India v Pakistan, 2nd Test, Kolkata, 3rd day March 19, 2005

Allround fluency

On the Ball with S Rajesh and Arun Gopalakrishnan

Though Sachin Tendulkar only scored 52, it was easily one of his more fluent and authoritative innings in recent times. He was assured from the first delivery he faced, he was decisive in his footwork, and he scored on both sides of the wicket almost equally.

When Tendulkar was going through a lean trot, he had consciously avoided playing through point and cover, but today he was on top of his game, and it showed - of his 52 runs, 25 came on the off side, and 21 of them were scored in the arc between backward point and extra cover. Clearly, he felt confident enough to launch into the cover-drives and square-drives. As the graphic below shows, he was rarely caught in no-man's land with his footwork - he either went forward to play the full-length deliveries, or rocked back against the short balls. The only bowler who reined him in was Danish Kaneria, whose first 16 balls to him were all runless, and who ended up conceding only six runs from the 23 deliveries he bowled to Tendulkar.

Landing them on a length
Meanwhile, India's spinners came into their own after a disappointing second day. The biggest improvement came from Anil Kumble - more specifically, the length he bowled. On the second day, Kumble repeatedly pitched it short, and on a slow pitch, even a marginal error of length was costly, as Kumble found out - his 24 short balls went for 42. On the third day, Kumble bowled an impeccable length - his few errors were mostly on the full side. As a result, his 17 overs on the third day cost him just 26, and fetched him three wickets.