Tetley's Challenge Series: Sussex v Indians, Match Report
Simon Hughes - 16-18 May 1996
Day 1: Indians hindered by chill factor
First day of three: Sussex (190-1) v The Indians
Suggestions that this Indian attack is slightly short of firepower were confirmed yesterday as a beleagured Sussex side lost only one wicket in four hours' play.
True, they were Kumble-less, and their spearhead, Javagal Sri- nath, bowled a testing first spell which deserved better re- ward.
But the persistent drizzle, which worsened just before tea, came as a blessed relief to the other bowlers battling against an icy draught, and to the shivering spectators watching the Sussex openers eke out an exis tence.
The aristocratic image of Sussex cricket has nurtured a noble Asian connection on the south coast that began with Ranjit- sinhji, passed through Duleepsinhji and the Nawab of Pataudi and ended with Imran Khan.
But the chances of it being restored diminished slightly when a possible future target, Sachin Tendulkar, spent the day directing operations from first slip.
Desmond Haynes, the Sussex coach, might have relished a private opportunity to induce the young maestro to Hove next season, but he had Mohammed Azharuddin for company in the dressing room instead.
His overtures would not have made much impression on Tendulkar, anyway - he was wearing cotton-wool earplugs.
Sir Rannulph Feinnes would have had his powers of endurance seriously taxed by the conditions yesterday, never mind crick- eters from the sub-continent, but encouraged by the wind and the slope, Srinath found plenty of early life.
Several deliveries jagged back sharply, almost cutting the batsmen in two, and the score crawled along at first, Keith Greenfield failing to get off the mark until the 12th over.
The other opening bowler, Paras Mhambrey, a wiry figure ideally suited to slicing through the wind, was accurate without pos- ing much threat.
Greenfield, now in his ninth season with Sussex but still un- capped, finally got off the mark with a square drive and soon overtook Bill Athey, stuck on 11.
The advent of spin enhanced the scoring rate, as it usually does here, and both Narendra Hirwani and Sunil Joshi, the first player to complete the double of 500 runs and 50 wickets in the Ranji Trophy, were swept regularly. Joshi does look to have a good loop, however, and got the odd one to turn.
Having tried seven other bowlers who, in such low temperatures, would have been glad of the exercise, Tendulkar eventually uncloaked his own assortment of swingers, bouncers and leg breaks.
Hampered by wearing four sweaters and looking from a distance like the son of Michelin, he struggled to get his arm over ini- tially and was collared through the covers. But having been savagely pulled for four by Greenfield, he nipped the next one back into the stumps off the inside edge.
Day 2: Sussex (247-4 dec & 29-0) lead The Indians (185-3 dec) by 91 runs
Sometimes cricket surprises you, other days events on the field seem pre- destined. The quality of the Hove wicket, the proximity of the one-day internationals and the presence of Sunil Gavaskar more or less guaranteed a majestic display from Sachin Tendulkar yesterday and that was the reward 200 or so hardy spectators re- ceived for hours of sitting patiently.
But then waiting for something to happen comes as second na- ture to Sussex supporters: they belong to the oldest club in the country, (formed in 1839) who have yet to win the County Championship.
The addition of Tendulkar to the ranks at some juncture might conceivably alter that situation. Still invariably resembling a boy in adult's clothes, he nevertheless has a peerless abil- ity to toy with bowlers and a quite unchallenged range of strokes.
Often he bats like a millionaire which his 'manager', Ravi Shastri, quickly reminded us that he was. He spent an hour and a half grooving his repertoire here, getting off the mark with an upper cut over the slips, punching balls fractionally short past cover, leg-glancing, clipping, pulling and straight driving with such precision that the ball teased the fielder all the way to the rope. His footwork had the cer- tainty of someone facing a pre-programmed bowling machine.
A perfectly respectable fifty from Sanjay Manjrekar looked positively pedestrian in comparison as Tendulkar assaulted the wil- ling off-spin of Nicky Phillips, drilling it through Neil Lenham's despairing hands at deep mid-on, and in the next over taking 14 off the first three balls. But two deliveries later he miscued to long-on 15 short of the season's fastest century.
The Sussex bowling was not disgraced, however. Paul Jarvis bounced out Navjot Sidhu, worked up a fair head of steam and was unlucky to see Manjrekar's mishook elude Martin Speight's grasp at square leg, and Ed Giddins' hostility was not flat- tered by his figures. Jason Lewry trimmed Ajay Jadeja's bails with a peach of a delivery but was allowed only four overs with the new ball and did not return.
Sussex's batting in the morning was equally spirited. Martin Speight's sharp eye and considerable bat speed allowed Alan Wells to declare generously on the stroke of midday, but it will be a brave man who dangles too much carrot in front of Tendulkar today.
Day 3: Tourists travelling too light
Third day of three: Sussex (247-4 dec & 234-2 dec) drew with The Indians (185-3 dec & 184-4)
Mohammed Azharuddin is a smiley sort of chap - as a muslim surrounded by hindus must be. He has known and conquered adversity before with a diplomacy and jovial demeanour acquired in the solace of All Saints School, Hyderabad. An oasis of calm amidst a dusty, teeming metropolis. Being brought up in that impoverished sprawl soon teaches you a good sense of perspective.
His tolerance might be tested by the performances of his team this summer because early indications are they might be in for a hard time. Behind the amiable facade, Azharuddin knows it. ``All the batsman have made runs and our main bowlers Srinath and Kumble have really improved with their experience in England last season,'' he said,lacking total conviction.
In theory, a batting order built around Sachin Tendulkar and himself and including experienced Test players like Sanjay Manjrekar and Navjot Sidhu ranks with any in world cricket - a nice mix of push, flash and dash. With the ball, the Karnataka kids Srinath and Kumble exposed plenty of flaws in English batsmanship last summer, and they are supported by the flexible fingers of Narendra Hirwani (16 wickets on Test debut) and two steady left-armers.
In practice, however, the batting is dependent on their 5 ft 4 in run machine. Tendulkar is the most complete batsman in the world, able to play any role - pinch-hitter, dog-fighter, mu- tilator - but, because of India's relentless domestic diet of one-day internationals, he has not been able to make a real pig of himself for two years. Tendulkar's mental vim may help him to surmount this hurdle, but the others are more vulner- able.
Yesterday, faced with the sort of lively four-pronged seam attack England may field, Sidhu fenced outside off-stump uncon- vincingly and remains uncomfortable against the short ball. Manjrekar is little more than a glorified blocker (he re- gistered the fifth slowest century of all-time against Zim- babwe) and few people will lose much sleep over bowling to Ajay Jadeja. How Azharuddin must wish the belligerent Vinod Kambli hadn't gone beyond the selectors' pale with persistent unruly behaviour off the field.
More worrying still is the bowling. Srinath presents a genuine threat and bowled with great heart and no luck in this match. The other seamers are no more than military, the orthodox left-armers do not pose serious questions and Hirwani made little impact on his previous tour here, even with men like Ro- bin Smith to bowl at. He's unlikely to be granted that luxury this time.
A bowler with Kumble's powers of hypnosis needs an active ser- vice unit to help in the outfield. Some of India's field- ing is little more than an escort service. Their out-cricket made little impression on Keith Greenfield yesterday morning as he swept and drove his way to an unbeaten century. Still uncapped after eight seasons at Hove, Greenfield had an es- cape on 23 when a lofted drive was juggled like a hot potato by Srinath at mid-off and eventually rejected. He advanced confi- dently down the wicket to smite Sunil Joshi's first ball of the day over the sightscreen and struck 11 boundaries in a rapid second 50 which owed as much to the bowling as to Tendulkar's strange reluctance to tinker with the field settings.
Tendulkar looked ominously impressive with the bat in pursuit of 297 in a potential 50 overs, the sureness of his footwork and placement of shot being quite immaculate. But he lost partners progressively against the Sussex attack and when Tendulkar himself was out charging the off-spinner Nicky Phil- lips, the game fizzled out.
Sussex could congratulate themselves on avoiding defeat - a rare feat for them this season - and identifying a number of cracks in the Indian framework. They might be partially camouflaged during the forthcoming one-day series but Azharuddin knows it will be a job to conceal them in the Tests.
Source: The Electronic Telegraph
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