After putting on a mammoth score in the 1st Innings, India are most probably safe in this match. With three days left, unless India do a very bad “Australia’s 2nd Innings in Adelaide in 2003” (all out 196 in 56 overs), an India loss could (perhaps should) be ruled out at this stage.
Australia has its work cut out to save this game. For this, Australia’s 1st Innings will be crucial. This is because the pitch will get worse and worse to bat on as the match progresses. If Australia bats well in the 1st Innings, there will be a case for a draw. Of course, as they say, “funnier things have happened in cricket”!
With that in mind, the 1st Session of day-3 becomes crucial for Australia.
Australia started off well after India played grinding cricket. Cricinfo has called it khadoos cricket with a view to shutting Australia out of the game; in much the same manner as Australia played in the 2nd Innings at Sydney, 2008. In Australia’s 1st Innings, after a mammoth effort in the field, Matthew Hayden and Simon Katich started well and played the 15 remaining overs competently. However, there were danger signs as Amit Mishra and Anil Kumble turned a few balls in viciously into the left-handed openers after hitting the rough outside the left-handers’ off stump.
This could be a very interesting days’ play.
What will be interesting will be the captaincy today. Ricky Ponting made some strange decisions on the field. Peter Roebuck talks about just that including a reference to throwing out the new-age strategy as well as its author out of the Australian dressing room! Anil Kumble will find it easier to captain a team that has made 613. Yet, it will be interesting to see what Anil Kumble does.
Zaheer Khan came out fresh and strong. He bowled two terrific bouncers that had Matthew Hayden hopping around. There was a bit of a haze about that may have made the ball move around just a little bit. Anil Kumble started off with a somewhat defensive field with four players spread out on the off-side to prevent a big shot being played! This was more khadoos cricket perhaps! It had Sunil Gavaskar wild and angry in the commentary box (pointer to those that think that Gavaskar can find no wrong with the Indian team or her tactics)!
The second over was bowled by Anil Kumble and, although the turn out of the ‘rough’ was slow into the left handers, it provided a blue-print for the rest of the day. There was spin in this pitch and it would get sharper and faster as the game progressed.
Hayden and Katich were playing sensibly. There was none of the mindless aggression that we saw in Mohali. They played sensibly to good balls and put the bad balls away. This was good, steady — and more importantly, ego-free — batting by the Australians.
One or two of Anil Kumble’s balls hit the ‘rough’ and spat/stung. One of these balls went right through the flayed bat and Dhoni’s gloves for 4 byes. This was good Test match cricket and the Australian batsmen were proving equal to the task.
Katich reached his 50 off 91 balls with 8 fours. Australia had reached 88-0 at this stage off 24.3 overs.
Ishant Sharma was brought into the attack, but he could not make much of a dent either. The Australians had pitched their tents for the long stay on this pitch. Despite the odd ball kicking from the rough, Kumble wasn’t really bowling all that well. He had gone over 70 overs without picking up a wicket in Test cricket and the signs of frustration were there for all to see. He seemed to be rushing things through rather than let the ball do the work off the pitch. So it wasn’t surprising to see Amit Mishra being brought in. However, with two left-handers at the crease it was surprising not to see Virender Sehwag in operation.
Soon, Amit Mishra came on to bowl instead of Kumble. In his very first over, Matthew Hayden hit a huge six to bring up the Australian 100. Australia had moved to 105-0 off 29 overs in the first over when drinks were called. India had bowled 14 overs in the first hour — better than the Australian 13, but only just! The Australians were looking quite assured and this was a worrying sign for India.
Neither Hayden nor Katich were being either overly-defensive or overly-offensive. They were playing focussed cricket and were hungry for runs. They were also not bothered about the huge mountain that had to be climbed. They were playing over-by-over cricket. This was good, responsible batting by the Australians. Ishant Sharma and Amit Mishra were not making much of a difference. It won’t be long, I thought, before we saw Ishant Sharma bowling an outside off-stump line with the spinners attacking at the other end.
It would be good to see Sourav Ganguly and Virender Sehwag have a bowl, remembering (a) the impact Ganguly had in the match against Pakistan here at the Kotla last year, (b) we had two left-handers in the middle.
But it was Amit Mishra who broke through first. He got it through between an advancing Simon Katich’s bat and pad to bowl the advancing batsman off the ‘rough’ for a well made 64 off 115 balls. Australia was 123-1 off 34.1 overs and Ricky Ponting came to the middle with Ishant Sharma in the middle of a good spell of bowling.
This was a good bit of bowling by Mishra. He had got Katich out bowled for the second time off the ‘rough’ (the 1st innings at Mohali was Mishra’s first wicket in Test cricket) — although in Mohali, the ball hit the stumps off Katich’s bat, glove, pad, helmet, pad, elbow, shirt pocket, helmet visor, and anything else that the ball wished to be introduced to!
However, it was a terrible piece of batting by Simon Katich. He closed the face of the bat to eke out a single to mid-wicket when what he ought to have done, once he reached the pitch of the ball, was to either play it with a straight bat or even pad up to it!
Hayden soon reached his half-century. This was a terrifically controlled innings by Hayden. He had 53 off 96 balls with 9 4s and a six in an Australian score of 143-1 off 37.2 overs.
The somewhat worrying thing for the Australians was that there were edges flying off the edge of the bat. The worrying thing for the Indians was that the field placing did not mean that the right fielders were in the right place to take these edges! Kumble was perhaps too absorbed with this conservative “choking” cricket that he is sold on.
Anil Kumble came in for Ishant Sharma at this stage, with a few minutes to go for lunch! Virender Sehwag came in for a bowl for the last over before lunch and immediately, he was getting purchase and turn form the pitch. It was an excellent over by Sehwag to Hayden. India had missed a trick by not bowling him earlier on in the session.
Lunch was called with Australia on 151-1. Despite the loss of the wicket, I make this Australia’s session; one in which 101 runs had been scored. The over rate was a worry, since only 12 overs had been bowled in the second hour!
Perhaps the Match Referee will wake up today to the over-rate negligence? The odds are that he will suddenly wake up because India has offended, especially since news also filtered through at this stage that Gautam Gambhir has been banned for 1 Test match!
Bring in more Asian Match Referees I say!
The SBS score reads: India 3.75, Australia 3.25! As you can see, by my reckoning, Australia aren’t really too far behind the 8-ball!
The Gautam Gambhir verdict had been handed down by Chris Broad prior to the start of the game. It is likely that the Indians were disheartened by the verdict. The players did look flat on the field and even the wicket of Katich did not fire them up as much as it may have on another day. They need to re-group and focus on the task on hand. Gambhir has a day to appeal the verdict handed down by Chris Broad. I personally think that Gambhir ought to have been fined. However, there is no point in doing this mid-way through a Test match. What point does it serve anyway?
In general, the ICC, I think needs to review the entire Match Referee thing. I am not sure why the ICC can’t go for a yellow-card, green-card, red-card deal with the umpires and 3rd umpire? This Match Referee thing is a bit of a joke, in my view. But that’s another debate for another day.
Right after the lunch break, when just two balls had been bowled, a swarm of bees attacked the ground. Players lay flat on the ground covering their faces in the expectation that the bees would fly away. Apart from giving Conn another opportunity to get stuck in, and apart from delaying the game by 2 minutes, all was well and the game commenced. Ponting commenced with a 4 off Kumble.
India started with Sehwag who had bowled a splendid over just prior to lunch. Ponting was already on 22 of 32 balls with 5 boundary hits.
I wasn’t totally comfortable with Kumble’s bowling at this stage. He was bowling too flat and just back of a length. The ‘rough’ outside Hayden’s off stump was hardly being exploited. This was a sign that Kumble was trying just that little bit harder than necessary. There was a lot of pressure on him to take wickets. My feeling was that if he took his first wicket, we’d see a very different Kumble.
The Indian energy on the field was lacking. I could be wrong, but my feeling was that they were stung by the Chris Broad verdict. The team needed to lift from that and get on with it as big boys must!
Having said that, Ponting and Hayden were playing exceedingly well. They just didn’t look like getting out. Ponting, in particular, wasn’t committing too early to his stroke and was playing late, off the pitch. What’s more important was that the two batsmen had, through their confident playing, spread out the field to all parts. The score had moved to 173-1 with Ponting on 29 off 43 balls (6 fours) and Hayden on 66 off 128 balls. Their 50 partnership between Ponting and Hayden was brought up at that score. India needed to do something different.
With the score on 174-1, Hayden had a bit of a reprieve. What seemed like a bat-pad off Anil Kumble lobbed up to Rahul Dravid at 1st slip. Dravid caught it cleanly. But umpire Billy Bowden was unmoved. It was a tough call, because the ball seemed to hit the back of the bat after hitting pad first. Anil Kumble, who had had dreadful luck with his appeals in Bangalore, continued to rue his decision-misfortunes. One another day, he may have got that decision. But when one’s luck is down, it rarely rains; it pours! So, Kumble continued to search for that elusive first wicket; and also continued to drag the ball down!
After bowling 4 overs after lunch, Amit Mishra came in to bowl, replacing Virender Sehwag. Immediately, there was more flight, more bite and more spite. But the well-set batsmen were able to negotiate him, despite Ponting having a wild hoik falling in desolate territory.
At this stage, India needed a few tight overs and this is where Harbhajan Singh would have been handy. Instead we had two attacking leg-spinners in action. On this pitch, the batsmen were able to push the ball for singles and put the bad ball away for a boundary.
At 187-1, Kumble dived full length at short mid-wicket to a fierce drive from Matthew Hayden off Amit Mishra. He stopped the ball like an 18-year-old soccer goal keeper, stopped the ball and lunged again to make a second attempt to catch the ball. Unfortunately, he dropped the catch after a valiant effort. In the process, he acquired an injury on the little finger of his left hand. As a result, Kumble had to leave the field. India was a bowler short, but had gained an aggressive captain instead! Matthew Hayden lived to fight another day!
In general, even though batting was somewhat easy, the two batsmen were making it look easier. This was a top effort from Ponting and Hayden. Let’s put this in context! Although the score was 197-1, Australia was still 417 in arrears! So although the pitch was easy-ish to bat on, to put the arrears out of your mind can’t have been easy for the Australian batsmen. Yet, they put it all away and slowly accumulated the runs in a bid to run down the mammoth India total. This despite the odd edge flying through and the odd ball kicking up from a length — including a Hayden edge off the bowling of Sehwag just falling short of Dravid in the slip area.
At the drinks berak, Australia had moved to 199-1 off 57.0 overs. This meant that 16 overs had been bowled in the hour from Lunch to drinks — and that with about 2 minutes lost to bees! Unfortunately, this would mean that Chris Broad may have to look for other work to do until India offends in some manner again!
Immediately after the drinks break, Sehwag bowled a beauty to have Matthew Hayden trapped in front of the stumps for 83 off 153 balls with 13 4s and 1 huge six. Australia was 202-2 off 57.2 overs and the partnership between Hayden and Ponting was worth 79 runs off 23.1 at a rate of 3.41 rpo (of which Hayden had made 35 and Ponting 40). Sehwag had made a very important breakthrough; one that would bring a new batsman to the crease on a pitch that was staring to play a few tricks. Moreover, it would provide the Indians just the lift they were looking for on the field.
The new batsman, however, was Michael Hussey — and they don’t make cricketers more consistent that this man!
Hayden, like Katich was looking to close the face on a ball that was sliding on to him. Perhaps not the best shot selection there.
At 222-2, Ponting survived a huge shout for caught-behind. Ponting had stretched forward and the ball seemed to kiss the outside edge to lodge in Dhoni’s gloves. Aleem Dar did not see it and Ponting lived to fight another day. Perhaps Dhoni’s mistake was in taking off the bails simultaneously — possibly an auto-reflex reaction. The umpires may have thought that the Indian acting captain was making a bet-each-way appeal and turned him down! Later on, Snickometer showed nothing at all.
Interestingly umpire Billy Bowden had an unusually lengthy conversation with M. S. Dhoni after that appeal.
Ponting soon reached his 50. It was a gritting/fighting innings. The Australian score was 226-2
Ishant Shrma replaced Virender Sehwag, who had analysis of 12-2-37-1. Top figures for a part-timer. Ishant Sharma bowled as well as he has bowled all series. His length and lines were immediately spot on and he was getting just a hint of reverse swing going. It was as if he had been bowling all day. It is fair to say that, in him, India had unearthed a terrific bowler!
At the other end, Sachin Tendulkar came on for Amit Mishra with some 9 minutes to go for Tea.
Australia went to Tea on 237-2 off 70 overs. Ponting was on 61 off 116 balls and Michael Hussey was on 13 off 39 balls. 55 overs had been bowled in the day thus far — still some 5 overs short of where India needed to be. 86 runs came in that session off 29 overs. Australia was still 376 runs short of India’s total. Given that Australia lost a really well-set and that really important cog-in-the-wheel Matthew Hayden, I give this as an even and the SBS score reads: India 4.25, Australia 3.75!
The BCCI has decided to appeal Gautam Gambhir’s 1-Test ban. The ban judge will be appointed by the ICC in 2 days and the hearing will be conducted some 7 days later. This will mean that Gambhir will play the next Test against Australia. In all likelihood, this heavy-handed ban will be over-turned.
After Tea, Australia — no, Ricky Ponting — survived a hostile spell of accurate pace bowling from Ishant Sharma and Zaheer Khan. Unlike the Australian bowlers, who mainly bowled wide of off-stump for much of their spells, these two Indian spearheads, attacked the stumps and were making Ponting in particular jump and hop around. However, Ponting was up to the task and motored along.
Inshat Sharma and Zaheer Khan were getting some reverse-swing. Ishant Sharma was making the ball jag back in sharply as he had at Mohali. Somehow Ponting survived this spell and hung in there. Sespite his mounting score, you could say that Ponting survived, at best. Unlike, Hayden, who looked very much in control till he got out, Ponting appeared to just hang in there, until he lost control.
He had made an 82-run partnership with Hussey when he stepped out to a Virender Sehwag delivery to be bowled by a ball that spun viciously after pitching.
The new ball was taken by Ishant Sharma only after 98.1 overs. Interestingly, Sehwag bowled at the other end and in his second over with the new ball, had Hussey clean bowled to a flighted ball that pitched on Hussey’s middle-and-leg stump and turned sharply to break the off stump! Australia was 326-4 at that stage with Hussey gone for a carefully constructed 53 off 146 balls (7 4s). In the very next over, Mishra should have had Watson out LBW. That ball was going on to hit the stumps before it hit anything else! But the umpire thought otherwise.
Australia completed the day on 338-4 off 105 overs. Clarke was unbeaten on 21 off 45 balls and Watson was on 4. In the 90 overs bowled in the day, Australia had made 288 runs (at 3.2 rpo).
Incidentally, 90 overs had been bowled in the day, perhaps for the first time in this match. The Match Referee is perhaps disappointed that India completed its quota of overs for the day — he must be disappointed that he could not ping and Asian player/team today!
Even though India were without the services of Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble, Amit Mishra and Virender Sehwag had shown plenty of guile and mustard to have Inida slightly in the drivers’ seat. India has its hand on the steering wheel last night. Tonight, while India is still in the drivers’ seat, its hand is not quite on the steering wheel.
It was an absorbing days’ cricket. Australia are still 275 runs behind with 6 wickets in hand.
I gave India the last session, just marginally because of the two wickets (Ponting and Hussey) that had fallen. The SBS score reads: India 5.0, Australia 4.0!