I was reading (rather trying to read) a printed internet RFC document this morning in parallel to following the Blues vs Greens match on willow.tv. It was a 32 page document, one-side printed on regular A4 sheets. Each sheet had rich cutting-edge content on one side and absolutely nothing on the other side. Ironically, the game that I was watching was also as starkly one-sided as that.
The Blues who went down to the Reds yesterday put on a consummate professional performance today. The Mohammad Kaif led Greens had absolutely no retort to offer to the Blues' onslaught. The Blues amassed 381 runs (236 of those came off just 51 scoring shots - 35 fours and 16 sixes) on the board and bundled out the Greens for a paltry 115. The following is a rundown of the day's play.
Rahul Dravid won the toss and elected to bat. Sehwag wasn't fit to play, so the 16 year old Tanmay Srivastava was shifted from the Green team to the Blue team (doesn't it remind you of street cricket?) and asked to open with Sachin Tendulkar. Ravindra Jadeja who played in the first game made way for Rudra Pratap Singh. India Green left out Reetinder Sodhi and went in with 5 regular bowlers.Story of the first halfThe Willow Version
The day before the game, young Tanmay would have been nurturing hopes of opening the batting with Sourav Ganguly for the Green team. Come match day, he did better. He got drafted into the Blue team and got to walk out onto the field with a bat in hand alongside Sachin Tendulkar. Unfortunately for him he couldn't face more than 5 deliveries, of which 2 were wides. Balaji dug one in short and Tanmay failed to negotiate the awkward bounce, edging it to the slips.
Irfan Pathan came in next and started doing what he has been consistently doing at No.3 over the past year - hitting the ball over the in-field and taking the pressure off the batsman at the other end. By the end of the tenth over, the Blues were 55/1 with Pathan on 36 off 33 balls and Sachin on 14 off 24 balls. This is where Mohammad Kaif made his first mistake of the day. Instead of delaying the power-play overs (like Rao did in the previous game), Kaif opted to employ them straight away. In the eleventh over, the ball went past the boundary thrice as Tendulkar decided to join Pathan in the "toying with the bowlers" game.
The second power-play yielded 49 runs - at the end of 15 overs, the Blues were 104-1 with Pathan past his fifty and Sachin three short of his. But Kaif refused to do the wise thing, took the third power-play and tossed the ball to his young UP team-mate, Piyush Chawla. Sachin made a mockery of Kaif's move by clobbering 2 fours and 2 sixes in the teenager's first over. To his credit, the teenager bounced back immediately by picking up Pathan's wicket in his next over. Pathan returned to the pavilion after compiling 54 at about run a ball.
Rahul Dravid couldn't have asked for a better platform to walk in and get some form going. With Sachin playing so majestically at the other end, all that Dravid had to do was pick up singles and watch the fun from the non-striker's end. And he did just that. This is where Kaif lost the plot completely. For some inexplicable reason, he delayed the introduction of the regular off-spinner (Lahiri) into the attack and kept the part-time left-arm spin of Badani on for 4 expensive overs. Sachin reached his century in the 25th over and celebrated it immediately by lofting Badani inside out for a huge six over the cover boundary.
Ganguly was then brought on to bowl his gentle medium-pace and for some strange reason, Sachin and Rahul played him with a lot of respect. Whether they were finding it hard to put away his straight-ish deliveries in to the gaps or whether they were consciously trying hard not to gift him their wickets, we would never know. The only risky shot that was attempted off him was a paddle sweep by Sachin that went for a boundary. Sachin finally fell in the 33rd over trying to blast the off-spinner over mid-wicket. His 139 came off just 100 balls - 104 of them coming off just 24 scoring shots. 10 more overs at the crease and he would have surely ended up with a double century.
Dhoni was promoted ahead of Yuvraj and Mongia to get some batting practice. Dravid then took over the role of the aggressor. He took on Lahiri’s off-spinners and smacked three sixes over the bowler's head. He got out after reaching his half century pulling Ashish Nehra straight down the throat of the lone fielder on the boundary. Yuvraj Singh sauntered in next and lofted the first ball he faced straight down the ground for a massive 6. Yuvi and Dhoni added 40 runs in 4 overs before Yuvraj finally put a smile on Praveen's face (on his 20th birthday) by gifting him with his wicket. The birthday gift was courtesy a spectacular catch by Piyush Chawla diving forward in the outfield. Mongia came and went. Dhoni then paired up with Agarkar and they smuggled 53 runs off the last 21 deliveries. Dhoni ended up with 79 off 59 balls with 6 fours. The last 10 overs yielded 109 runs.The Leather Version
The bowling sheet for the Greens had some sorry figures. Except for Ganguly, everybody else went for over 6.5 an over. Balaji is probably the best disguiser of the slower ball among the current crop of pacers in the country. He bowls it with almost no change in his arm action. But apart from the slower balls and the ball that picked Tanmay's wicket, he seemed quite pedestrian.
Nehra did better than Balaji in terms of bowling figures. He did bowl with decent pace but for some reason kept bowling it a bit too short. He seems really fit and it would be interesting to see how fares in the domestic games in the next few months.
Praveen Kumar had a very forgettable 20th birthday as the Blues' batsmen were in no mood of gifting him anything. The Uttar Pradesh lad who comes from a family of wrestlers started off with a maiden but was smothered for 77 runs in the remaining eight overs. His bowling seriously lacks pace and on wickets which don't offer any lateral movement, his length deliveries simply sit up and invite the batsman to cream the ball to the boundary. There was a recent report in the Times of India comparing him to Kapil Dev, but from the looks of it the comparison seems to be a bit too far fetched.
Piyush Chawla went for 21 off his first over and did well to concede just 18 off his next. The kid has a good attitude and he would definitely be better for the experience. Badani bowled 4 forgettable overs. Lahiri started well but was taken apart in the end by Dravid and Dhoni.Story of the second halfThe Willow version
Every Senthil, Sundar and Ganesan in the stands wanted Ganguly to do well in the game. Win or lose, they wanted Ganguly to get stuck into the opposition and post a big score. He began well, caressed three boundaries through the off and pulled one to the mid-wicket boundary. Jaffer looked compact at the other end, but the mounting run-rate finally got to them and both of them fell playing airy shots on the offside. Ganguly gets one more chance tomorrow to redeem his reputation, hope he makes it count. Parthiv, playing at No.3 (as he did in the Top-End Series), was the only batsman to make some sort of an impression. Badani made 20 and the remaining 7 batsmen managed to put together just 9 runs. The innings folded up in the 27th over and the Blues completed a comprehensive 266 run victory.The Leather Version
Agarkar was expensive, going at more than 6 an over in his 5 overs. Munaf Patel showed once again why the selectors consider him the best fast-bowler in the country. He bowled a great line and picked up the wickets of both the openers. RP Singh didn't pick up any wickets and went for some runs. Pathan bowled second change and ended up with impressive figures of 2/24 off 7 overs. Given the dip in his bowling form lately, the team management seems to be expecting him to do what Razzaq does for Pakistan - bat aggressively at any batting slot and pick up wickets in the middle overs. Harbhajan picked up 4 wickets for 10 and would be really happy with today's performance after going wicketless in the previous game. Mongia bowled one over, conceded a couple of boundaries and picked up the wicket of Badani. All in all, it was a very clinical bowling performance by the bowlers in blue.
The huge victory margin gave India Blue a bonus point and guaranteed a place in the final. The Greens would have to win and win big against the Reds tomorrow, if they have to reach the final.
Labels: Challenger Trophy, Indian domestics, NKP Salve Challenger Series 2006