Plays of the day October 29, 2008

The toss and more gloss

Cricinfo staff

Shades of Sehwag: Gautam Gambhir, on 99, stepped out to Shane Watson and lofted him over wide long-on for six to bring up his third Test hundred © Getty Images

Cheeky captain
Was it a surprise that Anil Kumble won the toss? No, because he had a practice run before the actual toss. Immediately after he got the coin from Chris Broad, the match referee, Kumble flipped it only to realise mid-flight that they were not on air as yet. So Kumble caught the coin before it could land. Shrewdly he must have studied the coin's behaviour pattern, and flipped it the next time in a way that it landed in India's favour, and that too way off the pitch where the toss happened. Welcome back, captain.

Home ground blues
A century in front of his home crowd has eluded Virender Sehwag. In his only Test at the Kotla - he was out of the side when India played Pakistan here last year - he scored 74 against Zimbabwe in 2002. Even in the three ODIs he has played here, he has managed a best of 42 against England in 2002. Today, as a result of frozen feet, he made sure he will have to wait longer to get a century on his home ground. The second ball he faced was a fast in-swinger from Brett Lee, Sehwag's feet stayed rooted, and he played outside the line of the ball. Umpire Aleem Dar had no hesitation in sending Sehwag off. Gambhir, though, who scored 2 and 3 in his first match here - against Sri Lanka in 2005-06, brought up his hundred after tea.

The upper-cut from hell
Lee, who has had an ordinary series so far, built up consistent pace today. In the first over after lunch, he dug one in short. Sachin Tendulkar, well entrenched by then, waited for it to rise, arched his back a bit to make room, and guided it over slip. The shot was delicate and breathtaking at the same time. Lee's pace almost carried it for a six.

Man of his word
"If we are behind by five overs or so, yes I won't be giving Brett a bowl," Ricky Ponting said at his pre-match conference. And so it happened. By drinks in the middle session, Australia had managed only 40 overs, behind by - yes - five overs. And there Ponting proved he would keep his word: he didn't bowl Lee until the 62nd over. The corrective measure, though, didn't prove too fruitful for Australia. From the moment Cameron White came on, Gambhir and Tendulkar ripped into him. The first ball he bowled was cut away towards point boundary, the third one was driven to extra-cover boundary. In the four overs he bowled, he visited the boundary often enough to negate his quick over-rate. In the end, by 4.30pm, the scheduled close of play, Australia had managed only 81 overs.

How not to use the elbow
In the 51st over of the innings, Gambhir flicked Shane Watson to midwicket, and the bowler was not impressed. As Gambhir ran down for the first run, he saw Shane Watson gesticulating and muttering something to him. So, on his way back for the second, Gambhir apparently got his own back, thrusting his elbow into Watson's ribs. Time for the match referee to do some overtime: mischievous captains at toss, slow over rates, and now quarrelling children to sort out.

How to get to 100
Gambhir has played a lot of cricket with Sehwag, and some of it seems to have rubbed on to him. At 99, when Gambhir tried to steer Watson to the third man boundary, Michael Hussey made a diving save to keep Gambhir put. But to the next ball, the batsman stepped out, and lofted Watson over wide long-on for a six to bring up the landmark. Sehwag would have approved. At any rate, the six worked better than the elbow earlier during the day.

How not to appeal
Brad Haddin was the most desperate man at the Kotla today. Twice he almost went up in appeals when the batsmen had leg-glanced off the face of the bat. The heights of desperation, though, were reached when Lee appealed for an lbw against Gambhir. Umpire Billy Bowden shook his head "no", but the ball had already lobbed to Michael Hussey at wide third slip. Out went the lbw appeal, and in came one for a catch, Haddin looking at the umpire with his left hand pointing to Hussey. The perseverance, at least, cannot be faulted.