At the end of day-2 of this fascinating Test match in this gripping series between Australia and India, both teams find themselves in unfamiliar territory!
It is not often that Australia is so far behind in a Test match with 3 days to go in a Test match. Conversely, it is not often that India is so far ahead in a Test match with 3 days to go!
It is a wonderful platform for India and needs a few people to stand up and be counted. From here on in, it is a question of whether India believes it can win. The moment India show nerves and self-doubt, in my view, this powerful Australian team still has the ability to climb all over it. So it is going to be a test of nerves, self-belief as well as ability from here.
There is little doubt in my mind, however, that India is on top in this game after 2 days have been completed.
Whichever course this match takes though, there is no doubt in my mind that after the sorry mess and the debacle of Sydney, India has re-grouped well and come out the stronger for it. India is playing with purpose, direction and energy. They are pumped up and want to win. A local news channel in India claimed that the Indians had a 45-minute closed-door session with Gary Kirsten after the end of the 1st days’ play. Much of it concentrated on the team playing with fire and with pride. On the other hand, Australia has looked somewhat listless and de-energised right through this game.
On a day when 297 runs fell for 15 wickets, India came out on top.
The day started with Australia cleaning up the India tail. Starting at 297 for 6, India started sensibly with M. S. Dhoni and Irfan Pathan batting sensibly. Then close to the finish of the hour, it ran away from India and they were down in a heap; all out 330.
One thought that that was about 120 runs short! They may have got there had Dravid and V. V. S. Laxman not given it away as they did!
Australia came out with purpose in their batting. They were, after all, batting in their home den! Most of their batsmen were used to the sting and bounce in the wicket. For all them, hitting on the up and through the line in Perth was as easy as spreading Vegemite on their daily toast!
Indian seam bowling stocks
What they did not account for was accurate, relentless and steady top-class seam bowling. One wished one could bottle the caliber of disciplined bowling that was on display by the Indian seam-bowlers! At the end of the days’ play R. P. Singh said that the bowlers had a meeting prior to the game in which each of them was assigned a task. R. P. Singh’s task was to use the bouncer frequently! Each bowler had “areas to bowl to” agreed to. Now, to plan these things is one thing. To actually go out there and execute these plans is quite something else. The Indian bowlers did that and came out the victors today.
Let us not forget also that this is not actually India’s first line pace attack! Zaheer Khan, Sree Santh and Munaf Patel are back in India, nursing injuries! Given the display of the 3 seam bowlers today and with Pankaj Singh, V. R. V. Singh, Ranadeb Bose and Praveen Kumar waiting in the wings, one might say that the pace bowling stocks aren’t exactly looking bad at the moment!
One point that was hammered home forcibly today was Irfan Pathan’s resurgence. I’d like to see Pathan as part of the Indian team mix for a long time to come. He bowled brilliantly. Agreed, he bowled better to left-hand bats than he did to right handed bats. However, his pace was consistently in the high 130s and he had his swing going too; and this was late seing, by the way!
His batting abilities at #8 (in this match) means that India can often go with 4 other bowlers in the team; this is always a plus especially in India where 2 spinners have to play!
Given that Australia wrapped up India’s innings close with just 33 added to the India overnight score of 297-6, one may have been tempted to call the 1st session as Australia’s. However, with some clever seam bowling, India managed to get two early wickets — admittedly one dodgy LBW decision when the ball appeared to be heading down leg-side — I’d be tempted to call this an even session. The SBS Score read Australia, 2.0 :: India 2.0 at this stage.
The second session belonged to India though. Australia were on the ropes at 61-5. Andrew Symonds and Adam Gilchrist came up with a breathtaking display of counter-attacking batting. This was counter-punching of the highest caliber that produced a run-a-ball century partnership. However, the Indian bowlers stuck to their task, best displayed by R. P. Singh, in a terrific show of level-headedness in the post-tea session. He was spanked for 3 consecutive 4s by Gilchrist. However, he produced a lifter from just short of a good length. It caught Gilchrist unawares and the resulting edge was poached by Dhoni.
Despite the precarious 60-5 situation that Australia found herself in, the Symonds-Gilchrist fireworks show took Australia to a reasonably comfortable position of 148-5 at Tea. These runs had come off just 31 overs! I just couldn’t believe that this team was under the pump! Visions of Mumbai 2001 flashed in front of me where, from a position of 99-5 Gilchrist and Hayden rescued the team with a gritty and purposeful fight-back. In this session, India missed a catch off Symonds — Tendulkar dropped the edge at 1st slip. Had that catch been taken it would have been an even session.
The SBS Score read Australia, 2.5 :: India, 2.5 at this stage.
The 3rd session belonged totally to India. First India got Australia out for 212. In their response, India lost only 1 wicket — that of the hapless Wasim Jaffer who is having a nightmare series from hell!
Along the way, Anil Kumble got his 600th wicket. What an incredible servant of Indian cricket this amazing cricketer has been! He could come into his own in this Perth wicket which, amazingly, is taking some spin too!
Virender Sehwag was, well, Virender Sehwag. He played and missed several times. But still he scored at a rate that only Sehwag can. The Australians are wary of Sehwag. They want to get him out and see the back of him. In that itself India wins part of the battle. He is still there and that will be a big plus for the tourists as they come out to bat tomorrow.
The fact that Irfan Pathan is there at the crease as a night-watchman is also good for India. He can stick around and make life miserable for the Australians who will need to dislodge him in order to have a crack at the Big 4 to follow: Dravid, Tendulkar, Ganguly, Laxman!
The SBS Score reads Australia, 2.5 :: India, 3.5 at this stage. India are ahead. It is an unusual position for this team. But one that India needs to capitalise on.
Strategy from here
Anil Kumble, in a post-match interview, said that the strategy would be one of playing time; the runs will come. I have some sympathy with this strategy. Firstly, we have just finished day-2. There is a lot of time left in this game! India should focus on playing out each session and slowly, batting Australia out of this Test match! India is 170 runs ahead at this stage. At the end of tomorrow, if India bats all three sessions, the team could well be 450 runs ahead! This will require some patience and a lot of determination.
In post-match interviews Adam Gilchrist did admit — as most people will — that India is in the drivers’ seat in this match. However, he did say that the Australian team relished the challenge and that they would dig deep to come after the Indians.
If Australia get India out cheaply, they could win from here too! But it would require a special effort from them and some clumsy batting from the Indians.
A match that is interestingly poised…