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December 16, 2008

A heartwarming gesture recieves a heartwarming response

The English aren't usually an admired nation. Within the UK we were seen as the dominant aggressors over Ireland, Wales and Scotland. Abroad we were one of the largest colonial powers in history overseeing the great British Empire - more often than not in less than favourable manner. This, despite the dwindling significance and reach of the British Empire, has left a sour taste in the mouths of many within the commonwealth. As far as sport (and cricket in particular, being a largely commonwealth dominated game) there is little most nations enjoy more than getting on over the old-country.

I've read on websites like cricinfo.com, commentators saying how much of a bold statement England's return to India to play a 2 Test series in the wake of the Mumbai Terror attacks would be but it wasn't until I read the comments on Mike Atheron's latest article that it really hit me how much of an impact this decision has had on the Indian people.

Here are some examples:

Despite losing England will remain eternally the greatest friend ever of India. Well done Kevi's boys!
You might have lost the test match but you have won the respect and affection of the one billion Indian people for your support of India in its hour of need. Thank you!

R Singh, London, England

It was a great match given the circumstances. People of India will always be grateful to England and its cricket team for standing by its side in need of crisis. And Pieterson, [sic] you are now part of Indian cricket folklore as a hero.

gaurav, Mumbai, India

We indians are overwhelmed by the wonderful gesture shown by the England team by coming back to India after the terror attack. Thank you for supporting us.

Raj B., New Delhi, India

Irrespective of the result, this match will be forever etched in the memory of one billion Indian by the spirit in which it was played.
No words can describe the feeling of thankfulness towards the england's team to be with us in such a testing time

Ashwini, Hyderabad, India

Many Thanks to the English team for coming to India!!
We salute you!!

Ashwani Kumar, Gurgaon, India

Thank You England! Going beyond just the result of the game...we're grateful to the ECB & the entire Englsih squad for coming back and giving the people of India reason to return to normal life post the dastardly acts in Mumbai. Thanks a bunch lads!!

Kartik, Bangalore, India

It was one of the best test matches I have ever watched.

As an Indian, I salute the English team for going ahead with the test series in the current circumstances and they have won the hearts of millions of Indians with their gesture.

Win or loss, Kevin Pieterson and boys are genuinely heroes.

Ratnakar, London,

First of all - Thank you English Cricket team for coming back. It should go down in history as one of the finest off-field decisions.
England should not beat themselves for this loss. This was more an Indian victory than English loss. The only area that merits question is the English run-rate.

Kalyan, Chennai, India


When you consider that the Pakistan Cricket Board is in virtual isolation following their terrorist attacks I'm sure many in India were worried the same would happen to them. England's decision to return will surely have left a lasting mark on the Indian people and Kevin Pietersen, as the captain who had such a key part in ensuring he had a full squad returning with him, has shown he is a strong and principled leader.

It was not just heartwarming to see England walk out to bat on day 1 and the symbolism of it all but it was even more heartwarming to see that the gesture has been very warmly appreciated by the Indian people - in India and abroad.


December 15, 2008

Slow scoring rate and Sehwag the key as England crash to defeat

"After day one, if you'd said to us we would be defending 250 on the final day, we'd have taken that” These were the words of Kevin Pietersen after his side had fallen to a six-wicket defeat to India in the first test in Chennai.

Instead of the 250 that Pietersen would have been happy with though, the hosts were set a rather commanding 387 target after Andrew Strauss had recorded centuries in each of England’s innings.

Speaking of England’s batting, it is my opinion that the mentality in the latter part of the second innings played a huge part in the tourists losing the test match. The scoring rate was abysmal with Strauss and Paul Collingwood taking comfortably 200 balls to record their centuries.

After England had ensured a first innings lead, there was a real chance to push on when they ended day three leading by 247 runs with seven wickets in hand. Now, I find it hard to criticise either of the centurions even though they were a bit too watchful. It was when these two were dismissed that I became really frustrated.

England should have assessed the situation and opted to attack. Instead, Andrew Flintoff and Graeme Swann decided to take up valuable bowling time by facing 32 balls for a combined total of 11 runs. Did they not want to win this game? Do they not understand the value of momentum in test cricket?

I suppose the only thing the slow scoring rate did was overshadow the fact that England had suffered yet another devastating collapse from 257-3 to 311-9 before they eventually declared. It was such a limp way to go into the fourth innings and it significantly undone a lot of the previous hard work.

Nevertheless, England were still backed by the cricket odds to win the game. It was muted that the pitch had caused the slow run-rate and that India would inevitably suffer the same fate. Hmm…I don’t think so. Up step Virender Sehwag.

The Indian opener completely turned the game on its head with a blistering innings late on day four. He scored 83 runs from just 68 deliveries as India went into the final day run chase on 131-1, 256 runs from victory.

It was an amazing performance from Sehwag and it was the innings that won his team the match in my opinion. Yes, Sachin Tendulkar’s unbeaten century and Yuvraj Singh’s 86 not out were important, but if it wasn’t for Sehwag they would have come to the crease in much different circumstances.

Had it been on 20-2 when Tendulkar walked out or had India been behind the rate, it could have worked out very differently. However, as it was the ‘little master’ came in with the score on 141-2 with plenty of time to score the remaining runs. A perfect setting for the leading test run-scorer of all time, it has to be said.

As for England, well Pietersen has admitted that the defeat was a ‘very bitter pill to swallow’. He does expect them to bounce back in the second test though, even though a series victory is now beyond them.

To finish with for today, let’s take a brief look at the positive and negative aspects of England’s performance.

Positives

Andrew Strauss – Excellent return to form after limited preparation.
Paul Collingwood – Typically battling display in the second innings.
Matt Prior – Looked composed at number seven and was tidy with the gloves.
Graeme Swann – Excellent test debut for him as he took four wickets.

Negatives

Ian Bell – Only 24 runs in the match. Time for a ‘rest’ I think.
Kevin Pietersen – Only five runs in the match and he must have had an influence about the negative strategy in the second innings.
Monty Panesar – Took three wickets in the first innings, but just doesn’t look confident enough for me. Vary it a bit Monty!

Overall, there were some decent individual performances, but the team display in the second half of the match wasn’t good enough. I’d like to see Owais Shah come in for Bell, but to be honest, cricket betting will be favouring a 2-0 India series win whatever happens.

By Thomas Rooney – A professional sports writer who blogs about England cricket


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