What a match !!

July 12, 2009


England escape with a draw and live to fight another day. What a test match it turned out to be. The Ashes could not have asked for a more dramtic lung opener to set the series alight.

After all his heroics, it was a shame that Collingwood was not around when the last ball was bowled. One of the best rear guard innings that I have seen in the recent past. He continues to grow in stature as a cricketer. I cannot think of too many present day batsmen who can make the transition from the madness of T20 cricket to the grind of test match cricket with same elan as Colly. Gautam Gambhir showed it once during his match saving knock against New Zealand in the second test of this year’s India – New Zealand series. But somehow, in the case of Collingwood, it seems so much more seamless and effortless. I have always admired Collingwood. He may not set the ground ablaze with the the incandescence of his strokes, a la Tendulkar or Lara. He will not, during the course of an innings mesmerise us into believing, like a Laxman or Mark Waugh, that the cricket bat is but an extension of his hand. He carries on the tradition of a Border or a Steve Waugh. He values his wicket and likes nothing more than spending time waging battles with the opposition bowlers. Looking at his minimalistic approach to batting, replete with a short backlift and a muted follow through, one tends to curse the cruelty of fate which conspired to get him out in the middle and face the wrath of marauding fast bowlers and the guiles of wily spinners. Nothing can be farther from the truth and his consistency over the last few years against all comers is a vindication of this misplaced sympathy. Collingwood is testimony to the fact that all of us have a right to dream as long as we are willing to work hard and make our dreams a reality.

All the English batsmen with the exception of the top 4 can claim a little bit of credit. The dismissal of Pietersen this morning was particularly depressing. The manner of his dismissal was like that of someone with responsibility copping out. His judgement appeared to have deserted him in a pressure situation. I hope that this is only a blip and is not indicative of a deep rooted malaise. Because if indeed it is, we can expect the Aussies to exploit it ruthlessly and reduce him to a parody of his majestic self, much before the last ball in the series is bowled. Strauss in another senior batsman who will need to make it count. He looked good in the second outing and just as I was thinking that the situation was tailor made for him to stamp his authority, both as a leader and a batter, by playing a innings of substance he threw it away. Lords will be the acid test for Strauss the batsman. Under the circumstances, nothing more could have been expected from the batsman Flintoff. In hindsight, a case can be made for him to have been more aggressive. We need to look no further than the manner of Prior’s dismissal to realise the futility of an aggressive approach. It is one thing for Lara or Steve Waugh to counter attack and quite another for lesser batsmen.

Swann, Panesar and Anderson all redeemed themselves to a certain extent by hanging in there and playing out deliveries. It is their bowling that will be cause for serious concern. It will be a challenge for the English selectors to ignore Harmison for Lords. The way things have gone in the first test, one cannot but feel sorry for the plight of the English think tank. The most threatening aspect for them, beyond the tangible worries of fielding a bowling attack that can take wickets and a batting line up that understands the importance of being reliable, is the naked hunger displayed by the Australian team. No one was left wondering as to which of the two teams that contested in the match appeared to want to win the series.

At the end of the day, the test match was a wonderful advertisement for the beauty of test match cricket. The tempo waxed and waned and on the final day, the excitement was sustained over more than 100 overs and yet at the end of it all, there was no winner other than the game of cricket. England shared the spoils with the Aussies and can proceed to Lords with their heads held high. Just goes to prove that it is not only cricket played under contrived formats of restricted overs that can be engrossing and exciting.

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