A fortress too safe !

Calling it a hard fought win for West Indies won’t be an apt description of the game. Pakistan made a mess of its batting and exploded, all on itself on a slow turning wicket. Contrary to everyone’s expectation, spinners didn’t have a say in final day and Pacers wound up the proceedings as West Indies wins against Pakistan and levels the evenly poised series.

I still remember the match of 1997, Bridgetown. Indian Bowlers did a fantastic work to all out Carribean side for 140 setting themselves a target of 120. With the likes of Tendulkar, Siddhu and Dravid, the score looked speck. But India Self-exploded just like Pakistan did here. Just for the reference, no Asian side has ever been able to defeat West Indies in Bridgetown in the history of the game. India reached closed and so did Pakistan and eventually, both of them exploded.

This being said, West Indian bowlers were treat to watch in the final innings. The pitch was on a slower side and they used the cracks beautifully. Shanon Gabriel registered the figures of 11-4-11-5 and he was adjuster the man of the match and rightly so. He took a total of 9 wickets in the match. Holder and Joseph supported him nicely in setting up the win.

With bat it was again their ever reliable Chase (131) whose innings made the side cross 300 mark. Eventually, with the innings of Azhar Ali, Misbhah and Shehzad, Pakistan did cross this score and took a lead of an important 81 runs. This run looked more crucial when Yasir Shah heroic powered attack saw West Indies reeling at 268 earlier today. So that meant Pakistan had to score 188 and they had the entire day with them.

The very intent of the openers showed that Pakistan is playing for a draw and it was only matter of time to explode. Well, Dominica awaits for the series decider. Till then, watch out for more sporting action.

WI- 312 and 268

PAK- 393 and 81

Pic courtesy: Google Images.

Happy musings in time of distress

In the the time of distress when the International Cricket has seem to aloof Pakistan from the happenings, Pakistan has found itself clawing up in the international proceedings. Situations back home may be bad, but that doesn’t deter the confidence and belief of this young Asian side. The conditions were testing but the opponent wasn’t. The only resistance they faced was the Rain and once it was mended, Pakistan showcased itself in form of what has been an amazing win.

There has been many writers of this win. From Aamir to Captain Misbah to Yasir Shah, it was the joint effort of the entire team in the end. Younis khan, the only Pakistani to score more than 10000 test runs, also had a good outing with bat and so did their young talent, Babar Alam. Misbah missed out on a brilliant hundred (99) but his efforts were no less than a century. Yasir Shah ( 2/91 and 6/63)  made this test match memorable for himself. So did Mhd. Aamir.

For West Indies, if they thought inability to qualify for the Champions Trophy was the worst thing they faced, this win has provided wind to the fire. The panic button is pressed. Gabriel, Chase and Holder needs help from other players even. There is a reason why they call it a team game. In the end, hoping that the West Indian side will put up a good show in the next encounter. Till then, See ya.

WI – 286, 152
PAK – 407, 36/3

Pic Credit- google imagesprv_1492894331

Fight for being on top

Yesterday morning before the game started on the day 4th, I was just checking out the ICC test rankings for test cricket. India’s good performance in this long daunting home season is very well reflecting on the rankings. Two batsman in top 2, two bowlers on first and second position very well poised, and the same two making it to all rounder’s list as 2nd and 3rd. Almost 15 points difference between the first and second on team rankings .Rightly justifying the good performance.
What started off from Kanpur, finally after traveling throughout the nation, has come to halt in the chillness of Dharamshala. Big adjectives and over-qualifying adverbs can be used to describe the performance, the dominance and fight backing attitude of the Indian side. Down in a series 0-1 , pressure game and tough opposition, India went on to win next two out of three match and eventually series. A win by 8 wickets is not only a win by 8 wickets, but it also proclaims to the world that a new world champion has arrived.

Numbers will tell you that day 1 was shared while day 2, the swinging session, was marked by swinging pendulum. Then came day 3, which was totally owned by India. From the resilient morning session fight back by Jadeja and Saha to noon session’s fiery deliveries from Umesh and Bhuvi, the day had India’s name on it and that had made all the difference.

Let’s roll it from the start. Another lost toss, third this series for the Indian Captain. Terrible news for the Men in blues came that morning as Virat Kohli, after hurting I shoulder in the previous game, ruled himself out. His position as a commander-in-chief was taken over by Ajinkay Rahane. Well after some minor hiccups and one major blow, Australia was in commanding position before lunch was served. Post-lunch saw the momentum swinging into the host’s favour. After being 131/1 at lunch, Oz’s were dismissed for 300. Many credits should be given to Kuldeep Yadav, India’s first Chinaman, with thos X-factor bowling (4/68). Smith, one more inning, one more century (111, third in the series and total- 499 runs). He has garnered himself the title of run machine. Half of his career runs has come against India. Australian collapse shows that how much they rely on their captain.

Well, Indian batting was also not that great. Vijay went for 10, but after that it was all India’s middle order show. Except for Nair (who needs to know that one big score won’t keep him in the team for long), every player got a start on a pitch that was helping the pacers and spinners alike. Contributions from Rahul (60 and 51, 5/6th fifty in the series), Rahane (46 and 38), Pujara (57) and of-course Sir jadeja (63) made sure that India has a good psychological lead of 32. And how much important this lead proved in the context of this game.

In the Australian second innings, three Oz’s wickets fell for 31/3. Maxwell (45), tried hard to revive the innings but eventually the Indian bowlers spun the victory, reeling Australia for 137 giving India a target of 106 that was achieved without much ado on day 4. Jadeja (18-7-24-3), Ashwin (3/29) and Umesh (3/29) broke the Australian batting order’s backbone.
The biggest things about the match and moreover series victory is:
• A win without any contributions from the best/ most experience player in the side- Virat Kohli
• A win where no one or two players are architect but the entire team jointly takes the credit.
• A win on the track especially Dharamshala which is a typical western country wicket. Green top, seam and bounce unlike Indian conditions.

There is another sense of pleasure when your bowlers make your team win. Oz’s bowlers did that in the first teat and Indian’s did that in last. Umesh yadav, KL Rahul, Ravidra Jadeja and Rahane (as a leader), has been the find of the series. Persistence by Pujara and Saha in tough conditions in Ranchi or Jadeja’s bowling in final session in Bengaluru etc; this series has been another level of performance. And ot to forget the sledge, DRS row, outside media influence etc which did take a toll on the performance on/off the field. But this series will not remember for those, but will be indelibly imprinted for the performance, both tough and hard that both the sides put in.

When Oz’s came in the country, a 9 continuous defeat was in a backdrop and when they board the flight for home, they will be sad but pleased with the effort put in. India has given their everything in these 180+ days season of engaging and engrossing cricket. The footprints of a great team can be seen, but time and adversities tell you a lot. The start has been fabulous, the continuation is question. For time being, a long stretch of white cricket has come to a pause and it’s time to shift focus to the shortest format, to pump for respective cities and to be engrossed in raining sixes. Till then, do like and share.
Pic credits: cricbuzz.in

The Impartial Justice

India Australia matches have gained the popularity that the environment is all heated up and the tussle is very much on. The off field game is as much interesting as the on field one. And this series is no different. But this being said, this is different. In every previous encounter, the board of cricket control of India always had the team backing in its entire claim. Not too far, remember 2007-08 India touring Australia down under. Things got real dirty in second test match at Sydney engulfing all Bhaajji-Symond monkey incident or Steve Buckner being the 12th man for Australia in umpiring.

The team put a foot forward and in plain words put forward a statement that if they want this series to continue, the umpires have to be changes. Rightly so, Anil kumble, then the umpire openly said in the media that there was only one team who was playing in the game spirit. All these had a continual backing and support of BCCI and eventually the claim was heard and ICC acted upon.

Let me take you little more back. 2001, Mike Dennes accused Sachin Tendulkar on ball tampering and five other Indian players for ‘Outrageously Appealing’. The team together united against this and demanded to remove Mike Dennes. The board supported the team and in the end the team went on to play an ‘Unofficial test match’. Just for the reference, this test match records are not counted in books of records. The team was able to do this because they have support of the board being with them on every step.

But this time around, after the bombastic press conference of Virat Kohli at Bengalauru, there was a certain feeling that things might mess up in lights of accusations put by the Indian skipper. Steve Smith was caught red handed on the camera asking for the dressing room support for DRS, a breach of game spirit in all regards. ICC should have popped in at first place, they didn’t. Team India appealed against this, but BCCI withdraws the appeal saying that we should focus on the game.
This is when things got real dirty, or just say Kohli was left alone to handle. Cricket Australia chief, Mr. James openly accuses Kohli and BCCI doesn’t do anything. The Australian media disgustfully compares Kohli to Trump of cricket, definitely not a sign of professionalism. Steve Smith is now openly targeting Kohli. Very well so, he has support of his Board. All these are taking place in India and BCCI is quite. The withdrawal of the appeal at the first place itself is something beyond comprehension. After all why did the board, withdraw an appeal, true and fair in all sense, and left his worthy captain alone in his juxtaposition. Is it something to do with the ongoing CA, ICC and BCCI tussle or something else lay under the table?

Pic credit: jagoonnews24.com

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

A staunch reply

If I use the word ‘Unbelievable’ for this test match, I guess that will be a euphemism of highest order. India, lost the Pune match by 333 runs and came back strongly to win a low scoring game at Bangalore by 75 runs, reinstating the status of the best side in this format. This test match had everything from patience to perseverance to thrill to drama. They say Test-Cricket is the purest form of the game and now we know why. Session by session the momentum shifted like a pendulum and at last the side that kept its nerves, Won. As they say, sports show character and yes, this match is a perfect example for that.

Not a great test match by numbers, low scores and slow run rate, but yes, some incredible performances. If at the start of the test series someone would have told me that at the end of two test, no team will score 300 or Virat Kohli or David Warner will not have any big score in 4 innings or Ashwin will take a five-fer in only one innings, I would have been like: Come ‘on, you kidding me?  But some two and half weeks down the line, all those apparitions are true.

2001 India versus Australia, Kolkata test, was in the flashbacks when India was bowling in the fourth innings. The brilliant comeback by the host goes on to prove that yes they are the best side, at-least in home conditions. Flying catches (Smith in 3rd and Saha in 4th innings), sledging (One cannot simply forget Ishant’s mockery face) or brilliant use of DRS for either side: the contest had all. But the highlight or the turning point for India was the Pujara’s(92) and Rahane’s(52) partnership, batting out the entire session wicket-less (first session in the series to be played wicket-less) in India’s second innings when they had a feeble lead of mere 35 runs.

The match marked the home coming of Rahane and Ashwin coming back to prime and of course saw some brilliance from Rahul (Man of the match for his innings of 90 and 51) in the midst of falling Indian wickets. Jadeja picked up his 6/63 in the first innings (second best career figures) and Lion Lyon took 8 wickets for 50 runs making Indian batsman dance on his fingers in the first innings (his career best figures). But the talk of the town has to be the pacers. Taking wickets at regular and most importantly crucial moments was something that was the silver lining of the test. Hazelwood registered the figures of 6/67 in the third innings amiably supported by his ally Starc (1/39 and 2/74). Indian pacers also performed miracously, especially in the last session of play. Ishant (1/48 and 1/28) tormenting Smith (8 and 28) was something worth watching in the Australia’s first innings.

This test match saw another error in judgment by Kohli (12 and 15) in the first innings as he was LBW at Lyon’s delivery. His second innings dismissal is something controversial and questions the use of technology in sports. Addition of a specialist batsman (Nair- 26 and 0) failed terribly for India only to let up by its bowlers. Come-back man Abhinav Mukund also failed to impress while his counterpart was on a roar. There has to be separate discussion of this tiger that aussies are taming- Matt Renshaw(60 in the first innings). What a batsman and what a class. Resuming his innings form where he left in Pune. Shaun Marsh (66 in 1st innings) also proved healthy with the bat

All in all it is a test match that will go down in the history of cricketing fraternity. How patience and perseverance pays off is vividly emanated by this match. India’s top class form and some classic response by the aussies. As they say, the best is saved for the last and indeed the last of this Indian home season is definitely witnessing some best performances. Ashwin has bowled more than 650 overs this season and took 75 wickets, highest in the season for India. We are watching a young team shaping into a world winner. The future looks good and certain for India. For Aussies, well they played well; only the luck wasn’t in their pockets this time. The series is very much open. Would be interesting to see how the rest of the matches unfold. Till then, keep supporting and do subscribe, like and share.

Image Courtesy: ht.com

The Underdog’s Day

I still remember the post match conference last year of the India England Test series 2016-17 home season where the Indian captain Virat Kohli during post match conference said, “We don’t want to be complacent”. Exactly some four months down the line, against the alleged feeble Australian attack, this is exactly what Indians did: Being complacent.  Australia came into this test match with talks about their worst performance, again facing a whitewash and all that. But the hard work of the boys showed the difference. An emphatic win by 333 runs and that too against the mighty Indian batting line-up is something they will cherish for the long time.

Famous Indian Batting collapse, missed and dropped chances, poor use of DRS, Kohli missing out on duck for the first time, Ashwin’s inability to push for wickets and what not. All of these have been key pointers in India’s defeat. Since 2012 India had not lost a Test at home and always has been always looked like a force to reckon with especially in this home season. Last time Australia toured India for Tests they were crushed 4-0. They entered this match having lost their past nine Tests in Asia and particularly a nightmare performance in Sri-Lanka.

So, finally India’s longest unbeaten strike comes to an end and that too in such a shameful manner. It will be euphemism to say that India was bowled out cheaply in both the innings. To be apt, Indians did not have a reply to the reeling deliveries of O’keefe (12/70- one of the best figures by foreign spinner on Indian soil) and Lyon(5/74).  The extent to which the Aussies spin duo outplayed their so called superior counterparts in of course a daunting situation raises lots of questions on the credibility on the Indian spinners. Lyon’s deliveries spun more than Ash’s and O’keefe looked more dangerous with every bowl he bowled also responsible for 7/11 show (India losing 7 wickets for 11 runs out of which O’keefe too 5)

It is always said that luck favors the brave. Australian captain Steven Smith showed us why. Dropped catches, wrong decision and missed opportunities is something which no fielding team will like and much to the dismay of the Indian team, all of them went in favour of smith who hit a memorable century in challenging conditions and yet again showed us why he is one of the world’s finest batsmen and justified his numero uno rank. On the contrary, Indian captain Virat Kohli who was out for a rare duck in the first innings. Indian batting failure shows that how much this batting line-up is dependent on its captain. Renshaw (68), Starc (61) also showed how to bat on this pitch. The description of this test will be incomplete without mention of Umesh Yadav, a silver lining for India in this test match with his solid bowling. None of the Indian batsman took precedence from Rahul (64) who showed how to bat on this pitch in the first innings.

I am an Indian and this defeat grieves me a lot. But then the better team won. In fact, Aussies were better in all departments wrapping up the test in less than three days. Starting off as an underdog, Australia showed that there is no substitute to hard work and perseverance. Somewhere I feel this defeat will be a blessing in disguise for the Indian, more like a wakeup call. After all, even the lion takes a step back before jumping on its prey. It would be interesting to see how this series will unfold and what will be India’s reply. Till then, keep supporting and subscribe to the blog.

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