Saturday, February 28, 2009

Its not the Pitch, its the Batsmen & the Fielders!

There has been a mammoth match-saving captain's knock of 313 by Younis Khan.

There has been a huge 460 odd run partnership for the 4th wicket where Jayawardene made the most of two dropped catches and scored 240 and Samaraweera knocked a stroke filled 231.

There has been an aggressive unbeaten 158 by Kamran Akmal.

There has been an attractive 142 by Andrew Strauss, also made after making the most from a dropped catch.

There has been a century on debut - 117 by Marcus North.

There has been a maiden test century - 104 by Ravi Bopara.

There have been three 90s - Cook and Collingwood played atrocious strokes on 94 and 96 respectively to be caught in the outfield, while Mitchell Johnson was left stranded on 96 as his tail-end partners failed to support him.

All this in a week of test cricket without even a single 5 wicket haul.

When you take a look at the bowlers on show - Umar Gul, Muralitharan, Ajantha Mendis, Jerome Taylor, Fidel Edwards, Dale Steyn, Makhaya Ntini, Morne Morkel - its hard to believe.

Is it really the pitches? Or has the bowling not been upto the mark? Or is it just that the batsmen have played out of their skins?

Marcus North played a solid test innings on debut. He was composed, ran well, and punished the bad balls. North was up to the task against the best pace attack in the world and showed the Aussies what they had been missing in India and during the summer at home.

Johnson, as Coverdale would tell you, is Australia's Andrew Flintoff. His knock was pure skill and aggression.

Strauss was coming off a 140 odd in his previous test and got a life early on in his innings, while Cook bided his time as Strauss attacked and was also given a 2nd chance by the West Indian fielders.

Collingwood has 3 centuries in his last 8 or 9 tests, and Bopara made the most after a 41 hour flight, a century in a side game, and a dropped chance.

Edwards bowled brilliantly in this game, his fielders just didn't support him. He had Strauss and Bopara very early in their innings. So you can't really blame the pitch for being flat.

Those who think Karachi was a bad advertisement for test cricket, need to think again. Younis Khan's innings, in my view, was a great advertisement for test cricket. It showed the world how to bat in a test match - 12 hours and 48 minutes at the crease is no joke, especially when you haven't played test cricket for 14 months.

Even if the test was played on a green top, I reckon Younis would have scored the same amount of runs. Courage and determination can take you to unprecedented levels.

Jayawardene made the most of two dropped chances, and I reckon a batsman of his class and temperament would have scored just as much on any sort of wicket if he was dropped on 43 and 124.

Samaraweera was in aggressive mood since he walked to the wicket. He made the most of a very inexperienced bowling attack - a total of 20 odd tests for the 3 pacers he was against that included a debutant and one with a single test to his name. On top a spinner who hasn't learnt much from his 50 tests.

Kamran Akmal would have played the same kind of innings and would have scored the same number of runs, even if he had walked out to bat with Pakistan at 50-5. Look up history for proof.

So then, is it really the pitches?

I believe the batsmen have played out of their skin.

North and Johnson scored where, besides Ponting, every batsmen on both sides has struggled to cope against the swing. Its swinging all over the place at the Wanderers.

The Karachi pitch has come in for quite some criticism from everywhere, and I'm not too sure why. Both the teams have criticized it, commentators have criticized it, bloggers have criticized it, and even Sambit Bal has criticized it.

With all due respect to all of the above, I beg to differ. Plus, Mr. Bal, I think you are way off in comparing Karachi to the farce at Antigua.

Younis Khan was the difference between an innings defeat and the eventual result. Plus, Pakistan on the final day showed the pitch wasn't really a paradise. Forget that, Murali was spinning it a mile and either way he doesn't really need a pitch, and Mendis had the batsmen in trouble everytime he bowled his leg spinner - only his line was way off for him to get a wicket.

So really, its the batsmen who have played outstandingly this week or taken the opportunity given to them by the opposing fielders.

Make your pitch on this post...

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