Cricket 19: Down on the Delhi Deck!

Following our ground-breaking success in the mountains, we named an unchanged side for the second Test on a dust bowl in Delhi. We lost the toss and as was the case in Doon, were inserted to field first. India progressed rapidly to 43-0 but we really should’ve taken a wicket. Louis Martin, brimming with confidence after his second innings figures of 3-91 in the Himalayas, executed a ferocious short ball that Rohit Sharma couldn’t resist. The trap was set but Zidane Thomas, stationed at fine leg, neglected to commit to the catch. Thomas soon made amends however when he caught Sharma (20) dawdling out of his crease and effected an extremely cheeky run out. Cheteshawara Pujara, fresh from striking a century in the first Test, made 21 before edging spinner Mehdi Qadri to Gilles Smith at slip. Despite losing two wickets, India had clocked up 109 runs by lunch.

Just three deliveries after the interval, Qadri was it it again, ousting Indian skipper Virat Kohli (14) courtesy of a superb catch by Zvonimir Pitko at point. Qadri later appealed for LBW against Agarwal, on 78 at the time. We opted not to review but replays showed that Agarwal would’ve been given out had we’d done so. How costly would that be?

Not very! Suddenly Agarwal endured a torrid time against the turn of Qadri and Louis Petit but survived until drinks. In the second over post beverages, Le Tallec (1-31) rolled his arm over and the captain promptly castled Agarwal’s stumps. As in the first Test Agarwal (84) couldn’t reach three figures. India recovered though and by tea were 217-4 with Rahane passing fifty and the partnership with Vihari doing the same.

In the second over after tea and with his first ball of a new spell, Louis Petit accounted for Rahane’s (52) middle stump. He then did for Pant (5) courtesy of a throw from the boundary as the hosts just couldn’t kick their run out habit!

Ravi Jadeja (8) dug in alongside Vihari but then needlessly chased a wide delivery and feathered an edge to wicketkeeper Marwan Leroy. Tactical genius Le Tallec then opted against the new ball and Youssef Rizvi (1-8) immediately claimed Vihari (59) as his maiden Test victim.

In the penultimate over of the day Qadri (3-86) claimed the wicket of Ravi Ashwin (16), caught in the slips by Smith ala the Pujara dismissal. Ishant Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah survived until close with India upto 294-9.

Less than three overs were required on day two for the Indian innings to be curtailed. The astute Le Tallec took the new ball yet combined spin with pace and it paid off handsomely as Petit (3-57) had Sharma (13) caught by Pitko. India all out for 298 with all wickets bar run outs falling to spin.

In reply, Enzo Petit and Jean-Luc Chevalier compiled 74 for the first wicket before Petit (35) stepped too far across his stumps and was bowled behind his legs by Ashwin. Smith appeared to be caught at slip first ball but India neglected to review. At times unconvincing, he survived until drinks.

Chevalier brought up a second Test fifty then struck three boundaries before he misjudged a delivery from Ashwin. Despite the review confirming that the ball pitched and struck pad outside the line of off stump, Chevalier (62) had offered no shot so had to depart. It wasn’t long after Chevalier’s dismissal that Smith’s mixed bag of an innings came to an end. He was rather suckered into a trap, caught at leg slip off Jadeja for 23. Rizvi and Pitko took us to lunch on 141-3.

After the interval the pair progressed to 178-4 before Rizvi (13), like Chevalier, chose to leave a ball from Ashwin, only to look back in horror and see his stumps rearranged! Zidane Thomas then endured ten torturous deliveries before falling for single figures for the third time in the series. Thomas (4) was bowled through his legs by Jadeja (2-72). India then made a surprise bowling change bringing back the pace of Bumrah (2-68) and we promptly conceded yet another own goal. Pitko (45), who had batted so well, top edged an unnecessary pull shot onto his helmet and was caught by Pujara. Le Tallec (13) then produced a near identical dismissal only this time Rohit Sharma took the catch. 119-1 had become 216-7.

Marwan Leroy and Louis Petit seemed to be rebuilding with a partnership of 38 but Petit (10) was caught and bowled by Ishant Sharma (1-83). Leroy (38) was then caught at short leg off Ashwin as the collapse continued then terminated when Martin was LBW first ball. It was another five-wicket haul for Ashwin (5-29) as we slumped from 74-0 and 178-3 to 262 all out, still 36 shy of parity. Nearly all our batsmen made a start but poor selection (Or non-selection!) cost us a first innings lead.

Back with ball in hand, in eight overs before tea we were sloppy but also unlucky, edges going to the boundary rather than to hand. Thomas started to work Sharma over however and in a great example of bowling in tandem, Louis Martin lured Sharma (16) into a leading edge. The ever reliable Pitko lunged forward from gully to execute the catch. India 38-1, effectively 74-1 at tea on only the second day.

A period of frustration ensued as the hosts comfortably kicked onto 99-1. Captain Le Tallec brought himself into the attack though and Agarwal soon succumbed. Need I tell you who held the catch at short leg? For Agarwal (36) it was another contribution in the series without progressing to make a really sizeable score. Leader Le Tallec didn’t stop there as he soon accounted for his opposing number Kohli (11). There are no prizes for guessing correctly who took the catch!

India increased their lead but immediately after bringing up a half-century Pujara (51) was caught behind off Qadri. Not long after that, at 148-4 and the lead 184, day two drew to a close.

Rahane and Vihari built on their foundations to lay a fifty partnership before a change of bowling helped oust Rahane. As Thomas appealed for LBW against Vihari, the pair scampered through for a risky single. Rahane (40) appeared to have made his ground but his bat actually bounced off the ground just at the moment that Magic touch Le Tallec broke the bails. It was a well needed stroke of fortune just two deliveries before beverages.

Post thirst quenching Vihari upped the tempo alongside the aggressive Pant. At lunch on day three India had ascended to 269-5 with the lead ballooning to 305.

Finally, after the partnership had surpassed a hundred, Qadri ousted Vihari (91), caught behind by Leroy. Le Tallec then opted against the new ball and Perit had Pant (65) caught by Pitko, his fourth catch of the innings. At that point India were 325-7. Both batsmen had batted extremely well and put their team firmly in control. Jadeja and Ashwin then went about doing the same and lifted the score to 384-7 at tea on day three. By the time the next drinks break came around India were upto 440-7 courtesy of another century partnership. Our captain and bowling unit simply had no answer to Jadeja’s and Ashwin’s efforts.

Eventually Martin found an edge… that went through the slips for four to bring up the 150 partnership! At the close of play on the third day India, having been 207-5, were 498-7, the lead upto a monstrous 534. Jadeja would sleep on 99 not out, Ashwin not far behind on 80.

Two balls into day four and Jadeja nicked behind but the ball didn’t carry to Leroy. Next ball he brought up his ton but soon fell to Le Tallec for 101. Ashwin (112*) also recorded a century while Martin ousted Sharma (1) with a superb caught and bowled. Thomas then terminated the innings when he dismissed Bumrah (3), courtesy of a second catch of the morning for Leroy. Our bowling figures made for grim reading but we had at least performed well to curtail… the tail. Le Tallec (3-103), Martin (2-105), Qadri (2-100) and Petit (1-105) all brought up centuries of their own. Thomas (1-88) wasn’t far behind. India finished 537 all out meaning that we needed 573 to win. We had just under two days to bat and of course a draw would seal a first ever series win. Should we attempt to bat time for a stoic and epic draw or try to achieve the highest run chase in Test history… in only our fourth Test?

Fourteen overs into the fourth innings of the match, messrs Petit and Chevalier had chalked up 57-0, the latter having overturned an LBW decision in the first over. Five sessions remained, 516 runs were required.

As is so often the case, the resumption prompted a wicket. Chevalier, having shown such discipline, played an unnecessary pull shot off Bumrah and was caught behind by Pant. Having batted for in excess of an hour, departing for just 21 was a waste. To the very next delivery Petit (36) was bowled by Jadeja’s first and our solid foundations suddenly didn’t seem so solid!

Smith (11) seemed to be defending resolutely but inside edged off Jadeja into the gloves of Pant. 58-0 had become 77-3. After some boundaries from Pitko, Rizvi defended a delivery from Jadeja only to see the ball bounce up off his boot and be caught at short leg. The wheels had come off and we were 86-4. Zidane Thomas, yet to make double figures in the series, arrived at the crease. 15 balls later, he hadn’t even made single figures and was bowled by Ashwin for a duck! 110-5!

First innings hero Iceman Pitko fell Rizvi style, defending a Jadeja delivery only to see the ball ricochet off his footwear and be snapped up a short leg. Like Rizvi, Pitko (43) will wish he’d just smacked the ball for 6 rather than defend. Le Tallec, who had tactically performed well at times, couldn’t lead by example with the bat. The captain nicked a needless cut shot to Pant off the rampant Jadeja (5-56) having made only 10. Gloveman Marwan Leroy, who had performed well behind the stumps, dug deep to do the same in front of them. He and Louis Petit reached tea on day four with the score 174-7, just 399 required for victory.

Leroy and Petit batted on sensibly and the former passed fifty for the first time at Test level. With the partnership blossoming at 77 and the crowd getting behind them, Leroy (61) nicked behind off Ashwin (3-24) when defending a shortish delivery. After an excellent display behind the stumps the young wicketkeeper had applied himself admirably and cemented his place as the team’s number one wicketkeeper batsman. Petit (43) soon fell in almost identical fashion. Qadri (6) then top edged a pull of Bumrah (2-88) next ball to gift Pant a sixth catch of the innings. The margin of defeat was a whopping 330 runs but there were still many positives gained as we recorded a 1-1 series draw away from home and in alien conditions against an established test nation. Onto Australia…

Cricket 19: Himalayan Odyssey!

Following an encouraging performance in our one and only warm-up match, we faced off against the mighty India in the foothills of the Himalayas.

We lost the toss and not surprisingly were made to field. Opening batsmen Mayank Agarwal and Rohit Sharma soon took the hosts to 50-0 with little fuss. It’s fair to say that by the time India had collapsed to 55-3 then 90-4 at lunch, a fuss was being made!

All-rounder Zidane Thomas (1-23), entrusted with the new ball following the omission of talisman Alexandre Riviere, made the breakthrough by pinning Agarwal (35) LBW. Teenage spin sensation Mehdi Qadri, fresh from wickets in the tour game, then had Sharma (16) caught behind by Marwan Leroy in his first over. Debutant Louis Petit also struck straight away to announce his arrival to Test cricket in sublime style. The distinctive slow-left-armer claimed the wicket of India captain Virat Kohli for a seven-ball duck as his maiden Test victim… and who should be the catcher? Only his twin brother Enzo!

Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane steadied things briefly before the Qadri/Leroy combo was at it again to account for Pujara (19).

After the interval, things never got any better for the hosts as they plunged further into the abyss at 135-9. Rahane (13) was ousted by Petit (15-3-28-2) courtesy of sharp work by Smith at slip before Vihari (15) was exquisitely caught by Zvonimir Pitko. Pitko, who has already proven himself to be a handsome fieldsman, was positioned somewhere between silly mid-on and mid-wicket. It was an outrageous take.

Our skipper, Xavier Le Tallec, was demonstrating astute tactical nous having been forced to field first. Risabh Pant (8) was another to succumb to rampant spin sensation Qadri before Ravi Jadeja (22) bedded in. However he was needlessly run out to curtail any fight back from the home side. Ravi Ashwin made a hard-earned 4 from 27 deliveries before edging Martin (1-43) to Chevalier who held the sort of catch that proclaimed “When it’s your day then it’s your day!”. Ishant Sharma (7) and Jasprit Bumrah (13*) frustrated briefly to haul the score to 153 before Qadri (5-56) bowled the former to record the first Test five-wicket haul in our nation’s history.

We then made a tidy start in our attempt to gain a first innings lead before Chevalier (14) edged a brute of a ball from Bumrah to third slip. That left us 24-1 before Petit and Smith really got our innings going. The pair had compiled 43 when India reviewed an LBW appeal against our opener. Despite clear evidence that Petit (29) had got bat on ball the decision was incorrectly overturned. We were 67-2 with drinks upon us and me spewing my cafe au lait!

After beverages we continued to build but regularly had our progress checked. Smith (26) was caught at slip off the bowling of Ashwin and Pitko (13) was turned inside out to be caught at mid-wicket off Ishant Sharma. Thomas (7) struck a maximum only to fall the very next ball. Thomas is developing a habit of batting for a fun time but not a long time. It’s such a waste provided his talent and on this occasion was a naive dismissal so late in the day. From 83-2 we’d stumbled to 136-5 at close of play on a wicket frenzy first day. Come day two a lot would rest on the shoulders of set batsman Youssef Rizvi, fresh from a century in the tour match.

On the second morning Rizvi and Marwan Leroy raised their partnership to 53 before both succumbed to the spin of Ashwin. Having contributed a fifty of his own, Rizvi (57) nicked behind to gloveman Pant before Leroy (42) was trapped on the crease LBW. Rizvi will feel that he could’ve left alone the ball that did for him and Leroy was gutted to fall short of a half-century. When the seventh wicket went down we’d accumulated 200 exactly.

Skipper Le Tallec and debutante Louis Petit upped the score to 268 but the return of Ashwin immediately (And by that I mean immediately!) accounted for Le Tallec (37). It was a welcome contribution from the skipper however after registering only 9 runs in four innings against England. The partnership had lifted our lead to in excess 100.

Qadri (6) didn’t last long. He was LBW to Jadeja and an optimistic review didn’t save him. Last man Louis Martin joined his namesake Petit and batted stoically to help build a frustrating (For the Indians!) last wicket stand. Petit, dropped by Pujara on 44, brought up a half-century on Test debut to go with his excellent bowling display. 299-9 and the lead upto 146 were the details at lunch. At the time, both team’s innings had lasted exactly 60 overs!

After the break the innings was soon curtailed by Ashwin (6-51) when he bowled Martin (7) around his legs but not before we’d passed 300. 302 all out with Petit unbeaten on 53 and a healthy lead of 149 meant that India’s batsmen had plenty of work to do.

India’s openers set about that work and amassed 24 runs without alarm at which point Zidane Thomas outright dismantled Rohit Sharma’s (15) stumps with a ferocious Yorker. It was a magnificent riposte by Thomas after being subjected to online vitriol overnight for his failure with the bat and having experienced an expensive first few overs with the ball. He had however made the vital first breakthrough for the second time in the match. India recovered though to reach 92-1 at tea, 57 from parity.

Agarwal and Pujara pushed on to put India in the lead and extend their partnership past 150 before Thomas intervened once again. He lured Agarwal (93) forward to edge a full delivery to Smith at slip. Smith didn’t need to move and India lost their second wicket with the score on 179, effectively 30-2.

There was then a mid-match patch, the replay function wouldn’t work properly, a deadly virus outbreak, screaming kids and Le Tallec (Well me!) dropping a catch off the bowling of Thomas. India were 211-2 at the conclusion of day two and well placed 62 in the lead.

On day three captain Kohli passed fifty at better than a run-a-ball and Pujara, having lingered in the nineties, brought up a determined and potentially match-defining ton. Having combined for 105 Kohli (70 off 71) was casual when running a third and was dismissed courtesy of a direct hit all the way from the boundary by action man Thomas. Soon after that, Pujara (113) had his middle stump uprooted by Pitko’s (1-15) part-time medium-pace. 315-4 and India 166 in the black was the equation at lunch.

Old habits died hard for India as Vihari (7) was inexplicably run out in just the third over of the middle session. Though gloveman Marwan Leroy ultimately effected the run out, it resulted from yet another throw from that man Zidane! The wicket of Vihari came in a Louis Martin over and in his next the opening bowler tempted Pant (1) into an expansive drive that he dragged onto his stumps. India had slumped from 284-2 to 332-6 but the lead was up to 190.

Rahane and Jadeja resisted before Thomas (3-110) finally claimed his third wicket… better late than never! Despite a hint of leg-side about it Jadeja (19) declined to review having been adjudged LBW. Ashwin (2) then feathered behind off a reinvigorated Martin (3-93) before Big Louis knocked over the stumps of key man Rahane (53).

Just as Sharma (6*) and Bumrah (7) started to frustrate, they completed a run out hat-trick for the second innings. India had fought back superbly but then so had we. Having commenced their second dig 149 runs in deficit they’d gained a lead but collapsed horribly from 284-2 to 390 all out, effectively losing eight wickets for only 106 runs. Curiously, all wickets but run outs in India’s second innings fell to pace bowling. We required 242 to win a Test match for the first time in our nation’s history.

To only the second delivery of our defining run-chase Jean-Luc Chevalier (2) pushed at an inducing full delivery from Bumrah and edged behind to Pant. Enzo Petit and Gilles Smith however raced to a fifty partnership. Immediately upon doing so Petit was adjudged LBW to Sharma but with Chevalier already wasting a review Petit rolled the dice once more. Replays confirmed that the ball was destined to bounce over the stumps and Petit survived, providing some atonement for the appalling first inning decision that he’d suffered. Following said review, India introduced spin in the form of first innings tormentor Ashwin. One over later we were 56-1 at tea still requiring 186 more to send shockwaves throughout the world.

Petit and Smith moved their partnership onto exactly 100 when Smith (41) edged to short leg off the bowling of Ashwin. 102-2, 140 to win!

With 106 runs required Rizvi (22), having looked so at ease at the crease but already fatigued between the wickets, was slow to ground his bat and run out. It had the potential to be a sliding doors moment!

Following Rizvi’s fall, Petit put his foot on the accelerator but a field change distracted him and he heartbreakingly fell short of a ton, bowled for 94, Ashwin (2-64) the bowler responsible. A distraught Petit trudged off to a rapturous applause from fans of both sides but he knew deep down that he hadn’t seen his team over the line. Thomas joined Pitko with the score 167-4 but suddenly 74 more seemed a big ask. Thomas promptly despatched his first ball for six to relieve some tension. Getting stumped off his second delivery (Jadeja 1-36) however brought all that tension right back!

Pitko and Leroy (6) steadied the leaking if not quite sinking ship before Bumrah was brought back into the attack. Leroy’s eyes lit up when Bumrah (2-74) served up a short ball first thing but the young wicketkeeper got his attempted pull all wrong, only ballooning the ball skyward before the slip fielder took the catch when it came back down to Earth. 191-6, 51 still required to win.

From there, the ultra-composed Zvonimir Pitko and captain Le Tallec compiled fifty exactly to level the scores. Pitko (49*) was cruelly denied a fifty of his own but how fitting that our captain, Xavier Le Tallec (19*), should score the winning run.

The match had ebbed and flowed like all great Test matches should. We’d made history and President Macron was on the phone before the players had even left the field. Emotion ran high among the playing squad and support staff. Many a tear was shed. Meanwhile back home people danced in the streets of Paris, Nantes, Lyon and beyond. Cricket was headline news on French TV. Children in the parks of Lille, Rennes and Montpellier wanted to pick up a bat and ball. Cricket had entered the French psyche on an unimaginable scale as an ex-teacher, plasterer and more than one university drop out amongst others had put India to the sword and placed French cricket firmly on the map. Forget Platini, Mauresmo and Prost (Well don’t forget them!) and remember Qadri, Petit, Le Tallec and co. There’s a second Test in Delhi to come but for now let’s saviour victory in the Himalayas!

Disclaimer: Apologies for the image quality… long story, various excuses!

Cricket 19: Indian Odyssey – Partie Un

Tour of India

T20 Warm-up match (Delhi)

France 138

La Roux 39*, L Petit 24, Le Tallec 23/Ashwin 3-10, Tye 3-17, Ur Rahman 3-37

Punjab 139-3

Gayle 71, Agarwal 30*/L Petit 2-25, La Roux 1-38

Lost by 7 wickets

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1st T20I (Delhi)

France 166

Thomas 50, Chevalier 41, Gregory 29/Jadhav 6-16

India 167-4

Iyer 74*, Pandey 39*/Thomas 1-33, La Roux 1-34, Le Tallec 1-35

Lost by 6 wickets

We were 117-1 and India were 21-3!

2nd T20I (Dehradun)

France 112

Pitko 33, L Petit 32*/Chahar 5-20

India 113-0

Dhawan 63*, Sharma 50*/ Georges 0-22

Lost by 10 wickets

We dropped two catches that the game didn’t allow me to try and catch!

3rd T20I (Dehradun)

France 147-9

Martinez 42, Le Tallec 33, Phillipe 21/Bumrah 2-12, Pandya 2-30, Chahar 2-31

India 148-3

Dhawan 57*, Kohli 48, Iyer 32*/L Petit 2-15, La Roux 1-22

Lost by 7 wickets

India win the three match T20I series 3-0

Mankad? – Mancan!

No introduction needed…

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Take care followers.

Edit: I neglected to say that I have no qualms about it being a pre-determined tactic either. Just like teams prepare to ball short stuff to a batsman with a dodgy track record against short pitched bowling then well done if they’ve done their homework and identified a batsman susceptible to being ‘Mankaded’.

You can Only Take ten Catches!

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I’ve previously written about naivety in sport and during the excellent commentary on Ireland’s inaugural Test match against Pakistan provided by Guerilla Cricket, there was, I’m sorry to say, a classic example of the sort of thing that really irks me!

The commentators were discussing the amount of dropped catches off the bowling of the likes of Mohammad Amir, Stuart Broad and Ravi Ashwin. They explained how because Amir had had say twenty-six catches dropped off his bowling, that he would have twenty-six more wickets to his name had those chances been held… but he wouldn’t! You can only take ten wickets in a match. Had some of those catches been claimed then some of the other chances that were dropped and even wickets that were taken would not have existed. If a team claims ten wickets in an innings then you can’t add another five dropped catches to a player’s potential wicket tally. Three dropped catches might have gone to ground when the opposition were nine wickets down. If for example, the very first drop had been taken then the whole sequence after would be different. Maybe a left-hander not a right-hander would have been on strike to the next ball, maybe the bowler wouldn’t have taken another wicket, been dropped from the team and never played again.

I’ll revert to the classic example of a football commentator saying that a team have missed three great chances in the first half, that they would be 3-0 up but the score is 0-0. If the first chance had been taken then the next passage of play would’ve been a kick-off not a goal-kick or continuation of open play, therefore the whole sequence there after changes. Yes the team might have created more chances and been 3-0 up but the opposition might have scored straight from kick off, the opposition might lead 4-2 at half-time.

As in any walk of life, even the slightest adjustment to events can result in a completely different chain of events and outcome. I’m going to stop short of providing countless examples but I guess that I don’t believe in fate or destiny, just the consequence of events or the ability to manipulate the future… or of course, maybe that is the fate or destiny?

Disclaimer: Sorry, this is supposed to be a cricket blog and I went down a rather profound path there!

International Duck Watch!

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Tests

Wahab Riaz (Pakistan)

Riaz was dismissed LBW fifth ball to New Zealand’s Colin de Grandhomme (1-29) in the second Test in Hamilton. Soon after, commencing their second innings with a lead of 55 New Zealand’s openers Jeet Raval faced one delivery without scoring and Tom Latham (Golden duck in the first innings) is yet to face!

Usman Khawaja (Australia)

How do you follow a first innings 145?

Drop down the order and fall LBW second ball to become Tabraiz Shamsi’s (1-49) second Test wicket however Australia (Warner 47, Smith 40, Renshaw 34 not out) won by seven wickets. South Africa though win the series 2-1.

Ajinkya Rahane (India)

LBW sixth ball to England’s in-form Adil Rashid (3-81) as England fought back before India fought back in the third Test in Mohali. India (Kohli 62, Ashwin 57 not out) trail by twelve runs with four wickets remaining.

ODIs

Brian Vitori (Zimbabwe)

Zimbabwe number eleven Vitori fell second ball to Sri Lanka’s Asela Gunaratne in the Tri-Series final. Vitori then dismissed Dhananjaya De Sliva with the very first delivery of Sri Lanka’s reply. Vitori finished with figures of 3-52 as Sri Lanka (Kusal Mendis 57) won the final by six wickets. Earlier on debut, Zimbabwe’s Tarisai Musakanda top scored for his side with 36 from 37 deliveries. Just making his debut in a final, as you do!