It wasn’t really the New Zealand batsmen’s fault. They were hit by the steamroller of fate. You cannot have Virender Sehwag scoring 293 off 254 balls without someone else somewhere copping it. The laws of crickarma are cruel in that way.
A most consoling of consolation wins. NZ defeat India by 8 wickets with 118 balls remaining. Not just a win, but a thumping. A dramatic turn around. It is in keeping with this series that the game should firstly be rain affected and secondly be so one-way.
The first three completed matches were determined by India’s strength, a powerhouse batting line up that can put any game beyond reach. Whereas tonight’s match showcased New Zealand’s strengths, difficult bowlers who can keep the score down and competent batsmen who can chase down almost any total.
It was a frustrating series, with all the rain, but an exhilerating series, with over 2000 runs scored at about 6.5 an over. There were some amazing performances. Sehwag was a sensation of course, in his most devastating series performance to date. 299 runs, 74.75 average, 150.25 strike rate. Tendulkar was masterful too, with the highest score of the series of 163. Ryder also with his 224 runs at 56.25 by 106.63 deserves to be lauded.
Back in high school, my mate and I found a copy of Card Cricket amongst the school’s educational board games. So we wasted a few rainy lunch hours simulating tests between his World XI and my NZ XI. I was as good at cards as I was at real cricket, so things generally didn’t go well for the NZ XI. One day however, Viv Richards really let loose on me. He piled up a century and marched towards his double. I just could not get him out, no matter what I threw down. It was bloody frustrating. I suspect though that the problem was that I simply didn’t have the combinations left in my hand to get a wicket. Play my cards as I might, the game had broken to my detriment.
It has occurred to me on occasion that the game of cricket is played well within it’s ultimate limits. In ODIs, batsmen score about 6 runs an over. However, they could be scoring at 6 times that. There is a lot of scope there.
In recent years, batting has improved considerably. Averages and strike rates have risen. In previous decades there have been only 1, 2 or no players with strike rates over 100, all of them late-innings sloggers. In the 00s we have 5, including actual batsmen. Might there come a point along this curve of improvement when a batsman starts to dominate bowlers to such an extent that they become completely ineffectual? When the batsman can score off every ball and only has to worry about getting himself out. The whole game, which is based on some sort of balance between bat and ball, would break down.
I’ve wondered, does the umpire communicate with the scorers? Does the umpire ever have to correct the scorers when they get the manner of dismissal wrong in cases where, say, the batsman might have been out caught, lbw or even stumped?
I got thinking about this because of something I noticed in the reports on last night’s ODI on TV3 regarding Sehwag’s dismissal. The early report talked about an “unlucky Sehwag”, which I take to refer to him being given out caught when he hadn’t hit the ball, as recorded in the scoreboard: c McGlashan b Butler. (Cracker of a ball by Butler, incidentally.) A later report however had Butler “trapping Sehwag in front”. Could that have been the umpire’s actual call?
Love this image from the Herald, from an article extolling the strengths of our exciting top four, McCullum, Ryder, Guptill and Taylor, showing them all flourishing their blades.
The Indians of course have brought along debatably the best ODI top order currently in service. (That would be a fiery debate however.)
Let’s see how the two top four compare head to head.
Not entirely flattering to the New Zealanders in terms of ranking, with an average of about 50 compared to an average of about 12 for the Indians. However, the stats don’t look vastly different (except maybe the rather unfair comparison between McCullum and Tendulkar). Based on these averages, we’d expect the Indians to score about 150 from about 29 overs. Whereas the New Zealanders will score 160 off about 31 (admittedly rather skewed by Guptill’s stats). Pretty much dead even.
Indian have an extremely good middle order in Dhoni alone, but NZ have Vettori and Mills in their bowling line up. You’ve got to expect this to be a close run series. I’m picking 3-2 to New Zealand.
So India come to New Zealand even stronger than last time. All the talk is of them nabbing the no. 1 spot in the near future. And we’re well aware of where we sit in the rankings. However, the Indians have been notably short in bluster in the lead up the series. All the talk has been coming from Andy Moles. A tour of New Zealand is just the sort of experience that can bring a team back down to Earth. And the Indians are well aware of that and are perhaps even – could I be right in saying – a little scared.
Regardless of how the pitches are prepared, conditions in New Zealand will not favour India. This will go some way towards evening the odds. Suhas has made predictions for the results in the various rubbers. He’s probably got them all right. I am hoping that we can steal a test, but I’m not sticking my neck out and predicting that.
Players to watch
Martin Guptill/Tim McIntosh: I’m making a bold prediction of our test openers here, but both these players have impressed earlier in the season. What sort of a difference will it make to our test performances if we could build some decent opening partnerships?
Chris Martin/Kyle Mill/Mark Gillespie: If we have exciting promise at the top of our batting line up, our opening bowling spot is practically non-existent. A serious problem.
Ishant Sharma: He’s still learning the game really, but even his natural ability – and his height (1.95 m) – could make him devastating in bowler friendly conditions.
Virender Sehwag: Has been down in form over the past couple of years but has been keeping in touch with some massive scores. Averages 27 against New Zealand, so needs a lot of runs to fix that.