Sunday, January 2, 2011


Mahendra Singh Dhoni celebrated the New Year by winning the toss... an occasion almost as rare as the New Year itself. Incidentally, this was just the 2nd time in Dhoni's 24-Test captaincy stint that he had inserted the opposition in after winning the toss (he's won 8 tosses, by the way).

The first time he did it was in March 2009 against New Zealand at Hamilton... and India went on to win that match by 10 wickets. That win was possible only because the Indian pace bowlers were able to dismiss the Kiwis for 279 on Day 1 itself. This time tough, things are a lot different.

Kallis is rock solid at the end of day's play with Ashwell Prince for company. Boucher is still waiting in the wings, and even though he isn't in the best form, he can still be dangerous if this partnership can add a few more and take South Africa to a position of strength. Then all that Boucher will need to do is get a few quick runs... and usually, these sort of situations are exactly what an out-of-form batsman wants in Test cricket.

Back in Hamilton, India could dismiss New Zealand cheaply mainly due to the fact that Ishant Sharma bagged 4 wickets on that day. He's bagged only 1 so far today and though the other bowlers' figures are not far ahead than his, I must say that I was extremely disappointed with Ishant Sharma's bowling today.

Here is the comparison of the pitch maps of the three Indian pacers today...

Zaheer Khan's pitch map on Day 1

S Sreesanth's pitch map on Day 1

Ishant Sharma's pitch map on Day 1

As you can see, Zaheer was extremely full... as you should be when conditions are favouring you. I know Ishant Sharma's stock delivery is when he runs in, hits the deck hard at back-of-good-length area and allows the seam movement to do its bit. But this was not a pitch and these were not the conditions for his style of bowling.

He needed to pitch the ball further up today and make the batsman play. His pitch map clearly shows that he was short of the required length and also quite some way outside off... which helped the batsman in leaving the balls. Both he and Sreesanth bowled a lot of balls that could be left alone harmlessly by the batsmen... particularly early in the day when the conditions were favourable for the bowlers. It was a waste!

Ishant got Alviro Peterson out driving to a delivery that was amongst the fullest he'd bowled all day. The fact that Ishant did not bowl full consistently after getting such a reward was very disappointing.

Sreesanth was still okay... even though he could have been a bit more fuller. I say a bit more fuller particularly because more often than not, he was getting a very good shape taking the ball away from the right hander. But when he was pitch it on good length, the batsmen were able to leave the ball trusting the shape to take it away from them (except for one occasion when De Villiers has a fatal poke at it). Had he been a little fuller, the batsmen would have been forced to play a lot more and given how close he gets to the stumps while delivering, it could have been a lot more than just 2 wickets for him today.

Zaheer operated well, from both over- and around-the-wicket... but apart from his first spell, he could not get significant movement on the ball. With the new ball available just 6 overs into the day tomorrow, he could make things very difficult for the left-handed Ashwell Prince.

Having won the toss and inserted the opposition in, Dhoni would have hoped for a lot more from his pacers. Though the day wasn't BAD for India, it wasn't satisfactory either. Tomorrow, the sun is expected to be shining brightly over Newlands, Cape Town and Dhoni will be hoping that South Africa collapse with the second new ball so that his batsmen get a chance to wield their willow in helpful conditions under the sun. They haven't had too many such chances on this tour thus far!

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