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Saturday, August 7, 2010

the tense final day of a Test Match - Will India win at P Sara stadium

The five day version is always most interesting as fortunes could keep fluctuating. In Test no. 1968, the 3rd Test of India Srilanka at P Saravanamuttu Stadium is heading a close finish, though the scales are slightly tilted in favour of Lankan Lions. This stadium has enough of history and beckons to be part of another. This one, home to Tamil Union Cricket and Athletic Club - hosted Sri Lanka's first Test, against England in 1982. In 1985, it was the venue for Sri Lanka's first-ever Test win, over India.

The final day could be tantalizing with India needing 200 odd runs with 7 wickets in hand, but a treacherous track with good bowling and new hero in Ranadiv all threaten to spoil Indian party. The visitors had a firm grip when Lankans tottered to 78/5 when Sangakkara went, lost Mendis and H Jayawardene (87/7), mild recovery – Malinga gone at 125/8. If they had wrapped up there, the final day would have had no ball bowled. But…… Mendis had different ideas – he forged a century with Samaraweera and eventually, Lankans were all out at 267.

Now Indians face a challenging if not uphill task on a crumbling pitch. Little known Suraj Ranadiv sent back, Sehwag for a duck, in the 10th over had Dravid who has not had a good series and before close of play had Murali Vijay leaving Indians tottering at 53/3 – another 204 to go with Sachin having the company of Ishant.

When the Lankans were under tight leash, Samaraweera grinded but Dhoni’s defensive tactics did not pay off. The 118 run stand between Samaraweera and Ajantha is their highest for 9th wicket; sixth hundred stand for the ninth wicket against India. The move to open the bowling with offie Ranadiv was perhaps a master stroke.

The tension that could descend on the final day reminds of a test at home on 22nd March 2001, when India won the Border Gavaskar Trophy is fresh in mind. In test no. 1539, first day Aussies made 300 and were perched on top, in the second they were all out for 391. India made a strong reply and scored 501 aided by Sachin’s brilliant 126. On day 4 stumps, Aussies were 241/7 with Steve Waugh unbeaten on 43. We smelt an Indian victory but lot had to happen. Crowds started descending with great hope and soon the stadium was filled. We were enjoying in the A stand of Chepauk with hundreds of known faces, somewhat glum unsure of whether it would happen against the mighty Aussies.

Harbhajan was a song and was taking wickets in buckets – 32 in a 3 test series. Made the day for India sending back the captain beating him with his spin. Australia managed 264 a lead of 155. Bhaji finished with 8/84. The openers Sadagoppan Ramesh and Shivsundar Das were unruffled. Mcgrath and Gillespie steamed in, pitched more than couple short and threatened to knock the heads off. Das after a patient vigil tried hooking and got out. The inform Laxman joined Ramesh and took India safely to lunch. A Yes no contributed to Ramesh walking back after a good 25. Sachin walked in to a thunderous applause and started with a couple of crackers against Warne. He edged Gillespie and Mark Waugh took a great catch in the slip, sachin gone with 17. Saurav departed and Dravid also went soon – Indians struggling at 122/5. The debutant Sameer Dighe was at the crease ; he saw Laxman out to a diving effort by Mark Waugh with individual score of 66. Just 21 tense runs away from victory but Aussies fighting menacingly. Sairaj Bahutule and Zaheer succumbed to the pressure. The cynics had started telling that it was yet another Indian collapse. Bhaji made a couple of agricultural heaves and Sameer was running for everything – not sure how runs were coming.

The steely nerve of Sameer and luck of Bhaji got us the winning run – with people shouting, praying, biting their nails, not speaking or fighting with their best of friends, nervous ones smoking, people not changing their places all happened as Bhaji hit the winning run. It was more of an exhibition of courage to fight rather than any talent or grace.

A win is what matters and the die hard Indian fan hopes a gem from Sachin or a miracle from somebody else – ensuring India score the taunting 200 + for an Indian win.

What is your gut feeling on India’s chances ???

Regards –S. Sampathkumar 

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