Nature rips off final pages from thriller

CHENNAI: Sometimes, nature has this irking habit of cheating you and throwing life out of gear. A depression in the Bay of Bengal dumped so much rain over the southern metropolis late on Sunday night and through all of Monday morning that expectations of a pulsating finish to a great Test match came crashing down.
Both in my piece on at the end of the fourth day’s play – with India needed 210 more runs to win the Test and level the series 1-1 and Australia 10 wickets to go 2-0 up – and on a TV show late at night, I had ruled out the draw. I had not reckoned with being tricked by the weather.
It was a great shame that the Test had to come to an early, unexpected and wet finish, not affording the teams the chance to press for victory. After all, on Sunday night, India and Australia left the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chepauk backing themselves to clinch a win on the final day of what was a gripping Test.
Sadly, now, we shall remember the Test match for the wicket twist in the tail that rain scripted and not so much for the wonderful action that the teams laid out. It is a pity that the rain brought down a wet curtain before the teams could play out the climactic scenes of a wonderful drama.
Suffice to say that Anil Kumble’s magnificent bowling, Shane Warne’s tryst with the world record, Virender Sehwag’s mature century, Mohammed Kaif and Parthiv Patel’s doughty century stand, Damien Martyn’s classy hundred and his fighting partnership with Jason Gillespie deserved better than a whole final day’s play being washed off.
For the second time in a decade, rain caused a Test match to end in a draw. On the previous occasion in October 1995, there had been just over five hours play spread over the first and fourth days in the Test featuring New Zealand. That was a lot easier to handle for everyone in the cricket circles – other than the groundstaff.
Talking of groundstaff, Chief Groundsman K Parthasarathy stood in the middle, where an umpire might have and surveyed the ruins. The wicket itself has been well take care of by layers of protection and was bone dry. Large areas of the outfield had been covered too but it would have take his staff a long time to drain the water from the covers.
He presented a forlorn sight, standing there with his trademark white floppy hat, gazing through his pair of spectacles. He did not prefer a raincoat unlike some of his colleagues as they removed the covers and exposed the barren pitch and the verdant turf to the gray skies. He had reason to be disappointed that his hard work came to naught.
All said and done, he had produced a wonderful Test match wicket that was designed to take the game into the fifth day and to produce a result for the fifth successive Test at the venue since the 1995 game against New Zealand.
From Team India’s perspective, despite being denied the chance to make a charge to the finish line on Monday, the Test helped it rediscover self-belief to the point that the team now fancies its chances of winning both in Nagpur and Mumbai to retain its hold on the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
From Australia’s point of view, the Test was another occasion on which the great Aussie fighting spirit came to the fore. Thought it was bowled out for 235 runs on the opening day, Australia did superbly to stay in the contest and give itself the chance to challenge India with a fourth innings target that could not be branded as easy.
In the end, rain saved many a fingernail from being chewed out of shape, hearts from skipping a beat or three. But that, to be honest, can never be any kind of compensation for the action missed. To leave us holding on to what we thought was the least likely result can only be an act of Nature.Of course, Nature mocks at mortals ever so often.
On Monday, at the start of a new week and the end of a fantastic Test match, it was almost like someone had ripped the last few pages from the thriller were enjoying. You cannot blame me if I give you the impression that I feel cheated of a great game. All of us were.