March 8, 2009

The fire that was soothing

Cricket is the most cerebral of field sports, but a fast bowler letting rip on a responsive surface is it's animal moment, and in a sublime sense
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Shane Warne remains the bowler I have enjoyed watching the most, but there isn't more thrilling sight in cricket than a fast bowler in full pelt. Cricket is the most cerebral of field sports, but a fast bowler letting rip on a responsive surface is its animal moment, and in a sublime sense.

So after all those depressing days, finally some cheer. A double dose in fact. Two sensational sessions of pure fast bowling, ten wickets, two men in the hospital, two more knocks on the head, and the pitch hasn't been declared dangerous yet. Has it all been a dream? After all, I did fall asleep on the sofa watching Paul Collingwood and Matt Prior squeeze single after single against that magical tweaking duo of Chris Gayle and Ryan Hinds.

So while watching normal business of Yuvraj Singh swatting sixes as if practising his bat swing, I have taken time to reconfirm on Cricinfo that the second day at Kingsmead did happen. Against the recent average of about four wickets a day, 13 wickets did fall in a whole day; and neither South Africa nor Australia employed a sweeper cover for their fast bowlers.

Dale Steyn and Mitchell Johnson are the fastest men in international cricket at the moment. They were also the leading wicket-takers last year. But Johnson had spent considerable time keeping the ball out of arm's reach as the Australians embraced the tactics of denial. It was a pitiable sight to watch a fast bowler bowl three to four feet outside the off stump, without a slip, and two men on the offside boundary. It was both an indictment of poor pitches and defeatist mindset.

But throughout the year Johnson had never lacked pace, stamina and enthusiasm. Invariably, he was the bowler Ricky Ponting turned to towards the end of a sapping day, and invariably Johnson hit 140 km in his first over. Steyn, of course, has been outstanding all year, bowling outswingers at a pace that made him unplayable on surfaces mildly responsive to his skills. To watch a pitch reward them was therapeutic.

It might turn out to be an exception, but still it was a restoration of faith, a reaffirmation that Test cricket was still the game's supreme form. The mind has grown numb with the number of centuries scored in the last few weeks: a triple for Younis Khan, two double-hundreds to Thilan Samaraweera, three hundreds each to Andrew Strauss and Ramnaresh Sarwan - but the innings that is likely to last in memory amid this senseless surge of runs is not even a hundred yet.

JP Duminy's calm and skilful batting on the second day of the Durban Test put Steyn's and Johnson's performances in perspective. Yes, the ball hurried off the pitch, and at times it kept low, but by no means was batting hazardous or run-scoring impossible. Days like yesterday are worth celebrating, they don't come often.

And a postscript just to keep us rooted in reality. This is from Siddhartha Vaidyanathan, currently in Chicago on study break from Cricinfo:

It was great to see Sachin Tendulkar today but it felt like watching a giant fighting in a boxing ring. These New Zealand grounds are so tiny that I wonder how a batting achievement at this AMI stadium can be compared with one at the MCG (Tendulkar, of course, can score runs on a crater in Mars so that's not the point here).

Shouldn't there be a call for a minimum ground size? As far as I see it, it's worse than a dead pitch. Here you see good balls taking the inside edge and flying for four (sometimes even six). And again, pitch preparation is not an exact science - the weather and soil composition are important. How difficult is it to set a minimum ground size?

I know 'It's the same for both teams'. I also know the theory that 'Everyone wants to see fours and sixes'. I even know 'It's important to have variety in cricket'. But something here doesn't seem right. Not only are we marginalising bowlers but these sort of grounds (and I'm including stadiums in India where the rope is brought in) we're doing the same to fielders.

Cricket is supposed to be a grand theatre. But isn't this more like a street play?

Sambit Bal is the editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • celestial on March 23, 2009, 11:59 GMT

    Boy,the indian team seem to be good at convincing their own people of being victims.Not so long ago,after the first match draw at home against South Africa-when Sehwag blitz the fastest 300 in test history-the indian players blatantly came out asking the groundsman to prepare a "spinners paradise" for the second match.And clearly-the goundsman feeling annoyed by the ungrateful indian team,flooded the deck a few days before the match.Intentionally or not- produced a result wicket where the likes of Steyn and Morkel had a field day at bowling what the indian players would like their supporters believe to be hand-grenades. South Africa went on to post a comfortable victory. With only one match remaining to conclude what must have been a "scary movie" for the indians, this time around the players, as well as their board must have fell just short of getting their hands dirty in preparing the pitch. The result a surface that tempted the ICC to investigate a pitch defying existance

  • Rohit on March 14, 2009, 7:33 GMT

    For me, Fidel Edwards, when in full flow is the most intimidating bowler

  • Saptarshi on March 11, 2009, 23:12 GMT

    Sakib is jealous there is no doubt. he should rather focus on his team which is yet to win a test

  • Machael on March 10, 2009, 0:02 GMT

    Just saw fidel give kp a really quick bouncer that scared the life out of him

  • JK on March 9, 2009, 23:39 GMT

    @Sakib..How can you say the following? 'If India want to boast of their achievements,they should win 3 world cups in a row and keep the no.1 test ranking for at least 2 years. Then they can say that they have beaten Australia"? I don't follow your logic. The only criteria for India to beat Aus was already fulfilled and twice! As for your comment about longevity, India has run the Aussies close in Aus since the 2003-04 series. I am not debating which has been the better team in history. I know the answer to that question. But fact is, India won comprehensively and fairly in 2008. Anybody unwilling to accept a 2-0 scoreline is just jealous...

  • cheel on March 9, 2009, 20:35 GMT

    We all start talking about the size of the ground bcoz India put up a mamoth score, had the batsmen failed the same ppl would be talking about playing the dimensions of the ground better. If it is great it has to come from aus/sa or eng, there just has to be something wrong with the Indian team's performance..u guys are morons for keeping that attitude. Justin, dude remember Zaheer and Ishant knocking the wind out of ur "hereos" the Ponting's and haydens. I think the Indian fast bowling performance in Mohali was at par with many other great one's over the years, more so bcoz the pitch was meant to help spin. Just come's to show that instead of continuously whinning about turning tracks why dont u oz's learn to play on them a little bit ? And why is the definintion of a good pitch is the one with pace and bounce in it and not spin ? I am telling u dude u put this Indian team on a green top and they would knock the daylight out of any batting lineup. Ausssies don't even have a chance.

  • Sakib on March 9, 2009, 11:37 GMT

    Recently there's been a lot of talk about what is a standard pitch. I think the reason pitches suitable to fast bowling are called standard pitches is that the batsman has equal opportunity to make runs if they apply themselves. For example, J.P. Duminy the other day. What's the problem with sub-continental pitches? It is always on one extreme or the other. The teams in the sub-continent when they have to win will make a dust bowl where the ball pitches a foot outside off stamp and may come back and hit the stamp. Or the ball lands on leg-stamp and goes to first slip. The ball pitched short hits the batsman below his knee. Now that's no different than playing on a dust bowl. When they have to draw they make a run-scoring heaven and making double-hundreds becomes as easy as making 10 runs on a fast bouncy pitch. Lets come to the point of shorter grounds. I am not for keeping shorter grounds in cricket and it's not fair to the bowlers if the ball flies for six of a outside edge.

  • bala on March 9, 2009, 10:58 GMT

    I would still rate Dale Steyn much higher than Johnson. I think he is pretty overrated ,infact siddle looks better.Johnson is a born athlete,strong as a bull but he is not as skilled as Steyn or even a Zaheer Khan.He hurtles the ball at a serious pace and expects the track or batsman to do the rest.

  • sridhar on March 9, 2009, 7:05 GMT

    I think instead of gettting sidelined by national prejudices lets appreciate genuine talent. But spare a thought for the curator who provided a surface on which high class performers could entertain and enthrall us.Lets also {grudgingly if need be} appreciate the quick turnaround of Australlia the moment they got rid of players who are either carrying physical illnesses or mental ailments. I think South Africa too have realised that the crown of the world champioship of cricket is not an easy one to wear. But what cricket on display ! In startling contrast to what is on show at the west Indies and what was being played at Pakistan. I think the ICC should seriously worry about the quality of pitches that are being dished out, otherwise test cricket will die a boring death.

  • Brendan Layton on March 9, 2009, 7:04 GMT

    Let's leave our national differences and occasional need for over zealous patriotism aside and comment that the cricket has been entertaining.

    Short grounds have been a major frustration with high scoring, and flat pitches being prepared to boost income. I've always believed pitches should give either team favour 'Based on how they use it'. In India they bowled better by using the new ball more efficiently. In Australia, South Africa bowled with great discipline. The reverse has applied in this series.

    I have been left quite surpised by SA's lackadasical apporach this series. Have they forgotten about their series win already and assumed they could easilt overpower Australia?

  • celestial on March 23, 2009, 11:59 GMT

    Boy,the indian team seem to be good at convincing their own people of being victims.Not so long ago,after the first match draw at home against South Africa-when Sehwag blitz the fastest 300 in test history-the indian players blatantly came out asking the groundsman to prepare a "spinners paradise" for the second match.And clearly-the goundsman feeling annoyed by the ungrateful indian team,flooded the deck a few days before the match.Intentionally or not- produced a result wicket where the likes of Steyn and Morkel had a field day at bowling what the indian players would like their supporters believe to be hand-grenades. South Africa went on to post a comfortable victory. With only one match remaining to conclude what must have been a "scary movie" for the indians, this time around the players, as well as their board must have fell just short of getting their hands dirty in preparing the pitch. The result a surface that tempted the ICC to investigate a pitch defying existance

  • Rohit on March 14, 2009, 7:33 GMT

    For me, Fidel Edwards, when in full flow is the most intimidating bowler

  • Saptarshi on March 11, 2009, 23:12 GMT

    Sakib is jealous there is no doubt. he should rather focus on his team which is yet to win a test

  • Machael on March 10, 2009, 0:02 GMT

    Just saw fidel give kp a really quick bouncer that scared the life out of him

  • JK on March 9, 2009, 23:39 GMT

    @Sakib..How can you say the following? 'If India want to boast of their achievements,they should win 3 world cups in a row and keep the no.1 test ranking for at least 2 years. Then they can say that they have beaten Australia"? I don't follow your logic. The only criteria for India to beat Aus was already fulfilled and twice! As for your comment about longevity, India has run the Aussies close in Aus since the 2003-04 series. I am not debating which has been the better team in history. I know the answer to that question. But fact is, India won comprehensively and fairly in 2008. Anybody unwilling to accept a 2-0 scoreline is just jealous...

  • cheel on March 9, 2009, 20:35 GMT

    We all start talking about the size of the ground bcoz India put up a mamoth score, had the batsmen failed the same ppl would be talking about playing the dimensions of the ground better. If it is great it has to come from aus/sa or eng, there just has to be something wrong with the Indian team's performance..u guys are morons for keeping that attitude. Justin, dude remember Zaheer and Ishant knocking the wind out of ur "hereos" the Ponting's and haydens. I think the Indian fast bowling performance in Mohali was at par with many other great one's over the years, more so bcoz the pitch was meant to help spin. Just come's to show that instead of continuously whinning about turning tracks why dont u oz's learn to play on them a little bit ? And why is the definintion of a good pitch is the one with pace and bounce in it and not spin ? I am telling u dude u put this Indian team on a green top and they would knock the daylight out of any batting lineup. Ausssies don't even have a chance.

  • Sakib on March 9, 2009, 11:37 GMT

    Recently there's been a lot of talk about what is a standard pitch. I think the reason pitches suitable to fast bowling are called standard pitches is that the batsman has equal opportunity to make runs if they apply themselves. For example, J.P. Duminy the other day. What's the problem with sub-continental pitches? It is always on one extreme or the other. The teams in the sub-continent when they have to win will make a dust bowl where the ball pitches a foot outside off stamp and may come back and hit the stamp. Or the ball lands on leg-stamp and goes to first slip. The ball pitched short hits the batsman below his knee. Now that's no different than playing on a dust bowl. When they have to draw they make a run-scoring heaven and making double-hundreds becomes as easy as making 10 runs on a fast bouncy pitch. Lets come to the point of shorter grounds. I am not for keeping shorter grounds in cricket and it's not fair to the bowlers if the ball flies for six of a outside edge.

  • bala on March 9, 2009, 10:58 GMT

    I would still rate Dale Steyn much higher than Johnson. I think he is pretty overrated ,infact siddle looks better.Johnson is a born athlete,strong as a bull but he is not as skilled as Steyn or even a Zaheer Khan.He hurtles the ball at a serious pace and expects the track or batsman to do the rest.

  • sridhar on March 9, 2009, 7:05 GMT

    I think instead of gettting sidelined by national prejudices lets appreciate genuine talent. But spare a thought for the curator who provided a surface on which high class performers could entertain and enthrall us.Lets also {grudgingly if need be} appreciate the quick turnaround of Australlia the moment they got rid of players who are either carrying physical illnesses or mental ailments. I think South Africa too have realised that the crown of the world champioship of cricket is not an easy one to wear. But what cricket on display ! In startling contrast to what is on show at the west Indies and what was being played at Pakistan. I think the ICC should seriously worry about the quality of pitches that are being dished out, otherwise test cricket will die a boring death.

  • Brendan Layton on March 9, 2009, 7:04 GMT

    Let's leave our national differences and occasional need for over zealous patriotism aside and comment that the cricket has been entertaining.

    Short grounds have been a major frustration with high scoring, and flat pitches being prepared to boost income. I've always believed pitches should give either team favour 'Based on how they use it'. In India they bowled better by using the new ball more efficiently. In Australia, South Africa bowled with great discipline. The reverse has applied in this series.

    I have been left quite surpised by SA's lackadasical apporach this series. Have they forgotten about their series win already and assumed they could easilt overpower Australia?

  • Pranab on March 9, 2009, 6:57 GMT

    @Sambit -> Sanjay Manjerakar in his post match conference asked everyone not to 'belittle' the innings played by Sachin and India because of the small dimensions of the ground. It is a credit that India won even though NZ did make a good fight of it which was also good to see. Mim'm ground sizes are definitely needed but i am sure you understand that the ball has to be hit in the gap to get runs and boundaries which is entirely to the batsman's credit.

    To all the oz jibes and cringes about being no.1, the time is near when the Indian team will be numero uno (although i for one don't believe it serves any purpose other than to put a lib on all those stubborn oz mouths) and remain there for quite some time.

  • aniket on March 9, 2009, 6:54 GMT

    to matt i think your cricket knowledge is very poor.could you please tell me the match you are talking about,look at sydney test man the whole world knows what happened?just have a look at your players man they even claims catches when the ball bounced.

  • Valerio DiBattista on March 9, 2009, 2:41 GMT

    Sambit, I agree with your article completely. I wake up in horror each day here in Australia to hear the scores from the West Indies vs England series. These matches should be designated as first class only in my opinion. Either the pitches are too flat or the bowling is not test standard. It is just disgraceful. Same as the Pakistan vs Sri Lanka series. It was appalling and incredibly became a lot worse of course with the violence. Where is the leadership in cricket? I love Test cricket but my patience is being severely tested by hearing the score of every Test being 3-300 at the end of day 1. Who thinks that this is cricket? Why can't we have a side bowled out on Day 1? What is wrong with that? We are at the point now where an ordinary Test batsmen averages 40 plus. I find this unsatisfactory. It is supposed to be a Test, but it is not anymore. Where is the leadership? Who can we lobby for change?

  • Vic Nicholas on March 9, 2009, 2:26 GMT

    Guys, put the petty jingoism aside...just for one day atleast! Steyn and Johnson are breathing life into test cricket. You can add Ishant Sharma to that duo as one of the most exciting fast bowlers in the world. To watch either of these three leaving top order bastmen clueless with their movement through the air and off the pitch is wonderful stuff. Appreciate the great players guys - that is what cricket is all about. I wish there was a DVD made of Bishen Bedi - now there was a guy who was a master of deception! Never looked like he was turning it much or even doing anything...yet batsmen were tied up in knots trying to play his variations in pace, flight, drift...all delivered with the exact same action and with pin point accuracy. Bedi could literally land the ball on a handkerchief all afternoon. Open both eyes boys, every nation has some fine cricketers - apprecaite them all - that is what cricket is all about.

  • Robert on March 9, 2009, 0:54 GMT

    I don't know who is the best team in the world - and frankly I don't care. Who is "the best" is seemingly a matter of judgment (possibly biased) or is a mathematical formula which spends too much time looking backwards.

    If I can see some close, intense, competitive cricket then I'm pretty happy!

    Give the Indians credit for their great series win over the Aussies. Put aside all the sourgrapes - it was 2-nil...accept it!

    Give SA credit for their brilliant series win in Aus; they did something which hadn't been done in 16 seasons (beat Aus at home). As far as I can see, this was the best test series since 2005 Ashes and 2001 Aussie tour of India.

    Give the Aussies credit for bouncing back with one of the most inexperienced Aussie teams ever seen. Coming back from a few defeats isn't easy, especially against tough opponents away from home. Remember - nearly everyone wrote them off a month ago!

    Cricket changes daily; enjoy the games for what they are and hope for the best!

  • safwan on March 9, 2009, 0:45 GMT

    sambit....u need to calm down...lol....relax dude....if the ICC aint worried abt improving the sad state of affairs...why shud we sweat over it? "flat tracks, run gluts, smallish grounds, triple hundreds" are terms we all will prolly hear of a lot more in the future....although being a pakistani....i must admit we produce some of the flattest, back-breaking tracks for fast bowlers ....yet as Osman samiuddin put it earlier in his blog, post-lahore....."this is the end" of cricket in pakistan.....however pitches elsewhere hav got to improvee....i am tired of these run-gluts as well.

  • Sakib on March 9, 2009, 0:24 GMT

    People who think that Johnson's a mediocre bowler may want to remember that Johnson's best ODI bowling performance was 5/26 against India. And if I remember correctly, the venue was in India where the great Indian batsmans have ruled. Second best was 4/11. Guess who the opponent was? India again in Malaysia and Australia was captained by Mike Hussey. I am not a stats person but I think I'm right in this case. So, the grudges might come from there. That was probably when he had no variety. So, with the variety in his arsenal I might be safe to comment that he is a pretty good bowler if not great.

  • Justin M on March 8, 2009, 21:54 GMT

    Wow getting in first certainly gets you a few responses. I was merely shooting back at the low blow the author put into the Aussies. Fact - cricket in the subcontintent is 98% of the time dull and boring because of the pitches they prepare - they produce pitches to ensure 5 days so that not only can the batsmen improve their averages...but so the BCCI improves their bank balances. What happened the last time you produced wickets with a bit of juice in them? Oh..Australia belted you. Never again says the BCCI. Sure you beat us recently I accept that - i'm not here to whinge and moan about that - only the auther tried to palm off blame for tactics that were shockingly employed by the indians...not the australians as he claimed. But back to talking about the 2 best teams in the world, OZ and SA...the pitches in this series has allowed the men stand out from the boys...and the Aussies have stood up and showed exactly why they are the undisputed no. 1 team in the world.

  • Srikanth on March 8, 2009, 20:00 GMT

    New Zealand suffers from Poor weather, small grounds and lack of much interest in cricket. I simply dont understand how a stadium can be shared between two grounds. I also think this ground has been played on for a long long time and why is it that no voice were raised against it till India scored 392?

  • allblue on March 8, 2009, 19:59 GMT

    Replying to imtiaj; I agree that modern-day technique against bouncers is weaker than before, but I would say that the introduction of helmets has played a far bigger role than the tighter interpretation of the already existing Law against intimidatory bowling which is the 'one bouncer rule'. There was a series in England in 1976 when Holding, Roberts, Garner et al persistently attacked the heads of the English batsmen, who of course were only wearing caps. I don't recall any getting actually struck on the head (although plenty got hit on the body), whereas how many times has that happened in this test already? Weaker technique yes, but nonetheless, thank God for helmets I say!

  • Sambit Bal on March 8, 2009, 18:37 GMT

    Afzal, I thought the match in Christchurch today was an embarrassment. I was relieved in fact that no records were broken today because that would been a travesty. I have little time or patience for run gluts, and even less for grounds where chip shots clear the ropes. The only time I got in to the match was when Kyle Mills and Tim Southee were belting the Indian bowlers. I wanted them to win it. At least, it would have given us a story.

  • imtiaj on March 8, 2009, 17:35 GMT

    replying to allblue I believe the 1 bouncer rule is sole responsible of weaker technics in batting as the batsmen get heart.tell ur fav smith that he need to learn how to handle bouncer.

  • ashutosh on March 8, 2009, 17:04 GMT

    Quite refreshing to see someone, two at that, send down lethal deliveries since Shane Bond ripped apart Aus. I very much want to comment on the 'Aussie way' of cricket but should restrain.

  • matt on March 8, 2009, 16:29 GMT

    The bouncer "Brilliant" and frankly there should be more of it.Its test cricket after all.What a wonderful sight it was to see. Even better that the groundsmen in South Africa have prepared result pitches. I watched India v Aust last year and can only say this, the amount of incorrect decision's Against the Aussies was just mind blowing.I know it happens to all teams but we actually took a count during that series and it was 14 to 3 against Aust. That's just appalling, when you look at those figures is it any wonder India won LMAO. One last thing India has to be one of the most boring teams to watch when playing in India, lifeless dead tracks 99% of the time during test matches which does help their bating averages so stop the bullsh.... But to be fair Tendulkar in full flight is a beautiful sight ,and he does that all around the world not just in India. Sharmas not bad either. Both Styne and Johnson bowled beautifully. The bowling was best described as Brilliant.Aussie still number 1

  • James Gordon on March 8, 2009, 16:24 GMT

    It appears to me that sooner or later a batsman will make a mistake, be hit on the head and die. I would be interested to know how other opening batsmen think about this. Would it be regarded as a positive, as bowling at the head is regarded as positive?

  • Job on March 8, 2009, 16:06 GMT

    Sid V says: "Tendulkar can score runs on a crater on Mars." He surely can, but surer even than that is you guys' idolatrous fawning over SRT. Tendulkar is no doubt one of the all-time greatest, but must you all debase yourselves?

  • Mel on March 8, 2009, 15:50 GMT

    A flat pitch is ok, cause half of the worlds grounds have them so cricket can deal with it. But small grounds are a shame, even a miss-hit goes for six and so does a positive and well executed stoke, this means that a ground stroke filled Sachins innings is just not as good cause even lesser batsmen could come in behind him and slog to get the same result. What would have been good is a large ground where batsmen find gaps and go over top skillfully to score well earned runs.

  • afzaal Khan on March 8, 2009, 15:46 GMT

    waiting for samit to denounce the ground in 3rd ODI btween india n NZ. Won't hold my breath lolz

  • prabin on March 8, 2009, 15:30 GMT

    this is not the game to blame its made for fun ok if u guys point fingers to others try to bear other somebodys fingers in u

  • Avid.Cricket.Watcher on March 8, 2009, 15:14 GMT

    Steyne's over to Hussey in the first innings, just before he got out, was awesome! (Thank God for helmets) But Johnson's first spell...WOW!!! (as Shawn Pollock niftily put it while on air for the first over...00W0W0) I guess Phil hughes has a great chance of winning man of the match for his hundreds, but in my book Johnson should be front-runner...haven't seen a fast bowler tear a batting line-up apart like that since Shoaib Akhtar at his peak! If Johnson continues to bowl like this through the year (having also added the in-dipper to righties), my money's on Australia winning the Ashes comfortably, and remaining no. 1 in tests for 2009 as well.

  • Avid.Cricket.Watcher on March 8, 2009, 14:55 GMT

    Re: "the appreciation of quality cricket from cricketers of all nations far surpasses petty grudges and nationalism. Appreciate the game and the players despite their respective nationalities." WELL SAID MICHAEL...very refreshing to read your post amidst some of the jibes & counterjibes. C'mon guys...is it that hard to look past foibles of other teams / nations, and appreciate some of the great stuff that each of the top teams / players bring to our sport? PS: I'm an Indian supporter, but I also love watching cricket involving the Australian team for: a) the sheer intensity and commitment in all 3 disciplines of the game, b) exciting stroke-play off the backfoot - especially pulls and hooks by Ponting & co., c) beautiful grounds, with fair-sized boundaries for bowlers (particularly for spinners), and d) the commentary by Bill Lawry (inimitable), Ian Chappell (insightful) and Richie Benaud (sheer class and dignity).

  • Arun on March 8, 2009, 14:32 GMT

    This is in regards to Siddarth's comment about the ODI game in Christchurch. ODIs of late have become totally boring affairs. They have becoming T20s dragged out over 7 hours. The mindlessness in the form of powerplays will have proved to be the biggest contributor to the killng off any interest in the 50 overs game. Earlier batsmen had the first 15 overs to hammer away. Now they get 20!! Notice that most of the 350+ scores and the odd 400+ scores have come about in the era of 'powerplays'.

    T20 is the perfect format for all those wanting to see the big sixes. It lasts only 3 hours and I'll admit, it's entertaining. 50 overs cricket on the other hand must be abolished.

  • James on March 8, 2009, 14:14 GMT

    Jeez, can anything about cricket not descend into a stouche between Indians and Australians. Lets just move on please.

    And I do agree, these pitches with life are like heaven. I, like many, are sick of these 5-day-no-result pitches getting thrown up everywhere. And it was truely a beautiful sight seeing Johnson taking out 2 of the South Africans. Finally the batsmen are copping it. Great read and lets hope, for the sake of Test cricket, that more of these pitches turn up.

  • GMan on March 8, 2009, 14:03 GMT

    Paying attention to Rob's concern, I think its important we discuss australia as well. No one is a bigger cheat than Ricky Potty-ing, Ann-drew Symonds, Michael Gay-Clark, Brad Head-In and rest of the australian squad. Go teach you team some ethics before you try to teach the world any tactics. Accpet the fact that ozzies are getting some ass-whooping next time they compete with India.

  • onya on March 8, 2009, 13:46 GMT

    Lots of interesting comments. Steyns and morkels bouncers were far more intimidating than johnsons. There were 3/4 an over at hussey and north, et al. Johnson was breaking hands not heads (like husseys helmet). I am not complaining about steyn and morkel whos spells were brilliant. But dont judge johnsons spell with the 2 hospital visits. He was bowling fair and it was quality bowling. He was far more direct than steyn. He did infact bowl and lbw a couple

  • Satish on March 8, 2009, 13:23 GMT

    Australia in India especially in the final test was one of the most negative approaches I have seen. Katich and Hussey tried nothing to counter Dhoni's 8-1 field when they were 200-odd for 2 I think while Ponting was thinking only about himself and his ban than taking advantage of an Indian collapse. Maybe this series win in South Africa will allow Australia to get back to their old self. South Africa on the other hand will now know why its not so easy to be No.1 and stay there. They have performed flatly this series and all the hype of the series has been blown away.

    Also, I agree totally with Sid V. Watching the T20 game and the ODI today at the AMI stadium was quite a bore. Of course, we can hardly expect the ICC to decide on a standardised ground size either. They can't even decide to take an umbrella on a rainy day.

  • Sakib on March 8, 2009, 13:07 GMT

    It's good to see the Australian quicks regain some of their venom. It reminds me of watching Glen Mcgrath and Brett Lee on top of their game.I don't know how India can brag about one series win over Australia when they have been beaten countless times by the invincible Australian team. Yes, Australia is weak now. But I don't think any team even India can achieve the great feat achieved by the past Australian cricket team. If India want to boast of their achievements,they should win 3 world cups in a row and keep the no.1 test ranking for at least 2 years. Then they can say that they have beaten Australia. For now it's just an unfair battle where there's no pride in winning.

  • Fergus on March 8, 2009, 13:01 GMT

    Saptarshi, I don't know how much the pitch has to do with lethal inswingers or accurate, fast yorkers. Johnson is having a brilliant series and if he can keep this up then he will become one of the best bowlers in the world. Period.

  • Saurav on March 8, 2009, 12:57 GMT

    Saptarshi mate if you have been actually watching the test natch in durban and not just reading about it, you would realise that the pitch is a good batting wicket, Johnsons just went to another level for the SA innings, look at the Aus current 2nd innings score makes you wonder where the life in the pitch has gone again. So yeah unless your suggesting the pitch changes daily give credit to the bowler when its due

  • Jay on March 8, 2009, 12:42 GMT

    Sambit, it is unfortunate that a well-balanced piece of journalism has sparked off such a firestorm of comment and counter-comment, but it was started by the Aussies. It is good to see a young Aussie team acquit itself so creditably on an away tour especially after having just been beaten by the same opponents recently. However, the same so-called "fans' who were so quiet 2 months ago are now strutting. The Aussies are great sportsmen in general, so one must assume that the guys who post on these sites represent a fringe element. Come on guys, appreciate the game and don't get jingoistic.

  • michael david on March 8, 2009, 12:37 GMT

    India beat Australia reverse swinging the ball after 15-20 overs (only ball tampering can do that), they played defensive cricket waiting for the aussies to lose, appealed when the ball bounced (the captain did) and were bad sports. Sth Africa played great cricket in OZ, no sooking, no crappy/dodgy appealing and beat the aussies in a hard fought contest, I know who I'd rather watch again, what a team of great sportsmen, and I'm as aussie!

  • R. Maksud on March 8, 2009, 12:14 GMT

    As we can she now the Australian cricketer are playing very good game against South Africa. Specially Johnson is making them to count the session and the wins which they got in Australia. Same short of problem they r facing against Australia. I can say is No doubt Indian are playing Good but still i don't consider them as number 1 team . Number 1 team means spirits of players. discipline in game. As that thing I don't find in Indian Team. They fight in side group with there own player I don't think it a good nature of game we see from them

  • DannyBoy on March 8, 2009, 12:04 GMT

    I cannot believe that any of you guys can be trumpeting about intimidatory bowling !!!! How good is it to see wickets where it is actually tough to bat on rather than the highways we see in almost every other test being played at the moment . To anyone who thinks what there watching in the current series Aus v SA is crossing the line go and watch your T20 where bat dominates 99/100 times and stay away from the form of the game that is pure . Also to the indians posting here dont you forget the last 20 years of international cricket it seems u win 1 HOME series and your the greatest side to have played the game ! When you start to dominate all over the world in all conditions then go for it untill then keep a lid on it !!!!

  • Michael on March 8, 2009, 12:01 GMT

    Rohit, your comments are insightful and greatly appreciated. Rest assured, there are fans from every nation who do not do themselves or their country credit.

    As has been mentioned elsewhere, the appreciation of quality cricket from cricketers of all nations far surpasses petty grudges and nationalism. Appreciate the game and the players despite their respective nationalities.

  • Tony on March 8, 2009, 11:45 GMT

    Sambit, if you read these please note that Johnson wasn't bowling wide to dry up runs and Ponting was captianing negatively. These things do happen but its not like it was a team tactic that went on for session after session.

    If you check Mitchell Johnson career stats as Cricinfo editor should, you'll notice that for a 27 year old he hasn't played a lot of cricket. 19 test, 45 first class matches, and a lot of time injured with stress fractures in his back.

    His bowling was erractic, and the sprays wide were both a deliberate attempt to get the batman to chase the ball (Dravid went after it everytime) and an obvious display of lacking control in both line and length. Perth last year was the first time Mitchell has got his length under control, and now the line has come as well.

    For the record, he played a lot of his senior club cricket as a batsman because he couldn't bowl. Hopefully that explains some things for a few people out there.

  • LN on March 8, 2009, 11:36 GMT

    I agree with you Sambit. Well mostly. We (Australia) DID go negative in their tour in India and then in their series at home. Not so much the bowlers in my opinion but in field settings (which will THEN affect the line a bowler bowls). Apart from the recent great players that have retired in the past 18 months the Australian game-plan has been built around restricting singles as opposed to the rest of the test playing nations, for the main, restricting boundaries. I remember watching the wonderful test series vs Sth Africa here in Australia and lamenting that we had changed from a successful formula with fields to copying the rest of the world. I can only summise that with so many inexperienced bowlers now entering the test squad that Ponting & co felt that they needed to give these bowlers extra protection. Kinda went against the golden rule "dont set fields for bad bowling" (it reinforces bad habits) and I think they woke up to that in the leadup to the current SA tour. :)

  • Rohit on March 8, 2009, 11:25 GMT

    It is unfortunate that so many of us from India do not get the opportunity to travel and enjoy games being played in other countries and meeting the fans and supporters of different teams. It is with shock that I found our stars are widely considered to be some of the best players in the game of cricket but that our fans are considered to be the rudest and most impolite. The more I have travelled the more I have seen with my own eyes the truth of the matter which is that we often do not behave in the spirit of cricket, being rude in victory, rude in defeat and rude inbetween. Cricket is the one sport in the world where the supporters acknowledge the performance and skills of both teams. Understand this, for it is a deep part of the spirit of cricket.

  • Saptarshi on March 8, 2009, 11:20 GMT

    This Durban test was decided from the toss itself. On the first day the wicket was a flat track with no movement and then it turned vicious the second day and Johnson capitalized. Johnson is still a mediocre bowler with no variety period.

  • izac on March 8, 2009, 10:58 GMT

    A.R.Subramania Iyer did you miss Steyn working over Hussey, or Morkel attacking Hughes?

    Banning bouncers? Sure lets do all we can to increase batsman friendly conditions .... wt*? Seriously its tough proper test cricket, as it should be.

  • Jayasurya Gopalan on March 8, 2009, 10:56 GMT

    Its not at all fair to call green pitches as "sporting track" and turning pitches as "dustbowls".Every nation has its own speciality.Its not right to come to the subcontient and cry foul over the spining tracks. Our players dont complain over the "friendly pitches" u make having extra bouce,so u could help ur tall fast bowlers.Their is only one type of friendly pitch and thats a flatest of flat pitch where no batsmen gets injured and with noting else in it than raining sixes and fours. I am sure none of us would like to watch such a game.

  • billybob on March 8, 2009, 10:38 GMT

    It doesn't matter who wins or loses so much as the best team can get a result. The recent India/Australia test series was boring because whoever won the toss was in the box seat from the start. Thats not test cricket. Back in Australia the SA/Australia series was good because both teams had a even chance to win right through out the match.The same thing has happened again in SA with the best playing team able to get a result but the other team still in with a chance if they play well. India has lots of money but they still have alot to learn about cricket.

  • SamD on March 8, 2009, 10:22 GMT

    Sambit you really just can't help yourself can you? Always have to get that little jibe at the Aussies in eh? And then you come out and say "I try and keep my nationality out of my writing". Well keep trying - it would seem you (still) have a way to go. As for the 'war of words' - no need for it. India played exceptionally well to beat Australia and we all recognise it. They deserve the praise and the credit. After all - it's good to have a competitive environment in world cricket.

  • A.R.Subramania Iyer on March 8, 2009, 10:08 GMT

    Australia have great fast bowlers, no doubt. But while watching Johnson bowl in the ongoing Test I couldn't help feeling that the intimidatory bowling is a little overdone. I am sure Smith and Kallis were not overawed by the bowling but surely if they are hit dangerously there must be an intent to harm the batsmen rather than take their wickets. The number of bouncers must be curbed if not altogether banned

  • Rob on March 8, 2009, 10:04 GMT

    India have never played as attacking cricket as Aus (except for She-wags), remember not to fine their players for anything either or they might go home like spoilt brats.

  • izac on March 8, 2009, 9:20 GMT

    Those comments about Johnson were unecessary. He is improving all the time and would hardly be called a negative/containing type bowler, have you watched any of the South Africa vs Australia series?

    Yes India beat us 2-0 (4 matches), a thrashing and a competitive match. The first draw we had a slight advantage and the other was a high scoring boring draw. Well done you won the series convincingly, move on.

    As to the pitch debate, high scoring draws arent good for cricket, full stop.

    Since 2000 India have drawn 17 out of 44 tests at home, approximately 38 %, Aus 8 out of 55, approximately 14%. These might be slightly skewed due to Aus dominance but not as much as the percentages above indicate. I would imagine SA has similar statistics to Aus. I know which I prefer. Preparing turners is India's right, each nation should play to their strengths, although given Indias resurgent pace, I think the balance between pace and spin is pretty even. But they should be result oriented.

  • Sambit Bal on March 8, 2009, 9:09 GMT

    I seem to have ignited another war of words between the readers. It is clearly not what I had hoped my piece would do. I try to keep my nationality out my writing. The tactics India adopted at Nagpur wasn’t point. I have been an admirer of the Australian way of cricket since the Ian Chappell era, and I believe the some of their tactics hurt them last year. For one, it might have cost them the Test in Bangalore where, incredibly, they had a sweeper cover for Zaheer Khan. Also, I am partial to bowlers and I am delighted with the progress Mitchell Johnson has made. He seems to have acquired the inswinger (to right-handers) and that makes him the complete package. God knows cricket can do with as many wicket-taking bowlers as it can get.

  • Anand on March 8, 2009, 8:57 GMT

    I loved every bit of it. These flat track bullies who made so much noise last year racking up 100 runs. PLayed mostly at home or on flat tracks. I always love it when best fast bowlers with their tail up and dishing it to best batsmen of their era on responsive pitches.

    Test cricket is the best cricket. My thoughts on the same at leggully.. titled

    Blood,bone cracking and test cricket !

    www.leggully.com

  • Mahesh Sethuraman on March 8, 2009, 8:54 GMT

    Siddhart has hit the nail on the head. Its a point that Sanjay Manjrekar has been harboring for a long long time. Infact I remember one of his early articles in the cricinfo magazine stressing on the point of a minimum boundary size in all the grounds across the world.

    One point about this blog: I still prefer a more comprehensive full-fledged article from your side on anything related to cricket(however irrelevant that topic might be). I am not sure if this blog serves a great purpose. I personally feel its an injustice to your style of writing.

  • Vijay on March 8, 2009, 7:59 GMT

    Great article. Watching Steyn, Johnson and Siddle yesterday was fantastic. This match had some of the best directed bouncers I've seen in a few years. Contrast that with the run orgy in the India-New Zealand game on a pint-sized ground. With a game like that that, why bother tiring out the bowlers, just get bowling machines.

  • Alok J on March 8, 2009, 7:48 GMT

    The cricket I watched last night was the most refreshing and entertaining day of cricket I have seen in my short life. Watching fast bowlers tearing in in order to send down express deliveries releases adrenaline in a way nothing else in cricket can. You are on the edge of your seat, your mind subconciously prompted by each delivery- will the batsman be injured? Dismissed? Beaten? Or will he use the pace, and play a breathtaking stroke to the boundary seeing as there are no sweepers? This is what happened to me, at least, when i watched Steyn's fiery, raw action fire missiles at our batsman. Johnson's, and, although he wasn't as widely praised, Siddle's spells had an identical effect. Swing coupled with monstrous pace, bounce, and overall response from the conditions resuscitated test cricket, refreshed the memories of veteran spectators and players who sorely missed the occasional supremacy of the bowler. It is a major misconception that all we want is the batsman dominating this game

  • ALLAN Pinchen on March 8, 2009, 7:47 GMT

    lETS FACE IT....results ARE WHAT COUNT not boosting averages.Would you rather your team to win a series or have your batsmen improve their average???? Bring on the good Quicks/Great spinners and get results orientated pitches.If there is a bit of blood,so be it,they are world class players,they know the risks,they get paid well

  • kolla surendra on March 8, 2009, 7:43 GMT

    Come on man Justin you people stop ruing after your downfall caused by the great Indian team who never use negative tactics as used by Australia against India last time India visited Australia.RACHIT liked your comments.

  • surya on March 8, 2009, 7:37 GMT

    i remember a commentator remarking that flat pitches are not an issue but shorter grounds are.When top edges and mistimed shots go for boundaries,bowlers cant be blamed..fielders at the boundaries are catching men as much as a slip and silly point are for a spinner.I hope there is some sort of regulation brought about as for the minimum size and symmetry of the ground.The worst part of it is when the organisers bring up the ropes even further,the trend notorious in india.Mere bashing around is as boring as slow scoring..I really enjoyed the one dayers in australia with big grounds and better pitches.Evry match was as interesting as you get

  • kolla surendra on March 8, 2009, 7:30 GMT

    hi dude your comment about jonson is wrong becouse he is not a negative line bowler as he is called every time Australia need a wicket as far as Australia are concerned they never use any negative tactics and as far as Steyn is concerned he is a class apart.Todays match will be very interesting and a series dicider.

  • Abdul Aziz on March 8, 2009, 7:30 GMT

    I totally agree with Justin. The 2nd day was totally exhilarating, to say the least. The amount of swing and bounce Johnson, and Siddle extracted, I believe, gives great hope to this young Australian side that their glory days are still not past them! Lets hope that we see more of such exciting stuff in days to come!

  • Marcus on March 8, 2009, 7:30 GMT

    I agree, seeing Steyn and Johnson at their best has been excellent.

    Just about the AMI Stadium- I'm pretty sure it's where the Canterbury Crusaders play their Rugby Union, so that would explain the short square boundaries. Perhaps there should be a regulation that cricket boards shouldn't schedule matches on a rectangular sports field?

  • Srikanth on March 8, 2009, 7:29 GMT

    Hi Justin,

    Ya our heroes have filled their boots with easy runs against poor attacks in Australia and India. Really sad yours couldn't do so and prevent a 2-0 result. Waiting for the next Ind - Aus series.

  • surya on March 8, 2009, 7:24 GMT

    just to correct you jim...No one team can claim to be good players of the swinging,moving ball nowadays..On a greenish wicket,you invariably see,one cricketer score a face saving knock and the resistance ends there.most of the batsmen play too much cricket in falt dcks that they suffer when they play in a helpful wicket..Except for the south african pitches,i dont see anything positive for good pitches..not even newzealand.By the way jim,turning wickets deserve as much respect as a moist wicket does and in that regard,australia or for that matter any nation cries foul once they collapse in them

  • Jack Zmith on March 8, 2009, 7:18 GMT

    Couldn't agree more with Justin M !

    Get your act together mate, open both eyes. Barrack for the underog, but for pete's sake, stop tearing down the tall popies just for the sake of it !

    Have a great day !

    Jack.

  • surya on March 8, 2009, 7:16 GMT

    i remember a commentator remarking that flat pitches are not an issue but shorter grounds are.When top edges and mistimed shots go for boundaries,bowlers cant be blamed..fielders at the boundaries are catching men as much as a slip and silly point are for a spinner.I hope there is some sort of regulation brought about as for the minimum size and symmetry of the ground.The worst part of it is when the organisers bring up the ropes even further,the trend notorious in india.Mere bashing around is as boring as slow scoring..I really enjoyed the one dayers in australia with big grounds and better pitches.Evry match was as interesting as you get

  • allblue on March 8, 2009, 7:13 GMT

    While I agree wholeheartedly with the overall sentiment expressed, I don't think "two men in hospital" can be seen as a good thing, nor should it be reported with such apparent relish. Apart from any other consideration, the loss of such a key batsman for both innings has surely diminished the contest. As I have not seen the action myself I cannot make a judgement here, but there is a line between legitimate hostile fast bowling, which as you say is one of the great sights in cricket, and intimidatory bowling which has no place in the game. On occasion, the great West Indian pace quartets of yesteryear crossed that line, and resorted to tactics that were essentially those used in the infamous 'bodyline' series. The resultant rule change, the 'one bouncer rule', was necessary for the health of the game. As a neutral here, who is enjoying this great contest (albeit only by text!), it is a shame that a fighter such as Smith is not there to try to lead his side back from the brink.

  • rachit on March 8, 2009, 6:51 GMT

    to justine: you guys still cant stop whining, even after months, about the indian tactics, can u? jst accept the fact that YOUR heroes were made to eat dust and lost the series without even coming close to winning a test. think about that

  • ALLAN Pinchen on March 8, 2009, 6:36 GMT

    SO GOOD to see 2 teams committed to a result and the 2 best Quicks in the world.Geez teams after a result,pitches that can give a result,does`nt sound like anyone but the Aussies and the SA teams

  • Justin M on March 8, 2009, 6:15 GMT

    Come on mate - why did you need to get that little dig in at the Australians? It was India who employed that disgusting tactic of bowling miles outside off stump and don't you forget it - they were playing for a draw to get a series win...they have no interest in playing attacking cricket if it means possibly losing. Johnson's stock ball is one that goes across the right hander...often at his pace he can't control it. What he has added to is arsenal is one that comes back in - a weapon that makes him incredibly dangerous. I too love watching this cricket with awesome fast bowling. No nonsense off the field - great sportsmanship on the field..and just plain entertaining cricket. The Indians could learn a lot from this....not only in how to play the game...but in how to prevent a pitch...rather than the flat decks from which all of their 'heros' have filled thier boots with easy runs with no results over the years.

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  • Justin M on March 8, 2009, 6:15 GMT

    Come on mate - why did you need to get that little dig in at the Australians? It was India who employed that disgusting tactic of bowling miles outside off stump and don't you forget it - they were playing for a draw to get a series win...they have no interest in playing attacking cricket if it means possibly losing. Johnson's stock ball is one that goes across the right hander...often at his pace he can't control it. What he has added to is arsenal is one that comes back in - a weapon that makes him incredibly dangerous. I too love watching this cricket with awesome fast bowling. No nonsense off the field - great sportsmanship on the field..and just plain entertaining cricket. The Indians could learn a lot from this....not only in how to play the game...but in how to prevent a pitch...rather than the flat decks from which all of their 'heros' have filled thier boots with easy runs with no results over the years.

  • ALLAN Pinchen on March 8, 2009, 6:36 GMT

    SO GOOD to see 2 teams committed to a result and the 2 best Quicks in the world.Geez teams after a result,pitches that can give a result,does`nt sound like anyone but the Aussies and the SA teams

  • rachit on March 8, 2009, 6:51 GMT

    to justine: you guys still cant stop whining, even after months, about the indian tactics, can u? jst accept the fact that YOUR heroes were made to eat dust and lost the series without even coming close to winning a test. think about that

  • allblue on March 8, 2009, 7:13 GMT

    While I agree wholeheartedly with the overall sentiment expressed, I don't think "two men in hospital" can be seen as a good thing, nor should it be reported with such apparent relish. Apart from any other consideration, the loss of such a key batsman for both innings has surely diminished the contest. As I have not seen the action myself I cannot make a judgement here, but there is a line between legitimate hostile fast bowling, which as you say is one of the great sights in cricket, and intimidatory bowling which has no place in the game. On occasion, the great West Indian pace quartets of yesteryear crossed that line, and resorted to tactics that were essentially those used in the infamous 'bodyline' series. The resultant rule change, the 'one bouncer rule', was necessary for the health of the game. As a neutral here, who is enjoying this great contest (albeit only by text!), it is a shame that a fighter such as Smith is not there to try to lead his side back from the brink.

  • surya on March 8, 2009, 7:16 GMT

    i remember a commentator remarking that flat pitches are not an issue but shorter grounds are.When top edges and mistimed shots go for boundaries,bowlers cant be blamed..fielders at the boundaries are catching men as much as a slip and silly point are for a spinner.I hope there is some sort of regulation brought about as for the minimum size and symmetry of the ground.The worst part of it is when the organisers bring up the ropes even further,the trend notorious in india.Mere bashing around is as boring as slow scoring..I really enjoyed the one dayers in australia with big grounds and better pitches.Evry match was as interesting as you get

  • Jack Zmith on March 8, 2009, 7:18 GMT

    Couldn't agree more with Justin M !

    Get your act together mate, open both eyes. Barrack for the underog, but for pete's sake, stop tearing down the tall popies just for the sake of it !

    Have a great day !

    Jack.

  • surya on March 8, 2009, 7:24 GMT

    just to correct you jim...No one team can claim to be good players of the swinging,moving ball nowadays..On a greenish wicket,you invariably see,one cricketer score a face saving knock and the resistance ends there.most of the batsmen play too much cricket in falt dcks that they suffer when they play in a helpful wicket..Except for the south african pitches,i dont see anything positive for good pitches..not even newzealand.By the way jim,turning wickets deserve as much respect as a moist wicket does and in that regard,australia or for that matter any nation cries foul once they collapse in them

  • Srikanth on March 8, 2009, 7:29 GMT

    Hi Justin,

    Ya our heroes have filled their boots with easy runs against poor attacks in Australia and India. Really sad yours couldn't do so and prevent a 2-0 result. Waiting for the next Ind - Aus series.

  • Marcus on March 8, 2009, 7:30 GMT

    I agree, seeing Steyn and Johnson at their best has been excellent.

    Just about the AMI Stadium- I'm pretty sure it's where the Canterbury Crusaders play their Rugby Union, so that would explain the short square boundaries. Perhaps there should be a regulation that cricket boards shouldn't schedule matches on a rectangular sports field?

  • Abdul Aziz on March 8, 2009, 7:30 GMT

    I totally agree with Justin. The 2nd day was totally exhilarating, to say the least. The amount of swing and bounce Johnson, and Siddle extracted, I believe, gives great hope to this young Australian side that their glory days are still not past them! Lets hope that we see more of such exciting stuff in days to come!