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Monday, November 14, 2016

India salvage a draw; Australia 85 all out at Hobart & Hesson on toss

The game of Cricket just like many others, starts with a toss – the winner gets the option to bat first or bowl first.  Many a times, the toss is considered vital, capable of influencing the result. 

In World Cup finals in 2011,  as  is the tradition, the visiting captain, Kumar Sangakkara, called and apparently had lost to Mahendra Singh Dhoni – he claimed that he had not called at all and the Match Referee Jeff Crowe, a former New Zealand captain, was flummoxed. He asked for a re-toss !  … in 1979, when Pakistan toured India and had lost the Series 2-0, in that final match at Calcutta, Gavaskar withdrew (not prepared for the WI tour that was to follow) – Gundappa Vishvanath became the Captain.  He walked with Asif Iqbal, tossed, Asif bent to pick up the coin and told Vishy that he had won !!

At Rajkot, the final day was nervy.   Alastair Cook scored his fifth Test century in India, the most by a visiting batsman, he came desperately close to registering an unlikely Test win, Virat Kohli and R Ashwin saw India through with a 14.2-over partnership after England needed six wickets in 25.2 of the minimum of 49 overs they had given themselves to win the Test in. As England bowled their overs quickly and got 52.3 of them in, Kohli, digging in, having a go at the team mascot for returning the ball too soon, casting rueful glances at his departing partners, hitting boundaries to eat up time, rescued India when they nearly threw it away through no experience of batting when to save Tests.

Away in Hobart, on day 1 – 15  wickets fell and 10 of them belonged to Australians, who bar their captain Steve Smith (48 not out) surrendered meekly in conditions favourable to swing bowling but not as devastatingly so as the scorecard would have you believe. Vernon Philander overcame a collision with Smith to end up with 5-21 from 10.1 overs and was ably assisted by Dale Steyn’s replacement Kyle Abbott, who mustered 3-41 off 12.4 at the other end. Other than Joe Mennie, no other batsman reached double figures for Australia in a putrid performance.

Coach Darren Lehmann acknowledged Australia are in the middle of a batting crisis, after crashing to 18 for 5 then being skittled for 85 on a chaotic first day of the second test against South Africa in Hobart. South Africa were 171-5 in response at stumps on Saturday, already well placed to take an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series despite Mitchell Starc starting the final session with three wickets in the space of 10 deliveries. Australia relived their Trent Bridge nightmare, falling victim to an inspired Vernon Philander to produce the nation's lowest test total at home since 1984. Australia unravelled spectacularly after being sent in under overcast skies on a green-tinged Bellerive pitch, as was the case in Nottingham last year when they were bowled out for 60 in the Ashes decider.  Rains have been playing spoilsport thereafter.

New Zealand coach Mike Hesson has joined the growing calls for test cricket to do away with the toss. The numbers on how infrequently teams win test matches away from home are a compelling argument to trial a plan whereby the visiting team is given the choice of batting or bowling first. The idea is to prevent the more extreme examples of pitches being tailored to suit the home side, whether that be on the subcontinent or in Western countries.

Since the start of 2014, in series between India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka on one hand, and South Africa, England, Australia and New Zealand on the other, the results are stark. Only twice - Sri Lanka in England, and South Africa in Sri Lanka - has the visiting team won the series. Both were 1-0 victories, and both were in 2014. On individual tests, the home sides have won 29 and lost just seven.

Hesson insists New Zealand's recent 3-0 drubbing in India has nothing to do with his belief it's time to try and redress the balance. That would be kneejerk thinking. "There's no doubt batting first and third in India is a significant advantage over batting second and fourth. But just because you win the toss doesn't guarantee you're going to be able to make the most of it, Hesson said.

Interesting !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
14th Nov. 2016.

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