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Sunday, August 12, 2007

Enforce the Follow On

My first instinctive reaction to India's decision to not enforce the follow-on was Geoffrey Boycott's 'rubbish'. A lead of 319 runs, but with just under 6 sessions left in the test, on a wicket which still favours the bat over the ball, I don't understand the no follow-on strategy much. Let's look at the various option possible situations.
Scenario 1: Objective Win
India plays about 2 more sessions, declares half an hour after tea and bat at about 4.5 an over and get 270 runs. England needs an impossible 589 runs to win but India needs to get 10 England wickets in about a 110 overs, on a wicket which is unlikely to favour the ball much, even on the 5th day of the test.
Scenario 2: Objective Draw
India play on till close of play, may be even a bit tomorrow morning, play the way tests are played and match peter outs into a dull boring draw.
Scenario 3: Objective Win
Dravid is seriously looking at a 2-0 verdict. India bats for about 40 more overs, at an average of 5, one-day style, and give England a still-realistic chase of about 500. India too have over 6 sessions to bowl out England.
Now, let's add one more scenario, now a hypothetical one:
Scenario 4: If India had enforced the follow-on
Scenario 4.1
England bat solidly, losing just 3 wickets on the 4th day and reaching a healthy 250 or so.
Scenario 4.2
England bat like they did in the 1st innings, are at 250 or so for 5 or 6, at close of play on Day 4.
Out of the 5 scenarios we just discussed, where would be the highest probability of a win? I guess in Scenario 4.2, we are best off. Realistically England can go on to score about 350-400, leaving us to chase a smallish 50 - 70. Even if we look at Scenario 4.1, realistically England can go on to score about 500, still leaving us with a chance of getting the 200 odd in some 30 overs or so. Worst case, it would be a draw.
On the other hand, the follow-on has opened up a lost English cause - a chance to level the series. If we go defensive like in the first 2 scenarios, we lose the chance of winning. If we go aggressive, we allow England a chance to come back, however faint the chances may be. And there is the other possibility, the one which is happening as I write this: what if we don't bat well, and get out too soon? Unlikely, but not impossible na. And there was that other possibility, which can't happen now - England might have folded in meekly. Unlikely, but not impossible na - afterall, India are 10/2 already!

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