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Cricket in unchartered territory

December 29, 2008

The year is going into a sunset, but not before providing immense entertainment and injecting new tonic to Test cricket. Already with the advent of T20, Test cricket is feeling the heat, and the fifty-over version desperately in pursuit of oxygen to survive.

India first upset England's good work of the first three days, riding on Sehwag's belligerence and Tendulkar-Yuvraj's calm association to chase 387, the highest on Indian soil.

In less than week, South Africa [Images] registered a historic win, chasing a Herculean 414 batting fourth and rocked the foundation of Australian supremacy.

What was initially judged as an English victory or a possible draw was manipulated into an unbelievable win by some lusty hitting by the Indian openers, stitching significant partnership, laying a strong foundation for the middle order to put India on course.

The strips played a vital role as well, with the most part still offering uniform bounce and only some spots where the cracks appeared to keep the spinners interested.

Till recently, a total in excess of 300 to defend would guarantee an assurance of safety to the bowling sides. Not any more, with batsman like Sehwag and Smith becoming a factor, in the context of the game by getting their team off to an electric start.

Sehwag is an uncomplicated man, believes in hitting the ball; that's all what it matters for him, irrespective of the state of the match, condition of the strip, or the aura of the bowler, while Smith leads by example every single time he dons the South African colours.

That brings us to the dead end! Has the bowling started to decline? Have the strips flattened up, providing cushion for the batsman or have the batsman graduated to the next level, getting aid of the converged boundary lines.

To begin with, things have certainly changed; the scoring has been pushed with instinctive stroke play and capitalizing on the attacking field set in the bid to snare early wickets. Interestingly, one of the  openers in either case  got off to a rollicking start and kept forcing the pace; then the middle order consolidated and kept the momentum alive.

Initial work being done by Smith in the Australia [Images] - South Africa encounter. Later on, AB De Villiers [Images] and Duminy shut the door for Australia with an unbeaten stand of 111 runs, shaking Australian hegemony in Test cricket.

Both the matches fluctuated intriguingly until South Africa and India made it look so spookily easy on day five. It is worth noting that Australia and England [Images], ominously true to tradition, had had their noses in front more often and also underlined the fact that faith eventually pays dividends.

The old excitement seems to have been rediscovered with the matches going into the fifth day. The bowling powers have been waning, with champion bowlers Warne and McGrath walking into the sunset. In England's case, to a lesser extent, Harmirson is pale shadow of his former self, with Panesar bereft of match practice .However this is not to take the credit from the batsman who have reset the bar by exploiting the Test match field and given the sides a true chance to register wins batting fourth, and not paying heed to the demons in the day five pitch.

Test matches are played session by session and the beauty of the game lies in keeping the interest alive till the final day. The one-day format ushered in a new ear when Herschelle Gibbs [Images] set the Wanders ablaze with sparking 175, helped South Africa chase an improbable target of 434.The two victories in the recent Tests doesn't seem an aberration, setting new rules and opening new vistas in the Test match format .


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