Posting at 11.10, AEST
Australia started the day as they finished — full of purpose and confidence. India started the day as the finished day-1 — flat and demoralised by the umpires as well as the batting! R. P. Singh and Ishant Sharma bowled a few over-pitched deliveries to Andrew Symonds and Brett Lee who kept the scoreboard ticking.
This was the wrong, listless India on the park. Their body language was wrong. It was as if each player was carrying a cross. As I said in my post, it is tough on a team when the umpires leave such an impact on the game! But it felt wrong for India to give up in this manner!
Soon, Symonds and Lee had put on a 100 run partnership off 26 overs and Lee had reached his personal half century off 100 balls!
India were seeking some inspiration and my feeling was that this had to come from the spinners. Ishant Sharma and R. P. Singh were proving to be largely ineffective this morning. In 40 minutes of play, Australia had scored 32 runs already.
Posting at 11.30, AEST
From a somewhat perilous position, Australia had — with a fair bit of help — moved to a position of some strength! Australia moved to 420 for 7 off 101 overs with Brett Lee on 59 off 112 balls and Symonds on 148 off 200 balls. Andrew Symonds was continuing his dream summer.
Although even I am tired of overstating the case of the help that Australia received, it must be said because every now and then, the umpires were providing us with reminders of both their incompetence as well as the help that they were providing to the Australians!
The 102nd over saw a very interesting move that further confirmed to me that the Indians were up against it with the umpires! Dhoni, the wicket-keeper whipped the bails off when Symonds was facing up to Harbhajan Singh. It was a brilliant stumping and replays showed that this was closer that the stumping decision that Symonds got in his favour from Bruce Oxenberg when he was on 48! However, this decision was not referred to Bruce Oxenberg, the 3rd umpire! The perpetrator in this instance was Steve Bucknor again — Ah yes! We may as well start referring to Bucknor as the “perp” here! In an age where most line-ball appeals are referred “upstairs” I am not sure why Bucknor decided that a referral would not be necessary.
Finally, Anil Kumble got his man on the stroke of drinks. Brett Lee was adjudged LBW in the 103rd over. Brett Lee was out for 59 with the score on 421.
Posting at 11.55, AEST
Yet again, Australia had received some help when none was necessary and once again, India had surmounted the 15 players that they were up against to get back into the game! 🙂
Ok, now that is an over-statement of the case, but I have personally lost confidence in these idiots that are officiating in this match! Not that I or my opinions matter, but I have absolutely no confidence in the three idiots that are standing in this game.
It is so sad that in a lovely game, we are focusing so heavily on the umpiring decisions. But I really do not rate Andrew Symonds’ century and therein lies the problem!
Meanwhile, with the spinners on, Australia was finding is somewhat harder to score runs. The bowling was tight and every now and then, we saw a loud appeal for LBW or a bad shot being played. Andrew Symonds was trying to keep as much of the strike as possible.
My feeling was that India over-bowled the pace bowlers this morning. Perhaps Anil Kumble or Harbhajan Singh could have come on to bowl a bit earlier. But then, as I said, the Indians did look listless and appeared to be going through the motions.
Soon, Andrew Symonds reached his 150 runs. Andrew Symonds was repaying the selectors’ faith by the truck-loads. Yes, he rode his luck in this dig. But then, as he said in his press interview at the end of day-1 here, sometimes a player makes his own luck. The score board read a somewhat depressing 427 for 8 at the end of the 106th over.
Australia clearly wanted to bat on for as long as possible with a view to batting only once in this match. India still had a huge job on her hands. The remaining two wickets needed to be taken and then the re-building process had to commence. The batsmen would have, however (one hopes), seen how easy the pitch was for batting.
The fielding continued to be ordinary and now Mitchell Johnson was also looking like getting in on the act! He hit a few boundaries off Kumble. The Australian score moved to 448 for 8 at the end of the 109th over. The partnership was already worth 27 runs, with Mitchell Johnson having made 16!
Posting at 12.10, AEST
Mitchell Johnson continued to threaten, hitting 4s almost at will! Both Kumble and Harbhajan were being treated with some disdain by Mitchell Johnson. Andrew Symonds was quite content to just hand over the strike to the Australian number 10! Australia reached their 450 off the 110th over. Mitchell Johnson was on 24 off 26 balls!
After Mitchell Johnson had caused some damage with the bat, scoring 28 off 30 balls in a partnership worth 40 runs from 8.1 overs, he went for one shot too many and holed out to Sourav Ganguly at deep mid-wicket. Australia was 461 for 9. Was the end nigh? Or, perhaps Stuart Clark would have some views of his own on this question!
Off the very next Anil Kumble over though, Stuart Clark was LBW bowled Anil Kumble. Andrew Symonds was not out on 162. Australia was 462 all out and Anil Kumble had taken his 4th wicket.
India had, in my opinion, done well. Despite the doom and gloom being cast on the team by the Channel-9 commentators and the ABC commentary team, I actually believe India did well. Not least because they were up against it with the (non)performance of the umpires. But because this was a batsman’s pitch! All India need to do is to look back at the Pakistan series, when India put on more than 500 runs in the last two Tests. Pakistan batted with purpose and slowly crept up on the Indian total. India needed a Pakistan-like batting-effort and on a batsman’s pitch — particularly the second day and the third day — it was quite possible for India to pull things back.
India still had 3-4 overs to negotiate before the luncheon break though!
Posting at 12.30, AEST — Lunch (Day-2)
As expected, Wasim Jaffer and Rahul Dravid came out to open the Indian innings. Anil Kumble was indeed saying, “Same batsmen, same batting order, different batting.” India had to negotiate a tricky 3-over-passage prior to lunch on day-2.
Rahul Dravid was beaten twice by Mitchell Johnson in the one over! He was looking somewhat tentative out there. Perhaps the cobwebs hadn’t been completely cleared from his mind as yet. The Indian innings commenced exactly as the Australian innings had — with two maidens having been bowled.
The Australians had plenty of runs to work with. Even so, they weren’t over-attacking. Jaffer and Dravid played cautiously and saw India through to lunch without a run on the score board!
Rahul Dravid, who was twice out at the MCG on the stroke of lunch break, was still there!
My SBS scorecard has this as an even session again. Although Australia scored 87 runs on the 2nd morning, the fact that India wrapped the innings up and went to lunch without having lost a wicket means that I’d be tempted to score this as an even session. If I could go to 2 decimal places, I might score this 0.75 to Australia and 0.25 to India. But I made a decision at the start of this Test that I’d only SBS score to one decimal place!
So the SBS score at lunch on day-2 reads 2.0 to Australia and 2.0 to India. Both teams had won one of the sessions and the first session of both mornings have been scored by me as “even”.
Fair call perhaps? Drop in your views in the “Comments” box…
Post at 15:15, AEST (Tea Time)
Almost immediately after lunch Jaffer went to a Jaffa from Lee. The score was 8 for 1 and one thought India were set for a capitulation. But one look at the scoreboard and the stats indicated that the recent king of the SCG was making his way out there confidently. We had V. V. S. Laxman striding out there purposefully.
Laxman started playing fluidly and gracefully almost from the word go.
Then India had two slices of luck. First, Dravid was caught off a no ball. Then, Laxman seemed to be adjacent to an LBW shout off the next ball. This wasn’t given by Benson who one thought got an edge! Benson was thinking edges again! The ball missed the edge, but as Lee pointed out to the umpire (in a move that should earn him a close introduction with the match referee) asked why it wasn’t recorded as a run to Laxman if it indeed went off the inside edge!
Laxman was batting fluidly and Dravid was struggling to stay there. A blustering south easterly made things hard for Mitchell Johnson who was bowling into the Doug Waters tunnel! India had moved to 43 for 1 with Laxman on 22 off 20 balls.
The 16th over of the innings, bowled by Mitchell cost 18 runs. V. V. S. Laxman made all of those runs and raced to 45 runs off just about 26 balls and India reached 69 for 1 at the drinks break. The second ball of this over was a full-toss that was scooped to short cover where Phil Jaques dived badly as he tried to catch that ball. At short mid off, Brad Hogg made a meal of the stop! I wonder if Peter Lalor will write about this. I suspect not!
Laxman moved to 50 off 40 balls. He was batting beautifully and sometimes dangerously too. In amongst all of the top-class shot, he also edged a hook just past a diving Gilchrist.
When the score was on 91 for 1, a slightly slower ball down the legside was edged off the glove to Gilchrist who dropped it. Dravid had another slice of luck and was riding it so far.
Meanwhile, Ricky Ponting was trying all sorts of things to break V. V. S. Laxman. He had just one slip for Laxman with 4 patrolling the cover. Still Laxman kept the scoreboard ticking. But quite infuriatingly, in his score of 60, he had 12 fours and only 3 singles! In this passage of play, one shot by Laxman stood out for me. Ponting had choked the off side and Andrew Symonds bowled a ball about a foot outside off stump. In a shot that was so very reminiscent of Mohammed Azharuddin book, Laxman bottom-hand-whipped the ball with supple wrists to a straightish long on for a wonderful boundary. This was a terrific batting display by an exquisite artiste who must like playing at the SCG!
India were 100-1 at this stage. Although India was going at just under 4 runs an over, Rahul Dravid was on 18 at this stage and had gone for a half hour without scoring!
India went to the tea break on 1 for 101. Dravid had out in the hard yards and, unlike the 2 innings at the MCG, he hadn’t got out on the stroke of a break! Thanks to the heroics of Laxman, Australia had also scored reasonably healthily. After the tea-break, India could hope for a bit more spark from Dravid. Laxman was not out on 73 off 71 balls and Dravid was not out on 18 off 88 balls.
There will be many that criticise Dravid’s effort. I know the Channel-9 comms and the ABC radio comms were getting stuck into him. So also the SCG crowd who were giving him the slow clap. I think they all misread the situation. At the other end, he was seeing a poet in action with a magic wand in his hand. What’s more, the poet was unwilling to take singles! So all that The Wall could do was to hold one end up and that was precisely what Dravid was doing as Laxman flayed the bowling. This was Test match cricket that was being mis-read by the Australian comms.
I only hope that the hard yards put in by Dravid will come to fruition post-Tea.
I’d give that session to India, despite the loss of Wasim Jaffer. So, the SBS score reads Australia 2.0 and India 3.0. Whether India would make it count two sessions in a row remained to be seen.
Posting at end of days’ play
India started from where they left off after the Tea break,
Laxman had made 73 with 14 fours and only 4 singles! Dravid had to make his 18 count in this session. These 18 runs included a slips catch off a no-ball as well as a dropped chance behind the stumps. This start had to count for him as well as for India. He had to support the brilliance of V. V. S. Laxman at the other end.
Laxman whipped the first ball after tea Laxman from outside off to mid on. He didn’t get a run for that shot, but it just showed the magic that this artiste possessed at his beck and call when he is on song. Off the 4th ball of that over, Laxman stroked a brilliant boundary to cover! The poet was certainly kicking on from where he left off.
Off the very next ball, Gilchrist dropped another clanger to his right off Laxman! A slightly slower ball from Lee delivered from closer to the stumps was dropped by the ‘keeper to his left. Gilchrist seemed to save a goal as a soccer goalkeeper, rather than pouching it. This was an easier chance than the earlier drop! A servant’s servant from India (to continue Peter Lalor’s rather provocative language) would have caught it. An Australian wicketkeeper had floored it.
Gilchrist was having a nightmare behind the stumps. A Test after Gilchrist had claimed the Australian wicket keeping record for the maximum number of dismissals, this was poor cricket that was more in the Parthiv Patel mould!
I wonder if Peter Lalor, a man who has a self-proclaimed hatred of poor cricket — regardless of who plays it — will get stuck into his own! I suspect not.
The partnership between Dravid and Laxman was 100 soon after, with Dravid making 13 of these and Laxman 80! Dravid took 10 balls more to make his 13 runs than Laxman!
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, Dravid took a single to get away from the 18 runs he was stuck on! Not that the batsman was concerned about all the slow hand clap and the carry on around him. He just smiled through it all.
There was no doubt some pressure on the man. But I, for one, admired his grit and determination. It would have been all too easy for him to throw it all away. He didn’t mind it if he looked ugly. He wanted to make his stint count for India. Seldom have I seen more passion, grit, purpose and determination from an Indian cricketer.
There was no sign of Brad Hogg yet! This was, in my view, poor captaincy from Ponting. The innings was already worth 35 overs at this stage. This in a match in which spinners had already taken 6 of the 11 wickets to fall at this stage of proceedings! India were 111-1 (all the 1s) at this stage!
Despite the slow batting from Rahul Dravid — or maybe because if it — this was gripping Test match cricket! And to be fair to Dravid, he was letting a lot of balls go through. Where Laxman was punishing bad balls outside off, Dravid was content to let them go through.
At 118-1 there was a huge appeal for a catch against Dravid off Stuart Clark. It was clear from the replays that is was not out. It was a bump ball catch. The first question for Bucknor was whether or not it was a bump ball. If it was a bump ball, the matter should have ended there. I was, however, surprised that Bucknor referred it to the 3rd umpire! By my reckoning, you can only refer to the 3rd umpire to ask if a catch was cleanly caught and Hussey did catch cleanly in the gully area! Luckily — and I still don’t know why, if the 3rd umpire had gone by the rule book — Dravid was ruled not out. It was the right decision, but I am not sure if the umpires had followed the rule book! If I am wrong in reading of the rules, someone please do let me know… As far as I was concerned, the extreme umpiring incompetence just continued on!
Brad Hogg came on to bowl in the 41st over with India on 133 for 1. Dravid was trying to get a bit of a move on and had moved to an extremely cautious 31. Laxman was on 86. Hogg had started bowling to a defensive field! This move was, in my view, about 10 overs late!
Dravid wasn’t picking Hogg’s spin at all well and was not playing him with much conviction! There was also a hint of a stumping chance in Hogg’s very first over when Dravid over-balanced when he went for a drive and missed the ball completely. Adam Gilchrist, who was having an ordinary day at the office, missed it and the ball went through for 4 byes!
Soon, Laxman reached his 100. This was a well-deserved century for the Sydney poet-magician. This was an amazing innings by the Wizard of the SCG. He made his 101 in 188 minutes from 130 balls; his century was embellished by 17 stunning boundary hits. This was a majestic statement from a man who just loves Australia and the SCG!
Although it would be too early to call it, this innings just shows what an extra tour match would have done to this Indian team.
Mitchell Johnson, at this stage, was bowling a whole heap of nonsense; mostly wide of off stump. At a time when Brad Hogg was asking a few searching questions at the other end, Australia needed a steady effort at the other end! Instead, Mitchell Johnson was allowing the batsmen some breathing space!
Ponting then showed some sportsmanship when Rahul Dravid edged a Mitchell Johnson ball to 2nd slip when he was on 46. Ponting caught it and immediately said it was a bump catch. If this was referred to the 3rd umpire, that may well have been given out by Bruce Oxenberg! In fact, the batsman, Rahul Dravid, had started his walk back to the pavillion when Ponting said it wasn’t out. It was indeed a sporting gesture from the Australian captain!
In the very next over, Dravid got to his 50. He made it off 248 minutes off 158 balls. This was a gritty knock. Dravid hardly celebrated on getting to his 50. Perhaps he was saying that he wasn’t happy with the innings. Perhaps he put too much pressure on himself. Because two balls later after a 4-hour-plus stay at the crease, Dravid was out, caught in the slips by Matthew Hayden! It was a lapse in concentration that led to his downfall. He just poked lazily at a ball that was outside his off stump.
Having said that, this was a gritty innings that was ugly in parts. But the man just batted through it and in the end, may have given his team the platform it needed. Time would tell. The score was 2 for 183.
Sachin Tendulkar has only been out twice at the SCG and had an impressive average of 248.0 at the SCG as he walked in to bat!
Immediately afterwards Brad Hogg drew Laxman into a lose shot. The ball was well flighted and outside off stump. Laxman drew forward and off drove away from his body. Mike Hussey, stationed at short cover, took the resulting catch. The artiste of the SCG was out for 109. This session was starting to slide away from the Indians!
There were two new batsmen at the crease. This was going to be an immensely challenging time for the Indian batsmen. With just 8 or so overs to go, the Indians needed to focus and dig deep!
While Brad Hogg bowled quite brilliantly to get Laxman out (and continued to bowl well to Tendulkar and Ganguly), I felt that it was a lapse in concentration that got Mitchell Johnson his wicket (that of Dravid). And that wicket had suddenly become two wickets with Laxman’s dismissal.
This was, once again, an impressive display by the Australians. They never give up on the field and keep coming hard at the opposition. Even though some of the Australian fielding was shoddy, the team still kept coming hard and creating chances.
At this point, Brett Lee was brought in for Mitchell Johnson. Australia did a very Indian change-over when they appeared to take nearly 90 seconds to get the over started! There were numerous field changes and fielders ambled lazily from one end of the park to the other! While the Australian commentators regularly get stuck into the Indians for slow change overs when new bowlers come in to bowl, I didn’t quite hear even a whimper this time!
It was interesting that Brad Hogg, a player in his 6th Test match, then proceeded to sledge Sachin Tendulkar. When Tendulkar moved away from a ball because he was not quite ready, Brad Hogg retraced his steps to the top of his run up and as he was getting ready to bowl again, he seemed to ask sarcastically “Are you ready now, mate“? This was rich from a novice in Test cricket! Did Justin Langer not ask Indians to show some respect for legends of the game like Steve Waugh? Yet, we have relative novices like Brad Williams in 2003 (sledging Sourav Ganguly) and Brad Hogg (sledging Sachin Tendulkar). Two sets of rules in a non-existing sledging-rule-book perhaps?
At the end of play, India moved to 216 for 3 wickets.
I would give that last session to Australia. Although I called the 1st session of this match as an “even” session when India had taken 2 wickets, I give this 2-wicket-session to Australia because they removed two well-set batsmen.
The SBS score reads Australia, 3.0 :: India, 3.0.
If I move to two decimal places, Australia would be marginally ahead!
The match, in my view, is evenly poised. The first session of play tomorrow is going to be crucial for both teams. If India come through it unscathed, it would make for an extremely interesting day. If not, we could well see a repeat of the MCG.