England v India, 2nd Test, Trent Bridge, 2nd day

What's luck got to do with it?

Sambit Bal at Trent Bridge

July 28, 2007

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Throughout the first two sessions, India had the fractions running for them, as all the marginal lbw decisions went in favour of batsmen © Getty Images
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From the evidence available so far in this series, it would seem God has taken up residence in India. The escape at Lord's was nothing if not providential and, at Trent Bridge, the breaks have all gone in their way so far proving - not the for the first time - cricket is as much a game of luck as it is of skill and pluck. And, above all, it is a game of fractions.

Throughout the first two sessions, India had the fractions running for them. Balls kept evading the edge by the thinnest of margins, catches fell short marginally and all the marginal lbw decisions went in favour of batsmen.

India were 149 for 1 at tea, which, if you were not watching, would have pointed to utter dominance by the batsmen or complete ineffectiveness of bowlers, or both. The truth is that it was none. The ball seamed and swung all day and James Anderson, Chris Tremlett and Ryan Sidebottom beat the bat repeatedly, sometimes off successive balls. They would have bowled much worse for far more but today was the kind of day when nothing would stick.

Nothing should be taken away from Wasim Jaffer and Dinesh Karthik. On paper the weakest links in the Indian batting line-up, they have managed four fifties between them in three innings so far on this tour. When journalists in the press box wondered about when an Indian opening pair had last put on a hundred outside the subcontinent, it was easy to point them in the direction of Cape Town , where these two ran up 153.

And crediting luck doesn't do justice to their fighting performance here. In conditions such as today's, even Geoffrey Boycott would have played and missed. Under the circumstances Jaffer and Karthik were gutsy, skilful, and nothing short of heroic. Not only did they survive, they made use of every scoring opportunity. You could say that they made their luck.

Under the circumstances Jaffer and Karthik were gutsy, skilful, and nothing short of heroic. Not only did they survive, they made use of every scoring opportunity. You could say that they made their luck

England nevertheless will rue their lack of fortune. Nothing would illustrate it better than two overs after the lunch break that fetched India 18 runs. Karthik hit two gorgeous fours off Paul Collingwood's first over, the first an inventive cover drive that was played off a horizontal bat after taking a couple of paces down the wicket; a couple of balls later, he drove down the wicket. In between, though, an uppish drive landed narrowly short of James Anderson at cover and the next ball looped off the leading edge but landed well short of mid-on.

The next over, two fours were taken off Tremlett. Jaffer drove the first one through the covers but the next one was squeezed between gully and second slip. Tremlett induced another edge the following ball but Ian Bell, diving to his left at gully, couldn't hold on to it. On another day, England could have had two wickets in those two overs; today they leaked 18 runs.

And on another day, Monty Panesar could have had two wickets in his first two overs. With his first ball, he caught Karthik sweeping plumb in front and, given how progressive umpires have been about lbws in the series so far, the decision seemed only a formality. But Ian Howell, the South African umpire who had handed out two leg-befores yesterday, though against pace bowlers, negated it. Jaffer escaped when equally plumb the next over.

Not that a lot should be read into this because India have worked hard to take command of this Test. If, however, they don't go on to win this Test after having all the luck in the match so far, they will know just whom to blame.

Sambit Bal is the editor of Cricinfo and Cricinfo Magazine

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Sambit Bal Editor-in-chief Sambit Bal took to journalism at the age of 19 after realising that he wasn't fit for anything else, and to cricket journalism 14 years later when it dawned on him that it provided the perfect excuse to watch cricket in the office. Among other things he has bowled legspin, occasionally landing the ball in front of the batsman; laid out the comics page of a newspaper; covered crime, urban development and politics; and edited Gentleman, a monthly features magazine. He joined Wisden in 2001 and edited Wisden Asia Cricket and Cricinfo Magazine. He still spends his spare time watching cricket.
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