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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

High scoring day at Rajkot

Mahendra Singh Dhoni at Adelaide OvalImage via Wikipedia
Whoever won the match today, the curator had to be blamed for the run-riot that occured in Rajkot. The pitch did not help the bowlers at any point of the match. This pitch, coupled with the average fielding/catching performances by the teams made sure that there would be a high-scoring, close match. Two players, very similar in approach, on both sides took this opportunity to score a big century each. The presence of bowlers probably did not matter - it could be a bowling machine being operated, such was the dominance. Long ago, India had scored 299 in 40 overs in an ODI against Sri Lanka only for Roshan Mahanama to play a great innings to get them close to the winning post. Dilshan played a similar blinder to bring back the confidence of the Lankans after the first innings massacre but had to suffer the same fate as Roshan!!!

Sehwag has been criticised often that he did not play ODI's as per his potential or that he did not have the same success in ODIs as much he had in test matches. His big ton in the test match against Sri Lanka was the starting point - Gary Kirsten had asked him to spend time at the crease early, against hitting from ball one. Once he became comfortable, the runs would flow automatically. He almost scored his third triple ton. Today, he scored his highest in ODI matches. Sachin Tendulkar was there at the crease to calm him down and offer advice where required - this worked like a charm. Tendulkar himself was no less aggressive - he was matching Sehwag with the runs till he fell in a very familiar manner against Dilahara Fernando.

Sehwag continued and one felt that he would reach his double century (that Sachin had remarked earlier this year). The power-play is one introduction that has confused the players on the field - especially the batsmen. They feel that it is the right to score more runs than normal and take risks unncessary. Here, the team was going at a rate of 8.5 and more, but still the power-play introduction resulted in fall of wickets (in fact, contributing to a middle-order slump). Till then, MS Dhoni had matched Sehwag's run-rate.

Since becoming a captain, MSD had reduced his strike-rate to cut out the risks and play percentage cricket (ones and twos) before exploding at the end. Here, he had a long batting line-up to follow and could unleash his well-known shots. The only complaint (if one had any) was that Gambhir was not suited at the role he came out to play - this led to his early fall. But, no grouses anyway - the total was more than what India would have planned at the beginning of the match. Sri Lanka's bowlers had no role to play in the Indian innings - there was no specialist spinner and Sangakkara had to depend on his quicker bowlers and part-timers to help out.

Sri Lanka started on a similar note. If Sehwag waited initially and started his heroics, Dilshan followed a similar pattern. He left the big shots to Tharanga while he settled down. Once ready, he unleashed his range of strokes to take the breath (and noise) away from the Indians. The bowlers did not know where to bowl, such was his dominance. Dhoni tried out various options but none of them could make any impact. MSD was getting enough dose of his own medicine.

The situation had changed to such an extent that it resembled a T20 match after 30 overs - 164 required in 20 overs, nine wickets in hand, five Powerplay overs. Advantage Sri Lanka unless India grabbed two or three wickets quickly. Dilshan settled down after the initial flurry and got easy boundaries almost every over. This meant that his partners could ease in as well. Sangakkara came out and continued his good form from the T20 matches. It was no surprise that the man can bat but to destroy the opposition by hitting orthodox shots was something out of the ordinary. His dismissal (and couple of other wickets) made the match close. But, the long batting line-up of Sri Lanka was not to be disappointed.

Credit needs to be given to Harbhajan Singh for having the best run-rate (in terms of least runs given) among the bowlers on both sides. Zaheer and Nehra came back after a poor start to bring back India's chances in the last few overs. They attacked the batsmen by bowling yorkers (late swinging) and reduced the runs scored to a minimum. The fielders came into their actual form as well, bagging two run-outs at a crucial time. This was perhaps the turning point of the match. The others could not do much in the match - maybe MSD should start bowling now!!!

Hopefully, the next few matches will have pitches that support the bowlers also. It is also time for the real Mike Young to stand up please.

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