It may look like a mistimed flick by Virender Sehwag that brought an end to his free-flowing knock, but, in reality, he was precisely drawn into it by Doug Bracewell. A brilliant catch by Daniel Flynn only made it easier for the plan to be executed.
There have been memorable times when Test cricket got the adulation it still deserves from the masses. And the on-field actions, too, paid back with undoubted brilliance. And even though the current crop is fast coming to know cricket as a batsman's game, Tests become worth watching either for some brilliant bowling, or some batsmen taming them. So when New Zealand came in to India, the air was that of "oh, what can this series possibly offer".
Famed bowling attacks that come with the Aussies, the Proteas or the English sides of late have time and again got their man riding on pure strategies. One wasn't expecting such beautiful mind-cricket from this New Zealand team - at least not till Saturday afternoon. But perceptions have changed rather too quickly in Test matches. After Ross Taylor altered the course of the Bangalore Test on Day 1, it was his bowlers turn to show that they aren't here to just give some free ranking points to Dhoni & Co. Â
Changing the usual
If you want to win a Test in India, get your best spinners on board - has been the norm for long now. Courtesy the steady flow of generations of tweakers that India have managed to have at its disposal, the quicker ones are still, somehow, looked at as the ones who are there to take off the shine from the cherry and hand over the proceedings of a Test.Â What it also did was make life difficult for young fast bowlers in the country as they jostled to find a foothold in the limited space offered in the scheme of things.
But, then, we aren't here to talk about how we have lacked quality pacemen - thankfully, we have quite a few now who can rush in real fast and move the ball at the same time. What's interesting was that the Kiwi bowling unit bundled out a famed Indian batting line-up, that too without a single wicket to their lone spinner. Remember, we are not in Napier or Christchurch.
An overcast condition is meant to assist fast bowlers. But that condition is still needed to be exploited. And there's only one way of doing that - bowl brilliantly. And that's precisely what Tim Southee, in the able company of Doug Bracewell and Trent Boult, did in Bangalore. No express speed, no exaggerated seam movement and leave aside getting into the usual fast bowler's habit of talking up the batsman - just plain good fast bowling was on the platter. And that was all the Kiwis needed to rattle the Indians. It seemed as if a stint at Hyderabad - a place renowned for its biriyanis and kebabs - during their last Test had taught them the value of just the right amount of ingredients for a brilliant item. So, peppering with the right amount of well-directed bouncers, hovering around the off-stump, drawing the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli and Gautam Gambhir into an uncertain awkwardness and even luring Sehwag to his fall - you couldn't but help love this display of pace bowling. Apart from a lucky Suresh Raina wicket down the leg side, there wasn't a single jubilation-moment for Southee that he hadn't truly earned.Â Â
Eden Gardens has a dubious distinction of time-and-again supporting visiting teams more than India if they offer good cricket. If such bowling is on offer, you can't really help but do something like that. Hope the Bangalore audience was sporting enough too.
Those who have done it before:
In a spinner's land, strangely, six out the top 10 all-time foreign players who have picked up the maximum number of wickets in India are fast bowlers.
Derek Underwood (England) 54 wickets; Best:Â 5/84; Slow left-arm
Richie Benaud (Australia) 52 wickets; Best 7/72; Leg spinner
Courtney Walsh (West Indies) 43 wickets; Best: 6/79; Right arm fast
Muttiah Muralitharan (Sri Lanka) 40 wickets; Best 7/100; Off-spinner
Lance Gibbs (West Indies) 39 wickets; Best 7/98; Off-spinner
Wes Hall (West Indies) 38 wickets; Best 6/50; Right arm fast
John Lever (England) 37 wickets; Best 7/46; Left arm fast-medium
Andy Roberts (West Indies) 37 wickets; Best 7/64; Right arm fast
Malcom Marshall (West Indies) 36 wickets; Best 6/37; Right arm fast
Graham McKenzie (Australia) 34 wickets; Best 6/58; Right arm fast
** The next three top bowlers against India in India are all Aussies - spin legend Shane Warne (34 wickets) and fast bowlers Jason Gillespie and Glenn McGrath (33 wickets each). **