It was a frustrating morning. Certainly, the wicket was a bit more helpful to the bowlers today than any earlier time. All the ingredients of a turner were there, it was just that it did not happen soon enough for this test to live. The spinners bowled quite well in the morning. We saw Sreesanth drop a simple catch – this was also a new experience, to see and feel a dropped catch on the field – and RP a tougher one off his own bowling. The crowd was expectedly a bit less and less vocal today.
I experimented with my seating position in the stands today, given the status of the game. It has long been an accepted axiom that the best place to watch the game is from behind the bowler’s arm, and staying true to it I had got myself as close to this angle as physically possible in the stand. It is also said that the mid-wicket view, the side-ways view is the worst. Today, after tea, I decided to try out this particular view. It was a revelation. It shattered years of blind belief in what had been passed down as gospel. Like several others, (play in the V, get your foot to the pitch of the ball, play out the first few overs) this was a cricketing myth. It was enlightening and wonderful. While it is obviously true that the line of the ball cannot be judged from that view, it is just as obvious that it is the optimal position to follow length, and resultantly, bounce. Duh! It is just simple geometry, when one comes to think about it. If line is what you want to observe, stay behind the bowler’s arm, if it is length, stay at mid-wicket. And who is to say which is more important? Michael Holding, famously said, “Line is optional, length is mandatory”. I guess it depends on your perspective for the moment. Today, when there was little turn, and Harbhajan relying on the bounce, it was the right choice I made.
If there was one aspect of the game I had not been able to witness it was a great catch. And that discrepancy was rectified when RP Singh pulled off a blinder at square leg. I saw the ball from the time it left Bhajji’s hand till it reached RPs. It was a matter of a fraction of a second! Wonderful. It was at this point that I felt sure that I did the right thing in coming today.
All along Harbhajan was bowling beautifully. This was one of the things I enjoyed most in the Test even amidst the towering batting performances of all and sundry. He takes some time to settle but once he gets the line and loop going he can be beautiful to watch.
The bounce is the best part to watch in Harbhajan’s bowling, along with the flight. Ashwell Prince’s wicket was memorable for me. I was a bit distracted today given the state of the match but luckily just focused on that particular delivery. It was slower, given good flight bounced and ended up in the hands of short leg. Again, I followed the trajectory of the ball all the way. Awesome.
With the wicket of Amla just before lunch the last dire hopes were rekindled and I decided to stay on. A bit surprisingly so did most of the crowd. But it was not meant to happen. It was petering out to a tame draw. Kumble left the field – and with part-timers Sehwag and Laxman on, there was no denying the inevitable. Yet, it did not get boring. The crowd did not leave or turn silent; on the contrary it turned more vocal. And strangely, I felt the same way too. What was happening? Suddenly it dawned upon me. The match was over as a contest between two nations, but the cricketing contest was still on.
It ended rather abruptly, and quite aptly so. It would have been overkill to have gone on any longer. The presentation was expectedly a major anti-climax. There was no mention of Dravid’s achievement. However Makhaya Ntini once again obliged us with his dance. He ventured almost into the stands and shook hands and signed autographs for several kids.
The match was over. Cricinfo reported it as a boring draw. I reported it otherwise. I guess they were right. I don’t care about them though. I will remember these five days for the rest of my life.