Zimbabwe take honours on second day of Kotla Test
Sandeep Hegde Alesar - 01 March 2002
Zimbabwe seemed to have won all three sessions of the second day at Kotla, with Sachin Tendulkar playing one of the most disappointing innings of his career, Rahul Dravid back in the hut for 1, and the Indian team trailing by 158 runs. If India lose a wicket or two in the first hour of the third day, the series, which was expected to be a cakewalk for the hosts, might have another script in store.
Pace was the course that skipper Sourav Ganguly chose for the morning, claiming the new ball and letting his pacers at the Zimbabwean batsmen. Pace was also the course the Zimbabwean batsmen took. They smashed 27 runs off the first five overs, with Travis Friend doing the bulk of the scoring and Dion Ebrahim slowly approaching his maiden Test hundred.
The Indian seam attack seemed to have frittered away the advantage with the new ball, bowling too short, until Javagal Srinath dismissed Ebrahim for 94, winning a doubtful lbw appeal. The ball seemed to have hit the batsman a tad high. The youngster from Bulawayo had shown immense cricketing intelligence, scoring 54 of his 94 runs by rotating the strike and keeping the scoreboard ticking over.
Ganguly immediately tossed the ball to Anil Kumble in the eighth over of the morning to polish off the tail and prevent the total from assuming dangerous proportions. The slow nature of the wicket made batting easy. The tourists reached 300 by the end of the first hour; it came off 629 balls at the rate of 2.89.
Friend continued with the form he had shown in the Nagpur Test, flashing hard at the ball and driving the seamers with disdain. But Kumble struck a double blow in the 16th over of the morning when Tatenda Taibu, at sea against the leggie's tweakers, succumbed plumb in front for 13. Kumble followed it up with a yorker that clattered Ray Price's stumps, Zimbabwe losing their ninth wicket at 310.
Harbhajan Singh was introduced into the attack when Friend continued to be the thorn in the Indian side. Friend hoisted the first ball from the young offie into the stands for six, but he then chanced his arm once too often, sweeping Harbhajan to deep square-leg for Sachin Tendulkar to pouch a well-judged catch.
Zimbabwe were bowled out for 329 after having added a healthy 79 runs this morning from 21 overs. Kumble topped the wickets list with three against his name, although Harbhajan got more purchase from the wicket for his reward of two in the innings.
Heath Streak, in his first over, trapped Shiv Sunder Das on the crease, the ball almost certainly in line with the stumps. The decision was, however, turned down by umpire Ashoka de Silva. India thus survived the few overs and went in to lunch at 11/0.
Deep Dasgupta, concentration personified, got the second session moving with a copybook cover drive. The keeper-opener seemed keen on getting a big score and making up for his disastrous stint behind the wicket. But Streak eventually got Zimbabwe the breakthrough, bowling a short one that Das touched on its way down the leg-side to Taibu.
Ganguly, in a surprise move, promoted himself up the order at number three, and rightly so. With the pitch not offering much bounce, it was the ideal strip for the Indian skipper to get a solid knock behind him and rediscover his form. But he still had to put the theory into practice. Price came on to bowl with India 42/1 in the 17th over of the innings, and Ganguly, salivating at the sight of the left-arm spinner, promptly despatched the ball to the fence. Four byes from the next delivery got India to 50 off exactly 100 balls. More mayhem followed as the next ball was driven through the covers for yet another four.
Ganguly, having upped the momentum a touch, raced to 20 with four hits to the fence; his partner Dasgupta, bogged down for a while, followed suit and square-cut Friend to the ropes. But Friend then dismissed Dasgupta in freakish fashion. The opener took his eyes off the ball and was trapped plumb in front by a full toss.
Tendulkar, amidst cheers from the sparse crowds, walked out to the middle and looked to smash the bowling from the onset. In a flagrant exhibition of his repertoire, the master batsman flicked the ball from outside off-stump and deposited it to the mid-wicket fence with an exquisite roll of the wrists.
After tea, Ganguly began by punishing an over-pitched ball from Streak and cruising into the thirties -- the score-range in which the skipper has been dismissed 11 times in his career.
Price, in his 10th over, did everything right - except getting the umpire's approval - trapping Tendulkar in front with one that curled in the air and turned away from the batsman after pitching. It squared the little master up and struck his back foot. The ball would have crashed into the off-stump. The close shave rendered Tendulkar's array of strokes comatose; he scored a mere six runs off the 42 balls from the left-arm spinner after that.
Streak and Price put the brakes on the Indian scoring rate, with 13 runs coming in the first 11 overs after tea, Tendulkar and Ganguly struggling to get the ball into the gaps. With the runs drying up and the pressure building, Stuart Carlisle replaced Streak and brought Friend back on. A single long-hop from the bowler had Ganguly pouncing on it and dispatching it to the fence to ease some pressure.
In the next over, Tendulkar scored his first run in 55 minutes after tea, with the score at 109/2 in the 43rd over. Ganguly then stole a quick single behind square off Price to reach his first half-century in eight Tests.
With 15 overs left to be bowled before stumps, Tendulkar had scored six suns from 69 balls during the session, while Ganguly had made 35 off 74. It was one of those rare occasions when Tendulkar played second fiddle in the middle.
Tendulkar finally fell to Price, trapped in front when the ball kept low and umpire de Silva had no option but to raise the finger. For Tendulkar, this was an innings he will not want to remember. At one stage, he had 20 off 25 balls and seemed to be in sublime touch, but the post-tea session saw him clueless against a mediocre but disciplined attack.
Indiaís troubles were compounded in the 60th over of the innings when Ganguly, after playing the ball to mid-on, sent back Rahul Dravid. Dravid was beaten to the crease by Friendís direct throw. But when Virender Sehwag walked out to the middle, all fears of the wicket turning viciously were sent packing to the fence.
Just before stumps, Ganguly (78) survived a confident lbw shout from Streak. India eventually finished the day at 171/4 off 67 overs, a dismal rate of 2.11 per over and still 158 runs in arrears.
The views expressed above are solely those of the guest contributor and are carried as written, with only minor editing for grammar, to preserve the original voice. These contributed columns are solely personal opinion pieces and reflect only the feelings of the guest contributor. Their being published on CricInfo.com does not amount to an endorsement by CricInfo's editorial staff of the opinions expressed.