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Saturday, March 6, 2021

so near and yet so far .. .. Washington Sundar stranded at 96*


Sure, you rode a bi-cycle in your life… as all of us know, it is the roller chain that transfers power from the pedals to the back wheel, driving the cycle forward ~ and as could be seen the pedal has teeth … is it the available teeth or those missing teeth that moves the cycle forward ?  Year 2021 has been great for this 21 year old .. .. yet, would this youngster remember this day for the runs he made or the ones he missed ?

At Ahmedabad, after bowling out England for 205,  Indians were struggling at 146/6 .. .. then  Sundar and Pant came together !    Pant was classy, rule for thyself as he  reverse-swept Anderson from the line of the stumps, falling away to the leg side as he did so, and watched the ball fly over the leaping first slip fielder. It was audacious, it was gloriously disrespectful, and it was in every way what we've come to expect from Pant.  Pant scored a glorious 100 in the circumstances ensuring Indian lead.  At Close of play, Washington Sundar 60* and Axar Patel were together.

One may remember that 1st Test at Colombo in Sept 1985 – a drawn match.  India made : 218 & 251- while Lankans made  347 & 61/4 as also that famous Chepauk Pongal Test in 1975.  .. .. reasons !!

Steve Waugh (10); Rahul Dravid (10); Sachin Tendulkar (90); Michael Slater (9); Alwin Issac Kalicharan (8), AB de Villiers (8); Inzamam ul Haq (8) top that list – players with highest 90s.  Getting a ton is every batsmen’s dream.  Some one getting out in 90s is sad but getting stranded at 90s is sadder still.

‘nervous nineties’ is oft heard in Cricket.  It is a sort of  analysis paralysis, felt by a batsman when he has scored more than 90 runs in an innings, and is nervous because of the pressure and desire to convert it to a milestone century.   Batsmen tend to bat in a more conservative manner when they are close to their century, in order to avoid getting out and thus missing out on the milestone. Batsmen dismissed on 99 are considered the unluckiest of the nervous nineties victims.  Fielders could be sledging, opposing Captain would make changes in the field, bowling and do all that to distract, delay and get the batsman out – and sometimes, your own team could fail you.   

On day 3, just before lunch - Washington Sundar was left agonisingly short of a maiden Test hundred but his unbeaten 96 helped India to carve out a dominant position in the fourth Test. Team India  lost their last three wickets without adding to the score, by that stage their first-innings lead over England had swelled to 160… .. and Washie was stranded at 96 in 174 balls with 10 fours and 1 six !  In his very short Test Career thus far (4 tests in 2021) he has seen in all – a good 62 in 1st innings at Brisbane; cameo 22 and getting out to a bad shot in 2nd at Brisbane when India won; 85* in tough circumstances at Chepauk; 0 & 0 at Ahmedabad in 3rd test and 96* running out of partners today.  

Today there was no drama, India was increasing its lead with both Sundar and Axar looking composed and making runs in their 8th wicket stand of 106.   Axar made 43 [statistically scoring more runs than his test wickets now at 22 !!] ..  suddenly in a gush – Patel was out of crease looking for a non-existent single, Jhonny Bairstow caught him marginally out of crease.  Then .. .. Ishant Sharma was out for a first ball duck to Ben Stokes and as one feared the worst, Mohammed Siraj was castled for a duck leaving Sundar stranded at 96 not out.

It was sad to watch Sundar nonplussed and not displaying any emotions at all as he acknowledged the applause on his way back to pavilion.  India has a good lead but that 4 runs were elusive !  

Getting back to that Colombo test in 1985, Dilip Vengsarkar was unbeaten on 98* when Indians were bowled out.  Then at Kandy in Aug 2001, Sourav Ganguly too was stranded at 98* .. .. and there was this classy 97* by Gundappa Viswanath at Chepauk on 11th Jan 1975.  Any reference to Test No. 752 will flood memories of that  classy knock of Gundappa Viswanath -  great bowling of Andy Roberts and the defeat (100 runs at that) suffered by Clive Lloyd against Pataudi led Indians in 1975.  Those days Pongal tests were great festivities and tension would build up couple of days before the match – India opening with Eknath Solkar and FArokh Engineer – lost both and were 24/2; Gaekwad went cheaply, so did MAK Pataudi; (41/4); Ashok Mankad hooked Roberts -  at 76/6 Mankad and Madanlal too gone, Vishy had only the tail – whether it was Andy Roberts 20.5-5-64-7 or the fluent 97 n.o. of Vishy that was brilliant will be an endless debate.  Roberts was to take another 57/5 in the second innings too. 

Well played Sundar .. ..sure you would get to that maiden Test hundred sooner !


With regards – S. Sampathkumar


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