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Karthick, Agarkar dig India out of a hole
Prem Panicker | January 24, 2007 18:16 IST
Last Updated: January 24, 2007 18:18 IST
After the feast, the famine: a batting lineup that two days ago gorged on an absolute belter failed to summon up the nous to accumulate in inimical conditions.
Grant, at the outset, that the pitch at the Barabati Stadium, Cuttack, is a disgrace - low, slow, with a magic maze of cracks that made the ball scoot around like someone was jerking its strings; there is still no real explanation for batsman after batsman falling to soft dismissals.
Gautam Gambhir began the slide in the third over. Ian Bradshaw's delivery was off target, short and going to leg. Gambhir tried the flick, got the edge and Dinesh Ramdhin did the rest (4/11; 6/1 India).
Sourav Ganguly seemed to have figured out that this was not a pitch to blast the ball around on; he started his scoring with a checked push for a single, and used similar pushes as his preferred scoring shots.
In the 6th over, the southpaw got a life, courtesy of the umpire, when he looked to run Jerome Taylor down to fine leg, got the edge and looked mighty relieved when the umpire resisted the vociferous appeal.
While Rahul Dravid, back at the number three slot, started off with a stream of fours, Ganguly waited till the 8th over before finding the boundary: Jerome Taylor banged one in that sat up and begged for the treatment; the batsman obliged, using nifty footwork to make room and slap it over the covers.
In the next over, though, he was gone: Daren Powell's was short on middle and leg, Ganguly attempted to work it off his hips and managed only to play it into the hands of short midwicket. It appeared as if the batsman had played the shot a touch too early, not making allowance for the slowness of the ball off the deck (13/25; 35/2 India).
Sachin Tendulkar lasted for all of five unconvincing deliveries. The sixth ball he faced was a Powell off cutter in the channel, that Tendulkar tried to flick on the on but managed only to put up the simplest of catches to mid on (0/6; 35/3).
Dravid and Dinesh Karthick, upped all the way to number five in the lineup, looked to be batting the team out of a hole when the former fell, to the first wicket-taking delivery of the Indian innings.
Powell produced the perfect slower ball - very well disguised, on the very full length; Dravid was foxed into playing down the wrong line and early at that, to be beaten and bowled (22/34; 46/4).
The conditions were clearly not to Mahendra Singh Dhoni's liking and predictably, the keeper-batsman perished cheap. Dwayne Smith's delivery was on the slow side on off; Dhoni leaned forward and managed only to scoop it back to the bowler - another instance of a batsman making no allowance for the slowness of the ball off the deck (6/19; 66/5).
It was not the ideal time for Joginder Singh to make a debut as an all-rounder. The six deliveries the all-rounder faced wasn't enough to provide any sort of indication of his batting skills. Powell took him out with a fullish delivery just outside off, that the debutant swatted at with no foot movement whatever; there was a gap wide enough to drive a truck through and the ball snaked through to disrupt the stumps (1/6; 69/6).
Chris Gayle, debuting as captain for the West Indies in the absence of Brian Lara, must have begun feeling around this point that leading a side in a limited overs game was a walk in the park.
Harbhajan Singh eschewed his natural game, and showed some intent to stick around and keep Karthick company. Defense, though, is not the offie's strong suit; Bravo cleaned him up with a straight ball on fuller length that had the batsman pushing tentatively inside the line; the ball slid past the edge to hit off (6/30; 90/6).
Dinesh Karthick, meanwhile, batted on a totally different track from the rest. Working out very early that hitting through the line in front of the wicket could pose problems on a track where every other ball tended to stop, Karthick took to working the ball behind the stumps on either side, and square of the wicket, staying back as much as he could and playing the ball very late.
It was just sense, and application, and it mocked the rated names that had gone before. No respecter of persons, he seemed to see nothing particularly threatening in the bowling of Powell - 21 of the 27 runs the bowler conceded in his first spell of 7-4-27-4 were off the bat of Karthick, including three clean-struck fours.
Ajit Agarkar, too, batted with seaming ease, biding his time for the most part, lining up those deliveries he felt he could hit, and giving them the treatment - not least the stroke he played in the 37th over, when Bravo tried one good length slower ball too many and the batsman, with a casual foray onto the front foot, picked it up and clubbed it to the long on boundary.
Given the situation in which the team was when they got together, it was a remarkable effort for Agarkar and Karthick to stitch together the 50 of their partnership in just 40 deliveries.
Karthick ended the 40th over with a stroll down the track, to pick Taylor from middle and leg and whip over square leg; India, down and seemingly out at 90/6 after 30 overs, looked to have the wind in its sails on 151/7 at the end of 40, having put on 61 runs during that ten over phase.
The second ball of the 41st over saw the end of Karthick, however. Bradshaw bowled a slower one on leg, whipping his fingers over the seam to get it to cut. Karthick stayed back, looking to run it down to third man but was beaten by the change down in pace (63/87; 152/8).
The young reserve keeper has developed a penchant for rearguard acts; the one he played here, walking in with the score on 35/3 in the 11th over, was a beauty even by the standards he has set himself.
Shortly after, Ramesh Powar let down his Mumbai team-mate. Rather than look to keep his end going, Powar aimed an almighty swish at yet another slower ball from Bravo, playing way too early and paying for it (5/10; 163/9).
The Windies bowlers, in the second half of the Indian innings, appeared to lose the plot; it was almost as if they expected the remaining batsmen to fold in the fashion of the top half and when they did not, the bowlers found themselves clueless.
That said, even bad bowling has to be cashed in - and following the departure of Karthik, Agarkar took charge, nudging the singles and, whenever length and line afforded, targeting the boundaries with some clean strikes.
The last four wickets had more than doubled the output of the first six, and it looked like India would, improbably, bat out the full 50 overs when an attempt to sneak a single in the 49th over ended in disaster. Agarkar attempted to race Bravo to the business end, after Zaheer Khan mishit a delivery and saw it squirt out on the on side; Bravo though proved the quicker, and India ended its innings on 189 (Agarkar 40/47; Zaheer Khan 7 not out off 16).
20 wides spoke to the erratic lines the Windies bowlers sent down; unlike Lara, Gayle seemed more laid back, less inclined to haul up his bowlers when they erred.
The Indian total is a good 50 runs short of safe, even on this up-and-down track and absent a sensational opening spell, the visitors should have no real problems squaring the series. Take two, three wickets early, though, and with two spinners operating on a pedestrian track, the second half could still provide surprises.
In passing, it seemed a rather strange decision by Dravid to bat first after winning the toss. Granting the wicket is not going to get any better, India did opt for a second spinner, we are in January and it is highly likely there will be dew during the second session of the day-night fixture, and chances are gripping the ball could be a problem.
West Indies in India 2007: The Complete Coverage
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