Sunday, Aug 11, 2002
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By G. Viswanath
Michael Vaughan acknowledges the crowds cheers after reaching his century against India in the second Test at Trent Bridge.
There will be attempts to put the blame squarely on the young debutant wicketkeeper Parthiv Patel for letting off Michael Vaughan (batting 130, 216m, 166b, 16 x 4s) at the stroke of lunch, but it was a half-chance most efficient wicketkeepers in the world would have held only one out of a hundred times. There was another chance to nip in the bud a partnership that Vaughan and Mark Butcher fashioned they had added 145 runs in the second session extended by half an hour to make up for time lost on Thursday and Friday but off-spinner Harbhajan Singh found the flat-batted drive of Butcher (on 7 in a score of 91) travelling too far to his left even as he was making a diving attempt to reach the ball that had come of the lower part of the bat.
Realistically it can be said that these were the only two chances that came India's way in a little over three and half hours. Clearly, India missed a second specialist spinner in Anil Kumble. There was a faux pas of sorts when India;s captain Sourav Ganguly opted for a third seamer for the Lord's Test. The move backfired and India lost the first Test by 170 runs. Here, Kumble was left out because he was not fit to play a five-day match. On the basis of the performances of its three seamers, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra and Ajit Agarkar in the 25 overs they bowled, it seems there is no remedy in sight, which obviously makes it a very discouraging scenario for the third and fourth Tests to be played at Leeds and the Oval.
The Indian bowlers largely contributed to the fluent stroke production that showed itself for the first time in three days. England has found an opening batsman in Vaughan who was looked upon again to provide a stable start after India's first innings came to end at noon. His opening partner, Key, appeared to be full of nerves, especially against Khan, who it must be said did not get adequate support from Nehra and Agarkar. Apart from getting an odd delivery to beat and leave the right-handed Key, none of the three seamers were able to get sideways movement like Matthew Hoggard. In the absence of swing and seam movement, it became increasingly easy for Vaughan to whip shots in the arc between square-leg and mid-wicket when the bowlers aimed at his pads. He superbly executed two backfoot shots to wide of mid-on off Nehra.
Vaughan rarely made a mistake, save for the leg side flick off Harbhajan before lunch. With shots flowing from his bat, it looked as though the pitch had become a batsman's paradise. It simply was not the case because, Harbhajan managed to make the ball turn. He and Ganguly missed a spin partner to attack from the other end. By teatime Vaughan had literally collared the Indian attack after scoring his fourth century, the last three coming this season from the third Test against Sri Lanka at Old Trafford.
There was sufficient daylight in the first three hours of the morning today that made possible hundreds of kids take part and feel the thoroughly enjoyable experience of learning skills in the `Kwik cricket programme' during the lunch break. The brightest phase of the morning on the third day was during the 45-minute break that separated the first and second sessions and when Harbhajan had sparkled in the first hour hitting audacious shots that one would not find for description in coaching books. After almost a day had been lost to rain and poor light conditions only 91 overs of play was possible in the previous two days there was good reason to be optimistic of the third day's play of the npower second Test commencing on time at 11a.m., because the forecast from the weather bureau was not as bad for the first four hours.
Things looked better for India at 302 for 8 wickets for all the runs had been made in the most testing weather conditions. That this impressive total swelled up to 357 was entirely because of the pyrotechnics of Harbhajan and the ninth wicket partnership of 61 off 62 balls he made possible in roaring fashion with Khan.
Harbhajan might have appeared to carry the tail-enders luck too far. It was not the case. It was just that he showed his incredible knack of hitting the ball hard, positioning himself beside the line, behind the line, coming inside the line and from virtually anywhere in crease. Harbhajan's innings was effective, though he and Khan played and missed several times in the first spells of Andrew Flintoff and Hoggard. His 50 (33 balls) was the second fastest recorded in England; Ian Botham had made a 50 off 32 balls in 1986. India's domination of the first two hours might have been more emphatic had debutant wicketkeeper Patel held on to the leg side deflection off Michael Vaughan (31) in the last over before lunch. But since the bat made contact with the ball and hit the left glove of Patel, it must be put down as a catch spilled.
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