India’s Grand Test Season Ends (2016-17)

3-0; 4-0; 1-0; 2-1.

A football team would have been proud to win by such margins. Except, these are test matches won by India in four series this test season – New Zealand, England, Bangladesh and Australia.

P13 W10 L1 D2

A win percentage of 76%. A loss percentage of 7.6%. Incredible numbers.

Pitches

All the talk before this home season was about turning pitches. About how Indian pitches were killing test cricket. About how India could only win on turning tracks.

Of the 13 test matches played this season, there were two pitches that turned square – Pune and Bengaluru. The others were good test wickets. Dharamsala where the Australia series concluded so dramatically was an atypical Indian wicket with pace, bounce and carry.

Tosses

India won 6 tosses out of 13. It is true that every time India won the toss, it won the test. However, India also won 4 games out of the 7 tosses it lost (with two draws and one loss), often coming from behind to beat scoreboard pressure. No luck involved there.

Character

Along the way we found out a few more things about the Indian team:

  • That Pujara might be a slow scorer, but is the backbone of the test line-up.
  • That Umesh Yadav has finally grown into the bowler he sometimes threatened to be.
  • That Saha makes runs when the going is tough.
  • That Ashwin played the Australia series with sports hernia (and will miss the IPL).
  • That Rahul played the last four test matches needing shoulder surgery (and will miss the IPL).
  • That Vijay played most of the season with a wrist and shoulder injury (and will likely miss the IPL).
  • That Kohli with three double hundreds in the season hurt his shoulder trying to save a single run for the team (and will miss part of the IPL).
  • That Kohli will carry the drinks for the team if it means he stays involved.
  • That the Indian team was obviously exhausted at the end of a long season but still put in one last heroic performance in Dharmsala to make Kohli’s India the current holder of the test trophy against every other nation.
  • That, this season, the Indian team this season put test cricket above all other forms.

IPL madness starts on Wednesday. This time, let no one say that the IPL is killing the test game.

We will remember this season of test cricket for a long, long time.

India v Australia, 2nd test, Bengaluru: India stay alive (and kicking!)

It was tea on the third day of the second test match of the Border Gavaskar Trophy 2017. One nil down in the series and having conceded a lead of 87 in the first innings, India was ahead by just 33 runs with six wickets in hand. India’s experiment with Jadeja had failed in the last over before the break and Ajinkya Rahane would join the dogged Cheteshwara Pujara for the final session of day three. India were alive in the series, but only just.

That’s when we decided to send out a tweet asking the world at large whether Pujara and Rahane could channel their inner Dravid and Laxman. You see, when it’s India and Australia, with the series one wicket away from escaping India’s grasp, Eden Gardens in 2001 becomes the benchmark for a certain generation of Indian cricket fans.

Almost exactly 16 years later, a similar stage was set. Four wickets had fallen in the second innings of the Eden test when Dravid came in to join Laxman. In 2001, Tendulkar had gone for 10. Here, Virat Kohli fell (a slightly dubious decision, in our opinion) for just 15. Dravid was struggling to lay bat on ball before Eden. Before Bengaluru, so was Rahane. Pujara is a batsman in Dravid’s mould. Rahane is more stylish, VVS like.

Unlike Eden, however, the Bengaluru pitch was not going to hold up for five days. The bounce was unpredictable and the turn was quick and sharp. Lyon had taken eight wickets in the first innings to bundle India out for 189. Jadeja had taken six for India. Surely Australia retaining the Border Gavaskar trophy was a just matter of time.

The first ball after tea kept low and went through Matthew Wade and went for four byes. A sign of things to come? Another third day finish looked on the cards. If there was ever a time to stand up and be counted, this was it.

Like 2001, two unfancied guys took up the challenge. Bit by bit, with their backs firmly up against the wall, first Pujara and then Rahane dragged India back into the match with supple wrists, soft hands and some good luck. The Australians, who had the game (and the series) by the scruff of the neck until then, began to flag. By the end of the third days’ play, Indian fans were believing again. 126 priceless runs ahead with 6 wickets still standing – the 93 run partnership between Pujara and Rahane had changed the complexion of the match. Unbelievably, the momentum had shifted towards India.

The fourth morning brought with it another twist in the tale. Pujara fell in the 90s for the first time in his test career and India’s remaining wickets tumbled to Hazelwood quickly, leaving Australia 187 to chase to retain the Border Gavaskar trophy. It was a tough ask, but not impossible. One good session from Warner could get Australia within sniffing distance.

Renshaw went first to a snorter from Ishant. The dangerous Warner followed soon after lbw post DRS to Ashwin. Marsh was given out lbw and chose not to review after a mix-up with Smith. Steve Smith then decided to look towards the dressing when given out lbw to a “worm burner” from Umesh.

Who knows whether it was deliberate or not. The one thing that #DressingRoomGate surely exemplified the confusion that reigned in Aussie minds at the time. Teams visiting India need a bit of luck, good technique and, perhaps most importantly, clear minds. Smith had cracked under the pressure of the moment. In that moment of panic, Kohli knew that the series had turned decisively in India’s favour.

India proceeded to wrap up the test with Ashwin picking up six to become the fourth bowler in the test to take six wickets or more (after Lyon, Jadeja and Hazlewood). The series was tied 1-1. Bangalore was the site of yet another mini-miracle. 

DressingRoomGate, unfortunately, probably got a bit blown out of proportion thereafter. Smith called it a brain-fade, Kohli made some comments in the post match conference and the boards of both nations got involved. Finally, better sense has prevailed and the BCCI has withdrawn its complaint against Steve Smith and Hanscombe.

As an aside, we rather enjoyed Kohli telling Healy that the pot shouldn’t call the kettle black. In our opinion, Heals should stick to what he is good at (which is NOT being a commentator, for the record). We have offered our services to Mr. Kohli to research his critics further. At the date of writing, we have not heard back.

Where does that leave us for the third test in Ranchi starting on Thursday? Well, for one, Mitch Starc will be out with injury and so will Mitch Marsh. Kohli’s India will be fired up and raring to go. It won’t be an easy ride but we are predicting a 3-1 win to India to win back the Border Gavaskar Trophy and round off this grand season of Indian test cricket. What to you guys think?

The third test match starts at Ranchi on Thursday, 16 March 2017. Remember to subscribe to all our blog updates by clicking here.

 

 

 

India v Australia, 1st test, Pune: India finally come undone

We didn’t preview this India v Australia test series thinking there would be nothing new to say. On the one hand you had Steve Smith’s unfancied Australia, which had lost 0-3 in Sri Lanka six months ago and had been dubbed by Bhajji as the “weakest Australian team to ever visit India” and by Dada as most likely to go down 0-4. On the other side stood Kohli’s mighty Indian test outfit – a captain who had never lost a game in India and a team which was unbeaten in 19 test matches (home and away). The test teams of Sri Lanka, South Africa, West Indies, New Zealand, England and Bangladesh had all been swept aside at various points in the last two and a half years. Before going into the Pune test against Australia, India hadn’t lost a test match at home since December 2012 – a 20 match unbeaten streak at home.

But these two mighty cricketing nations have a special relationship, based primarily on spoiling each others’ parties. In the greatest moment in Indian test history, the Laxman/Dravid/Bhajji miracle ended Australia’s 16 match winning streak at Kolkata in 2001. Australia then conquered the “Final Frontier” in 2004, bringing India’s unbeaten run at home to end. Again, in 2008, India famously brought another Aussie 16 match winning streak to an end by winning at the WACA in Perth when no one gave them a chance.

So, in case you’ve been working for a living or living under a rock, Australia has won the first test match at Pune by 333 runs within three days, bringing Kohli and India’s streaks to an end. India have been paid back in their own coin. Read More …