During all that talk of psychological edge after first test, I commented that India has to show on the first day of test 2, whatever momentum they supposedly have. And as you all would have happily witnessed, they did that in some style. A few observations:
1) Once again the pitch fooled all, and this time the hosts were tricked much more than the visitors. Rahul's team selection showed he didn't expect much turn or breaking-up (which may not yet happen, we wait and watch) and certainly not that much bounce for Bhajji to exploit. But it also showed that he didn't expect the batsmen to be troubled too-much by the grass, as he also mentioned in post-toss comments ("We expect the pitch to settle down.."). Lara, on the other hand, went in with 5 pacers, and conceded at the end of the day that he got it wrong. Although he too, at the toss, said "We hope the grass on the pitch is not a facade..." but also "we would have bowled first..."
2) That Virender Sehwag played well is like saying Virender Sehwag has had a little haircut off late. To me, atleast, it was quite clear from his last ODI inning (more from the manner than the number or runs) that he would get runs in tests, as I also wrote in the pre-series views. We all know he has a few weaknesses, and he would be a better batsmen if he gets them sorted out, but he's made runs in the past despite those weaknesses (even after they were known) against much better attacks. It was more a matter of general out-of-form combining with all that talk around his weakness. Once he got that form sorted, as evident in the ODIs, the test runs were bound to come. And btw, he looked tired around the 150 mark, looked like having a shoulder strain, strteching his back (which we know is dodgy) and generally looking tired even during the breaks. And it was quite clear, from his last few shots, that his focus had also gone missing. Sure, I understand he played a mammoth innings, but he's done it the past as well. Hope he's well, and also that there was nothing more to read in this than one specific tiring days efforts.
3) Jaffer, as a partner for Sehwag, once again showed that he can play both roles. The 'partner' of Sehwag when required (as here) and the actual run-getter, as in last game. This knock, as a follow-up of previous one, should ensure a long way in settling the remaining doubts in team managements minds about the permanency of his position.
4) VVS disappointed, but atleast this time he didnt waste a start. He is wasting the number 3 spot, though, which he's likely to possess for the whole series. Anyway, lot more chances for him to make amends. And since his performance has not hurted India so far, or put it this way, we've got good runs despite his lack or runs, therefore he gets his time to get that big one.
5) Yuvraj Singh got a beauty...I mean from Pedro Collins :-) That was a Pathan-esque reverse swinging yorker (remember the one that got Gillie...in Sydney, was it?), but he wasn't entirely convincing even before that. As with Laxman, he gets his chances because meanwhile others are putting their hands up, and team is doing well. But he quickly needs to get a big contribution *in a meaningful cause* for the team, to show his value as a frontline one-in-five batsman. For that is what we have frontline batsmen for...contribution towards a positive result for the team.
6) Rahul Dravid, despite being in usual good form (I think his test form has been same as Ponting's for last 2-3 seasons), was not getting as many runs of late. And the main reason being he was playing under the additional pressures of bad-starts (hence too early to crease), lack of runs from team-mates hence additional pressures to not play as freely, and ofcourse captaincy may have added those extra thoughts, that a batsman out there to get big runs can do without. Anyway, here most of those concerns were done away with (in fact, the last innings performance would have helped him reach the state he was in, here) and it showed not only in the potentially huge innings he's on the verge of, but also the relatively carefree manner in which he batted at times. Especially towards the end of the day.
Finally, the strategy would obviously be to make a cautious start in the morning through Kaif (who is getting his usual assured runs, as he's done thoughout the tour, and much better than Yuvraj in the 3 test outings so far) and Rahul, build on for some time, and then start going for free scoring through them, and then through Dhoni and Pathan. Barring a disastrous collapse(which looks unlikely given the conditions, and fairly confident Indian dressing room), India is looking at a 500+ score at the least. India lineup, on faced with similar scores twice in Pakistan (although on even better batting conditions, but against a stronger attack), responded perfectly. Lets see how a similarly matched strong WI lineup holds up.
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