When was the last time we have experienced pace bowlers steaming in with five slip fielders in place in the final session of a Test match in India?
What we have seen from Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav in this dramatic Eden Test match, is one of the fascinating performances by an Indian pace attack in a home Test match for a long time. Especially, in the final session on Monday, the trio extracted conventional seam movement and reverse swing from a surface which is undoubtedly the fastest in India right now.
The pace, bounce and accuracy of the hosts’ seamers left Sri Lanka’s middle order looking for shelter on a dramatic fifth day evening, despite dominating the major part of this rain-affected match.
Vintage Test cricket, isn’t it?
The nail-biting finish provided everyone who was present at the Eden Gardens on Monday, a memory of a lifetime. I have been fortunate enough to cover cricket around the world for some time now, but very rarely I have seen an animated press box, which is reacting viciously to every ball during the final hour of the game. Whether it is the players or the 8,000 odd fans at the stands or the millions following the match through various media or even the journalists covering the game; the excitement was all around during that phase.
Bhuneshwar Kumar, Eden Gardens, Red ball, 5 slips + Aggressive Captaincy.
This spell will be remembered till long..#INDvSL pic.twitter.com/sEEL6Er85U
— ♀️ (@vaishali_45) November 20, 2017
While sharing his experience of playing on such a spicy wicket, KL Rahul, who scored a fighting 79 in the second innings couldn’t hide his excitement.
“These are the kind of matches you look forward to. Maybe, five or six overs we could have made a match out of it. It was a good experience for all of us. Personally, I haven’t played a game like this which is rain-curtailed for two days and then went on down the wire,” he said.
@SGanguly99 congrats dada, u made eden gardens a superb ground. U change indian team attitude after match fixing yr 1999 now u change eden gardens. Real winner is cricket pitch of kollalata in 1st test mach between #INDvsSL
— Bhanupratap Singh (@bpsinngh) November 20, 2017
So, it is clear that if we have a balance between ball and bat, things are going to get exciting for the purest form of the game and at least, here at Eden this is going to be the trend from now on, confirms the President of the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) and former Indian captain Sourav Ganguly.
“From now on at Eden, this [helpful wicket] is going to be the trend,” says Ganguly during a chat right after the match. The concept of having a wicket at Eden Gardens, which has a fair bit of pace and carry, is his brainchild. Before the home season last year, the wicket was re-laid and in the first-ever international fixture, played on that surface, which was the Test match against New Zealand, 26 of the 40 wickets were taken by seamers.
Coming to the recent match, for the Sri Lankan head-coach Nic Pothas, who has grown up playing on grassy wickets like the one we had at Eden back in South Africa, contests like these are a great advertisement for Test cricket.
“We played two games against Pakistan which were fantastic advertisements for Test cricket, this one as well,” Pothas said while answering to the author in the post-match press conference.
“Credit to India… We obviously played good cricket for a long part of this game, and then they put us under pressure and it ended in a good game of cricket. So, it’s a credit to them as well for contributing to such a good game of cricket. Test match cricket is always going to be exciting. When you have a long length of the game, there’s the risk that the ends early or it could end probably not as entertaining as the crowds may want. But if it goes to the end, it’s always going to be entertaining.”
It's a draw! Sri Lanka survive a nervy final session with a fantastic spell from @BhuviOfficial getting India to within 3 wickets from victory in Kolkata. What a Test! #INDvSL pic.twitter.com/pxi1Ljs0RP
— ICC (@ICC) November 20, 2017
In this game, all 17 Sri Lankan wickets were taken by the Indian pacers, which has happened for the first time in India. Throughout all five days, there was assistance for the seamers and the ball was flirting around the bat. Furthermore, along with the performance of the Indian pacers, we have also witnessed that Suranga Lakmal’s spell, Cheteshwar Pujara’s gusty half-century, Rangana Herath’s contribution with bat, Virat Kohli’s game-changing 50th international hundred and Niroshan Dickwella’s chitchat with the Indian players.
Overall it was a fascinating five day’s play at this iconic venue, a kind of game which has certainly provided a much needed boost to the fading popularity of Test cricket in this part of the world.
As a stakeholder of the game, we really hope Test centres around the world will take a leaf out of Eden’s book and produce wickets which allow bowlers to have their say as well.