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Sight Screen

Monday, November 28, 2005

Overs 41-50

66 runs in the last 10 overs is way below the ask. At the 40 over mark, SA were 155/3, and needing to go at a minimum of 8, a more hopeful 10, per over to get to a defensible total.
This is how the bowling side responded: 41st over, 5 runs plus the wicket of Boucher to Viru Sehwag; 3 in the 42nd by Yuvraj, 5 in the 43rd by Viru; 7 in the 44th by Yuvraj; 3 and the wicket of Justin Kemp in the 45 to Bajji; 7 in the 46th to Yuvraj; 9 in the 47th to Bajji; 9 in the 48th off Karthik; 8 in the 49th plus the wicket of Kallis to Pathan; 11 in the 50th (figures that could have read much better but for a badly flubbed stumping by Dhoni) off Karthik in the 50th.
The wicket of Boucher was perhaps the best illustration of India’s excellence, on the day, in the field. Earlier in the Viru over, Bajji had sprinted a good 25 yards around the outfield, topping it with a dive to cut a certain swept four from Kallis down to just two; two deliveries later, Boucher swept, the ball was dropping out of the crowd and nine times out of ten, a fielder behind it would have opted to stay back and save the four. Bajji, instead, ran forward, dived, and plucked it one handed off the grass – an amazing effort to top a brilliant day for the off spinner.
The wicket of Justin Kemp was more the result of pressure – just three runs in the 45th, Kemp had to try something, and the paddle he opted for was beaten by the fact that Bajji held it back and dropped it shorter; the length, and the bounce derived, found the top edge to Yuvraj at short fine.
Jacques Kallis (91 off 146 – just under half the deliveries the side faced) did his bit in the consolidation phase, but waited – and waited – for pace to be introduced to launch; when it finally was, in the form of Irfan Pathan, he managed the clubbed four through extra cover and a ball later, hoisted a fullish length ball straight down Kaif’s throat at long on (74 dot balls, 61 singles, 5 twos and 5 fours; a strike rate of just 3.77).
222 to win, on this track, is eminently gettable; the real key is that the target can be achieved without any real need for explosive flurries. For India, the key period will be the first ten overs. Survive that -- and keep Pollock wicketless -- and if the earlier games are any indication, the South African bowling can there on be milked quite comfortably, if the chasing side keeps wickets in hand. Curiously, the chasing side has won all three games thus far in this series -- there is nothing, in the conditions or the target, to suggest that India cannot make it four out of four.
The credit for the first half meanwhile needs to be divided equally between two bowlers -- Irfan Pathan, and Harbhajan Singh. Between them, they produced 19 impeccable overs (Pathan didn't complete his spell only because Dravid reckoned that his best bet was to slow things right down); this in turn helped take the heat off the other bowlers -- and the fielders; barring the Dhoni blemish right at the end, the Indians today were outstanding in the field, with Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan being the standouts.
Correction: Between them, Bajji and Pathan bowled 18 overs for 52 runs and five wickets.

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