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Saturday, February 17, 2018

Eden park massacre ~ Indian men and Women win at South Africa

Long long ago ! ~ the game of Cricket was a match between bowlers and batsmen and bowlers did have an upperhand ??  I have not heard much of ~  D'Arcy John Matthew Short ~ the left handed opener for Hobart Hurricanes who can bowl slow spin too.  He was the man of the match at Auckland. 

The iconic ground's straight boundaries are among the shortest in world cricket, making it sorely tempting for batsmen to attempt belting a six over the bowler's head.  In 1902, Harry Ryan, a young, passionate cricketer, stood on Kingsland Road which strewn with stones, rocky outcrops and cowpats with a low-lying swamp at the bottom.  He saw a cricket ground. This was to become Eden Park.  In 1910 the Park became the home of Auckland Cricket.  Eden Park is New Zealand's largest stadium, located in central Auckland. 

Remember those good olden days when India won a Test in New Zealand in Auckland ~  Test no. 769 in Jan 1976.  Remember reading about the Test in ‘The Hindu’ and partially hearing commentary in the mornings of January 1976 –Kiwis were led by Glenn Turner, a legend those times.  Playing first they were all out for 266 with Chandrasekhar taking 6/94. Sunil Gavaskar led India in the absence of an injured Bishan Bedi.  Gavaskar made a patient 116 and was over taken by Surinder Amarnath who made a fine 124 with 16 fours and 1 six.   It was a time when it was  8 balls per over.   Alongside Surinder – Kirmani and Dilip Vengsarkar were to make their debuts and went on to play much longer than Surinder did.  

First, the happy news ~ India won the ODI series rather easily (5 – 1) – I had never imagined such a result.  The summary reads India 206 for 2 (Kohli 129*, Rahane 34*) beat South Africa 204 (Zondo 54, Thakur 4-52) by eight wickets.  Confidence and form are two of the most influential factors in batting. They often dictate timing and placement - requisites for scoring runs. South Africa have lacked both after their sub-par performances this series.  In  good batting conditions in Centurion, South Africa's batsmen grappled with their own lack of confidence and India's disciplined bowling, resulting in another mediocre total. Shardul Thakur, playing his first match of the series, led another clinical display from India with figures of 4 for 52 as South Africa were bowled out for 204.   On the other end of that form spectrum lies Virat Kohli. With 429 runs in five games prior to the final ODI, Kohli was oozing confidence. Against a jaded bowling attack, and with all that belief, his 35th  ODI hundred was almost a formality. It helped India coast to an eight-wicket win, and take the six-match series 5-1. Kohli finished with 558 runs in six matches, the most by a batsman in a bilateral series.

Away in Eden Park, in Newzealand it was a massacre – in 38.5 overs,  New Zealand and Australia pillaged a phenomenal 488 runs, with Australia  setting a new record by pulling off the highest successful T20 chase.  488 The run aggregate in this match - the second-highest ever in T20Is. The overall record, which this match missed by one run, was set in the India-West Indies clash in Lauderhill in 2016. 32 Number of sixes in the match - the joint-highest in a T20I, equaling the 32 struck by West Indies and India in Lauderhill in 2016. New Zealand's 18 sixes were also their highest in an innings.

The scorecard would never reveal the deathknell of the bowlers .. Australia 245 for 5 (Short 76, Warner 59) beat New Zealand 243 for 6 (Guptill 105, Munro 76) by five wickets.   Martin Guptill's 49-ball hundred - and a host of other records were rendered useless by  D'Arcy Short and David Warner hammering aggressive fifties to set the tone of the reply and Australia's middle order kept the pedal to the metal at a stage where New Zealand had stuttered to seal victory with more than an over to spare. The stands were peppered for 32 sixes -  the sufferers were the bowlers.   AJ Tye conceded 64 from his four overs, soothed a modicum by two wickets, but he could probably spare some sympathy for New Zealand's Wheeler, who was left with 0 for 64 from just 3.1. Perversely, the most economical bowler on either side - Ashton Agar - did not deliver his full quota.

I cannot comprehend how Short was given the man of the match.  Martin Guptill made 105 off just 54 balls with 9 sixers; while Short made 76 off 44 with 3 sixers – Aussie won and Short was the man !!  ~ it is stated that a strong 33692 spectators watched the match at venue.  There were some catches – made as also put down -  Mitchell Grimstone, a 20-year-old student, earned himself NZD50,000 courtesy of a local drinks sponsor when he leaned over the railing at deep midwicket to pluck Ross Taylor's penultimate-ball six out of the air with his left hand. His reaction was priceless (or, well, worth 50K) as he was mobbed by those next to him in the stands. "I'm not left-handed," he said. "But somehow I put it there and it stuck, and then everyone was jumping over me."

At South Africa Indian women too are making merry ~ after the great show in ODIs – they beat SA again in T20.  India women 144 for 1 (Raj 76*, Mandhana 57, Daniels 1-21) beat South Africa women 142 for 7 (Luus 33, de Klerk 26, Poonam 2-18, Anuja 2-37) by nine wickets.  A century opening stand, underpinned by fifties from Mithali Raj and Smriti Mandhana, handed South Africa a nine-wicket drubbing in East London and helped India go 2-0 up in the five-match T20I series with five balls to spare. Steering the 143 chase, Raj became the first woman to score four consecutive T20I half-centuries. 

Smaller grounds, like in Auckland, Napier and Christchurch at present, mean bigger totals as teams struggle to defend the boundaries.  In grounds like Eden Park, bowlers would only run in trepidation as even a mishit could soar beyond the boundary !  ~  the boundary at one part of the oval measured only 51 metres.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

17th Feb 2018.

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