Posts Tagged ‘Matt Prior’

Shridhar Pandey

The Indian team has many reasons to be proud of the victory over England in the first Test at Ahmedabad. After all, this would be termed as their first legitimate victory post the consecutive 0-4 setbacks in England and Australia. This win clearly showed that the English were the second best team to India in almost every facet of the game over the last 5 five days.  Their skills and strategies to play in the sub-continent needs serious re-thinking. Without overruling the fact that England can bounce back from this situation, they will have to look ahead in a very optimistic manner – without being over ambitious of course.

India clearly had a hero in both batting and bowling departments – Pujara and Ojha respectively.  Ojha was clearly ahead of any other bowler in the match – yes, even better than Swann. Bowling tight lines has always been his strength. What he also did well in this match was tossing the ball up almost every time the skipper threw the ball into his hands, therefore bagging those many wickets in both innings. His successful stint with the ball also more than made up for Ashwin’s rare failure in Indian conditions.

Pujara is impressive on and off the field. Pic: The Hindu

I like Pujara more after every match. His knocks in both innings were flawless – if I might say so. He gave glimpses of both Dravid and Laxman at times. His forward defence is almost as solid as The Wall. The way he comes down the track to play the wristy drives toward on-side against spinners sure reminds me of VVS. Yet, it would be quite premature to compare him with those batting stalwarts.  But keen observes would have already started looking at a future prospect in the dressing room like they had done when two youngsters in Rahul Dravid and Saurav Ganguly made their debut at Lord’s more than 16 years ago. The thing about Pujara that stood out (and he admitted that himself too) was the price he put on his wicket; he seldom played a shot in the air. That reminds me of another batsman who did well in the match but got out playing a needless shot in the air – Virender Sehwag.

Sehwag’s run-a-ball century in the first innings was a trademark Sehwag knock though he was a little slow early on. He must have breathed a sigh of relief after that. I would have loved to see him return to the dressing room unbeaten though in the second innings.  Yuvraj Singh played a wonderful innings before being dismissed cheaply off a full-toss from Samit Patel. That innings did show some resolve and was a clear indication of the man’s pedigree.

Another player that impressed was Umesh Yadav. The lad bowled his heart out on a pitch that hardly had anything in it for the seamers. He looks a promising young fast bowler (yes, you read that right – fast bowler!). He also extracts some reverse swing from the old ball that makes him a really deadly customer to deal with. Zaheer Khan, though not among a lot of wickets, looked like 100 per cent after a long time. The way he set up Nick Compton before dismissing him in the second innings speaks volumes about his ability with the ball.

MS Dhoni again failed to make any difference with the bat. It won’t be long before India would need his service in that area as well. Kohli was partly unlucky in the first innings, with the ball that got him out coming out of the rough area of pitch but looked good in second. Sachin Tendulkar got out quickly after he looked like being in a positive frame of mind – obvious from the two convincing boundaries in that small innings.

Despite the lost affair, England still have some hope to draw from the match. Spare a thought for the captain, Cook and their most successful spinner Swann. Alistair Cook’s century would certainly be rated among the top by a visiting batsman in this country. Swann strengthened his claim for the best off-spinner in the world at the moment. Matt Prior would have a lot of positives to take from the fact that he outshone his Indian counterpart in at least one area – that is no mean feat!

In all, India would be more than happy with their performance and would like to keep the momentum going with few improvements in a couple of areas. The English side, on the other hand, would like to learn a lot of lessons on how to play in the subcontinent from their Indian counterparts. For them there is certainly a ray of hope at the far end of the tunnel; but only the upcoming matches would decide whether that is of an incoming train or thanks to a stag with a torch in his hand!


 Goutham Chakravarthi

With time, details fade and only memories remain – the sweetest and darkest. Day 4 of the 2000th Test will be remembered for an outstanding spell of 3 for 1 by Ishant Sharma. Sure, Stuart Broad and Chris Tremlett later conducted an interrogation of India’s top order, but Ishant, in a spell articulating perfect rhythm, when body and mind danced to the heartbeat, composed a telling tune that exposed the English middle order of holes it didn’t know existed.

Ishant looked nothing like the highest wicket taker in tests in 2011 in the first innings. He lacked the rhythm and confidence he exhibited in the Caribbean only a month ago. His rhythm was cranky and Kevin Pietersen bullied him. But, today, Ishant, in a magical spell of fast bowling, his long locks billowing in fresh summer air, his run-up so smooth it was a glide, he unleashed magical, unplayable deliveries. He was in such a trance that the batsmen can be forgiven for being unaware of the ambuscades about him. Whilst it lasted, each ball was poetry that warmed the hearts over and again.

Ishant Sharma produced a memorable spell of fast bowling before lunch

Even cruelly, I thought Zaheer’s absence was a useful expedient to get Ishant to a new level. Ishant had left England in tatters as lunch was taken. Former cricketers of India and England paraded the hallowed turf celebrating the 100th contest between the two countries, while the crowd feasted on the cake and the ale, and the prospect of a potentially cracking test in the making loomed deliciously upon us. But only till India came back on to the park and Raina was introduced to up the over rate!

What followed was a session of some very poorly constructed cricket by the visitors. With only three fit bowlers, the hard yards of the first innings had taken its toll and a determined Prior and Broad ran them ragged. From the Himalayan heights of titanic struggle between bat and ball, it turned to a contest of India doing the last stage of Tour de France by foot and England by motorcade. England ran the fielders and captain ragged and when the bowlers returned with fresh legs, they had already been lapped twice over by the English. Prior will get his opportunity at 6 should England struggle to bowl India out on day 5 and feel the need to go with five bowlers. His century was well constructed with almost a Usain Bolt sprint to the finish line.

Injury and illness to Gambhir and Tendulkar meant Indian had to go in with a re-jigged batting order. Facing a rampant trio of English quicks who fancied their chances against a tired batting side, they bent and bounced the ball in rapid cadence. Old hands Dravid and Laxman, architects of some of the stoutest batting accomplishments, battled and survived. It was exhilarating cricket. The old firm of Dravid and Laxman held fort for India to fight another day. Their methods so precise and contrasting, but complement each other.

Sophistication is easy to be associated with Dravid – who combines the technical mastery of his art to suit the wicket and the opposition, the situation of a drying wicket and the waning strengths of opposition trundlers. He plays the attrition game as well as anyone to have walked a cricket pitch and his powers of concentration are of a Grand Master. On the other hand, Laxman, India’s best 3rd and 4th Innings man is as intense but with a game so pleasing, it makes you wonder if batting was ever so pretty anywhere else. He can look clumsy in his set-up and dodgy wafting without much feet movement early, but he can hardly ever made an ugly run. It is almost fitting that he produces his best when his team needs it the most.

Anderson, Tremlett, Broad and Swan will believe that there is enough in the wicket to produce nine mistakes on day 5, but India will be confident that they can survive the overs. It quite resembles the Lord’s test from 2007 and it promises to be as tight this time too. England have dominated this test, but India have shown tremendous determination to be not blown away. They will hope the D/L (Dravid/Laxman) method saves this test for them.

Bring on day 5.