Feature Articles

No more overseas blues

January 7, 2024

An out-and-out fast bowler is one of the great sights in cricket. —James Anderson

By Prof. B.K. Viswanath

Apart from a few serious lapses of batting in India’s first innings, they fought back brilliantly to hold the fort and fly the flag aloft in the second Test in Cape Town. No one had thought that South Africa would bow down after winning the toss and opting to bat first. They had enjoyed the confidence, trouncing India by an Innings and 32 runs in the first Test played in Newlands and this fact might have played a major role in being overconfident. When the Proteas batted first, the Indian pace battery led by Mohammed Siraj supported by Bumrah and Mukesh Kumar pulverised the hosts who were reduced to 55 all out in 23.2 sizzling overs. Siraj broke the backbone of South Africa claiming 6 scalps for a mere 15 runs in scorching heat that could have been akin to the flagstones of hell. One of the main reasons why the Test match was all over in just 107 overs (642 balls) was the Man of the Match, pitching and releasing the ball to perfection. None of the Proteas batsmen, even Elgar and Markram, had any idea how to stop the lethal accuracy of Siraj. In fact, David Bedingham was unlucky to have received a Siraj snorter but Marco Jansen had to encounter a beautiful leg cutter for which he had no answer. Their innings ended on a sordid note — a pitiable 55 runs in the first essay and the wrecker-in-chief Siraj dazzling with a dream figures of 6-15! Siraj exclaimed: “I kept things simple and let the Pitch do what it does.” Apart from a revelation for quick execution of the art of bowling in cauldron heat, where many spectators opted for chilled beer, Siraj excelled.

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In reply to a paltry 55, India too faltered losing wickets in regular intervals but for a patient 46 by Kohli and 39 by Rohit Sharma that steered the Innings. After reaching 150 runs India lost 5 batsmen for a blob, their tail-enders falling like ninepins. This miserable display was in contrast to Pakistan’s resistance in the ongoing Sydney Test where Pakistan were playing Australia, the former were 105-5, though Rizwan contributed a strokeful 88. They finally managed a first innings score of 313, Pakistan allrounder Jamal hit a blistering 82, while Salman garnered 53 and the tenth wicket pair added 80 never say die runs with Jamal scoring most of them. The Indian tail will have to work hard with the bat too while compiling 40-50 precious runs towards the end.

In this second venture, South Africa did better to reach 176 all out with Markram playing a gritty batting display, scoring a sheet anchor role-106 runs, though he enjoyed a life when Rahul dropped him on 73.

The Indians had to score 79 runs for a memorable victory. Again, there were hiccups when Gill at No. 3 was bowled by Rabada, who along with Ngidi got 3 wickets a piece in India’s first innings and bowled brilliantly when the opponents were to get 79, he was unlucky as the Proteas fielding was patchy. The young chivalrous opener Jaiswal rightly took the aggressive way while scoring 28, as his skipper played sensibly for 16 not out. Strangely enough, Kohli tried to glance Jansen on the onside and was snared by the keeper. With Kohli departing Shreyas Iyer who was all at sea facing quality attack in India’s first Innings was out for a duck and in the second, scored the winning runs. One suspects Shreyas’ technique in batting and wonder why he wouldn’t stick on to one dayers and T-20 format!

Worth recalling that Bumrah bowled his heart out when South Africa put up a decent 176 in their second essay. His figures 6-69 with support from Siraj and Mukesh, paved the way for a sensational Indian victory to draw the series at 1-1, especially when the tourists had been humiliated by an innings and 32 runs at Newlands.

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It is heartening to note that India’s future pace is being spearheaded by Shami, Bumrah and Siraj to fill the void created by the great Kapil Dev’s exit.

Would love to remind the reader that whenever I pen a few lines on cricket, I have always insisted that India needs to produce a quality left-handed seamer who could also bat soundly, so that he would not only pick wickets with his natural movement of the ball but also score runs in Test cricket.

In conclusion, it is worth remembering a quote from Nelson Mandela —                                               “It always seems impossible until it is done.”

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