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Monday, November 16, 2009

Dravid & Dhoni to the front - 1st Day at Motera 2009

India had played only three test matches in the entire year - evidence was seen in the first hour itself when the scoreboard read 32 for 4. Swing bowling that attacked the stumps combined with lack of footwork from the batsmen meant that the top-order was gone in no time. The only batsmen in the top-order who had played well in a longer version of the game in recent time, never mind the domestic Ranji Trophy, could hold his place at the crease.

The Indian team was also distracted probably by trivia (Sachin Tendulkar playing his first match in his 21st year) - the batsmen didnt need any fielder or keeper to support the bowler in his wickets. Three bowled and one lbw meant that the feet were not moving properly. The last ODI at Gauwahati had shown this failing recently - the Lankan bowlers had done their homework and delivered successfully. Sri Lanka missed their frontline but probably it was a good miss - they repeated the success of the Australian second-string bowlers - maybe that is the key, as one reader on Cricinfo mentioned. Rest your front-line bowlers and the Indians will have no way of finding out the plans of the new bowlers (with no footage nor video analysis). They were definitely caught off-guard.

Murali was still far away from the bowling crease when the first four wickets fell - even when he came on, he hardly troubled the batsmen except for Yuvraj. Rangana Herath was attacked from the word go - the Indians obviously did not want to give him the confidence very early in the game. The opening bowlers did not make any impact after the opening spell. Murali and Herath had to bowl long spells that could restrain the batsmen from making more than what they finally did. Couple of balls kept low - this would be interesting for the rest of the match. Ominous signs for Sri Lanka.

Rahul Dravid had played positively and his strike-rate (as good as MS Dhoni's strike-rate) definitely showed the signs of a huge innings looming large. In the course of the day, he managed to become the fifth highest scorer in test matches. It has been a good comeback by Rahul, considering that many had written him off the same time last year. This knock will emphasise what a great asset he is to test cricket in large, not just Indian cricket. The world record of number of century partnerships is testimony to the fact that Rahul is the perfect team-man. Yuvraj Singh gave him company and threatened to go beserk after lunch, until he got out to a soft dismissal.

MS Dhoni can be considered to be India's Rahul Dravid in ODI matches. So, when both of them came to the crease, it was cricket at its best - concise & without any risks. Strike-rotation at its best. MSD had changed his game to match that of Rahul Dravid in the ODIs - following the same approach was very important in this situation and he did it convincingly. Thus, the run-rate for most of the day was never less than four - a good one considering the initial collapse. MSD's batting record as a captain continued with this century - he averages more than 50 as a captain in test matches - obvious proof that he relishes the additional responsibilities.

Dhoni's dismissal in the last session gave some hope to the Sri Lankans - otherwise, both Dravid and Dhoni were on their way to a huge score. Harbhajan and the tail should provide support to Rahul Dravid tomorrow so that the Indians can add a further 100 to the team total - this will put the match beyond Sri Lanka's reach.

The scorecard below shows the number of sessions that each side 'won' in the day's play. We will keep track of this during the five days of the match to see who is expected to win. Typically, a side needs to win a minimum of 7 or 8 sessions to win a test match. What happens here will be interesting.

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