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Posts Tagged ‘harbhajan singh’

England’s middle order collapsed dramatically after tea to leave the tourists under the kosh despite a fine century from Andrew Strauss.

Despite general forecasts of little hope for England, they had made a good start, with Cook and the supposedly under-prepared Strauss putting on 118 for the first wicket. Once Cook had gifted his wicket to Harbhajan with a misguided shot, however, the rot started to set in. Bell made just 17, Pietersen a mere 4, Collingwood was unlucky, and Strauss eventually fell for 123.

India look likely to make 500 on this sort of wicket, so England will need a good 350 or so to have a fighting chance. With only Flintoff (18 not out at the close) and Prior (next in) left of the ‘proper’ batsmen, that looks like it will be a tough task.

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All over England, people are bemoaning the national side’s run of ODI defeats to India. Some are pointing to an outdated attitude to the batting order, others to a fundamental misjudgement of Indian conditions, yet others to the general attitude to limited overs cricket that, it is argued, persists in the UK.

There is another possibility, though. What if India are, simply put, now the best One Day side there is?

From the breakneck acceleration of Sehwag and Gambhir, through the middle-order fireworks of Yuvraj and company, the Indian batting lineup is as good as any in the world. Although Tendulkar isn’t quite as ‘modern’ in his approach as some of the younger stars, having a player of such quality in the side is anything but a hardship.

As for the spin bowlers, only Sri Lanka can table a serious claim to superiority over the likes of Harbhajan. In comparison, the part timers of Australia and England are hardly worth considering.

Even the seam bowlers, traditionally India’s weak spot, are world-class. Ishant Sharma has exploded onto the international scene, and Zaheer Khan continues to attract plaudits from all directions.

The experience that most of the Indian side have gained, partly from two recent confrontations with Australia, partly from the brave new world of the IPL, has given them an edge over most, if not all, of the planet’s One Day sides. Whether or not they can maintain their current form for long enough to overhaul Australia and South Africa at the top of the ODI rankings, and whether they can produce such electric performances away from home, remains to be seen – but I wouldn’t bet against it.

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After a grinding third day when a mere 166 runs were scored, the Fourth Test between India and Australia exploded into life on the fourth day.

It ended with Australia needing another 369 to win and square the series, and the target could have been much lower were it not for some ‘interesting’ tactics from Ricky Ponting.

Earlier in the day, India’s middle order collapsed (after the openers had made a good start – you can see footage of the opening session here) handing the tourists the initiative. Ponting, however, made the decision to up the over-rate by using part-time bowlers, allowing Dhoni and Harbhajan to battle their way to a century partnership.

369 runs on a fifth-day Indian pitch is a huge challenge, but if there’s a side in the world that can do it, it’s Australia.

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Does Ricky Ponting trust his spinners? During India’s second innings of the Second Test, White and Clarke bowled just 9 overs between them. Even Mike Hussey, who has never taken a Test wicket, bowled 8 overs.

It’s not as if the conditions in Mohali aren’t suited to spin bowling. Amit Mishra took 5 wickets in the first innings, and Harbhajan took 2 wickets in his first over today, triggering a top-order collapse from the tourists. The absence of an experienced spinner, one of the few chinks in Australia’s armour, is perhaps starting to make a difference.

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Were Australia too defensive?

Is their bowling attack up to scratch?

Were India too defensive?

When will Sachin Tendulkar finally break Lara’s record?

Have India finally managed to shake their final day collapse problem?

Where was the needle between the likes of Hayden and Harbhajan?

Answers on a postcard, please…

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Australia ended the fourth day of the First Test with a 263 run lead and five second-innings wickets still standing.

With Stuart Clark picking up an elbow injury and unable to bowl this morning, potentially complicating the Australian attack plan for the fourth innings, the tactical imperative for the tourists was quick runs.

India, though, had other ideas, and Sharma and Harbhajan took a couple of wickets each to put Australia in trouble at 128-5. Zaheer Khan had earlier continued his key contribution to the match by making 57 not out (the top score in India’s 360 all out), and taking his sixth wicket of the match, dismissing Matthew Hayden cheaply for the second time in four days.

The picture started to improve for Ponting’s side as Brad Haddin and Shane Watson dug in, and Australia still have a good chance of victory, but a draw (despite a rapidly deteriorating pitch) seems by far the most likely outcome now.

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Yesterday, I wrote that Australia might find it hard to dismiss India cheaply. It turns out I wasn’t too far wrong on that front, but “the experience of their top order” didn’t have as much to do with it as I predicted. Dravid made 51 (youtube here), and there were notable contributions from Sehwag and Ganguly, but it was – of all people – Harbhajan Singh who steadied the ship, making 54 thrilling runs (youtube here) after Mitchell Johnson had taken a number of key wickets.

Australia will have been frustrated by the lower order’s resistance, and need to mop up the tail early tomorrow. Zaheer Khan is still there on 35 not out, and Anil Kumble has five test 50s and an unbeaten century to his name, so this won’t necessarily be a simple task.

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