Days 3 & 4 of this Test match have been a slow grind… At least for me.
Australia started day-3 on 82 for no loss. Australia’s intentions were made clear in the first half hour of play. It seemed that safety was the first priority. The Australians did not want to lose to India and would do everything it could to shut an Indian win out of the equation. Despite Matthew Hayden’s thunder at the post-day interview and despite the matching upper-cut from Virender Sehwag, I did feel that Australia could have gotten on with it if it wanted to. Australia did not want to. They have batteled negative bowling in the past and come out on top. Here, they just did not want to risk it. They dropped their aggression for defence. It was boring. But at the same time, it was a fascinating battle. There was nothing in the pitch. The bowlers toiled. And rewards did not come easily.
At lunch on day 4, Australia finished at 158-0. Although only 66 runs were scored, this was clearly an Australian session this. The SBS Score was Australia, 4.0 :: India, 3.0
The second session of day-3 saw what was probably the ball of the series. Young Ishant Sharma who has impressed with each spell bowled a beauty to clean-bowl a set Matthew Hayden who had moved on to a well-made century. Hayden was missed in Perth and here, he showed why. He steadied the innings and gave it a stability that was absent in Perth. Before he got out though, Phil Jaques was out, bowled to a slog-sweep-swish off Anil Kumble.
After the loss of those two wickets, there was an interesting passage in play with Harbhajan Singh attacking Ricky Ponting. When Ponting walked in to bat, Anil Kumble had Harbhajan Singh and Ishant Sharma bowling to the Australian captain. Smart captaincy. However, India was let down by a Harbhajan Singh who toiled in a lacklustre manner.
At tea on day-3, Australia ended on 225-2 off 78.0 overs with Ricky Ponting on 28 and Mike Hussey on 20. This was an even session in my books. The SBS Score was Australia, 4.5 :: India, 3.5
The new ball was delayed until after 107 overs and this was the point Matthew Hayden made when he referred to negative tactics! I am not sure I would agree with that! India was a pace bowler short and Kumble had exploited the reverse swing that Ishant Sharma and Irfan Pathan had been getting. The new ball was perhaps taken about 10 overs later than it could have been. But I do not believe that that necessarily pointed to negative tactics. Bad tactics, perhaps.
At the end of day-3, Australia had reached 322-3 in 111 overs. The over rate had been terrific. Australia could learn a thing or two from the India over rates! The game finished just 10 mins late, if my memory serves me right.
I score the last session in Australia’s favour too. The SBS Score was Australia, 5.0 :: India, 4.0
Day-4 started off with the announcement of Adam Gilchrists’ retirement. Much of the focus of the day was on that; something that Gilchrist did not want!
The fourth day was a bit of an up and down day for both teams. Ponting got to his century and so did Michael Clarke. India wrapped up the tail easily and Australia ended the innings with a lead
I scored the first session to Australia, the second session as even and the third session to India. Thereby the SBS Score at the end of the day was Australia, 6.5 :: India 5.5
Australia made 563 all out in 181.0 overs. This was grinding cricket by the World Champions. But they had effectively shut India out of the game! Now it was a question of whether India would survive. The game is heading for a draw. However, the Australian team can never be written off. They could pull a surprise here and if they do, it would be a fitting goodbye to Adam Gilchrist.