Welcome to Somu’s World of Joy

Harbhajan puts India on course
October 20, 2008, 11:11 am
Filed under: Cricket | Tags: , ,

Harbhajan Singh removed the openers after Australia were set 516 to chase Tea Australia

268 and 50 for 2 need 466 runs to beat India 469 and 314 for 3 (Gambhir 104, Sehwag 90, Dhoni 68*)

Backed up by a pile of runs – thanks to Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag and Mahendra Singh Dhoni – Harbhajan Singh dismissed Australia’s openers in a frenetic opening over to leave India on course for victory. Gambhir’s second Test century, his first at home, and Sehwag’s 90 took India’s lead past 400 in the first session of day four in Mohali, before Dhoni inflicted further pain on Australia. Dhoni followed up his first-innings 92 with a brisk unbeaten 68 and declared when India’s lead touched 515. Australia began in overdrive, but Harbhajan’s double-wicket over jolted them off course dramatically.

Australia’s bowlers struggled for the third session running and were frustrated by partnerships of 182, 42 and 66 on another day of Indian dominance. When the day began, Gambhir and Sehwag made sure the platform built over three days was not wasted. Gambhir finally converted a start into a second Test hundred, and first against anyone but Bangladesh. India scored at five runs per over to finish the first session firmly in control, with a declaration imminent.

Both openers found the gaps in the field with ease, as Ricky Ponting began with a defensive mindset. Gambhir treated the fans to some striking flicks through midwicket, and Sehwag was obviously looking to get on with matters. The ball didn’t always come onto the bat but Sehwag repeatedly tried to whip it away between midwicket and mid-on. Soft-handed drops in front of the fielders earned Sehwag and Gambhir cheeky singles, and the intent was clear. Brett Lee, who injured two fingers yesterday, did not bowl and Mitchell Johnson was off key, so runs came at a good clip.

Gambhir was fortunate to survive when a thick edge off Cameron White lobbed off the wicketkeeper’s pads and was spilled by Matthew Hayden at slip. There was nothing fortuitous, however, about a twinkle-toed six off White that sailed over long-on. Gambhir scored a number of his runs on the leg side and down the ground as the bowlers strayed in both line and length. Square-drives and steers through gully were also on view as he sped past fifty and towards a century.

Gambhir’s previous best in India was 96 against South Africa in 2004, and the wait for a hundred was over with another lavish clip past mid-on for four. It was a long time coming, and the form shown by Gambhir on return to the Test side will worry most teams. On reaching three figures he miscued an extravagant shot to mid-off, but few would grudge him given India’s position.

Dhoni smartly promoted himself to No. 3 – after Sehwag fell for 90 chasing a wide one – and asserted his dominance over the bowlers. He ran hard, hit hard, and displayed form that augurs well for India. Always looking to hustle the field – which remained spread throughout – he unveiled a selection of shots, some out of the Twenty20 manual. Michael Hussey served up a full toss, Dhoni punched past extra-cover for four. Lee dropped one short, Dhoni pulled to deep square leg. White tossed it up, and Dhoni cleared long-off. He added 66 with Sourav Ganguly, who was last out for 27 when he skied Lee to mid-off, after India’s lead reached 500.

Australia launched a spirited chase. From the first ball – slashed tantalizingly over the wide mid-off – Hayden’s intent was evident. Like Australia, India went with a defensive field but Hayden still found the boundaries. He drove Zaheer Khan past silly mid-off and then cut him behind point for two more boundaries in his next overs, but failed to curb his enthusiasm against Harbhajan. Introduced after seven overs, with Australia 49 for 0, Harbhajan trapped him from around the stumps as he went for an ambitious sweep across the line.

Then Simon Katich, who hit four well-timed boundaries, threw his bat at a wide one and was excellently held when Sachin Tendulkar at point, dived forward and plucked it an inch off the turf


Tendulkar on top, but Lara still master of ‘batathons’
October 19, 2008, 5:55 am
Filed under: Cricket | Tags: , , ,
Brian Lara and Sachin Tendulkar

Brian Lara and Sachin Tendulkar

NEW DELHI (AFP) — India’s Sachin Tendulkar is celebrating breaking Brian Lara’s world record for most runs in Test cricket, but he lags behind the West Indian when it comes to playing marathon innings.

Tendulkar surpassed the retired Lara’s mark of 11,953 runs during the second Test against Australia in Mohali on Friday, but would dearly love to match a couple of “batathons” played by the left-hander.

Tendulkar holds four world records — most runs and centuries in Tests (12,027/39) and one-day internationals (16,361/42) — but still believes that performance matters only when it helps his team win.

Lara was peerless when it came to playing long innings, still holding world records for the highest innings in first-class cricket (501 for Warwickshire v Durham in 1994) and in Tests (400 not out v England in 2004).

The West Indian made 375 against England in 1994, a record that was beaten by Australian Matthew Hayden (380 v Zimbabwe in 2003), before being reclaimed by Lara.

Tendulkar is considered more consistent and technically sound than Lara, but has failed to convert any of his four double-centuries into a triple-hundred in 152 Tests. His best remains an unbeaten 248 in Bangladesh in 2004.

“He (Tendulkar) is in the same league with Lara, but I’ve always felt Sachin has a tighter technique,” Australian captain Ricky Ponting said recently.

“Because he (Tendulkar) is so solid, our bowlers have had to work hard to get him out. At different times, we’ve worked out different plans, but Sachin comes up with something to combat them… the sign of a truly class player.”

Pundits find it baffling how a Test triple-century has eluded Tendulkar while compatriot Virender Sehwag has two to his credit despite lacking the master batsman’s consistency.

Tendulkar and Lara both made their Test debuts in Pakistan — the Indian as a 16-year-old in 1989 and Lara the following year.

The pair were at the top of the game for more than a decade, scoring a bucketful of runs against quality pace and spin attacks in all conditions.

Both were feared and respected by their opponents, with Australian leg-spin genius Shane Warne once saying that Tendulkar and Lara were the two best batsmen of his era.

Lara spent most of his international career in a declining West Indies team and it was a tribute to his genius that he never allowed the side’s repeated failures to affect his batting.

He plundered 688 runs in three Tests in Sri Lanka in 2001, only to see his team lose the series 3-0. His last Test series was a similar story — he scored 448 in three matches in his team’s 2-0 defeat in Pakistan in 2006.

Tendulkar was also in a similar situation for a few years in the 1990s when he virtually carried the burden of his struggling team on his shoulders, especially in one-day internationals.

But he avoided Lara’s fate as the emergence of world-class batsmen in Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly, Venkatsai Laxman and Sehwag considerably eased the pressure on him.

Lara, considered one of the best finishers in the game, was renowned for winning matches from hopeless situations despite receiving little support from the other end.

The West Indies were reeling at 248-8 chasing a 308-run target in the third Test against Australia in Bridgetown in 1999 when Lara (153 not out) steered his team to a one-wicket win in the company of the tailenders.

Four years later at the same venue against the same opposition, Lara’s brisk 60 set up his side’s record 418-run chase.

Controversy followed Lara more than Tendulkar, with the West Indian often having brushes with authorities over selection, contracts and sponsorship deals.

Both Lara and Tendulkar never really enjoyed captaincy.

Tendulkar stepped down after losing a home Test series against South Africa in 2000 and since then has said no to captaincy. Lara was in his third stint as captain when he quit the game after the 2007 World Cup.