It takes two parties to complete a deal and for the better part of the day Zimbabwe reminded India that any plans for this Test match must necessarily include them. They wrote themselves into the script and earned a few friends along the way. The words ‘Test’ and ‘match’ seemed relevant, if for a while.
Zimbabwe achieved that with some disciplined bowling. It is not an aspect of cricket that is often glorified but for developing teams, it is one that they must embrace. And it was the experience of Heath Streak that showed them how. He bowled a steady line, adhering to the 7-2 field that was set for a major part of the day and occasionally got the ball to nip back.
India were pushed back towards survival and the mighty gale that the scoring rate had resembled gave way to a mere zephyr. The tourists were like a ship marooned as only 52 came from 26 overs in the morning session where 152 had come from 35 on the first evening. Where Zimbabwe had looked aimless, they now had a purpose. Those three wickets included Gautam Gambhir, who fell three short of a century and looked like he had been condemned to playing in the little leagues for the rest of his life.
These nineties often draw unreasonable comments for it is what has been achieved rather than what has been missed that is often of the essence. Centuries are happy landmarks, they are indicators of good batsmanship but we worship them too much for they can sometimes become an exercise in self-indulgence.
Gambhir and Dravid, who missed number 21 by two runs, are not lesser batsman for missing out on three figures. Hopefully both will get many more and maybe they will miss some more on the way but it is what they get for their side that will count. By that token, Yuvraj will be disappointed and Kaarthick should be.
The wicketkeeper can bat but promise is staying in his closet for too long. His keeping went up a notch here but at number seven he has to contribute more runs. He has much to think about for Dhoni will keep stalking him.
The decision to play Yuvraj over Kaif was much debated and, like many other questions in the last month, we are no closer to a solution. Too often one gets the feeling that we wait for decisions to present themselves and this is another that needs attention.
The resolve that Zimbabwe’s bowlers showed was not matched by their batsmen. They collapsed again and those two words must necessarily go together. It is the tragedy of cricket here for batsmen don’t seem to value longevity. Till they do there can be no progress.
Zimbabwe (1st Innings): 161
India (1st Innings): G.Gambhir c Taibu b Mahwire 97; V.Sehwag c Taibu b Streak 44; R.Dravid b Mahwire 98; VVS Laxman lbw Streak 8; S.Ganguly c Taibu b Mwayenga 16; Yuvraj Singh b Streak 25; Dinesh Kaarthick b Streak 1; Irfan Pathan c Coventry b Streak 32; A.Kumble c Ebrahim b Streak 8; Harbhajan Singh not out 14; Zaheer Khan c Taibu b Blignaut 2; Extras (b 2, lb 11, nb 8): 21; Total: 366 Fall of wickets: 1-75, 2-198, 3-219, 4-245, 5-306, 6-306, 7-318, 8-342, 9-361 Bowling: Streak 32-10-73-6, Mahwire 26-5-86-2, Blignaut 19.4-1-80-1, Mwayenga 21-6-79-1, Dabengwa 9-1-35-0
Zimbabwe (2nd Innings): B.Taylor lbw Pathan 4; T.Duffin c Dravid b Pathan 10; D.Ebrahim c Yuvraj b Zaheer Khan 3; H.Masakadza batting 11; T.Taibu c Kumble b Zaheer Khan 1; H.Streak batting 6; Extras (b 1, lb 2, w 1): 4; Total (for 4 wkts): 39 Fall of wickets: 1-13, 2-18, 3-18, 4-21 Bowling: Pathan 8-1-25-2, Zaheer Khan 8-3-9-2, Harbhajan Singh 1-0-2-0