Test batting winner February 19, 2010

One of them Viru days

Records fell, bowlers sighed. Sehwag smiled and beat everything to a pulp

Best Test Batting Performance

Virender Sehwag
293 v Sri Lanka
third Test, Mumbai

There was a time when teams were happy with 293 runs in 82 overs of Test cricket. There was a time when batsmen didn't pull any stunts against Muttiah Muralitharan and quietly saw him off. There was a time when defensive fields slowed the run-rate down, when left-arm spinners could buy some dot balls by bowling outside leg with strong leg-side fields. There was a time before Virender Sehwag started having his days.

At the Brabourne Stadium against Sri Lanka, Sehwag had one of his days. He alone scored 293 in 82 overs. It was Murali who wanted to quietly blend into the surroundings, starting with a long-on in his first over and yet going for 84 off the 76 balls he bowled to Sehwag.

Leg-side fields didn't matter: Sehwag stepped out, made room and chipped over extra cover, even first ball after a break. Or he reverse-swept past point, from outside leg. In one day he hit 40 fours and seven sixes. The longest he went without a boundary was 12 balls. Violence, power-hitting, streaky shots - none of those, no sir. Just gap-finding of the most delightful kind.

A cricket ground has never looked so prone. To watch Sehwag bat that day was to realise that nine fielders can cover only so much. It is a simple thought that at any given time about 90% of the field is exposed and safe. Yet we need an uncluttered mind like Sehwag's to drive that point home. Batting seemed dangerously easy that day. Batting was pure, infinite joy that day.

Most masterpieces have a defining moment, an enduring image, representative of the work. For this 254-ball 293, it wasn't the inside-out chip, not the straight loft, not the midwicket flick, not the cut, not the vertical sweep - a sort of tribute to the master of that shot, Sachin Tendulkar. It was a plain defensive shot that told the story of the fielding side's helplessness.

Murali was in his ninth over, Sehwag had crossed 100, the field was well spread, the helmet had made way for a cap. He had just inside-outed the bowler for four, and Murali came back with a doosra, slightly short of a length, around middle and leg and turning towards off. Sehwag read it early, went deep into the crease, waited for the ball to arrive, and give it a full-face defensive.

Murali's malleable wrist and forearms dropped off in frustration, and he said something to Sehwag that made him smile; he turned away and continued smiling. Sehwag was reading the doosra and Murali knew it. More than the 14 fours and four sixes in his 100 at the time, it was one defensive pat that exasperated Murali. And Sehwag enjoyed it.

That defensive shot came during a spell when Sehwag was especially urgent, going from 101 to 151 in 30 deliveries. Sri Lanka even tried bowling outside off with packed off-side fields. They were flicked past midwicket. Before tea, Sehwag felt a twinge in his back; he leaned on his bat, he fell over on occasion, and held his back while running. Twenty minutes later, the first ball after tea, from Rangana Herath, went from outside leg to the extra-cover boundary. Bad back? What bad back?

Sehwag ended the day 284 not out, having beaten the attack to pulp, and said he played each ball on its merit and tried only to hit bad balls. "Yeah, right," you and I might say. "Yeah right," his team-mates said. "In the dressing room they told me I was hitting the good balls too, but if you look at it my way I hit only the bad ones," he said the next day. That's what this innings was, an exercise is redefining the "bad ball".

He started the third day having broken many records already, and with many others in sight - most triple-centuries, the fastest triple-century (which, incidentally, he had held before too), and Brian Lara's 400 was sort of unsafe too. In the fourth over of the third day, though, he chipped one straight back to Murali, seven short of the 300. Silence. A standing ovation. Cricket went back to mundane stuff like bowlers bowling to their fields, working at plans.

As he walked back, though, after a brief show of anguish, he smiled, he acknowledged the crowd. When Sehwag has one of his days, a narrowly missed triple-hundred is not nearly reason enough to agonise.

Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Rahul on February 22, 2010, 6:08 GMT

    People never fail to turn platforms to wield their whip, do they? Hello...this was not a forum for discussing who the better batsman between Sehwag and the master is! We are never satisfied, are we? It is rather ridiculous how Sachin is the only player in the world to be discussed on forums which are not in the slightest concerning him. People who are comparing and criticising him are only making him more famous! Thanks anyway! Guess this could only make people understand his influence better !

  • Kiefer on February 22, 2010, 4:17 GMT

    I'm an Auusie supporter ut even i admit that he is an excellent player and when in form one of the most destructive batsmen alive. He can take a game away from you in a second and he has a nack for making huge scores as is evident in his exceptional 293. If only some of the other indian players played with their actions instead of their mouths aka Harbi!!!!!!!!!

  • shafeen on February 21, 2010, 20:54 GMT

    Funny comments here!

    obviously Tendulkar is better batsmen than Sehwag - consistency and longevity seattle that. but what Sehwag can do in certain conditions... is ABSOLUTELY STUNNING! I doubt any player in history could do the like - viv richards, even Don Bradman. both are a treat - in different ways. IMO, Tendulkar is better, but different strokes for different folks. Also want to add... with sehwag, gambhir, dravid and tendulkar you have a batting line up in which the top four are all averaging 50+. hobbs, sutcliffe and hammond of the top three averaged 50+, but no other team has come close. I agreed with Ian Chappell that batting strenght couldn't keep a team at #1 in the absence of a couple of great bowlers... but the likes of this Indian batting team is unprecedented. who knows what they can't do? If sehwag and gambhir can score like this abroad (as sachin and dravid have done) - i'd say anything is possible. don't think it likely though.

  • Cricinfouser on February 21, 2010, 20:51 GMT

    sehwag was good... But I was pretty much convinced that Umar Akmal would get the award. He scored 129 on his debut innings when Pakistan was 85/5 against NZ. I think the jury went for big scores rather than night-watchman efforts at debut. 19 year old scoring a century on a debut on not so much of bat-support on the pitch should have received more praise than just a nomination...

  • Surya on February 21, 2010, 3:54 GMT

    Viru should be grateful to Ian Chappel who advocated for him through this article http://www.cricinfo.com/magazine/content/story/324429.html to be picked up for 2008 Australian tour despite not being in the list of 30 probables.

    Many puritans couldn't digest when IC termed Viru 'The Next Bradman' in his article http://www.cricinfo.com/magazine/content/story/442012.html. Few made a mockery expecting his downfall like JP Duminy after IC's article 'Duminy's a great in making'. But Viru with his two recent centuries against SA disappointed them utterly.

    Wish IC will soon come up with an article on Viru forecasting him to score a double century in ODI and break Lara's 400 in Tests.

  • Sam` on February 21, 2010, 2:10 GMT

    Why is Sachin the batsman of the year? Four centuries in four tests = great effort. 2 of them were against Bangladesh, and he was dropped in both of them. The next was against South Africa in a match that was already lost, and in which he was dropped once more.

    The fourth was one of four centuries in the innings, and came on the back of yet another devastating effort from Sehwag that set the platform.

  • Sam` on February 21, 2010, 1:59 GMT

    ZA77, you pretty much lost any credibility in your post the instant you wrote that no other batsman apart from Sachin Tendulkar dominated Shane Warne. Is your cricket mind so Sachin-centric that you forgot this diminutive fellow from Port-of-Spain who not only dominated him, but smashed him to the point where he was dropped in favour of Stuart MacGill in 1999?

    The worship of Tendulkar is plainly ridiculous. He is a genius, no argument from me, but this attitude that no-one can be compared with him no matter what is the sole reason why the Indian cricketing public is given very little credit by the rest of the world.

    Sehwag is a genius, who has scored centuries in England, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand - the four hardest places for Indian batsmen to play. His debut century came after he walked onto the Bloemfontein pitch at 4-68 for goodness' sake, so get over this whole "he doesn't make runs overseas" rubbish.

  • Harman on February 21, 2010, 1:25 GMT

    its so easy to divide indian fans in two groups and get them to argue. y cant we celebrate 2 of our greatest batsmen and leave it at that? no need to argue about who is better. just enjoy their epic batting.

  • Nirav on February 21, 2010, 0:00 GMT

    what the heck is going on here.....sachin is a sachin masterblast....sehwag is a sehwag, a tiger....both are superb batsman when they opens the innings....great players in the team.....there is no point of comparing one with another as both are amazing...one is aggrasive at his best...one is calm at his best....however, both are superb players...there is no point of saying sachin is better than sehwag or sehwag is better than sachin....they both started at different age so there is a difference between records,,,nonethless both are great players....

  • Siddharth on February 20, 2010, 21:54 GMT

    Comparing Sachin and Sehwag and their contribution to the team is comparing a vacation at the beach to one in the mountains. Each is unique and has its own charm. Obviously some prefer one to the other. You can find a dozen instances where sehwag helped india win and sachin failed and vice versa. Why do we feel the need to rate and calibrate everything? Why not just enjoy the beauty of each one's batting.

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