India v New Zealand, 2nd Test, Mohali, 3rd day October 18, 2003

Sheep were jumping fences

Roving Reporter by Rahul Bhattacharya in Mohali
Three days, seven wickets

Three days, seven wickets. How shameless can a cricket match be? The press watched with a mad glaze. Sheep were jumping fences. It was a vast amount of boredom, but the full-house crowd, not so cynical as those of us who spend their lives reporting on this extremely long game, profitably employed their Saturday afternoon trying to attract the camera and finding fun in Virender Sehwag.

Sehwag, power to his flashing blade, began his innings watching Ian Butler run up to his side seven times after banging short, fast and wide, and by evening played all manner of strokes with those scissoring feet that provide throttle to his upper body. If all goes well for India, he will assault Matthew Hayden's 380 tomorrow.

So pointless was the match threatening to become, and so flooded with interview requests was he, that Chris Cairns was coerced into addressing a press conference halfway into the last session. Asked what he thought of the pitch, he said: "I wouldn't like to be out there bowling." Asked if Indian pitches offers anything to bowlers, he said: "No."

But still Cairns has found motivation for the one-day series coming up. It is that he can resume international cricket not as a batsman, but an allrounder. "I found the last six months of last summer quite a struggle," Cairns said. "I played as a batter alone and I didn't enjoy it. Now I'm back as a batter and a bowler. I'm quite excited by it."

Frustrated he has been with the relentless succession of injuries, but has not contemplated packing it in, as his former team-mate and classy allrounder Dion Nash did. "I love cricket, I've been bought up with cricket. It's hard, but you play to reach the top. If international sport was easy, everybody would be doing it."

A resurrection of a different sort has been that of Craig McMillan, a veteran tormentor of India (average 58.9). McMillan's game had fallen away to an extent that he needed to be dropped for the tour of Sri Lanka this year after going through five Test matches with a highest score of 18.

"It was a tough year, the last one," said McMillan. "I asked myself some pretty tough questions and basically I realised that I have to get better than what I was."

He has bloomed once more on this tour, scoring his runs with a pleasing mix of solid strokes down the ground and naughty sweeps on either side. Even so, this morning, when L Balaji ran in well and found a hint of zip, McMillan looked as if he had been transported back to those runless months of 2002. "For about 20 minutes I forgot how to bat. But I ground it out. One of the things I have worked on is to regain my composure.

"We didn't want to do what India did in Ahmedabad, where, had they declared after a hundred runs more, it could have changed the outcome of the match. We need to make India follow-on tomorrow. We have to hope for a bad session for India and a good session for us." This Test series needs it as much as New Zealand do.