September 24, 2017

India in total control against New Zealand

Virender Sehwag see's the ball travel to the boudary - again! Wonder if he ever gets a sore neck watching the ball roam to all parts of the ground.

India have ended the second days play in total control at 292 for 2 in the deciding cricket test against New Zealand at Nagpur, for a lead of 99 runs.

Rahul Dravid is unbeaten on 69 not out and at the other end is some guy called Sachin Tendulkar on 57 not out. Apparently he is rated as a good prospect for the future.

After putting in a tremendous showing in the first two Tests of the series the Black Caps have been undone by three key factors.

1. The first was all the talk in the New Zealand media that the Black Caps were on the possible verge of a first series triumph in India. No New Zealand cricket team seems to perform when they are talked up beforehand. I suspect the players might have been reading a bit too much of the enthusiastic hype, and somewhere along the way confidence strayed into over confidence.

2. Secondly New Zealand suffered an injury setback with Brendon McCullum just before the toss was to be taken. Any last minute injury to a player is hugely disruptive for a teams focus. When it is a star player like McCullum who is also opening bat, the problem is amplified. Vettori had to decide on the spur of the momment what to do. He opted to take a chance on McCullums fitness and not replace him. The compromise was to bat him down the order. This caused a reshuffle in the Kiwi batting line-up. The uncertainty about where McCullum would bat was hugely disruptive for his teammates.

3. The final factor in New Zealands demise was Ishant Sharma. It has been a huge comfort as a New Zealand cricket follower to see him sitting in the stands for the first two Tests of the series. Sharma is one of the best in the world and certainly in a class above even the great Zaheer Kahn who he replaced for this game.

So New Zealand is now facing the prospect of having to bat for a day and a half to save the Test. There is every likelyhood that India will have a 300 run lead to on the first innings. That is unless Harbhajan Singh scores another century, then it will be a 400 run lead.

New Zealands bowlers will need to go on the attack immediately. If that does not work then Vettori will need to shift to containment very quickly and play for time.

Surely the New Zealand bowling attack could not do any worse than yesterday when they persisted in bowling short and often wide to Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir. Sehwag just loves it there and took full toll.

It is frustrating to see Jesse Ryder injured again. He is a talent with both bat and ball that New Zealand desperately needs in the side. It has to be said though that he is not fit to play a cricket match of any length. Thre are a few too many kilos on his frame. Cricketers now are required to perform like athletes. If they try and perform like athletes with a body that is not in shape then something will break. Is there anyone in New Zealand cricket with the courage to say to Jesse that unless he reaches a higher level of personal fitness then he will not be playing Test matches for his country any time soon?

There is no reason New Zealand can’t fight back in this Test and force a draw, but to do so will require all the mental strength and technical application that they showed in the first two tests. My pick is Ross Taylor to get a big score in New Zealand’s second innings.

India 292 for 2 (Gambhir 78, Sehwag 74, Dravid 69*, Tendulkar 57*) lead New Zealand 193 (McCullum 40, Southee 38, Ishant 4-43) by 99 runs