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Sunday, March 30, 2008

The return of the Cavalier is not enough to win the Chennai test

Virender Sehwag was not exactly returning to the eleven in the Chennai test - he had done it in the last two tests of the Australian tour. His knock (one of his amazing consecutive 150+ scores) had ensured that India averted the loss in the final test. It proved that there was still enough gas left in his tank, to take India to greater heights. Chennai was one city where Sehwag had scored well in previous tests.

He selected the venue to stamp his class once again. His knock was nothing of the ordinary. Strokes flowed from his willow and his partners were left being mere spectators to the master-knock. Dilip Vengsarkar was forced to eat his words - he had been vocally critical of Sehwag's position in the batting eleven. Rahul Dravid and now Anil Kumble had to fight their way with the Colonel to ensure that Sehwag stayed in the squad. It was Sehwag's turn to repay the faith shown in him by the seniors in the Indian team. His quick knock ensured that the momentum did not swing the Proteas way after the huge 500 score that they had posted. Rahul Dravid and Wasim Jaffer gave the much-needed support to Sehwag but Dravid could not repeat the same with the other batsmen after Sehwag's dismissal. Rahul went past 10,000 runs which is testimonial to his endurance and hard work over the years.

The speed with which he blasted the runs on the third day meant that the Indian team had a possibility of getting a lead of 150-200 runs over the South Africans. That they ended up just 87 ahead was purely due to the bowling of Ntini and his understudy Dale Steyn on the fourth day. Once Sehwag departed, the rest of the batsmen struggled against the pace due, even on a placid pitch. The third day's lessons given by Sehwag was learnt very quickly by the bowling attack and the result was very much visible to everyone.

On the batting front as well, the South Africans must have been very pleased to see the performance of the opening pair, who just carried their form from the Bangladesh series. Neil McKenzie and Hashim Amla made big scores in both innings to give their side the edge over the Indian bowlers. Greame Smith also got good starts. The rest of the batsmen started well but could not consolidate to get a bigger score.

From the Indian bowlers, it was surprising to see the commitment shown by Sreesanth and RP Singh. Not only in their bowling only, the duo made many severe lapses on the field as well. The captain will surely have some strong words for them in the dressing room post-mortem. Harbhajan came back to silence his critics with a eight-wicket haul, though one feels that he was not so menacing on the final day. Anil Kumble is improving as a captain every test and this one was no different.

Overall, the honors were even at the end of the test, which was justified given the performance of both the teams. Sehwag, Rahul Dravid and Harbhajan would be the main concern from the Proteans whereas the Indians would be concentrating on McKenzie, Amla and Steyn.
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