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    December 20, 2008

    Bizarre decision-making from India at Mohali

    At lunch on the second day at Mohali, India had England by the proverbials (normally used only in an Aussie context). India were 302/1, having added 123 runs in 33 overs (run rate of 3.7). Even if they didn't bother accelerating over the next session and a half, they could have got to 460, and with some acceleration, to 500 leaving England's tired openers & other batsmen an hour before stumps to survive the new ball and a few overs of spin.

    After lunch, the intent was there - to speed it up. But the wrong batsman was entrusted with the job. Gambhir can easily, almost at will, speed up his scoring rate. Dravid is, in current form, incapable of doing so. The instructions should have been for Dravid to try and get the quick runs while Gambhir's aim should have been to bat through the innings. But it all went haywire. First, Gambhir got out slogging, then Dravid. If India were really serious about trying to win, they should have sent out Yuvraj, if not after Gambhir's dismissal then at least after Dravid was out. But we saw Laxman come in and he pottered around for nearly 30 balls without scoring. In the meantime, Tendulkar had got out.

    Then, Yuvraj and Dhoni put on 40 runs in 19 overs. Yes, you read it right. With India on 339/5, Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni, those mighty hitters, scored at just 2 an over when the situation demanded something like 4 an over to totally demoralize England. India scored 54 runs in 28 overs in the 2nd session, something similar to England's crawl in the 2nd session on day four at Chepauk last Sunday. England's batting that evening cost them the test. Could India suffer this time around? I certainly believe so - perhaps not to the extent of losing the test but ending up with a draw rather than a win.

    Harbhajan's arrival at the crease sparked some urgency, and then there was a brief flurry during the partnership between Zaheer and Mishra. At that stage, there were around 15 overs left to be bowled and if India had declared then, England would have had to face something like 12-13 overs ideally, and light permitting, at least 5 overs. If India had managed to get a wicket or two (since a nightwatchman, Ian Bell?, may have been sent), then that'd have put so much pressure on England's batsmen on day 3.

    But no, a pointless 10th wicket partnership followed where Amit Mishra and Ishant Sharma put on 7 runs in 4 overs, with Ishant exhibiting his defensive skills (1 off 16). I had to get my wife to pick up my jaw from the floor when that partnership was going on, because it was jaw-droppingly insanely defensive stuff.

    What was the point of that partnership? Were the instructions to bat out until end of day's play so that the next day India could opt for the heavy roller in the morning before start of play? Given that only 80 overs are going to be bowled each day during the game, time to bowl England out twice should have been the main consideration. India should have declared as soon as Zaheer was out. What's the big difference between 446 and 453, or even 460 for the matter? How likely is it that the margin in the test would be less than 20 runs?

    As it turned out, England had to face something like 9 overs, but the umpires ruled that the light had deteriorated and that was exactly what England wanted. In fact, if England's bowlers had bowled a little sensibly (way outside off stump for example), they could have dragged on the charade for a few overs more to totally remove all possibility of their openers having to come out to bat today.

    The play in the last 2 sessions today was totally unexpected and inexplicable. It isn't something you expect from a team that is 1-0 up, and basically has done everything right in the test. It's certainly not what you expect from a team that's led by MS Dhoni or one that aims to be a #1 side in the near future.

    Down under at the WACA, South Africa are chasing 414, and India could be demoted to #5 on the list of top 4th innings chases. They need 186 more with 7 wickets in hand. It works out to just 2 an over, but we're talking of South Africa and the great b@st#rds. I think the key wicket will be Mark Boucher. But first, Kallis & de Villiers need to put on at least 100 more. That'll give Boucher some space to bat with an inexperienced lower order. But I'm still predicting that South Africa will fall around 100 short.

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    Thus spake Jagadish @ 11:28 pm |
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