notable exceptions in this list, such as Joginder Sharma and Praveen Kumar, but I thought they are better of falling into the allrounder category.

Spinners

  • Piyush Chawla (Leg spin/Googly), UP
  • Pragyan Ojha (Left arm orthodox), Hyderabad
  • R Ashwin (Right arm off spin), TN
  • KP Appanna (Left arm orthodox), Karnataka
  • Abdulla (Left arm orthodox), Mumbai

Amit Mishra, the legspinner who has played for India missed the cut from my list. He hasn’t had the kind of impact some one like Piyush Chawla has had, but it would be interesting to see how he goes. Chawla  has already broken into the India ODI squad and there is talks that he may eventually replace Kumble when he retires. Ojha has been very impressive for India A and looked the most likely left arm spinner to break into the Indian squad. But that was before Murali Karthik’s comeback. Appanna and Abdulla show a lot of promise and it would be interesting to see how they perform a full season. I would also like to see how Shahbaz Nadeem (another left arm spinner) who is not in my list performs this season.

Every so often during this season, I’ll try and post on how these people are going.

-Mahesh-

RoI win Irani Trophy

Rest of India won the Irani Trophy season opener convincingly. In Mumbai’s first innings, Kukreja (110 off 210 balls) and Abhishek Nayar (118 off 108 balls) scored tons to get Mumbai to a decent total of 453 all out.

Abhishek Nayar is shaping up as a really useful allrounder to watch out for in the future. He bats left handed and is a right-arm fast medium bowler. In this match, Nayar bowled more overs than any other Mumbai bowler. Not that this fact alone counted for much in the end, but it talks of the confidence that the team has in this 24-year-old!

After a shaky start in response to this large total, RoI responded soundly, with Parthiv Patel (179 off 235) and Manoj Tiwary (130 off 184) scoring brisk centuries. Parthiv Patel opened the innings with Akash Chopra and has been in stunning form with the bat! In the end, RoI had a slender 1st innings lead. Badrinath had made 29.

It was around this time that news may have leaked of Badrinath’s impending selection in the India team. He may have hoped for the Irani Trophy match to get over soon so that he could pack up is kit and join Team India! But even Badrinath, — who commented, “I can’t leave till this match gets over. I hope we win it tomorrow.” — would not have expected the swiftness of the RoI victory!

In the second innings, Mumbai folded for 106 off 33.3 overs in a mere 166 minutes! RoI had to make 90 to win, which they did for the loss of only 1 wicket! Parthiv Patel smashed a 48-ball 59 to continue his dream run with the bat.

There were several positives and some questions asked from this match:

  • Parthiv Patel will continue to put pressure on Dinesh Karthik for a place in the team, especially since Patel is opening too!
  • For Manoj Tiwary, this century represents a timely reminder to the selectors that he can’t be forgotten.
  • Mohammed Kaif continues to be the most successful representative captain who probably didn’t play much for his country!
  • Ramesh Powar didn’t make any impression on anyone!
  • Ajit Agarkar continued to bowl like a millionaire that he is not.
  • Young Iqbal Abdullah continues to impress and so does Pragyan Ojha.
  • But most interestingly, after an insipid first innings, Munaf Patel bowled with fire in the 2nd innings for RoI. His 5-for-25 off 7.3 overs wrecked Mumbai and caused them to crumble to 106 all out (and his fighting partnership with Ranadeb Bose in the RoI 1st innings to take RoI to a lead will perhaps help his cause too)!

Ps: Who is Omkar Gurav? What happend to Vinayak Mane?

EDIT: Vinayak Mane is injured.

— Mohan

India ‘A’ continues to impress…

For a few months now, I have been following the exploits of the India ‘A’ team captained by Mohammed Kaif. After impressive showings against Zimbabwe Select, Kenya and Sri Lanka A, the team continues its good showing against a South Africa ‘A’ side that includes many players that have turned out for the Springboks national team in the past.

While India ‘A’ includes Mohammed Kaif (13 Tests, 125 ODIs), Parthiv Patel (19 Tests, 14 ODIs), Ishant Sharma (1 Test, 1 ODI) and Suresh Raina (36 ODIs) as players who have donned India colours, South Africa ‘A’ includes Morne van Wijk (5 ODIs), A. Petersen (2 ODIs), Gulam Bodi (2 ODIs), Boeta Dippenar (38 Tests, 107 ODIs), Albie Morkel (12 ODIs), Justin Ontong (2 Tests, 21 ODIs), Thami Tsolekile (3 Tests), Vernon Philander (5 ODIs), Johan Botha (1 Test, 13 ODIs), Charl Langeveldt (6 Tests, 48 ODIs).

India won the 2-match Test Series 1-0 (one match was rained out). The first 2 ODIs were completely rained-out. In the latest ODI, India beat South Africa by 1 run off the last ball in a thriller at Rajkot.

S. Badrinath continues to impress with both bat and ball and in my view, it is only a matter of time before this exciting 27-year-old dons India colours. He is a valuable bat, an electric fielder and a competent off-spinner too.

For sometime now, I have been saying that India really needs a few good allrounders in its ODI make up. While welcoming the return-to-form of Irfan Pathan, I have been dismayed with the selectors’ reluctance to invest in Joginder Sharma for the ODIs against Australia. This after captain M. S. Dhoni had invested his reputation as well as India’s fortunes in the T20 Championship in two of the biggest last overs an Indian has bowled in international cricket!

Here is a quote on Joginder Sharma from Dileep Premachandran’s article on Dhoni.

His treatment of Sharma in the two biggest matches of the tournament summed up his qualities as captain. You or I could toss the ball to a Wasim Akram or a Curtly Ambrose and calmly watch a match clinched in the final over. It requires no great leadership quality or tactical nous.

The real test of captaincy lies in bringing the fringe player into the centre circle and making him feel that he’s not a misfit there. It’s almost certain that no other Indian captain of the last decade and more would have dared go with Sharma for those final overs. By doing so Dhoni was emphasising sport’s greatest but often forgotten truth – it’s not about the stars, it’s about the XI. And sometimes the unlikeliest ones shine brightest.

And after that bold and forthright statement, and especially when an opportunity persented itself with Piyush Chawla’s freak injury, Joginder Sharma has been cast to the sidelines.

I have been following the careers of allrounders like him and Praveen Kumar, the 20-year old allrounder from UP. He plays alongside R. P. Singh, Piyush Chawla, and Suresh Raina in the UP side. He is a carefree bat and an opening bowler. He opened the batting and bowling in yesterdays’ game. Although he didn’t make much with the bat, he bowled well — including the last over of the match.

I do believe that Joginder Sharma and/or Praveen Kumar should play for India in ODIs soon. Just the presence of Irfan Pathan does so much for team balance. This balance will be augmented by the presence of another allrounder and I will continue to pay close attention to the progress of both these contenders.

All through these matches, Parthiv Patel has been thoroughly impressive. He has notched up several 100s and 50s and his ‘keeping has also been quite ‘tight’. Mohammed Kaif, who scored a smart 98 in yesterdays’ match continues to impress with his captaincy and may end up being the best U-19 and India-A captain that didn’t get an extended stint with the national team! Suresh Raina made his first appearance yesterday and scored a compact 45.

Amit Mishra, the young leg-spinner, has had a few good games too. After bowling with aplomb in the Test match, he also scored a breezy 22 off 11 balls in yesterdays’ ODI.

The one disappointment through this tour is that bowlers seem to have worked out Manoj Tiwary’s weakness against the short-rising-ball. He is getting peppered with the short stuff and the young dasher seems to be hell-bent on rewarding the bowlers’ efforts too!

— Mohan

Possible India-A Team (Edit)

Given the recent comments on this blogsite on my original post on this topic, below is a fuller list of potential India-A players.

Openers:
Virender Sehwag, Aakash Chopra, Robin Uthappa, Shikar Dhawan

Middle-order bats:
Dinesh Mongia, Suresh Raina, Mohammed Kaif, S. Badrinath, Venugopala Rao, Rohit Sharma, Manoj Tiwary, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli

Wicket Keepers:
Parthiv Patel, Puneet Bisht

Pace-bowlers:
Munaf Patel, Ajit Agarkar, V Yo Mahesh, Rakesh Patel, Ashish Nehra, Irfan Pathan, Joginder Sharma, V. R. V. Singh

Spinners:
Harbhajan Singh, Rajesh Pawar, Piyush Chawla, Murali Kartik, K. P. Appanna, Amit Mishra, Pragyan Ojha, Sayyed Iqbal Abdulla, Shahbaz Nadeem

Given this scenario, it is possible for us to construct an India-A and an India-B as follows (each with 16 players in them):

India-A
Virender Sehwag
Shikar Dhawan
Dinesh Mongia
Mohammed Kaif
S. Badrinath
Suresh Raina
Parthiv Patel
Piyush Chawla
Ajit Agarkar / V Yo Mahesh
V. R. V. Singh / Ashish Nehra
Murali Kartik / K. P. Appanna / Sayyed Iqbal Abdulla / Shahbaz Nadeem

India-B:
Aakash Chopra
Robin Uthappa
Cheteshwa Pujara
Venugopala Rao / Rohit Sharma
Manoj Tiwary / Virat Kohli
Puneet Bisht
Irfan Pathan
Harbhajan Singh
Rakesh Patel / Joginder Sharma
Rajesh Pawar / Pragyan Ojha / Amit Mishra
Munaf Patel

The one other player that perhaps could be added is Gagan Khoda. But that would be at the exepense of one of the lefties — perhaps Abdulla…

— Mohan