If the rest of the Test matches around the world all through 2011 can be half as exciting as the third day of the third Test match at Newlands in Cape Town, then, there cannot be too much doubt that the Test match cricket is here to stay.
It was a day of extremely high quality cricket and the one that saw both sides trade blows like two new boxers trying to assess each other out in the first round of the competition. Sachin Tendulkar got to his 51st Test century, while Dale Steyn bowled a spell, that many have described as the best ever since that from Michael Holding to Geoffrey Boycott years ago.
First about Steyn. Already, he possesses the best strike rate – balls taken for each of his wicket – amongst those who have taken more than 200 wickets in international Test match cricket. Then, if one looks at his average of 22 and a bit in Tests, it speaks volumes about a man who has spearheaded the attack for a couple of years now. However, what one saw on the third day of the Cape Town Test was something extraordinary. The ball did not swing, it was almost like a Shane Warne bowling his leg-spinners at the speed of 140 km/hr.
The one that got Cheteshwar Pujara out could have been only played had a tail-ender gone on to swish his bat across the line and hoped to connect. Even then, Steyn, with his pace, would have come out on top eight times out of ten. The one that clipped the stumps of Harbhajan Singh swung even more than the Pujara dismissal, which is why it only clipped the off stump despite pitching on the leg.
And then, there was Tendulkar. It was because of his untimely dismissal on 146 that there was a general feeling of the work not being completed but if one were to look at the innings objectively from the point of view of opposition, Steyn’s bowling and pitch conditions, it was probably the best that Tendulkar has scored – emulating even the ones at Chennai in 1998 and Perth in 1992.
The best part about Tendulkar’s innings was the manner in which he left the ball, unlike some of the other Indian batsmen who got sucked into playing them. More importantly, Steyn’s bowling was such that it would have taken a lot out of the batsmen – enough to make it easy for them to lose focus against Paul Harris and Lonwabo Tsotsobe. Tendulkar did not nothing of that sort and went on to get the Indians into a position that was even-steven.
Two of the best passages of play in a Test match in recent times and both coming in the same game.