Ball One – Rahul Dravid has enjoyed a great career, not just as the most technically correct batsman of his generation, but as an ambassador for the game – I’m not alone in hoping that his experience and quiet authority are not lost to a game that has never needed administrative leadership more. The question is when Dravid should leave the crease for the last time. Despite making a century in the First Test, he wasn’t fluent until he had spent a couple of hours at the wicket, and was lucky to get three figures. In another scratchy knock today, he blocked far more half-volleys than a top batsman should. He has always played well in England and would love to tour in 2011, but with a long queue behind him – including the exciting Pujara – it might be a selectorial indulgence to pick him.
Ball Two – Suresh Raina has forced his way into the Indian batting line-up – no easy task – and already has a Test ton to his name, but his shot to be dismissed (on 20, absolutely the worst score for a serious batsman to return to the pavilion) suggests that he still has much to learn about the demands of the most unforgiving form of the game. Vettori set an obvious trap and Raina fell into it like a schoolboy.
Ball Three – Is the 50th century of Sachin Tendulkar’s illustrious Test career playing on his mind? For a man who has made batting sessions, indeed batting days, the keystone of his career, his charge and swipe at Vettori so early in the day spoke of a mind not entirely focused on the matter at hand. He cannot, in a career stretching back to the 80s, have been dismissed in a more inelegant and, dare I say, foolish manner.
Ball Four – In his mid-thirties, VVS Laxman has nothing to prove and, aside from Test cricket and some domestic matches in India and England, nothing to do. Unlike for most of his colleagues, the treadmill does occasionally pause for VVS, and it shows in his sensational form over the last twelve months or so. He has never taken much out of himself physically at the crease nor in the field and his eye appears undiminished with age. If he wants it, he shows every sign of being able to play Test cricket for a few years yet. I hope he does.
Ball Five – With no reverse swing on offer, it’s hard work for bowlers once the shine goes off the ball. There aren’t many 90mph merchants around these days and few of them appear to have the physical resilience required for five day cricket on a regular basis – I’m looking at you Shaun Tait. Tim Southee will always be a seamer rather than a speedster, but his brief spell that culminated with Rahul Dravid’s wicket, showed that line and length and conventional swing and seam can still be a weapon in 21st century cricket. Not that we should need to be told, as Mohammad Asif, now surely lost to the game, showed that there is a role for a seamer if they are as skilled and disciplined (on the field) as he was. His bowling may soon be a thing of the past, but I hope he has the chance to pass on his knowledge to the likes of Southee and other medium pacers in a coaching role.
Ball Six – India likes to present itself as an industrial powerhouse, the only real rival to China as the West carves out a post-industrial future. So it’s no surprise to see a bright, new stadium in Hyderabad, and very pleasing to see a decent crowd in for the weekend play. What is less pleasing is to see the grandstands largely uncovered in a part of the world where shade is valued. Apparently a decision about whether to build roofs for the spectators is yet to be finalised – well, that it is even a question is unbecoming of the new thrusting India and its showpiece sport. Get the job done – and soon.
The Tooting Trumpet, whom you can often find at Testmatchsofa.com and on Twitter at @garynaylor999 and @Fakeadil.