A test of Skills

Grit and resilience has no substitute. And that is the beauty of test cricket- indeed the purest form of cricket. Last day, slow pitch, big rough, and eight wickets in hand and world’s top two test bowlers taking your test with every delivery- couldn’t be any tougher for Oz. An ordeal for any batting unit. But for the sustenance of Handscomb and S. Marsh, Australia was able to pull it off. A draw: something that will not please Indians.

Australia won a good toss on the pitch that didn’t have a good impression on both the captains. The slowing, black soil pitch had put both the teams in trance. Well, in this any captain would like to be safe and play first and that is what smith did. Again the same old cassette of this home season: visitor winning the toss, posting 400+ runs, India coming to bat, posting 600+ runs, taking the lead. Well, does that ring a bell? Yes, against England. Keeping in purview the collapse of Oz in Bangalore for mere 112, 140 looked like a decent lead- a treacherous one for aussies. And even in the first session of play at day 5, with 4 wickets gone for some 60 odd runs, the prophecy of another Australian defeat was passed. But, Handscomb and Marsh had different plans. 373 balls faced by Marsh/Handscomb is the second longest stand for any wicket for Australia in second innings in Asia. It is also the most balled-batted out by a pair for Australia in Asia on the fifth day- the record tells you all.

But before you could marvel at the fancy save by the Oz, let me take you a day back to show you an inning: far too superior for any contemporary batsman, something beyond the comprehension of this modern ‘Hit out of the park’ generation- the perseverance of not playing a shot in air for continuous 524 balls- Cheteshwar Pujara’s innings of 202. The man, who was responsible for the magical turnaround of this test match to India’s favour. A rather rare display of grit, patience, skill and craftsmanship. Batting for almost two days of the test match, talks a lot about the person’s fitness and dedication.

It is often said that cricket and life both has two things in common and that is partnership. And the description will be incomplete without the mention of Wicketkeeper batsman, Riddhiman Saha – 117(223 balls). These both together made a partnership of 200 runs to swing the favour into India’s kit. But the person for me in this test match has to be the Sir Jadeja (5/124 and 4/54 and 54 unbeaten).. Indeed, what a player he is turning out to be. In the time of trend, he is definitely a classic. Ashwin takes wickets on pitches that help spinners. But Jadeja has always picked wickets on all kind of surface. And his contribution with the bat is something that every team will cherish. Coming at number 9 and playing a flawless innings with the tail-enders is not an easy job, but Jadeja does it in style, with this warrior like attitude.

Steven Smith again showed why he is the number one batsman in the format. His innings of 178(361), another display of grit and patience, shows his mental stability and fineness with the bad. Though Smith (21 in second innings) had a brain fade moment in second innings, or rather a judgmental error which left him all shattered. But the key highlight of the Aussies innings has to be the comeback man, Glen Maxwell. When he walked in, he had all the fuss going around of not playing a test match in last 3 years or not scoring any century or his failure with the bat in past etc. But, a player is this stature is supposed to fight all the apparitions out and put a brave fight. His innings of 104 is something that will be remembered as one of the finest innings for a comeback.

There has been lots of home season where spin has dominated. But this season is different. Pacers have shown the power and the class and are almost bowling in tandem with the spinners. Umesh’s 3 wickets in the first innings and Ishant’s testing deliveries to Renshaw in second innings on a pitch that had almost nothing for the seamers speaks in itself lot about them. Cummins (4/106) also had a brilliant comeback, just like Maxwell, and missed out on a well deserving five-fer.

Well, this match is an example of sheer class from both the sides. What a hard fought victory means and what it takes to fight for your country on the biggest of stage. Batsmanship and patience of highest order.  With series leveled at one each, Dharamshala will be waiting for another cracker of performance. Let me leave you with the tweet of voice of Indian Cricket, Harsh Bhogle,” Hope the season ends with a contest between rival bats, balls & minds.The contest of lips & words is poorer drama.Don’t need cricket for that”. It in itself tells a lot about the game.

Image Courtesy: ht.com

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