Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - Jhulan Goswami's four-ball symphony with Alyssa Healy. Jhulan Goswami removed the openers after India's declaration.
Jhulan Goswami removed the openers after India's declaration.
Was Jhulan Goswami's four-ball symphony with Alyssa Healy a sign that we need more women's Test cricket? Was that epic mini-battle between two of the world's best just another reminder as to why we all need to pay a lot more attention to women's cricket overall? Did the 38-year-old Goswami at the twilight of her career show us in the twilight on the Gold Coast, with a pink ball in her hand, what we've missed out on in all those years the Indian women went without playing too many Tests? Or in a nutshell, was this the highlight reel that women's Test cricket has always sought to get that elusive fifth day added to the contest?
On the face of it, you could argue that Goswami's four-card trick to knock Healy out at the Metricon Stadium on Saturday (October 2) night meant all of that and some more. But then you wonder if it really had to. Could we not celebrate an event of this high-quality value in its isolation, rather than necessarily having to try and attach a bigger picture relevance to it? For, Goswami v Healy deserved to be its own show. What we witnessed after all was a seminal moment not just in the context of this series or women's cricket, but that of the sport itself. It simply was that special.
Goswami's brilliance not only lit up an otherwise classic Test match day of attrition. It also totally justified India's decision to keep on batting in order to time their declaration perfectly with the lights taking effect over the stadium. And why the visitors' approach, which received criticism from some quarters, eventually ended up giving them the best chance to even contemplate pushing for a result.
If anything, it also set up the scene for the Goswami v Healy main event. India's veteran seamer had already shown in her first spell that she was prepared to pitch the new-ball fuller and in stump-hitting areas. She'd also already made contact with the stumps, when she had Beth Mooney bowled off a delivery that didn't do much in the air or off the wicket, but still went through the left-hander's defences. She'd also constantly threatened Meg Lanning's outside-edge, zoning in on the Australian captain's off-stump. And by the time she returned for her second burst – welcomed back by the ground announcer with “Yoolan Goswami returns to the attack” – the air around Metricon had gotten a lot cooler and the Indian contingent in the crowd a lot nosier. After having spent the previous half hour trying their best at mashing up songs for different players in the side, the two dozen or so diehards had decided to occupy the edges of their seats and simply watch. Healy and Lanning had given them little to cheer about for close to half hour. But with Goswami's return, they sensed the whistle on the pressure cooker was about to go off.
To the extent that there was more of an ooooorather than an aaaaaawhen the first ball of the over struck the toe-end of Healy's bat and fell short of Taniya Bhatia behind the stumps, More anticipation than excitement over what was to come.
The second delivery in some ways was perhaps better than the one that would eventually have Healy out. It pitched on that customary-half an inch short of driving-Goswami length and jagged back sharply enough to beat the right-hander's inside-edge but not enough to hit the off-stump like it had in the second ODI at Mackay. Goswami had her hands on her head, Healy with her heart in her mouth and the Indian fans with their bums off their seats. Nobody was sitting down again. You only wished there were thousands more around the impressive home of the Gold Coast Suns.
Healy and Goswami had not come across each other in international cricket as often as you'd think. The bragging rights had been shared to an extent – 5 dismissals in 17 white-ball matches. But here, it was Goswami who was bossing proceedings and the narrative. Till this point, it had seemed a benign pitch overall. The rain and the awful weather had also robbed away large portions of night cricket from the day-night Test.
The next delivery led to the most vibrant of reactions and sounds from around the ground. First came the thump off Healy's bicep, followed closely by that hush that follows every time a bouncer strikes a batter, and then the Indian fans' roar of delight.
As Healy took a little stroll to shake off the pain and make a customary quip to the square-leg umpire, Goswami had marched back to the top of her mark. India's senior-most bowler had taken the day off from Tuesday's training session, the team's first-ever with a pink ball. She'd instead sat on a high stool and held court near the Indian dug-out, sharing jokes with former teammate turned selector Neetu David. The next day, she got to bowl a few deliveries with it, and nearly 90 per cent of them had the batters in trouble-right from Shafali Verma to soon-to-be Test centurion Smriti Mandhana. Much to the awe of her teammates of course. Goswami had sheepishly put the impact her first-ever spell with a pink ball was having on her teammates to the pitch saying, “Mein bol rahi hoon, yeh pitch aise hi hai (I've been saying, it's all about this pitch)“.
And here she was on a surface that had offered little or nothing to every other seamer who'd got a go on it, making one of the premier batters in world cricket hop around haplessly. The wicket ball was a masterclass in delivering a knockout blow following a perfectly placed upper cut-on a length but shaping away on this occasion. The softened-up Healy had no go but to poke at it with no conviction before almost immediately putting her head down and walking off. While everyone around her, and in the stands, exploded with unrestrained joy, Goswami's reaction was similar to the one from the nets on the eve of the Test, like all she had to say once more was, “mein bol rahi hoon, yeh pitch aise hi hai”.
Despite India's efforts so far to make a match of it, the only Test of the multi-format series might well end up in a drab draw come the final session on Sunday (October 3). But it's unlikely that those at Metricon Stadium will ever forget their “I was there moment”, even if it lasted all of 10 minutes, and even if the ground announcer never did get the pronunciation of Jhulan right, and even if it doesn't actually lead to all those wonderful outcomes for women's cricket that most of us understandably believe it should. For, we can be rest assured that whether the events over the four days of this Test linger on in our memories or not, Jhulan Goswami's four balls to Alyssa Healy certainly will live on forever.