Over the last 3 weeks, we cricket geeks ( Definition: fans who love tests over ODIs and T20s) have been praying – silently ,vehemently and albeit very loudly that the boredom that had set in thanks to the first 2 tests between Ind-SL needed a miraculous recovery for us fans to retain our interest in the game.
And so god heard us – the man up there and the man on the field as well. The groundsman at P Sara Oval made a sensible wicket – one that assisted the bowlers to some extent. India for the first time in the series got SL all out. Sehwag bludgeoned the SL attack in quick time. Raina and the tail wagged to take a miniscule but psychological first innings lead. In the 3rd innings for the first time, India looked like a good bowling side when they had SL reeling at 87-7, and we fans almost started relishing the sight of India chasing a score between 100-120.
And that would’ve been still possible had we switched sides at that point and had the Aussies or South Africans bowling, but sadly it was the Indian team. Since SL had let our tail wag for 100 odd runs we needed to return the favour. I don't know which defensive snake bit Dhoni and he stopped attacking. No slips to Ishaant and field wide spread out. I didn’t quite understand what score were we defending? Samaraweera, the first innings’ century maker was allowed easy singles which not only helped boost the score but also allowed him to time to set in. Mendis came and rubbed further salt and so we were looking at chasing 250+ instead of 150.
Most of our top batsmen barring Dravid have a poor average in the 4th innings when compared to their overall average. The odds didn’t seem to favour us either, what with we having won only 4 times chasing 250+. So it almost seemed like the team had axed itself by choosing to go on the defensive. Losing 3 top order batsmen in the last session of day 4 did not help othe cause either.
When I glued in to the television today morning, I was worried that we might go defensive and lose the battle altogether. But fortunately Sachin and Laxman thought otherwise, and were positive from the word go. No one more than Sachin in this line-up stresses on the importance of singles and he along with Laxman got almost 50% runs in their partnership running singles. When he runs his singles, he makes you forget he is 37, he can beat those 20 year-olds hands down! And only he could’ve hit the ball between the wicketkeeper and first slip for a 4, when facing a crowded leg-side field and Randiv bowling spot on.
Laxman is lazy in the singles area, he is forgiven that minor flaw cause his game is otherwise flawless. He showed us again why he is very very special. Whether he drives on the off, pulls, flicks his wrists or delicately nudges for his singles – he amazes every time with the ease he plays his shots. Even with a back pain the guy makes the shot-making look so easy that even a non-player can be fooled into attempting the strokes.
Even after Sachin departed and still a good 80+ runs to get, Laxman maintained his cool. At the start I wondered what was going on in Raina’s mind, maybe and overdose of talk with Yuvraj led to him playing some senseless strokes. Luckily for him he did not lose his wicket and got back to the sensible, compact batting we had witnessed from him in his last 2 innings. Laxman got to his first test hundred in 4th innings. I heard commentators make statements such as this is his finest knock ever – people have poor memory. His best ever and by far the best ever by any batsman in the history of test cricket remains his 281 Vs Aus in Kolkatta in 2001. No one should dare make such statements again. It was a great knock but not the greatest given the opposition and the circumstances. Laxman will agree too that 281 will remain unparalleled in all aspects.
Raina sealed the win with a fine 6 – something he was itching to do since he had stepped onto the ground. Fortunately, we did not make the match tense and eased to the total.
Did anyone else think that the match presentation was as long as the last day itself? Man of the match, player of the match, stylish player, man of the series, and god knows how many!
We should’ve drawn the first match and ideally won the series, but a fight back is good and looks like the thought of losing the No 1 position is helping us in a positive way.
We are not the best no. 1 team. We won’t dominate any series till our bowling falls in place, and our batsmen stop struggling on pace as well as spinning tracks. At some point we need to play and dominate like the past no1 team – Aus did. Another huge worry is Dravid’s form, and before everyone goes about calling for his head – keep in mind the bench is not ready to take his place as yet. He should be back against the NZ series, if he fails there , then he needs to rethink about his future – until then let’s not jump the gun. I truly believe these players will know when the time is right and so let’s trust their gut feel.
On the other side of the world, Pak struggled against some fine swing bowling by the Poms and looks like all Gods are behind KP to get back to form.
Prayers are answered, test cricket is still alive! The boring ODI series begins but thank god for Eng-Pak series. Go Pommies – Aussies need some fright when you face them this summer!