Poles Apart

Having secured the Ashes in the fourth Test, England seems set to take the series 3-1, a fair indication of the difference between the two sides – they are poles apart.   England has already become the first side to beat Australia, in Australia, by an innings twice in the same series.  The way things are shaping up, they seem set to do it an unthinkable three times.

Australia’s woes continued and England’s joy did the same.  Australia continued to select the wrong players, in the wrong positions while England’s subs continue to shine (as well as their first choices).  And a special mention for Cook.  His reprieve on 41 yesterday was pivotal in the match.  However, he has taken his chance and broken all sorts of records.  A total of 766 runs in the series is the second highest by an Englishman in an Ashes series, or any series.  He narrowly missed becoming only the second visiting player from any country (besides Hammond) to score two double centuries in a series in Australia.

I will discuss the delicate position of Australian cricket after this Test concludes for I have been ignoring a magnificent series in South Africa for too long.  It should be remembered that this series is a real clash of cricket’s heavyweights, as opposed to the current Ashes contest.  You could debate at length, ignoring the official ICC rankings, whether South Africa or India are the better team. However, there could be no dispute that India and South Africa are easily the top two.

After India made a shaky start in the very first innings of the series, being dismissed for a paltry 136 and then conceding 600 and losing by an innings, India has bounced back.  India arrived in South Africa just three days before the series started, had no warm up matches and it is little wonder they were rolled.  They could scarcely have been over their jetlag, let alone be adjusted to local conditions.  I wonder why they did not pay the occasion the respect that it deserved.

Nonetheless, on the back of yet another epic second innings from Laxman (96 in a total of 228), India squared the series in the second Test.  The third Test has seen India take a 2 run first innings lead, on the back of yet another magnificent century (his 51st) from Tendulkar (146).  The Indian innings had everything.  With the match critically poised, Harris dropped a sharp caught and bowled from Tendulkar, only to drop the ball onto the stumps and run Laxman out at the non-strikers end!  It would be difficult to know whether to laugh or cry.

Steyn bowled with venom and accuracy throughout the innings and ended up with 5/75.  His battle with Tendulkar being a highlight.  There was an incident when Steyn and South Africa were convinced there was a clear caught behind denied by umpire Ian Gould.  It turns out that Gould was correct – Harbhajan Singh missed the ball, the ball clipped the off stump (hence the loud, woody nick) but the bail was not dislodged.  It moved but did not fall.

Harbhajan finished the day with the last word, taking two late wickets to finish with 2 for 1 and has taken two more early wickets on the fourth day,  Now, this is a Test match and a series worth following to its conclusion!

Update: South Africa has posted 341 all out, leaving India a day to make a mountainous 340 for the win on a worn wicket. Kallis, the superstar, made a brilliant century in tough conditions (his second for the match), while Harbhajan Singh took seven wickets. It seems the excitement continued right through the day. Here’s the cricinfo commentary of the last over from Harbhajan:

101.1 – Harbhajan Singh to Morkel, no run, 84.2 kph, turns from outside leg, nudged to the off side

101.2 – Harbhajan Singh to Morkel, FOUR, 83.5 kph, clears the front foot and smashes this flighted delivery that lands outside leg to the square-leg boundary.

101.3 – Harbhajan Singh to Morkel, OUT, 88.9 kph, Holes out to long-on. He went for another big hit but finds Sreesanth at long-on. No 6 for Harbhajan. M Morkel c Sreesanth b Harbhajan Singh 28 (52m 45b 4×4 0x6) SR: 62.22

101.4 Harbhajan Singh to Tsotsobe, FOUR, 86.4 kph, Whoa! Lonwabo Tsotsobe has charged down the track and hammered this to the straight boundary!

101.5 – Harbhajan Singh to Tsotsobe, FOUR, 81.0 kph, And again. This time to the midwicket boundary. He cleared the front foot and biffs this over the on-side field. Smith stands and applauds with a smile

101.6 – Harbhajan Singh to Tsotsobe, OUT, 83.2 kph, SA all out 341. Jacques Kallis not out 109! Tsotsobe rushed down the track and was caught by Sehwag at long-on. LL Tsotsobe c Sehwag b Harbhajan Singh 8 (4m 3b 2×4 0x6) SR: 266.66

For those wishing to follow what may yet be a fascinating day at Cape Town, here’s the link to the live scores

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