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January 17, 2001
If anyone has a doubt about what is going wrong with cricket in India, all you have to do is to take a look at the last day's play between South Zone and England Under-19s played at Guru Nanak College Ground, Chennai, on Wednesday. Let alone positive thinking, one wonders whether there was any thinking at all in the South Zone camp.
Having bowled out English colts for 183 on Tuesday and going into the last day with a lead of 135 runs, one hoped that South would really go after the English bowling and set a target. TS Suman and Arjun Yadav started the day for South Zone on 43/1.
Suman as always was in an attacking mood, playing shots with gay abandon. Make no mistake; he is not a slogger by any means. He just hits the ball so hard and is blessed with a good timing too. He raced to reach his fifty without much ado. He was on 53 when the tall English bowler Tremlett got one ball to move a little away from the batsman and take a faint edge. Wicket keeper Mark Wallace was too happy to dive to his right and take a good catch. Monty Panesar who had removed Shashank Nag the previous evening was brought into the attack and produced a good spell.
Panesar with his orthodox left arm bowling, tied up the batsmen. He later bowled ASK Varma who had scratched around for just nine runs. 90/3 in the 31st over brought in the first innings batting hero, Deepak Chougule. He too got bogged down a little and was eventually dismissed lbw to Panesar for just four runs.
106/4 in the 35th over was not too bad at all. The batsmen were in a negative frame of mind, pushing and prodding at the ball. The new batsmen ASK Varma and captain Arjun Yadav were no exceptions either, never looking for quick runs. At lunch South Zone was 155/4 with Yadav unbeaten on 67 made off 149 balls in 150 minutes. A declaration was on the cards as South lead by 247 runs.
Giving themselves the option of bowling for two sessions would have been ideal. Moreover the visiting boys would have had an opportunity to get some valuable batting practice ahead of the 'Test' that starts on Saturday. Defying all logic and positive thinking, Yadav continued batting for some more time and declared the innings closed at 201/4 as soon as he got to his personal hundred. The Visitors were clearly irked by this attitude, considering this to be a warm up match.
England was set a ridiculous target of 294 in a minimum of 35 overs. Opening batsman Nicky Peng struck three consecutive boundaries off the left arm seamer, Steve Lazarus. Peng lost his concentration and was trapped LBW by L Balaji for 13 by a ball that kept very low. Lazarus had a nervous looking Kadeer Ali caught behind for just two runs. The other Opener John Sadler and the new batsman Gordon Muchall put on a 63 runs third wicket partnership.
Sadler who looked compact and in fine touch was well caught and bowled by the left arm spinner, Shankara Rao. Ian Pattison who came in next did not survive long enough either, caught by the substitute fielder Ahmed Quadri off Rao for 5. In the meantime more farce was to follow. The South Zone management wanted to finish the match a bit early that some of their players could catch the train back home. English team declined and played on till the end of the match. At close English colts were 110/4 in 41 overs. Gordon Muchall played a patient and valuable innings of an unbeaten 48, which included five strokes past the boundary ropes.
The Visitors had some positive things to take from this match. Ferley as a bowler looked in very good touch. Panesar picked up 3/40 in the second innings, the batting of Tremlett in the first and Muchall in the second were heartening indeed. Things might have been so different if South Zone had declared earlier and made a match of it. Mr. Yadav, there is no shine to your hundred!
After the tragedy of Phillip Hughes' death, this match showed that cricket and life will continue to go on. This time Test cricket dug in and got through to tea.
After a long time we have seen an Indian team and captain enjoy the challenge of trying to overcome stronger opposition in an overseas Test