30 November 2007

Pakistan in India, Eden Gardens

Eden Gardens, Day 5: Pakistan live to fight another day

There is much to be said of living to fight another day. No one knows that better than Pakistan. Their most celbrated victories have come when all but the craziest had written them off. On days one and two, nobody seemed to doubt that this was the worst Pakistan squad to have ever toured India. But now, Pakistan are moral victors having drawn at Kolkata with a severely depleted bowling line-up. Much credit to Younis Khan, who not only delayed his arrival at the crease to let Kamran have a go and to shore up the lower order, but also attacked with purpose after Butt concentrated hard to leave almost every ball on the rough alone.

India did threaten until the two Ys were settled but once that happened, only spectacular fielding and lapses in concentration could have brought them back into the match.

Apart from the Kamran-Misbah partnership, Sami's barnacle act that ate up so much time was a definite match-turner. Perhaps India could have batted a tad faster. Ganguly could have run better once Khan had spread the field to save the boundary. Eventually, declaration was a decision taken out of Kumble's hands on Day 4, and there is no point discussing it.

Another interesting facet in this match has been watching Shoaib's bowling. After a horrid Day 1, he showed definite improvement. Even though no wickets came his way in that mammoth first innings, he did bowl 16% of Pakistans overs. In the second innings, he bowled more than Sami or Tanvir, and also did a good job of stopping Ganguly and Dhoni from going for an early decaration.

Eden Gardens, Days 3 and 4: It's alive!!!
India could have done much better at the end of the fourth day's play. Pakistan should have folded much earlier, and Dhoni and Gulguly could've done better towards the end.

Kamran was brilliant after lunch on Day 3, making it the third time he has bailed his time out with brilliant counterattack against India. When we see such stunning strokeplay, it is difficult to reason why he is not among the top wicketkeeper batsmen in the world today. Yes, the pitch was flat but the score was 150 for 5, and only the Aussies can claim to have consistently regrouped from such a situation. Hopefully he can carry this confidence into his keeping as weel. The opportunity again brought the the best out of Misbah who always seems so collected in a pressure cooker until his mode of dismissal would betray the storm within. Misbah and Kamran ran well and built their stand and Pakistan had the opportunity to walk away with a draw. Misbah did not relent on the morning of Day 4 and Sami did the barnacle act again. The follow-on was averted and then some. Once Sami was dismissed, the rest perished in a flurry.

Kamran should have been out earlier, and Sami as well. It was shocking that the scoreline did not reflect how badly the Indians fielded in England, and probably it won't in this series as well. One hopes the batting and bowling can hide the fielding troubles in Australia as well.

Karthik was scratchy in trying to regain some form but Jaffer was as confident as I have ever seen anyone and capitalised on several Tanvir deliveries on his pads. Karthik got out trying to be too sexy. The next boundary came four overs later, and the one after that came after six. Jaffer went trying to slog after his fifty and Ganguly came. Dhoni had been sent in to accelerate the scoring rate. But some awesome turn that Kaneria got from the rough outside leg, as well as Shoaib's controlled aggression, and Ganguly's weak running meant India did not declare by end of the day's play. On a difficult wicket, Dhoni (28 from 53) might not necessarily be the guy who can score quick.

In 2001, seven Aussie wickets fell after tea on the last day. India have given themselves a chance to win, and they just need to keep going at Pakistan. Harbhajan already has five wickets in this match. He will be very confident. But Pakistan will be too, as anyone who came back from the dead would be.

Pakistan in India, Eden Gardens, Day 2: Ganguly, Laxman, Dhoni pile on
Ganguly, Laxman and Dhoni coninued to pile on the misery. The strokes sparkled in the first session and continued till Ganguly's dismissal. Both men made their first hundred against Pakistan. For Dada, it might even have been emotional.

Shoaib was a touch better today. He bowled more and tried to keep it in the 140s, though the slower deliveries were coming with predictable regularity. Sohail Tanvir though, found the situation too hot to handle and continued to leak runs. Sami eventually ended up bowling just five overs more than Shoaib. The batsmen were in such good control that Danish Kaneria was punished for almost every single bad ball that he bowled. Kumble's declaration left him stranded on 194.

For a brief period prior to the tea break, both Laxman and Dhoni went circumspect, and I was wondering whether there would even be a declaration today. But all those doubts were put to rest when Dhoni reeled off some strokes to bring up his fifty and the declaration with it.

Whether it was merely a matter of an unequal contest between bat and ball on a placid pitch will be revealed tomorrow. The third day is supposed to be the best for batting at Eden Gardens, and Pakistan have an opportunity to get as close to the follow-on target as possible. It is still not clear what is wrong with Zaheer Khan, but Kumble did the right thing in taking him out of the attack at the first sign of trouble. India need Zaheer to be fit for the long haul ahead.

Even without Zaheer in the attack, Pakistan will at least need until lunch on the fourth day to overhaul the target. India will not lose this series. To win this test, the Indian captain will look no further than himself. However, Kumble will need to work in tandem with Bhajji, and a few injections of confidence will do him no harm. This is Eden and it won't be the first time he has performed magic here.

Eden Gardens, Day 1: Jaffer bullies clueless Pakistan
Pakistan were asking for it, going into the match with an unfit Shoaib. A shadow of his second-innings avtar in Delhi, Pakistan were a bowler short throughout and India made the most of it. Of course it could have been much better had Dravid not been given out, but Dravid should have been run out a few overs earlier.

Dravid's partnership with Jaffer laid the foundations for the assault that Jaffer and Tendulkar launched. Pakistan's brightest moment was when Tendulkar fell to a Kaneria googly after a sparkling knock. Post the second innings at Kotla, he seems to have shifted a few gears in his head and his style. I was getting quite irritated with his grinding game in England, but this was fun to watch. Even when Kaneria tried to do what Warne once attempted, packing the leg side field and bowling into the rough outside legstump, Sachin was looking very much at ease.

Jaffer throughout, was magestic and dominated everyone, pulling and cutting and driving easily. On three different occasions, he reeled off a hat-trick of boundaries. In Australia he may not get away with driving in the air so much, but man, his backfoot play is spectacular. Sohail Tanvir seemed to be at the recieving end quite a bit. With Shoaib certainly undercooked and Sami bowling like he did not care, Kaneria's good bowling at the other end went unrewarded. Kamran dropping Tendulkar did not help. At the end of the day, it had to be said that these two teams were not evenly matched. Even on placid pitches, Pakistani bowling ususally threatens more.

I do not know the logic of playing three pacers at Eden Gardens. But even if we agree with that policy, Pakistan would have been much better off choosing the repalcement Arafat. I do not know whether the management was pandering to Shoaib's whims, but from the morning it was clear that Shoaib would be dead weight. Tanvir, Arafat, Kaneria and Rehman it should have been.

What of Dinesh Kathik? Despite his failure in three consecutive innings' he is still in the Top 10 runscorers in Tests in 2007. But how much longer can he keep out Gautam Gambhir or Yuvraj Singh? Things somehow look rosy for Indian Test cricket. There is competition for the openers spot, in the middle order, to be the chosen fast bowling options, and to be Kumble's suppport spinner. Mahendra Singh Dhoni seems to have cornered the wicket keeper batsman's position, though.

10 comments:

Ottayan said...

John,

Things do look good for the Indian team.

Ferverently hope it does not unravel down under.

Straight Point said...

i have never seen a 'festive' test match like this...its shame that pak could not show even the semblance of intent for the pride that they were representing their nation...

i in my entire cricketing life have not seen such pathetic display...

Sam said...

So wat if KKD kid is in top 10 run getters this year, he has been patchy and got to get the kick out to the ranji games.........

Uncle J rod said...

Akmal piled on also. Must be a tough pitch to bat on.

Soulberry said...

Appreciate the way Misbah and Akmal fought back. That too when one is out of form and the other tends to fritter away his starts. Even Ganguly for that matter...a man who has seen it all in the past few years. Character is shown at such times when men can summon something better from within.

Appreciate the spirit on display today and yesterday, yessir, I did.

John said...

Thank you.

Sam, the point is that KKD has made runs - three international innings' back, in far more challenging conditions against far more chalenging bowlers. Anderson, Sidebottom and Tremlett were a better pack than the undercooked Shoaib and Sami. He must play in Bangalore which on most occasions offers some thing close to Aussie conditions.

Sam said...

KKD should have feasted on likes of Sami, Akhtar and Tanvir going by your views mate, but he dint. He failed and today he took away 60 balls for his 28 runs, not worth.

We need gritty players, those who would put some price on their wkts, this dude gifts his wkt on a platter dint he ?

and his england heroics are long gone.....

Soulberry said...

Misbah was wonderful but it was Akmal who guided him on. Now that he has got the monkey off his back, we could see the best from him.

India dropped all three fightback warriors and that will matter.

The rough isn't "well placed" to help Indians...Salman Butt is, I think the only significant leftie...and the pitch isn't cracked up either.

I'm not bemused by much in this match other than Indian fielding and Munaf Patel.

scorpicity said...

This match was so boring... let's see what happens in bangalore.

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