Friday, March 03, 2006

India vs. England: T1D3 - The Full Monty

Highlights of Day 3:

  • Matthew Hoggard - he was absolutely outstanding. An object lesson in how to bowl on wickets like this one. The Rahul Dravid lbw was iffy at best, but there was nothing wrong with the rest of his dismissals, and he came ever so close to getting Kaif with a carbon copy of his Sehwag dismissal.
  • VVS Laxman - he must be worried now. A golden duck, 91 fighting runs for Mohammad Kaif, a 50 for Wasim Jaffer, and Yuvraj Singh set to come back for Mohali. It may well be a little harsh, but at this point only a match-winning second innings knock is likely to save his place in the side. Slowly but surely, the new generation is coming into the reckoning.
  • Mahendra Singh Dhoni - was watching with a friend who hadn't seen much of Dhoni, and I pointed out that my big concern continues to be the complete absence of any inclination to play a defensive stroke. The Sehwag approach is to look for 6, then 4, then runs, and if all else fails, let it be a dot ball. The Dhoni approach is to look for 6 or 4, that's it. Works a treat on a belter, and will be a problem elsewhere. Sure enough, he played a shot a ball, and it didn't take long to bring that to an end. Still, the raw ability is there - let's not write him off just yet.
  • Mohammad Kaif - his stance gets increasingly awkward, and his grip is worse than Allan Border's, but he's a fighter, and a great fielder to boot. He had a one-shot deal here - had he failed here, it could have been all over for his Test career. Talk about grabbing your opportunity. It was far from his most fluent innings, but he stood up and dared, where nobody else did. Anil Kumble was a stellar partner for him, and together they gave everything to keep India in this contest.
  • Monty Panesar - hats off to Monty. Above all else, he is a throwback to the good old days. The sort of cricketer who probably took up spin bowling because it required the least amount of effort - and forget all that fielding stuff. But for a bowler making his debut, on foreign soil, against allegedly great batsmen, he was absolutely superb. To snare Tendulkar for your first Test wicket is the stuff of dreams - and with all due respect, Tendulkar's reaction was unworthy, given that he was dead set plumb in front. Just when I thought he couldn't top that though, Monty produced the delivery that left-arm spinners die or. Nice loop, drifted in from outside off stump, dipped late to pitch on middle, and turned nicely to clip the top of off stump. Mohammad Kaif was stunned, and I'm not surprised. It was pretty much the perfect delivery, and the only thing that could have ended Kaif's six hour vigil. I am really happy and excited for this lad - he has shown every sign of having real long term potential.

It's all in England's hands now. The tricky question will be one of when to declare. Can they bowl India out in a day, or will they need to aggressively pile on a lead with 60-70 overs of batting on Day 4? If I were Andy Flintoff, I think I'd be looking to get a lead of about 350, and insert India for a few nerve-jangling overs before the close tomorrow. That will be tough to achieve though, and barring a major crumbling of the pitch, Kaif and Kumble may have done just about enough to make the draw an odds-on favourite.

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