November 30, 2009

Magical figure of 600 comes good


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

India won the second Test against Sri Lanka at Green Park, Kanpur, very handsomely. With the pitch looking full of runs they had their work cut out when they took the field after being bowled out for 642 in their first innings in.

Yes I need to use to word ‘bowled out’ because any team would be expected to get many more having brought up the 600 for the loss of only four wickets.

I was wondering if Mahendra Singh Dhoni would consider the option of declaring the innings a couple of runs shy of 600 because India, in the past, had rarely succeeded in winning the Test match after having amassed a total in the excess of 600 in first outing.

India were in a very strong position after accumulating 417 runs for the loss of only two wickets on the first day. They could have easily thought of extending their total in the region of 700 before declaring the innings on the second afternoon. After all they had been taken for more than 700 in only the previous game and it did make sense to return the favour.

The Indians have had this habit all along of throwing it away after the most impressive of starts. Very rarely have they capitalized on the great work of their top-order batsmen. Once again they collapsed but it started after they had gone past 600.

India were firmly in control when VVS Laxman and Yuvraj Singh milked the bowling to their hearts’ content as the Sri Lankan bowlers had run short of ideas even in containing them with the field having spread out in all directions.

From 613 for four they crashed to 642 all out something that’s least expected from a team dictating terms on the field. Sri Lanka lost only one wicket in the remaining time of the second day’s play to dispel any impression of the pitch having being deteriorated.

The pitch at the Green Park, as a matter of fact, didn’t appear to lose its character even until the last wicket of the match fell on the fourth afternoon. The Sri Lankan tail-enders were hitting around as merrily as Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir on the first day.

The Sri Lankans were buried under the pressure of 600 that’s indeed a huge total on any surface. The Indian bowlers came good in applying the pressure and their captain Dhoni was not afraid to have attacking fields, unlike his counterpart who was guilty of making India’s task of saving the first Test easier by opting for defensive fields while his side was in total command of the situation.

Dhoni didn’t waste the opportunity of pressurizing the batsmen and his bowlers responded by putting the ball in the right areas. The brilliant fast bowling of Shantakumaran Sreesanth helped India’s cause immensely with the spinners also doing the job admirably.

By the look of things it was a tough call for Dhoni to have enforced the follow-on. But he made the right decision under the circumstances, demonstrating total faith in his bowlers.

The Indian bowlers continued with the policy of maintaining a probing line and they were not discouraged by the occasional stick they received. They were rewarded for persistence, earning the 100th Test win for their country.

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