Arjun Raja is a NRIOL featured sports columnist. To read about Arjun Raja, please Know more.
In what can only be described as an unreal bowling performance, straight out of the X-Files, Sunil Joshi spun a web of confusion and terror around the South African batsman, who groped at everything they received (as if they were playing in the dark).
In 10 magical overs, Joshi gave away just 6 runs and to erase all doubts that it was merely a restrictive spell, he claimed 5 wickets as well. It was absolute and total command over the South Africans and had he not conceded 2 singles of the last 2 deliveries, he would have given away only 4 runs! Another wicket would have meant an Indian record, currently 6 for 12 by Anil Kumble against the West Indies. Truly mind boggling stuff.
Joshi showed admirable control over flight and turn, mixing his deliveries in such a manner that the SA batsmen had no clue as to what was coming next. Later, Joshi modestly gave the credit for his incredible performance to Bishen Bedi with whom he had spent 3 weeks in June trying to master the art of left arm orthodox bowling.
South Africa crumbled from a healthy 32 for no loss to an incredible 117 all out, their second lowest score in over 175 one-day internationals. Only Jacques Kallis with 38 runs played with assurance and was able to occupy the crease. The rest of the batting was pathetic on a spinning track, which begs the question, why do Indian batsmen get criticised for failing on green tops occasionally? ... What is the difference between failing on a spinning track and failing on a green top?
South Africa who picked a side with 4fast bowlers and just one spinner were in trouble right from the first over of spin bowled by Joshi. Admittedly, the pitch favoured the spinners but it didn't misbehave at any juncture. The Indian spinners - Joshi, Chopra and debutante Vijay Bhardwaj bowled beautifully. The measure of the discipline shown by all bowlers (including non regulars like Ramesh and Dravid) is the that not a single no-ball or wide was bowled in 48 overs - definitely the first time India has achieved such a feat.
The Indian fielding was out of the world and their performance in the field today could rank on par with South Africa or Zimbabwe at their best. All catches were held, Rahul Dravid holding two brilliant catches at first slip continuing the good catching form he displayed at Toronto. The outfieldling was brilliant, the fielders were quick on their feet and South Africa were unable to take quick singles to release the pressure.
A total of 117 all out was just not good enough especially since SA had the wrong armoury. Pace bowling was never going to pose a problem on this pitch and that was exactly what happened.
Saurav Ganguly and Ramesh realised that quick runs had to be made before the advent of spin and they played their shots from the word go. 72 runs came in the first 10 overs before Ramesh tried clearing the ground of the bowling of Crookes and holed out. I feel that Ramesh does not have the capacity for big shots and would do well to keep the ball on the ground. He has got all the shots and plays well on both sides of the wicket, so such shots are unnecessary.
Saurav was a bit impatient after off-spinner Crookes was introduced into the attack, and he too fell in similar fashion to Ramesh. Saurav made 38 and Ramesh 36.
Ajay Jadeja in a good move sent Vijay Bharadwaj into bat at the fall of the first wicket to give the debutante, who is primarily a batsman, a chance to feel the pulse of international cricket. Bharadwaj responded admirably scoring 18 n.o. with three lovely boundaries, the third one a classic back-foot drive through extra cover of quickie Elworthy - a tough shot made to look easy.
Rahul Dravid remained unbeaten as well finishing the game with a superb cover drive against the off-spin of Crookes, to complete a handsome and totally dominant victory by India. For the first time in a long while the Indian team played like complete champions, and no fault could be located in any department of their game.
We only hope this performance is not a flash in the pan and we leave behind the inconsistent displays of the past as just that - a thing of the past.
South Africa: 117 all out in 48 overs
Joshi 5 for 6, Chopra 3 for 26, Vijay Bharadwaj 1 for 16.
India: 120 for 2 in 22.4 overs
Saurav, 38, Ramesh, 36.
Crookes 2 for 48.
India won by 8 wickets.
India's next match is on Sept. 29th against hosts Kenya. Read more
- Arjun Raja in Dubai, UAE
The views of this column are the author's own, and do not necessarily represent the views of NRI Online.
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