What a day it was for the world of cricket! Three men inspired their teams to commanding positions! Two matches yet to see the result while the one that finished yesterday left an unforgettable mark in history!

First the sensational final match of SA-Aus ODI series at Wanderers. Well I got home at 9.00 p.m. and switched on the TV set for surfing channels; I just stood still in my seat as I read the score of 392-7 and South Africa still requiring 43 runs to win in 26 balls on ESPN! I did not know how to react! How much did Australia score in the first place when South Africa was so close to 400 and still a fair distance from winning it! Now that Aus had scored 400-odd the first time ever in the history of ODI, how the hell did SA get so close to the target and also looked good enough to win it!!! Was I dreaming? What kind of a match is this! From then on I did not move from my seat till the final ball was bowled!!!

Excellent, excellent stuff! This is what ODI cricket is made of; nail-biting finish, fight to the finale, every ball being bowled just wrecking your nerves! The SA & Aus teams managed to give me a heart attack quite easily! Seriously, I could sense my heart skipping beats! I was ruing the fact that I had missed both Ponting’s awesome 105 ball 164 earlier in the day and later Herschelle Gibbs’ 175 to lead the South African valiant fightback. Boucher played a brilliant knock in the tense situation; he was really as cool as a cucumber! And he got some excellent support from Van der Wath, Telemachus, and Ntini! Telemachus hit some lusty blows along with Boucher and brought down the target from 30 in 18 balls to 13 in 12 balls. From there on it was going to be SA‘s game but Brett Lee and Co. had some other plans! With 3 balls left and 2 runs to get Lee had Andrew Hall caught at mid-on and the chokers tag began to haunt the SA again! If they were to lose this one by one run I doubt they would have come back strongly ever against any team in the world!

Ntini walked in with all the pressure in the world that is possible, on his head! Calmly he hit the ball down to the third man to grab a single and made sure SA would not lose! At that point I felt maybe a tie would be a befitting result but cricket can be a cruel game at times and Boucher’s four of the next ball sealed SA victory and slashed Aus’s hopes!

With that hit, not only did they win an enthralling match and create history but also wrapped up a keenly fought ODI series 3-2. The series going right down to the wire, the very last ball! South Africans were in nth heaven and deserve fully to be there. The Aussies left wondering what more could we have done? When Ricky Punting blasted that 164 and then had his men walk back o the dressing room having scored 434 , the first time ever a team had achieved 400 in ODI, he must have felt that his team had won the match and with that the series! What a fine comeback by Ponting’s men after being 0-2 down in the series! Little would he have imagined the SAs would chase this one successfully! Cricket can be a cruel, cruel heart-wrenching game!

And while this will go down as the greatest match ever; here are a few things to think about. Why were the boundaries shortened? To enable the batsmen get more runs? Does anyone care for the bowlers anymore? I think they will get extinct in ODIs if 300-350 continues to be an average score. Agreed that seeing a team bowled out under 100 does not make an exciting match but neither does a team getting 400 odd! Spare a thought for the bowlers. This is a game for both and lets not make it so batsmen-friendly! Bracken got 5 wickets in the match and yet his contribution amounts to zilch! For heaven’s sake what more must a bowler do?

But it was an exciting game and I loved the fight the two teams gave till the very end! Though I didn’t quite get the logic of bowling full-tosses and short pitch deliveries towards the end which were easy meal for the set SA batsman! Aussie will have to think about that!!

The other two matches were in the pure version of the game. Shane Bond and Anil Kumble both inspired their teams back into the game with their fine bowling performances.

What seemed to be heading towards a seemingly dull draw what with two days played not completed in Mohali; Kumble turned on his magic in the last session and had England on the back-foot. 112-5 out of which Kumble picked up 3 wickets to follow up his previous 5 in the first innings! What a lovely way to celebrate his 500 wickets in test cricket. He deserves a standing ovation for his grit and gumption shown throughout his career. He has been Team India’s silent warrior! There have been times when he has been criticized, yours truly being an equal accomplice! He has never been deterred though and gone about his game plan quietly, just like his nature. No controversies, no verbal attacks. He has achieved everything a bowler would wish for in his international career and done that without any hooplah or noise. Anil we salute you, and you have set affine fine example for youngsters to follow!

Kumble’s effort has set up an exciting 5th day’s play for Mohali. The 38 run lead could prove to be a handful if we are able to bowl out England cheaply and then chase around 150 -180 in the last two sessions! That should make for an exciting day and it’s pretty sad that it is not a weekend and I will miss the match live once again!

And now for the final hero among the three, Shane Bond. One of my favourite bowlers in the international arena. I still remember the VB series of 2001-02 when Bond shone into limelight. After Hadlee, New Zealand finally had a bowler who could bring the opposition down to its feet! Sheer pace again! Yesterday while chasing 290, WI looked good to win having started off at 148-0 but Bond came in and triggered a collapse and today morning NZ sealed their victory!

A fine day for world cricket, savour it folks! There is a reason why test cricket is still the best form of cricket. Bowlers get their due; and more often than not, it’s the bowlers who win matches for their teams! Bond and Kumble have given some fine examples yesterday and on the other hand only batsmen dominate the ODI, there is no room for bowlers there. Don’t believe me? Go watch Ponting and Gibbs knocks of yesterday!

Don’t forget to stay tuned into the final day’s play at Mohali, let’s hope that the Indians don’t disappoint. Maybe they could draw inspiration from the NZ-WI game and the SA-Aus game. Fight till the last ball of the day is bowled! It surely ain’t over till the fat lady sings!

P.S.: I also thought it was a fine sporting gesture by Ponting to refuse the joint man-of-the-match award saying Gibbs deserved it as he not only got more but also helped his team to win. Excellent stuff Ricky and a good example set again!!
And on another note; highly, highly impressed by Munaf Patel! Where has he been for so long? He has wrecked England again!