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Sunday, February 9, 2014

Shikhar Dhawan's 4th innings ton in vain as India goes down fighting

The odds were stacked heavily against…. Yet it produced a thriller… this Test started on a holiday !!

The Treaty of Waitangi was signed by representatives of the British Crown and various Māori chiefs from the North Island of New Zealand. The Treaty established a British Governor of New Zealand, recognised Māori ownership of their lands and other properties, and gave the Māori the rights of British subjects. The English and Māori versions of the Treaty differed significantly, so there is no consensus as to exactly what was agreed to. From the British point of view, the Treaty gave Britain sovereignty over New Zealand, and gave the Governor the right to govern the country. Māori believed they ceded to the Crown a right of governance in return for protection, without giving up their authority to manage their own affairs. After the initial signing at Waitangi, copies of the Treaty were taken around New Zealand and over the following months many other chiefs signed. Waitangi Day commemorates a significant day in the history of New Zealand. It is a public holiday  every year  6 February to celebrate the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, New Zealand's founding document, on that date in 1840.

The 1st test between India and Newzealand started on that day in what they call as  the ugly duckling of cricket stadiums that somehow produces test matches of compelling beauty.  The score card may never reveal the thriller – the scores in brief read : New Zealand 503 (McCullum 224, Williamson 113, Ishant 6-134) and 105 (Ishant 3-28) beat India 202 (Rohit 72, Wagner 4-64) and 366 (Dhawan 115, Wagner 4-62, Southee 3-81) by 40 runs

Though they had an enormous lead of 301, Brendon McCullum did not enforce the follow-on at Eden Park and watched his batsmen crash to 105 in 41.2 overs in their second innings. He then saw India motor to 222 for 2 in their chase of 407. However, McCullum said that at no point did he second guess the choice he made, and was instead proud of the character New Zealand showed to absorb whatever India threw at them and secure a 40-run win.  From Indian perspective, after that bad 1st innings- they rebounded so well that at one stage they needed 185 to win ~ somehow we felt that Indians would never make it – though there were stages when scorelines suggested India was romping home.  At a moment when we felt comfort, Rohit Sharma departed first ball after tea; Indians were 270 for 6 and the target of 407 was now appearing out of reach. Ravindra Jadeja walked in and drove his first ball for four. MS Dhoni began the next over with a driven boundary as well. Soon, it was raining boundaries and the partnership had surged to 54 in just over five overs. New Zealand were rattled but Jadeja mishit one to mid-on for 26, after having swung Trent Boult for a straight six two balls earlier. Dhoni (39 off 41) was the big scalp as Wagner bowled a slower bouncer and the skipper dragged it onto his stumps. Replays showed Wagner was just inside the return crease with his back foot and the wicket stood. New Zealand celebrated wildly, knowing the last rites remained. Rahane leg before decision looked controversial.  ….. Indians lost by 40 after promising much ….

A fourth-innings century from Shikhar Dhawan, a solid 126-run stand between him and Virat Kohli and an unexpected counter from Ravindra Jadeja kept the game alive. But Neil Wagner, menacing in every spell he bowled, picked up four wickets, including Dhawan, Kohli and MS Dhoni, to help New Zealand take a see-saw Test and hand India their 10th overseas defeat in 11 Tests. Before we see some more statistics, the decision of McCullum not to enforce follow-on raised many eye-brows… !!

Follow-on is a term used in the sport of cricket to describe a situation where the team that bats second is forced to take its second batting innings immediately after its first, because the team was not able to get close enough to the score achieved by the first team batting in the first innings. If the second team to bat scores substantially fewer runs than the first team, the first team have the option of enforcing the follow-on, instructing the second team to bat again immediately. The rules governing the circumstances in which the follow-on may be enforced are found in Law 13 of the Laws of cricket. In a match of five days or more, a side which bats first and leads by at least 200 runs has the option of requiring the other side to follow-on. The follow-on is not automatic; the captain of the leading team decides whether to enforce it. This is a tactical decision which the captain makes based on the state of the game, the conditions of weather and pitch, the apparent strength of the two sides, and the time remaining.

It is not that the teams following-on always lose; mostly they lose- some clawback to a draw….. Some Captains do not enforce – primarily because the bowlers are tired; some do not want to bat last on a worn-out pitch.  Many a Captains are cautious and continue with their innings. 

Teams winning after following on is a rarity.  At Headlingely in 1981 -  Ian Botham was performing poorly as captain against the touring Australians. The Australian team was rated as second only to the great West Indies team of the time, and contained a formidable pace attack in the form of Dennis Lillee, Terry Alderman and Geoff Lawson. After a loss and a draw in the first two Test matches of the summer's six-test Ashes series, Botham resigned the captaincy. Mike Brearley, the captain Botham had replaced, resumed the reins for the third Test, at Headingley. This started out very badly: Australia scored 401 (John Dyson 102; Kim Hughes 89; Botham 6–95), and asked England to follow on after bowling them out for 174 (Lillee took 4 for 49; Lawson 3 for 32). The one bright point in the innings came from Botham, who top scored with 50 (his first since he had been made captain 13 matches earlier). In the second innings, Botham came to the crease with England on 105 for 5, still 126 behind; and at 135 for 7 and still 92 runs behind an innings defeat looked likely. Botham with the support of Dilley made 149 gave a slender lead of 129 – a fired-up RGD Willis took 8/43 taking them to a win. 

At Kolkatta in 2001, Aussies were on a roll with 16 wins… scored 445 in the first innings of the second Test and restricted India to 171; only V. V. S. Laxman (59) and Rahul Dravid reached 25 runs. The only other bright spot for India was the bowling of Harbhajan Singh, who took 7 for 123, including a hat-trick (Ricky Ponting, Adam Gilchrist, Shane Warne). Australia then enforced the follow-on.  VVS Laxman came to the crease just before the end of Day 3 and proceeded to change the course of both the match and the series by hitting 281, at that time the record for an Indian Test batsman.  India progressed to 657/7 in their second innings (a lead of 383), declared - Harbhajan took the first two wickets in the same over, followed quickly by three wickets from Sachin Tendulkar. Australia proceeded to fall for 212 in the second innings and India won the match.

With this loss at Auckland, India have lost 10 of  their last 11 away Tests, since the beginning of the tour to England in 2011. In the same period, they have a 11-2 win-loss record at home. MS Dhoni who has been on a roll with many highs – has now led India to 11 defeats in overseas Tests, the most by any Indian captain. Under him, India have lost 50% of their overseas Tests, winning five and drawing six.

With the brilliant century, Shikhar Dhawan has become only the fourth Indian opener - after Mushtaq Ali, Sunil Gavaskar and Wasim Jaffer - to score a century in the fourth innings of a Test. He is the second, after Gavaskar, do so in an overseas Test. Shikhar Dhawan who stunned all observers, and Australia, when he stroked his way to the fastest Test century by a debutant continues to be an enigma………. He has in his 9 innings made 434 runs of which the 1st was 187 and the latest 115 … in between his 7 forays yielded just 132…..

With regards – S. Sampathkumar. 

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