These days there seems to be a craze around the cricketing world about the latest “gimmick” called T20 format and how it’s going to sideline the other two vintage forms of the willow and leather game. However, if you look at some of the exciting 50 over contests in 2009, then that theory has fallen by the wayside. Just in late October (09), in a 50 over game, we saw a legendary veteran trying to guide team India to an almost improbable 351 at Hyderabad only to fall 3 runs short, and the later in December ‘09, at Rajkot, it was a Sri-lankan aspiring opener who almost stole the thunder away from India in a 415 chase, again to fall short by 3 runs. Like this wasn’t enough, in the mean time, Virender Sehwag announced that a day outing at Brabourne Stadium, in Test-Match can be even more exciting than a short-lived fun of a T20, as he hammered unbeaten 284 in 5 hours.
Sunny Tuesday morning at Rajkot, promised a good ODI game between two rivals who had just finished an exciting 2 match T20 series, however now it was time to play some serious cricket. Sangakkara called it right and put India in, hoping that wicket would get better and easier as the day goes on. His dreams of restricting India to a sizable score were shattered as Sehwag and Sachin romped their way to 153 in just 19 @ over 8 per over. Dhoni made all the right moves, including promoting himself at #3, during India’s batting and riding on the Sehwag (142) assault, with some late innings fire-works from Jadeja, India registered 414 for 7 in 50.
415 looked monumental to chase, but not to TM Dilshan who started in his unique fashion, was aided by his able partner Tharanga and some sloppy Indian fielding & catching. The openers amassed 188 in 24 as the captain walked in and got right in the grove. Sangakkara looked set to get his fastest Ton when Praveen Kumar foxed him to trigger the tide India’s way. When all the other Indian bowlers were bleeding over 9 runs per over, Harbhajan bowled a tight line and was impressive in his 2 for 58 (10) outing on a wicket where 825 runs were scored @ 8.25 per over in a day.
Bhajji brought India right back in the game with quick wickets, however, Srilanka found a perfect combo in Kandamby and Matthews as they inched closer. Lankan were in control with 14 needed of 11 with 5 wickets in hand, especially with all young Indian fielders grassing simplest of offerings, and right there, a 36-year old veteran displayed that he is still one of the best fielders at mid-wicket. Sachin’s quick reflexes resulted into dismissals of Kandamby (run-out) and Matthews (caught), as Nehra finished off with series of low full-tosses and yorkers to see India home by a hair thin margin of 3 runs.
A thriller of a game!!! It had it all: Sehwag’s assault, Tendulkar’s class, Dhoni’s bottom hand, Dilshan’s aggression, Sangakkara’s rampage, but finally team India held nerves to win it. The man-of-the-match was awarded to Sehwag, which could have been shared with Dilshan, but honestly it should have been given to Bhajji as it takes super effort to bowl like he did on a flat-track like the one in Rajkot. Overall, it was an excitingly thrilling affair.
After this game, the 2009-10 India –Aus ODI series, the Sehwag Special at Brabourne, and the 2009-10 exciting Pak-NZL test match series; all I can say is……. MOVE OVER T20, VINTAGE CRICKET IS BACK WITH A BANG!!!
-Nikhil Sharad Jadhav
Modification of author’s article published in Arizona Cricket Association’s December ’09 Newsletter – Criczona