Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Rainy Session Review :4th Day Eden Garden Test Match, 2010

Kolkata woke up this morning with a gloomy sky , an after effect of the unseasonal rain that hit the city last night. The wet outfield has delayed the start of the match but India has the luxury of time besides a 347 run lead to accommodate minor delays. In spite of an eventful test match in Eden Gardens where spectators got to see 2 centuries per day over the last 3 days, the front page of the local dailies here in Kolkata portrayed gory pictures of the after effects of a dastardly Maoist attack on a temporary police camp in West Medinipur district in West Bengal. 24 para military jawans were killed by the outlaws in a guerrilla "hit-run-and-disperse" tactics. It might be a good idea to have a minute's silence in the honour of the departed jawans before the start of the day's play. While cricket is entertaining the largely unemployed (direct or hidden) audience in Kolkata, its a war zone in the south-western districts and what better way to suggest that the citizens condemn the attack & mourn the deaths but life will not stop because of such terror tactics.
The DG of Bengal police has reportedly stated that the attack was" unexpected." With precedents of similar ambushes in the neighbouring states from the same marauding outlaws , how can the top cop say that the attack was unexpected , is unimaginable. Maybe the attitude of the men in uniform is the same at all levels, everywhere. Even in Eden gardens, one can see uniformed policemen are keeping a passionate watch on the game from the club house stands instead of watching the crowd.
The match started on Day 1 with the Proteas winning the toss and electing to bat but their carefully compiled first innings total , (thanks to a ton each by Hashim Amla & debutant Peterson,) crumpled like a pack of cards in the session after tea when they crashed from 228/2 to 296/9. Day 2 & 3 belonged to Indians . A century each from Sehwag, Tendulkar, Laxman Dhoni and a matured knock of 28 by night watchman Amit Mishra ensured that India get a commanding lead as they declared at 643/6 nearly half an hour before close of play on the 3rd day. South Africa's complacency after a resounding victory in the first test in Nagpur showed up in their sloppy batting & fielding. Predictably, they choked in the big stage and injuries to Boucher & Smith added to their woes.
South Africa now have to chase a 347 run deficit before they can make the Indians bat again and for sure , Indians will have only themselves to blame if they lose from such a commanding position and hand over in a platter the number one ranking in test cricket to South Africa.

Unless of course , the nature in the form of 'unseasonal rain' decides to play her role too by returning.

Picture Source: The Telegraph, Kolkata

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Eden Gardens in Kolkata get ready to host the best of test cricket.

After a gap of more than 2 years , Eden Gardens in Kolkata , once again gets a chance to host a cricket test match. Since the memorable test match victory in the spring of 2001 , when the mighty Australians under Steve Waugh lost the match even after enforcing the follow on, Eden Gardens has been deprived of its annual test match thanks to some step motherly treatment by the BCCI management who were at loggerheads with the local association. Of course the move was disguised under a "rotational policy" where Nagpur & Mohali got more than their share of annual quota. It is yet another matter that test matches at both these new centers are often played in front of empty stadiums while Eden Gardens has nearly always presented a full house of knowledgeable spectators.
However, this time around , Eden Gardens seem to be lucky as they get ready to host the second & final test match between the topmost test match sides. South Africa dominated the first test match at Nagpur on all 4 days & closed the match giving the injury-struck Indians a thumping innings defeat .
The Eden Gardens test match , to be played from 14th to 18th February, has all the ingredients of a competitive battle as Indians will look to square the series by winning this match and thereby hang on to their number one ICC ranking by a thread. South Africa has only to play for a draw to move up to the top spot.
The compositions of both the teams are also top class.
South Africa has Darrel Steyn, top ranked pacer who alone bundled out India in the first innings of the Nagpur test & took the man of the match award. Hashim Amla who made his debut at Eden Gardens in 2004, intends to carry on from his 253 n.o. in the first test. Kallis, the veteran & scorer of a century at Eden Gardens in 2004, is in sparkling form both with the bat & the bowl. Kallis's 173 in the first test, was a picture of matured aggression. Paul Harris, the left-arm leg spinner has a nagging length and got Dhoni & Tendulkar's prized scalps in both the innings in the first test. Graeme Smith is a proven world class captain and save for his inexplicable vulnerability against Zaheer, is expected to lead this "absolutely-professional" side to a victory.
India has Gambhir, current top ranked batsman in the world, partnering the blistering Shewag in the opening pair just as in 2004 match at Eden Gardens. The ever-young Tendulkar will have the 2001 double-centurion veteran , VVS Laxman, for company in the batting line up. Suresh Raina & Dinesh Karthik should bolster the middle order's strength while Sreesanth's comeback might add a zing to his partner Zaheer's swinging ones. Of course Indian captain , Dhoni, will like his trump card Harbhajan, to come out a winner just like Bhajji had done in the 2004 match at the same ground.
Who will win the match and wear the number one crown ? Cullinan, a centurion in the 1996 test match at Eden and now a commentator, feels its a dream for the South Africans to play in Eden and do well. Eden Gardens has hosted the South Africans twice before. In the 1996 test, India lost by 329 runs in a match where the current Indian coach, Kirsten, scored a century in each of the innings. Of course , India squared their result in 2004, with a eight wicket win. More significantly, India has never lost a test match at Eden Gardens starting from the 2001 victory against the Aussies.
May the spectators have their money's worth & I sincerely wish, Eden Gardens has a lively but sporting wicket for this mega-duel.

Picture Source :