Sachin and the leg-side blues
Just what does Sachin Tendulkar have against the off side? The first ball that he faced today was well outside off, and he turned it with a beautiful flick of the wrist to midwicket for three runs. Such artistry, but what about function? Tendulkar has often got out in the past due to his tendency of playing across the line; would he continue batting in that vein?
He did. As many as 38 of Tendulkar's 55 runs - 69% - came on the on side, with his staple scoring area being midwicket, where he got 16. For a player with such impeccable technique - which is not often commented upon because of his superb eye and his wide array of strokes - he hardly played straight in the V. He had only two scoring strokes in the V between long-on and long-off, both beautiful on-driven boundaries.
|Where Tendulkar got his runs||Runs||Runs off boundaries|
|Behind wicket - off side||6||4|
|Square of wicket - off side||2||0|
|Cover - off side||9||4|
|Front of wicket - off side||0||0|
|Front of wicket - on side||8||8|
|Midwicket - on side||16||0|
|Square of wicket - on side||6||0|
|Behind wicket - on side||8||8|
So how would Stephen Fleming, New Zealand's captain, counter this? Why, with Daniel Vettori, of course. Of the 39 balls that Vettori bowled to Tendulkar, 13 were pitched on leg stump or further out, with three more on middle stump (besides 23 balls, testingly, on off or just outside). Vettori's natural spin took the ball across Tendulkar and away from him, inviting him to hit across the line, and against the spin. And that was just how he got out - inside-edging Vettori onto his pads for a catch to silly mid-off.
Erapalli Prasanna had once said, "length is mandatory, line is optional". Vettori, who has grown in stature as a spinner during this tour, in difficult conditions, has clearly internalised that dictum. 36 of his 39 balls to Tendulkar - an astonishing 92% - were either on a good length or just short. Tendulkar, for all his prowess, had met his match.
Amit Varma is managing editor of Wisden Cricinfo in India.