Posts Tagged ‘1st Test’

 Goutham Chakravarthi

On a day were only 38 overs were possible, it was still a day of two halves for the Kiwis. The first 19 overs had them losing their last 5 first-innings wickets, with Ashwin and Ojha continuing to tie them down with nagging flight, dip and slow, but significant turn off the wickets. The last 19 were an improvement in approach and batting as they were made to follow-on by Dhoni.

Zaheer and Yadav started with pace at either end with Yadav sending back van Wyk soon. Barring James Franklin, the Black Caps seemed starry eyed by the Indian slow bowlers. Ojha’s nagging length and discerning spin had Doug Bracewell caught between slogging and defending and finally perished trying to charge Ojha only to have Dhoni uprooting the stumps.

But for dealing with the Indian medium pacers, the Black Caps’ lower-order lacked conviction and failed to provide support to the hard working Franklin. With the 30-run partnership broken between Franklin and Bracewell and the introduction of Ashwin, any hopes of avoiding the follow-on disappeared into the dark and gloomy skies of Hyderabad.

Ashwin was the undoubted star, needing only a handful of deliveries to clean-up the Kiwi tail. Soon he sent back Jeetan Patel (10), Boult (4) and Martin (0), there by ensuring India would make the Kiwis follow-on for the first time since 1956.

Ashwin would be keen to run through the Black Caps batting line-up to wrap up the test match soon.

With the various administrative changes happening in the Kiwi set-up, this batting performance on a typical sub-continent wicket wouldn’t have pleased the new coach Mike Hesson. And for a team that looked suspect against the spin of West Indies not so long ago, and coming in to this series with no practice game, perhaps this was expected.

Perhaps Mike Hesson did have a stern word with his wards at the end of the first innings even if it meant he did have a word with the third umpire on a couple of decisions through the first innings (no UDRS in this series). McCullum and Martin Guptill looked up to the task of dealing with the spin and guile of Ojha who opened the bowling for India looking to extract any bounce and bite off the wicket.

The openers looked compact and more determined even as the threat of thundershowers loomed large. As play carried on under dark skies and artificial lights, the battle the Kiwis seemed to be battling were with that of discipline.

Ojha’s nagging length and turn eventually induced the edge only for Kohli to put down the chance to give Guptill a life. Just when Guptill thought he had done the hard yards of seeing through the initial period and having had a chance put down, he was given out shouldering arms to a straight Ojha delivery. Replays suggested that the ball had turned enough to perhaps miss the stumps.

Rain came to the Kiwis’ rescue soon after with only 38 overs bowled in the day. With rains expected through Sunday, the Kiwis would hope the overnight not out batsmen McCullum (16) and Williamson (3) would show the same grit and determination they showed in the hour before the stoppage to give them a chance of saving this Test.

As the Kiwi spinner Jeetan Patel said leading in to Day 3, “It’s still low and slow with the seamers – it’s not bouncing as much – but it is starting to take some more turn, which you’d expect.” There is indifference bounce, but the turn is not sharp once the ball gets a bit old. SG balls are prone to aid reverse-swing when the ball gets old, but the pace of the wicket is slow enough for the Kiwis to handle that threat.

The rains have been relentless all across the southern portions of India and Sri Lanka. With rain and thunderstorm predicted over the next few days, it is a question of Kiwis surviving the time they get in the middle that is keeping their hopes alive in this first Test.

Dhoni and team would look to wrap-up the Test on Sunday though.

Chandrasekhar Jayaramakrishnan

December 25, 2011

There is a new whiff of anxiety that engulfs the Australian air amidst the shimmering heat of expectations leading up to the Boxing Day test at Melbourne. Triggered over the last 18 months by a sudden upsurge in the number of individuals presented a baggy green, it marks a stark contrast to the mood in a nation that boasts having fielded the least number of captains in Test Cricket over the best part of the last 3 decades – an accolade that that sits atop a list that boasts solidity and surety in selection and leadership.

A defeat to their Trans-Tasman neighbors isn’t the most ideal way to approach a Boxing Day fixture. Australia’s amorphous top order has welcomed its newest occupant in the form of Ed Cowan, an individual perhaps known more for his prowess with the pen than the bat (given that a lot of viewers do not follow Australian Domestic Cricket) – one who has just come off a century in Canberra against the touring Indians. Avid book readers will relate his autobiography to the isomeric title that is shares with that written by a Pakistani General.

The opening partnership of Cowan and Warner will have to lay a solid foundation for the rest to capitalize on

The partnership of Cowan and Warner, representing solidity and attacking batsmanship respectively, will look to take advantage of a brittle Indian bowling line up whose injuries and form are governed by Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. The Australian weakness against the moving ball has been as well documented and exploited as political instability in the Middle East – a problem that has been diagnosed with no credible solutions on the card. Whether the Indian attack is all steam and no engine, depending on the fitness of Zaheer amongst others, to take notice of this is a question that will be answered over the next few days.

The lone positive that Australian cricket has witnessed is the rebirth of Michael Clarke, the batsman, after taking over the captaincy mantle. Clarke was touted as successor to Ponting well before he turned 25, and had his sinusoidal fluctuations in form – one that saw more troughs than crests over the last three or four years, including an alleged assault by current outcast Simon Katich.

But Clarke seems to have learnt, and learnt for the good. Much will depend on the number of runs he contributes at number five, given that he is the meat of the sandwich formed by old war veterans Ponting and Hussey, whose batting averages over the last few series’ have dipped to numbers possibly lesser than their ages.

But history has shown that these men have answered questions with the axes right over their heads. And they’ll look to capitalize against what appears a fragile attack on paper, given that the lower order’s batting form – especially Haddin and his unsure methods – has been indifferent of late.

A good total is one that would allow a young Australian bowling attack – boasting pace and aggression, but lacking experience – to have a go at an experienced Indian batting lineup that could well see off its stars from Australian soil for possibly the last time in some of their careers. The impressive forms of Pattinson and Siddle along with a wily Nathan Lyon will be up against a batting line up possessing a barrage of runs in their career banks – something that they are unlikely to encounter anytime later in their careers.

But the bigger concern that would require addressing from Mickey Arthur and the rest of the coaching camp is the Australian catching of late. Never before have so many issues tainted the Australian lineup and their first foreign coach would look to bury the issues, rather than sweeping them under a carpet.

Weather permitting, as I glance through the weather forecasts in Melbourne predicting showers, the cricketing world will look forward to a series that will erase the bruises of the last series down under to tip the cricketing scales towards the sporting direction.