Tuesday, Oct 21, 2003
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The New Zealanders should receive the credit they deserve for a fighting display in the two Test series. They managed to save the first Test at Ahmedabad when everything appeared lost for them, and put India under considerable pressure at Mohali.
The fact that India was forced to follow on, on the final day of the Test, is in itself a moral victory for the Kiwis. They had prepared well for the series and adapted better to the conditions than most people expected.
This Kiwi desire and resolve to surmount the odds was reflected in the bowling of Darryl Tuffey. Here was a paceman operating on a fifth day sub-continental pitch and coming out of the ordeal with his reputation enhanced.
Tuffey showed a great heart and stuck to the basics of a consistent line and length. And on a pitch that was slammed by many, Tuffey had most of his victims either caught behind, or picked up in the slip cordon - of course he castled Sachin Tendulkar with that splendid off-cutter.
The point is if you manage to pitch the ball in the right area, and have the ability to hit the seam, you can gain some movement on any surface. Tuffey's performance in Mohali is proof of this.
The Kiwi commitment on the field could be seen in the manner Tuffey, who is a big man, flung himself to effect a spectacular run-out of Anil Kumble. Ironically, after Tuffey had removed three major batsmen in Sehwag, Dravid and Tendulkar, left-arm spinner Daniel Vettori, who bowled so well in the first innings, was not quite his usual self with the ball when his team needed him the most.
That is the great charm of cricket. You expect a spinner to deliver and a paceman comes good. The bite that was so visible in Vettori's bowling in the second half of the fourth day was missing on the fifth.
Coming to the Indian batting, V.V.S. Laxman would remember this Test for a long time. It is not often that a batsman produces match-saving knocks in both the innings. After his epic double hundred at the Eden Gardens in 2001, this has to be Laxman's most memorable Test performance.
As I have mentioned earlier, needless pressure has often been put on this simple cricketer from Hyderabad, who has responded to India's call time and again. Laxman was solid in defence, used his feet well to the spinners, and pulled off some extremely attractive strokes.
Laxman is a key member of this Indian side and should be given the recognition he deserves. Now that he has been included in the Indian ODI squad, he should be provided a long run.
However, the Indian batsmen were much too defensive on the fourth day, putting needless pressure on themselves and allowing the Kiwi bowlers to get on top; Laxman was better off in this regard though.
Opener Akash Chopra's half-century on day five, with Indian under considerable stress, once again threw light on his sound defence and temperament. This lad does appear to have a good future in Tests.
Stephen Fleming and his men could not force a win in the end, but they must surely have won a lot of admirers with their never-say-die ways in the two Test series.
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