Bowlers hold sway


In a low-scoring match, India laid the CARIBBEAN BOGEY to rest. S. RAM MAHESH reports.

Irfan Pathan working with a legendary fast bowler, Sreesanth trying to break through Corey Collymore's defence for a last gasp win: this was the Antigua Recreation Ground all over again. Only, it wasn't. India's penultimate league game in the DLF Cup needed to be won, and through nerve and skill, the bowlers had brought the side back. All that remained was the last wicket. But, this was no ordinary last wicket, for Brian Lara, batting at nine to give his under-confident middle order a hit, still remained.

Sreesanth, red wrist bands clashing horribly with his blue shirt, ran in. A hurried, feckless single was attempted: the bowler swooped on his follow through, three stumps in his sights and a limping Collymore to beat, and missed. No matter. He still had one shot at Collymore. If he missed, Lara could end things in the next over. Sreesanth, who had bowled with pace approaching and once sneaking past 90 mph, ran in again. This time there was no mistake; a sharp delivery eluded Collymore's bat and hit pad. The celebrations that followed may have put a frat party to shame. Thus ended an unfortunate streak of five straight losses that had started with a Dwayne Bravo slower ball in Jamaica.

"I thought the bowlers bowled beautifully, they are really beginning to put the plans into practice," said captain Rahul Dravid. "Munaf and Sreesanth bowled during an important part of the game, they bowled with pace and kept it tight."

Dismissed for 162, India had been forced to bowl nine overs before the break. West Indies hadn't looked like losing a wicket. What did Dravid tell his team during this period of distress? "Nothing much really. We just tried to keep it relaxed. We spoke of never giving up. The spirit was good. I'll admit we were disappointed with our batting. But, our bowlers have been bowling well in the last two games."

Munaf Patel hustled Shivnarine Chanderpaul into an out-of-control hook and followed it up by bringing one back at Ramnaresh Sarwan at an uncomfortable height.

Sachin Tendulkar conducted a master class in sticky wicket batting.-

Munaf's twin strike came during a period of considerable pressure. Sreesanth was keeping things tight at the other end.

Runako Morton, given a chance to open, freed his arms at a wide one, but Sreesanth had him nicking to second slip, where Dravid parried to Dhoni. Wavell Hinds, meanwhile, was trying to lay a painstaking bat on ball. Marlon Samuels flashed one past point; Agarkar, brought on for Munaf, trapped him in front.

R. P. Singh then nailed Chris Gayle, batting at six. Five for 70, and the first whiff of something special. It certainly had Kapil Dev, here as a commentator, excited.

Dwayne Smith seemed to prefer a speedy end — either way — to a long-drawn struggle. He drop-kicked R. P. Singh to mid-wicket before driving the left-armer on the up, and punching him through on.

But, Smith was adjudged leg-before to Agarkar despite getting an inside edge, and when Bravo was done in by M. S. Dhoni's pickpocket routine, West Indies had slid to 96 for seven.

Lara, who finessed an unbeaten 40, said, "I was trying to take myself out of the game, hoping the others would take over. I'm not sure what's happening at 6, 7, 8 — that's where the worries are. At least they know where they stand."

That Rahul Dravid's men even got to 162 was thanks to a 78-run partnership of the highest quality for the seventh wicket between Sachin Tendulkar, who conducted a master-class in the principles of sticky-wicket batting, and Harbhajan Singh, who eschewed his usual batting hotheadedness to knuckle down admirably. Tendulkar was magnificent. Primarily, he wristed to on, often playing well in front of his pad. Just twice he allowed himself the opulence of a cover drive slapped on the up.

Dwayne Smith met with unexpected success.-

Harbhajan's application ensured he could pick the singles, and the pair lasted 15.5 overs before the off-spinner tried a cute glide, and was well held by 'keeper Baugh.

"One of the things to come out of this game is Harbhajan's batting," said Dravid. "He obviously has the ability. We have been giving our lower order a lot of batting — a lot of individual attention. That was the purpose of the camps. It's good that it's paid off with Harbhajan if not with anyone else."

It was a day no bowler would conquer Tendulkar; when he eventually threw his head back in dismay it was because R. P. Singh's straight hit had taken part of bowler Samuels's hand en route to the stumps. As it transpired, Tendulkar's 102-ball 65 with seven fours was enough. "Sachin is a very good friend of mine," said Lara. "And it's good if he scores because it's attractive. The younger guys can learn watching him bat — he's such a perfect batsman.

I'm happy he has come back and is scoring runs. I don't know if he has any doubters in India, he certainly doesn't have a doubter in me."


India v West Indies, Kinrara Academy Oval, Kuala Lumpur, September 20. India won by 16 runs.

India: R. Dravid c Baugh b Smith 0; S. R. Tendulkar (run out) 65; V.Sehwag b Smith 1; S. K. Raina c Gayle b Smith 11; Yuvraj Singh c Baugh b Smith 0; M. S. Dhoni b Collymore 18; A. B. Agarkar b Bravo 4; Harbhajan Singh c Baugh b Gayle 37; R. P. Singh b Gayle 2; S. Sreesanth (run out) 0; M. M. Patel (not out) 2; Extras (lb-3, w-16, nb-3) 22; Total (in 39.3 overs) 162.

Fall of wickets: 1-1, 2-6, 3-38, 4-38, 5-69, 6-78, 7-156, 8-157, 9-160.

West Indies bowling: Smith 10-2-31-4; Collymore 8-1-41-1; Bravo 6-0-16-1; Hinds 6-0-41-0; Gayle 5.3-0-13-2; Samuels 4-0-17-0.

West Indies: S. Chanderpaul c Sehwag b Patel 21; R. S. Morton c Dhoni b Sreesanth 27; R. R. Sarwan c Dhoni b Patel 2; W. W. Hinds c & b Harbhajan Singh 8; M. N. Samuels lbw b Agarkar 5; C. H. Gayle lbw b R. P. Singh 1; D. R. Smith lbw b Agarkar 12; D. J. Bravo st. Dhoni b Harbhajan Singh 10; B. C. Lara (not out) 40; C. S. Baugh c Dravid b Harbhajan Singh 6; C. D. Collymore lbw b Sreesanth 0; Extras (lb-6,w-6, nb-2) 14; Total (in 41 overs) 146.

Fall of wickets: 1-44, 2-52, 3-58, 4-63, 5-70, 6-83, 7-96, 8-118, 9-145.

India bowling: Agarkar 10-1-22-2; Patel 10-1-31-2; Sreesanth 8-0-25-2; R. P. Singh 5-0-27-1; Harbhajan Singh 8-0-35-3.