A few months ago I wrote a post on a parameter to gauge how efficient a partnership is. Yesterday was a classic case of a team getting it wrong and losing a chance to gain an advantage.
Virender Sehwag set out like a house on fire like he always does, scoring 64 off 63 before close of play on Day 2. India were chasing a mammoth score of 642 on a flat pitch and needing to win this test if they wanted to win the series. The only way it could happen was if Sehwag batted through the day, and even then the odds for an Indian win would have been tall.
Well they certainly didn't help themselves in trying to shorten them. The pair did decently well on Day 2, working at an efficiency of 54 percent. However, for some inexplicable reason Vijay ended up taking a lot more strike on the third morning. He faced 62 of 90 balls from the start of the 21st over to the end of the 35th. His scoring rate (32 off 62) during this period was decent by test standards Sehwag at the other end was scoring much faster (21 off 28). The partnership efficiency for this passage of play was just 31 percent.
What it also did was slow down Sehwag's charge as he was getting hardly any strike. Even before he got out on 99 he had been dropped at backward point when he was on 89 and had offered a half chance to backward short leg. The man likes to see runs being scored and the opposition always looks to get him out by cutting off his boundaries, although he's smart enough to keep his tally going by taking the singles on offer. However, he can't do anything about the score if he doesn't get the strike. It sounds very simplistic and obvious and yet if you see most of his innings you'll see he invariably ends up facing less deliveries than his partner(s).
I'm not privy to what was discussed in team meetings or on the pitch but if I were Gary Kirsten I'd instruct my batsmen to look for singles when they're batting with Sehwag. Put away the odd bad delivery but the first instinct should be find a gap and get Sehwag back on strike. Not only will it increase the scoring rate, it will also get the other batsmen going and they won't be stuck when Sehwag is finally dismissed.