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 England T20 Series: Questions over Indian Team Selection

After a successful Test (4-0) and ODI (2-1) Series, Kohli’s India walked into the first T20 at Kanpur full of confidence but lost by 7 wickets. Just as we said in our preview, T20 England is an entirely different beast.

Virat Kohli has an outstanding 63% win rate in test matches (after 22 tests at the helm), an 80% win rate in ODIs (after 20 ODIs at the helm), so will want to quickly turn around his 0% success rate after his first T20 as skipper.

One key element of a skipper’s responsibility lies in team selection, and India’s 7-wicket loss in Kanpur leaves us wondering whether others would have fared better in the starting XI. Today we look at the 4 men from the 15-person squad who didn’t make the cut in Kanpur. Read More …

Five cricketers with surprising records

On 14 August 2016, Pakistan piggy-backed on a brilliant Younis Khan double century to climb to the #1 spot in the ICC Test Rankings for the first time in their history – a truly incredible achievement. Exactly 16 days later, against the same England opposition, the famed Pakistan bowling line-up conceded 444 in just 50 overs, allowing England to set a new record for highest ODI score.

It got us thinking: How can such a great test team (Rank #1) be so poor at ODIs (Rank #9), especially when more than half the Pakistani players play both the formats?

In the spirit of differences, this post looks at 5 players whose records in different formats may surprise you.

#1 Virender Sehwag

Most recently famous for his sass on Twitter, Sehwag’s career ended with him known as a maverick cricketer. His ‘see ball hit ball’ philosophy got him into the ODI Team in 1999 and he only made his test debut three years later.

Yet, despite being known for his quick scoring, he retired from the game as something of a test match legend more than an ODI great.

– Test batting average of 49.34, up there with the greats, compared to an ODI average of 35.05. He has the 4th best Test average for an Indian with 20 tests or more (behind Sachin, Gavaskar and Dravid who are all clearly legends of the game), but is not even in the top 10 for ODIs

– Career test strike rate of 82.23; the highest ever among batsman playing 40 tests or more. His ODI career strike rate of 104.33 is impressive, but only 15th on the all-time list.

#2 Ajinkya Rahane

On paper, Rahane is a test match batsman with a technique few can match. He is often lauded for his temperament, seen as the next Dravid, and thus criticized for inclusion in T20 sides.

And yet, the statistics paint a different picture, showing that he deserves his T20 spot:

– T20 Batting Average of 30.68 – behind only Kohli, Dhoni and Raina among Indian batsmen, all of whom are renowned as T20 experts.

– T20 Half Centuries – Rahane has 30 career T20 fifties in 137 innings. It may not be the highest of all time, but his conversion rate is stellar; he scores a 50 every 4.5 innings, the 2nd best of any Indian player (behind only Kohli who scores a 50 every 4.2 innings) and ahead of T20 stalwarts such as Gambhir (4.7), Dhawan (4.9), Rohit (5.2) and Raina (6.3).

#3 David Warner

Not dissimilar to Sehwag, Warner burst on the ODI and T20 scene for his big hitting and fast scoring in 2009, and didn’t make his Test debut till 2011.

And yet, in just 5 years, his test record is truly noteworthy; he has a stellar ODI record too, but that was expected, the test stats may surprise you:

– Test batting average of 48.63 – The 2nd best test average among current playing Australians, only Steve Smith outshines him on this metric, while his ODI average of 37.53 is not even in the Top 5

– Centuries per Innings – Warner may have only racked up 16 centuries, but, he does so at a rate of 0.16, nearly 1 century in every 6 innings. This is 11th of all time, but 3rd among current players, behind only Younis Khan and Steve Smith. It is a faster rate of century scoring than legends like Gavaskar, Sachin, Lara, Ponting, Mahela… you get the point

#4 Hashim Amla

Amla was handpicked to the South African 5-day side for his Test match potential; thus not making his ODI debut for nearly 4 years after his Test debut! His image as a calm, classy, composed batsman made selectors believe he was the perfect Test batsman.

And yet, though his test batting is outstanding, he has proven to be a class apart as an ODI Batsman:

– ODI batting average of 51.97 – The 3rd highest ODI average of all time among batsmen from test playing nations; he trails only Bevan and de Villiers for this incredible feat.

– Centuries per innings – Nobody even comes close to Amla when it comes to his rate of piling up runs in ODIs. The best by far, Amla scores a century every 5.82 innings. Even Kohli only does so every 6.52 innings, and a legend like Sachin scored a century only every 9.2 innings

– Amla became the fastest to 2,000, 3,000, 4,000, 5,000 and 6,000 runs in ODI Cricket. He is well to break the record to 7,000 as well, with only age limiting his potential given he made his ODI Debut at age 25.

#5 Ravi Ashwin

The only bowler to make this list, Ashwin shot to fame through the IPL, which brought him into the Indian side as a limited overs specialist. He only made his test debut 18 months later.

And yet, after 100 ODIs his limited overs record is nothing to write home about, but he has established himself as a standout in the test arena:

– His bowling strike rate of 51.8 is the best among all Indian bowlers; it is also 5th best among all current players with 20 tests or more. Reminder: Bowling strike rate is number of balls bowled per wicket taken.

– Ashwin takes a 5-wicket haul every 3.67 innings; a truly astounding statistic. Among players who played after 1940, this record is second only to Muralitharan, and 40% better than Herath who is next on the list among active players.

– His figures are not without impact; in his 13 test series till date, he has captured 6 Man of the Series awards. 6 is not only an Indian record, but the rate is by far the fastest too. One award every 2.16 series, this is 62% faster than the next best, Imran Khan, who is undoubtedly a legend of the game.

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Sri Lanka in India: 5 talking points from India’s defeat in the Pune T20

So, Sri Lanka have taken the lead in the three match T20 series against India. That should spice things up!

Here are five talking points from India’s defeat in the first T20 in Pune:

  1. The Pitch

Grass. Bounce. Sideways movement. M.S. Dhoni said it was like playing in English conditions at the post match ceremony. The way the Indian batsman were hopping around in Pune, it looked more like they were playing in Perth! For a population that feeds on fours and sixes, the Pune crowd didn’t have much to cheer about. Have to say, though, it was a pleasant change from watching bowlers getting thumped to all corners. Read More …