Monday, January 30, 2006

Pakistan vs. India: T2 D1 & D2

Dare I say it - not a lot of surprises here. The pitch looked and has proven to be a good one - though ideally there'd be a bit more pace, and some grip for the spinners. Still, nobody has any right to complain.

Quite predictably, Dravid elected to field after winning the toss - history shows us just two victories after winning the toss and batting first on this ground.

Equally unsurprising was the start Pakistan got off to. I don't mean that I anticipated a hat-trick in the first over, but after two games on the deadest wickets you could imagine, it was no surprise to see batsmen look startled when the ball actually moved a fraction (or more).

It really should have been India's match, with that advantage, but a few key factors have swung it right back in Pakistan's favour.

  1. The lbw that wasn't given - at the start of the Akmal-Razzaq partnership that rescued Pakistan from the depths of 39-6. There have been a few that haven't been given in this series, but I doubt any could have had more impact than this one.
  2. A brilliant knock - Kamran Akmal was absolutely superb. Not one batsman on either side even came close to matching either his audacity or his control over proceedings.
  3. A missed stumping - Kiran More fluffed a chance once, and Graham Gooch went on to make a triple century. Now he's looking on as keeper after keeper struggles to get it right behind the stumps, batting prowess notwithstanding. At what point will someone realise that wicket-keepers have to do the basics right?
  4. Bowling in the right place - Mohammad Asif was superb. He looked world class in this match - though we'll have to wait and see if he is another one of the Pakistani one-off fast bowlers. The Indians, however, couldn't bowl six balls on a line and length in the Pakistan 2nd innings. Only Irfan Pathan, and dare I say it, Ganguly, came close.
Many pundits have opined that the Sehwag fiasco, resulting in Laxman having to open with Dravid, was costly. I beg to differ. We're talking about a man who averages over 100 in his first innings in every series, and 40 thereafter. There was next to no chance of him making a difference. That doesn't excuse the screw-up, but it certainly puts it in perspective.

India have at this point negated any advantage that was gained from winning the toss. The only hope lies in all moisture evaporating from the pitch, but not so soon as to give it a chance to crack up. This one may just turn into a right belter on Day 3/4 in particular. Early wickets on Day 3, and restricting the lead to around 300-350 could give India a whiff. And maybe it's time for Sachin Tendulkar to actually win a game for his country.

Two more things that it would be remiss of me not to mention. Firstly, I must give credit where it's due - Saurav Ganguly displayed hunger and determination galore in his stint at the crease, the traits which many years ago took him to the pinnacle of his own game. Sadly, it was all too shortlived, and his injudicious dismissal, coupled with what had come before, illustrated just where his batsmanship is at today.

Secondly, brilliant as one bouncer to Yuvraj in particular was to behold, there is no doubt in my mind that Shoaib uses every one of the 15 degrees permitted to him by law every once in a while.

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