Monthly Archives: October 2008

An interesting parallel

Going into the Delhi test brings up an interesting memory…..

Several months ago, the visitors has been soundly thrashed by the completion of the second test. The third test venue was a fortress for the home team (Perth) and the only question at the start of the test was the margin of defeat for the visitors.

Sound familiar? Well, the visitors have called up a fresh opening batsman , just like the visitors had done back in Perth.

Dream on Oz fans 🙂

The Black Irishman

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What this victory means…

Australia does have a terrific opening batsman who can’t bat at the moment and they do have an opening bowler who can’t get a bowl at the moment.

Cricket is played on rough maidans and not in plush couches in psychiatric clinics!


One thing about the Australian cricket team is its resilliance and strength. Australia will bounce back from this crushing defeat that India inflicted at Mohali. To come back strongly from this demoralising defeat will be hard for Australia though — the next Test is being played in Delhi, where India has not lost since 1993! Indeed, India has won the last 7 Tests played at Delhi since 1993! Admittedly, 3 of these victories have come against lowly Zimbabwe. But 7 from 7 is an daunting mountain for Australia to climb when staring down the barrel — if I am permitted to mix my metaphors! But that mixing is the least of Australia’s worries at the moment. There is a fair bit of mixing happening in Australia’s collective head spaces.

This was India’s biggest win ever in all Test matches (by number of runs) against all countries. In other words, even Bangladesh had been spared such a thorough spanking and humiliation! This was also Australia’s heaviest Test defeat since April 1991, when they were beaten by 343 runs by the then mighty West Indies.

The two main differences between this defeat and other big defeats that India has inflicted on Australia is that this was more of an ‘Australian pitch’ than an Indian pitch! Secondly, unlike Kolkata in March 1998, the previous ‘best’ defeat that India has inflicted on Australia, this Mohali victory was secured on a good batting track and by pacemen (mainly)! Although Javagal Srinath had a cracker of a game in that Test match (Kolkata 1998) that really was Kumble’s game on a traditional Indian dust-bowl.

Mohali 2008 wasn’t. It was a batting pitch. The victory was achieved by some splendid opening bowling by Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma in the first innings. Two spectacular deliveries from Ishant Sharma in the 2nd Innings (to remove Ponting and Watson) and by Zaheer Khan cleaning up the tail in the 2nd Innings. In saying that, I am not devaluing the contributions made by Amit Mishra and Harbhajan Singh. Not at all. However, from the moment Australia was pegged back in the 1st Innings, given Australias’ “defensive mindset”, there was only one possible result in this game. And this mindset was reinforced by the Indian pace bowlers who got the ball to reverse swing from the 8th over itself!

A few observations about the victory that need emphasising:

  • How come the Indian pacemen are getting much more traditional and reverse swing than the Australians! It almost looked as if the Indians and the Australians were batting on two different pitches! As Peter Hanlon says in The Age today, “How come Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma get more movement off the pitch than our spinners – at 140 km/h?”
  • Apart from V. V. S. Laxman, every other Indian player contributed strongly. In batting, the openers, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and M. S. Dhoni played strong hands. In the bowling department, all 4 strike bowlers played a solid hand. Laxman will rue missing out and if there is a change to the team plan of going into the Delhi game with 5 bowlers, Laxman may miss out.
  • India dominated from the get go. And in a very Australian manner, once India had its foot on the pedal, unlike India teams of the past, the foot remained on the pedal.
  • Australia paid dearly for its defensive mindset in Bangalore. At the end of that Test match, I rated India as having come out on top. I was criticised for this rating by some of the people who left comments behind (hope the pie on the face tastes good guys!). I said then and I say again that the main reason for that rating was that Australia let the match drop from their hands after being on top right through the game! You can’t do that with good teams like India! Positive outcomes come from seizing the key moments in a game. Australia failed to do that and displayed a negative mindset — which was somewhat evident from the start of the tour with this “new age cricket” nonsense.
  • Australia played like India do! They were out-thought, out-batted, out-bowled and even out-sledged! We even saw Australian players complaining on being sledged! Aren’t these Australians masters of the art form? Soon we may have Ricky Ponting wearing a halo and suggesting that all sledging ought to be stamped out of the game!
  • Zaheer Khan was fined 80% of his match fee for asking Matthew Hayden about his post-match dinner plans! Matthew Hayden complained to the umpire! Poor thing. His pride was hurt. It is time to change the “what’s said on the field is left on the field” adage to read, “What the Australians say on the field ought to be left on the field. However, Australians will don nappies and reveal what other teams say on the field to anyone that is even remotely interested!”
  • More seriously, Zaheer Khan followed up his pre-match talk (which commenced, rather unnecessarily in my view, from the Bengaluru-presentation-ceremony) with on-field performance. What the Indians are realising is that it is not enough to be aggressive in words (read: Robin Uthappa and Sree Santh). Unless it is followed up by real aggression on the field through on-field performance, the talk is meaningless.
  • Perhaps what Zaheer Khan’s talk did was put Ricky Ponting off his own game! Ricky Ponting focussed on attacking Zaheer Khan and Anil Kumble instead of worrying about the cleanliness of his own stable! He now has 8 days to mull over what he needs to do with his own team’s performance! At the end of the Bengaluru Test, in response to Zaheer Khan’s observations, Ponting said, “[Zaheer Khan] just happened to have a good game as well, which is pretty unusual for him. It’s up to him to back it up again. I think a lot of his comments might have been to try and get us to play a different style and different brand of cricket.” Well, Zaheer Khan did have a good game in Bengalure. No, it is not “unusual for him” and yes, he has backed it up! And yes, he did rile Australia’s “new brand” of cricket. But it didn’t work because, as Dhoni said “Honestly speaking, we have not seen this before. I mean in their first innings, they were 22 for two wickets after 13 overs. I was so surprised that I told Rahul (Dravid) that you don’t see things like that very often.”

Ricky Ponting needs to focus on his own game and his own team without being distracted by the performance of Zaheer Khan and the (non)selection of Anil Kumble! I do believe that this “new age” nonsense should be consigned in the history pages to the “dark age” of Australian cricket! It is time for this approach — and its author — to be kicked out of the Australian dressing room.

Australia needs to change its approach and mindset; not its personnel. And that should start from cleansing its dressing room of needless and unwarranted management-speak. Cricket is played on rough maidans and not in plush couches in psychiatric clinics!

The intervening 8 days should be a time for soul-searching for the Australians. This is a champion Australian team and they will come back hard at the Indians. Australia does have a terrific opening batsman who can’t bat at the moment and they do have an opening bowler who can’t get a bowl at the moment. But Australia will regroup and come back strongly at the Indians. That is what champion teams do!

I can’t wait for the Delhi Test to commence!

— Mohan

India Vs Australia :: 2nd Test :: Mohali :: Day-5

Australia started Day 5 needing well over 350 runs to win the game – something that they were never going to do. Even the odds of Australia saving the Test by batting out the 3 sessions were very very low. India on the other hand needed 5 wickets to win and it was not a question of if, but a question of when India would wrap up the game – as it turned out it was well and truly over before lunch.

Morning (and the only) session

The wicket at Mohali had held out quite well for the first four days of the test and the fifth day was no exception. Except for balls pitching on the rough created by footmarks, the bounce was quite even and there weren’t too many cracks on the pitch. It was still a pretty good batting track – after all 355 runs were added on day 4.

Clarke and Haddin had added 88 runs together the previous day, in what was the best Aussie partnership of the game and they strode in confidently to the wicket. Their game plan would have been to see through the day one hour at a time.

But Zaheer Khan had other plans. He was earlier charged by the match referee for giving a send-off to Hayden on Day 4 of the test and that must have had him fired up. He predictably opened the bowling for India.

In the last ball of the very first over, Zaheer pitched one up, which cut in sharply into the right handed Haddin and crashed into the stumps. Haddin had offered a defensive prod without much foot work and the ball managed to avoid both bat and pad. Only one run had been added to the overnight score, one wicket already lost and the Indians moved one step closer to victory.

In the second ball of Zaheer Khan’s second over, White edged a fuller delivery over to Dhoni, leaving the Aussies reeling at 144/7. Brett Lee walked in, and was bowled out the very next ball – this time, the ball pitched on leg and moved further away clipping the off stump.

In just 4 ball, 3 wickets had fallen and any semblance of an Australian resistance disappeared – that too in just the 3rd over of the day. Johnson did his best to hit his way out (he did play some handsome strokes) and Clarke went on to complete his 50 – but these were just academic. They managed to put on the second biggest partnership of the innings, though -  adding 50 runs before Mishra had Johnson caught and bowled. The score at that time was 194. Siddle came in at No. 11, but couldn’t manage a single run on his debut – Clarke at the other end tried to hit Mishra out, only to find Tendulkar at mid-wicket. They were all out for 195 and even with their first and second innings totals put together, couldn’t cross India’s first innings score.

Dhoni (after collecting his Man-of-the-match award said that this was almost like a perfect match and that every thing went their way. This was a great team effort and India will take a lot of confidence into the Delhi test and are now one test win away from regaining the Border-Gavaskar trophy.

-Mahesh-

Will the Match Referee step up to the plate please?

From where I am seeing things, Chris Broad, the Match Referee in the ongoing Test series between India and Australia, appears to be sitting on his hands on three issues in the Mohali Test match. He probably doesn’t realise that the only thing that he can guarantee by sitting on his fingers is the acquisition of ring marks on his backside!

Before getting to the specific issue, I must say that I was quite shocked to see Chris Broad openly criticise one of the playing officials when the match was still in progress! When commenting about the non-referral of the Sourav Ganguly stumping episode, Chris Broad commented to “The Australian” newspaper, “The policy is for umpires to make as many decisions out on the field as they possibly can. Of course, no one likes to see umpires being criticised, me of all people. Ideally, I would have liked for [Koertzen] to call for the third umpire. But he made his decision with what he saw, and you can’t argue about that. The only thing you can argue about is the fact that it was possibly wrong, in hindsight. But at the time, if you look where he was standing, and the camera from behind him, you would also think he didn’t lift his foot.”

Since when has a match referee started commenting on specific dismissals? Is it appropriate for a match referee to comment on specific dismissals while a Test match is in progress? I’d think not! In my view, this was somewhat inappropriate behaviour on the part of the Match Referee.

However, there are three things that Chris Broad ought to do right away, in my view.

1. Censure Ponting:

I think Chris Broad ought to censure Ricky Ponting for carrying on like a spoilt pork chop when Virender Sehwag was not given out, caught behind by Asad Rauf. I think a wrap on the knuckles and a severe warning will be in order here. As a Team India fan, I hope Chris Broad does not ban Ricky Ponting — although he does deserve one in my view — for, Pontings’ somewhat weird captaincy in this series appears to be benefiting India right at this moment!

On the 4th morning, Asad Rauf did not detect what was a loud nick off the blade of Virender Sehwag off the bowling of Mitchell Johnson. Bowler and ‘keeper Haddin could not believe their eyes, but got on with the job!

This is how Jon Pierik from The Herald Sun reported the events that unfolded:

Ponting’s animated on-field style has been a worry among Cricket Australia officials for some time.

While former skipper Mark Taylor was the master at making his point discreetly, whether to teammates or the umpires, Ponting’s emotions too often spill over.

That was evident in the incident with Lee, and earlier when a caught-behind appeal off Virender Sehwag was knocked back.

A disbelieving Ponting rushed in from mid-wicket with his hands waving about, when he could have just saddled up to umpire Asad Rauf quietly at the end of the over.

Rauf had made a blunder, but Ponting didn’t need to act in the manner he did.

Ponting is a passionate cricketer but, as captain, he must remain composed as often as possible, for that helps to spread calm among his team.

As Australia enters a daunting new era with several raw players, there’s bound to be more days like those experienced in Mohali.

Ponting needs to at least portray that all will be well.

If Ponting cast his mind back even for a second to Sydney this year and remembers a mate of his that went fishing recently, he would not have charged in the direction of Sehwag to converse with him.

2. Censure Matthew Hayden

I wonder why the Match Referee should not censure Matthew Hayden for remonstrating with Indian fielders as he was making his way to the pavilion, after getting out in the 2nd Innings at Mohali.

It is most likely that an Indian fielder enquired about Hayden’s health and said something like, “Enjoy your shower mate” or “Where are you off for dinner?” or something like that! That doesn’t call for an Oscar-award winning show with spread arms and feigned hurt! After all, Hayden’s been dishing it out for as long as one can remember! And, as Mark Nicholas would say, a person that is so used to making his own bed ought to learn how to sleep in it!

I do wish Chris Broad censures Matthew Hayden for the his unsportsmanlike behaviour on getting out. I am not saying that I like players saying sweet nothings to departing players. But I am saying that Matthew Hayden, as one who dishes it out regularly, ought to know how to accept it occasionally when it comes flying back at him! The Oscar-award winning performance was so totally unnecessary and, in my view, brought the game into disrepute.

As I write this, we have learned that Zaheer Khan has been charged! I guess this is to be expected after Matthew Hayden’s Oscar performance.

3. Report Rudi Koertzen

I think Chris Broad has to report Rudi Koertzen. The aging umpire has made one mistake too many in this Test series and, before long, we could have a Bucknor on our hands! I can point the mistakes out, but this has already been chronicled heavily in several blogs and articles. I still feel that Rudi Koertzen has a few years of umpiring in him. But instead of tainting him in public, like he has done this week, Chris Broad could report him to the ICC, ensure that he is looked after through remedial training, coaching and more.

With all of the above going on, I am not sure what the Match Referee is actually paid to do! Will he please step up to the plate and do something about this caper?

— Mohan

Indian heat too much to handle?

Is Ponting finding the Indian heat too much to handle? And I am not talking about the temperature. There is the saying that when the going gets tough, the tough get going. Ponting, the tough character that he is, hasn’t handled the situation well, though. Here are the signs that all is not well –

  • Ponting’s captaincy: Ponting has earned praise for his captaincy in the past. But in this series, it has been uninspiring. The Australians have been very defensive in this tour so far – whether it is their batting (defensive and slow) and their bowling (again, defensive and spread out fields) – and that is a direct reflection of the captaincy. IMHO, this is the main reason they couldn’t win the first test after being on top for the most part. And it is again the main reason, they are so much behind in this test.
  • Ponting losing confidence in his main strike bowler: For one whole session yesterday, Brett Lee didn’t get a bowl. He may not have had the success with the ball in the series so far – but bowling Hussey before Lee? Australian papers have written about this in detail (see Herald Sun, The Age and everybody’s favourite The Australian) and I don’t intend to go over it again. The sooner they resolve their differences, the better it is for the team as a whole.
  • Talking the walk: Did Ponting expect Sehwag to walk when he edged it? Surely, he doesn’t expect that. Or maybe the situation changes when you are close to 400 runs behind, desperate for a wicket and the opposition player nicks it. Ponting’s reaction seemed to be just that. Coming from a person who has always defended the players right not to walk, it comes across as a bit hypocritical. Or maybe Ponting was just wishing Sehwag on his birthday and we misunderstood everything…:)
  • Does Ishant have the wood on Ponting?: Ponting’s excellent century in the first test not withstanding, is Ponting struggling against Ishant. Yesterday’s dismissal was a classic. He set him up by bowling to him a bit fuller and dragging him forward. The one that got him out was a beauty pitching outside of off-stump, just short of good length and cutting back in sharply beating both bat and pad, thudding into the stumps. He had him plumb in the first innings too with a similar delivery. I am not sure if Ishant has the wood on Ponting (yet), but there is some vulnerability there and I am sure Ponting doesn’t enjoy the first few overs when he comes into bat and finds Ishant and Harbhajan bowling in tandem.

-Mahesh-

India Vs Australia :: 2nd Test :: Mohali :: Day-4

Australia was in backtrack mode in this Test match. Everything had gone wrong for the Australians. India’s aim would be to (a) bat Australia out of the game, (b) give themselves enough opportunity to bowl Australia out on what is essentially sill a good batting pitch.

1st Session:

India started day-4 positively. The Indian batsmen were out in the middle a good minute before the Australians, for example! And the Indians continued as they concluded day-3 — on fire. Ricky Ponting commenced the day with the most unusual combination of Shane Watson and Cameron White. Like much of Ricky Ponting’s captaincy in this series, I didn’t quite understand this move! Brett Lee and Mitchell Johnson may have been better options! For one, they’d have taken longer to get through their overs than Cameron White!

Rather unsurprisingly, Cameron White was belted out of the attack in his very second over, when the Indian openers took him for 15 runs. He was off the attack and somewhat regular programming resumed. Mitchell Johnson and Peter Siddle took up the bowling responsibilities. Brett Lee wasn’t used in the first session. This was strange, unless of course Lee was injured.

Australia’s luck continued to be terrible: When it rains, it pours. Many run out opportunities went begging. The pings and under arm flicks just didn’t hit the stumps! Indeed, there was a run out opportunity off the very first ball of the day!

The Indian openers played brilliantly though. They kept the runs ticking through singles and the occasional boundary. There was urgency in the batting. And competence too. The India openers were going at over 5 runs an over. The spread out, defensive fields weren’t really working for Australia. It was all too easy for the Indians.

Birthday boy, Virender Sehwag, rode his luck. When he was on 88, he appeared to snick a ball from Mitchell Johnson to Brad Haddin. However, Asad Rauf did not hear the healthy nick. Sehwag stayed, much to the chagrin of the Australian players. Surely, they expected Sehwag to walk. Ricky Ponting smiled wryly and had a few animated conversations with Sehwag. Sehwag may have said to Ricky Ponting, “Ask Andrew Symonds what he may have done, mate.”

As Mark Nicholas said in the TV commentary at the time, “You make your bed, you ought to sleep in it!”

Sehwag reached 90 off 122 balls when he tickled a Peter Siddle delivery to Brad Haddin. This time, he walked! He may have got himself into the record books as the only Indian player to have scored a century on his birthday! However, that wasn’t to be. India was 182 for 1 off 32.1 overs at that stage. Sehwag would have loved a century, but he had done his job. He had also banished a few of his 2nd innings demons!

Given the steady start that India had made in the morning, M. S. Dhoni walked in as I had predicted.

Soon after Sehwag got out, we saw Michael Hussey into the attack! There was still no sign of Brett Lee in the attack! In his second over, Michael Hussey got warned by Asad Rauf for running onto the pitch. More than Asad Rauf, I think Ricky Ponting would have clipped Michael Hussey around the ears for running onto the danger area!

Meanwhile, M. S. Dhoni got on with the job of making runs. However, with Gautam Gambhir approaching his century, his scoring was mainly by way of nudges and singles! The scoring rate had started to dip despite Dhoni’s presence. This was fair enough, I guess. Gambhir had done all the hard work and perhaps deserved an opportunity to find his place in the sun! Eventually, Gambhir did flick Cameron White to square leg for a boundary to bring up his century off 136 balls with 7 boundaries and a six. India had reached 222 for 1 off 47.1 overs at a rate of 4.7 rpo at that stage.

Immediately on reaching his century, Gambhir danced down the wicket to Cameron White and holed out to Michael Hussey at mid off. India was 224 for 2 with Gambhir gone for 104. Just as Sourav Ganguly had thrown it away in the first innings, Gambhir had thrown it away too.

The fall of Gambhir brought Sourav Ganguly to the crease! Not Dravid or Tendulkar or Laxman, but Sourav Ganguly! Perhaps Dhoni wanted a left-right combination at the crease. This was a somewhat strange decision, mainly because much of the mornings’ play had been created by the Indians hustling the fielders for sharp singles. With Ganguly out in the middle, there was perhaps a run out waiting to happen! I’d have perhaps thought that Sachin Tendulkar or even Harbhajan Singh may have been better options!

At lunch, India was 230 for 2. In that session, 130 runs had come off 26 overs for the loss of 2 wickets. India had scored at 5 runs per over. A terrific session for India — just what the doctor had ordered! India was 431 runs ahead at this stage and everything was going according to plan. I had predicted yesterday that Dhoni would probably want to set a target of Australia about 500-520 runs off 125 overs! This was another India session and the SBS score reads: [India 7.25, Australia 2.75].

Session-2:

Brett Lee’s absence from the bowling card in the morning session made less sense to me when Ricky Ponting opened the post-lunch proceedings with Brett Lee! So, what was the deal with the treatment of Brett Lee in the morning session? Was this Ricky Ponting’s method of punishing a below-par passenger on the tour thus far? This was indeed strange captaincy from the Australian captain.

India started the session carefully. They collected the singles and the twos with great ease. There wasn’t anything frenetic and unorthodox in the batting either. Just as India had, in the first session, all the scoring was through proper and orthodox cricket shots. India did not show undue urgency, which seemed to suggest that India was looking at a score of about 500. Therefore, there was no need to do anything silly.

Soon, Dhoni reached his 50 off only 61 deliveries with only 3 fours. This also brought up 50 partnership between Ganguly and Dhoni from just 54 balls — that the partnership contained only 5 boundaries showed the kind of game India was keen to play. This was foot-on-the-pedal stuff that Australia normally play!

In the same over, Michael Hussey received his 2nd warning from Asad Rauf for running on the pitch. This was in Hussey’s 8th over (he had given 38 runs in these 8 overs). Asad Rauf was once again doing Ricky Ponting’s work for the Australian captain!

Cameron White came on in the next over. Dhoni was probably so bored that he tried what can best be described as a field-hockey scoop shot; not once, but twice! He tried to get his bat under the ball to scoop it over the ‘keepers’ head. The first time he tried it, he crashed the ball straight onto ‘keeper Brad Haddin’s chest. He missed the second ball completely.

These attempts said a story in its own right; perhaps India was batting time rather than total. The Indian lead had already stretched to 480 at that point! India had, I think, most certainly batted Australia out of the game. They were just hammering a few nails into the coffin prior to declaring. From here on in, it will be the Australian approach that would determine the game result. At this point in time, there was 53 overs remaining in the day. A declaration at this point would mean that Australia had 140 overs remaining. Too much perhaps?

Suddenly, Sourav Ganguly tried his first big hit of the innings off Brett Lee. The skied shot ended up down Michael Clarke’s throat at mid off. Ganguly departed for a well-compiled 27 off 37 balls. Dhoni was on 59 off 78 balls and India was on 290 for 3. THis got Sachin Tendulkar to the crease.

The next over saw the most interesting ball I’ve seen in a long time in a Test mach. Cameron White dragged a ball down in front of his nose. The ball scooted past the edge of the pitch and hurried to the fine leg fence for 5 wides! The over also saw a huge 6 from Dhoni off White to take the lead to 505 runs. A drinks’ break was called with India in the lead by 509. A declaration at this point would have made sense. If India had declared at this point, Australia would have needed 509 off 137 overs to win, at a rate of about 3.72 rpo. The fact that there was no declaration yet was as much a sign of the benign nature of the pitch or of the respect that the Indians have for Matthew Hayden. Just as the Australins fear the “Sehwag Factor”, I suspect the absence of a declaration must be due to the “Hayden Factor”!

When the Indian total reached 314-3, India declared. Australia needed 515 to win off about 136 overs. Australia would need to either bat out the 136 overs or score at about 3.78 per over. Dhoni remained not out on 68 off 84 balls and Tendulkar was on 10 off 12 balls. India had made the 314 runs at 4.83 runs per over. In my prediction from last night, I was about 5 runs off the declaration target! The only problem with India’s batting was the slowness of their approach to the target of 515 runs. Obviously Dhoni and the Indian leadership team had a combination of total (say 500+) and time (135 overs, say) and when these targets collided, the declaration came. However, I thought that Dhoni and Tendulkar may have showed a bit more urgency towards the end. In particular, I did not see the point of batting an additional over after the drinks’ break! Time will tell if this was an overly-conservative declaration.

Australia started positively, through Matthew Hayden. Although the first ball that he faced was a somewhat nervous hoik that could have had him caught at a deep mid-off position, Hayden settled down to make his intents very clear. He was going for the bowling with a view to dictating terms. His approach seemed to rub off on Simon Katich and they helped Australia to move to 49-0 off 7 overs! Now this was more the Australia that we have been used to.

With the going as good as it was, Dhoni had no option but to turn to Harbhajan Singh. With just the second ball of his spell, coming around the wicket, Harbhajan Singh had Hayden leg before for 29 off just 20 balls. Australia was 49-1.

The weed had poisoned the gardener!

More worryingly for Australia, Harbhajan Singh secured a wicket very early in his spell; that’s when Harbhajan Singh can be most dangerous.

And so it came to be! In the very same over, off the last ball of his over, Simon Katich drove Harbhajan Singh without getting to the pitch of the ball. The resulting catch was brilliantly taken by Sachin Tendulkar at a deep gully position. Katich disappeared for 20 off 26 balls and Australia went to Tea at 50-2. Harbhajan Singh had taken his 298th Test wicket. I’d be surprised if this Test — one for celebrating Indian milestones — does not get Harbhajan Singh an important milestone!

And so, what would have been perhaps an even session had suddenly become India’s session. The SBS Score now reads: [India 8.25, Australia 2.75].

Session-3:

At the Tea Break, Nick McCardle, the Foxtel anchor, when talking with Mark Waugh, the expert in the chair, said “I don’t like seeing Harbhajan Singh take so many quick wickets. He tends to get his tail up,” and on further promoting from Mark Waugh, McCardle said he did not like either the way Harbhajan Singh celebrates or the way he tends to bowl after taking early wickets!

Hmmm! Ok, so why don’t we send a message to Harbhajan Singh to request him to smear sandal paste on his forehead and prostrate with folded hands at departing Australian cricketers? And while he is at it, perhaps he can play some soothing Yoga music, garland the departing Australian cricketer, offer the cricketer a Kohinoor diamond and a shawl with a “Pleeeees to take”?

India started after the Tea break with Harbhajan Singh and Ishant Sharma bowling to Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey. Harbhajan Singh and Ishant Sharma are probably the last two people that Ponting may include in his Christmas card list, if they manage to get onto the list at all!

First, Harbhajan Singh had Michael Hussey plumb in front. Hussey tried to pull a back-of-a-length delivery from Harbhajan Singh. No prostrations were offered by Harbhajan Singh to the departing batsman!

In the very next over, Ishant Sharma flattened Ricky Ponting’s off stump with a peach of a delivery. What was most impressive was the way Ishant Sharma set Ponting up in that over. In the matter of a few overs, Australia had slumped from 49-0 to 52-4. Australia’s top-4 was in the hut!

Shane Watson and Michael Clarke set about doing the repair job against some accurate and penetrative bowling from Ishant Sharma. Amit Mishra, who had taken 5 wickets in the first innings didn’t look like getting a bowling opportunity in the 2nd Innings! This was good cricket from the Indians. At the end of the 16th over, Australia was 58-4. Ishant Sharma was bowling a testing spell to Michael Clarke, who had already been hit on the body twice by the tall Indian pace bowler. This was an important opportunity for Michael Clarke to get a long dig. He had had an ordinary tour thus far and had to use this opportunity in a losing cause to get some runs and batting-time under his belt.

The very next over, Ishant Sharma bowled another splendid ball to catch Shane Watson right in front for 2 off 22 balls. Australia was 58-5 and was falling apart like a pack of cards. Brad Haddin was welcomed to the crease with a bouncer that struck him on the visor. Ishant Sharma walked up to him to ask if he had paid his electricity bill prior to leaving Australia! This was terrific bowling from the young Indian bowler.

How was it that these two Indian bowlers were making the ball talk, when the Australians did nothing much at all with the ball?

After bowling a terrific spell after the Tea break, Amit Mishra, the first innings bowling hero was summoned to replace Ishant Sharma. The score was 70-5 off 20 overs. Ishant Sharma had bowled excellently well in a searching post-Tea spell of accurate, hostile and penetrative fast bowling.

The third ball of Mishra’s spell, bowled to Brad Haddin, was a perfect leg spinner. It had loop and dip and spun a lon way to beat Haddin’s out-stretched bat. It probably missed the off stump by just a few millimetres! This was the art of spinning at its very best! We now had the two Indian spinners bowling in tandem.

Australia was intent on shutting up shop. The batsmen were focussed on crease occupation and time accumulation. There was no way Australia could win this match, of course! And there was almost no possibility of Australia drawing the game. So the best option for Clarke and Haddin was to clock time!

While Amit Mishra was getting a terrific loop and spin going, Harbhajan Singh had resumed normal operations — he was intent on spearing them in at 90 kmph! He had bowled 9 overs on the trot after the Tea break and perhaps a break was called for! Australia went into the drinks break at 81-5 off 27 overs.

At this point, Harbhajan Singh’s bowling analysis read 10-2-12-3. He was searching for his 300th wicket! After just 4 overs, Mishra was changed for Virender Sehwag! Whether this was an end-change for Amit Mishra, time would tell. But the birthday-boy was in for a spell, perhaps.

Indeed, Mishra did swap ends. He bowled to a Michael Clarke who was batting quite well at this stage. Clarke, who had had a somewhat ordinary tour up until then, needed to spend time out there in the middle. And this was the best opportunity for him to do that. Soon, the Australia’s 100 came up. Brad Haddin had started to break out of the shackles that the spinners had tied around him. The partnership was worth 44 runs from 100 balls. The going was slow, but the run rate was hardly important. The Australians were playing for pride and frankly, the Indian spinners were suddenly looking very playable!

So it wasn’t surprising to see Zaheer Khan get a spell at the batsmen. This was still a great pitch to bat on. There was turn in the pitch; but it was slow turn. And any swing the pacemen were getting was mainly due to the skill of the two Indian bowlers than anything else! And truth be told, the two New South Welshmen were playing it quite well.

Harbhajan Singh was back in the attack, bowling to two well-set batsmen. He almost got through Brad Haddin with a replica of the delivery that got the Australian ‘keeper out in the first innings!

The session was slowly winding to a close. Despite the late Australian resistance from Michael Clarke and Brad Haddin, this was India’s session once again; a session in which the wickets of Ricky Ponting, Michael Hussey and Shane Watson just after Tea, had broken the back of the Australians. Australia ended the day at 141-5.

The SBS score now reads: [India 9.25, Australia 2.75].

Australia are out of it. It is a question of when and not if for India! The only headache would be for Chris Broad, the match referee, in adjudicating the Man of the Match! There are several contenders including Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, M. S. Dhoni, Gautam Gambhir, Amit Mishra, Ishant Sharma and Harbhajan Singh.

— Mohan

Two funny videos…

Here is a video of Sourav Ganguly batting right-handed! Someone has taken the trouble of converting Sourav Ganguly’s 144 at Brisbane in December 2003. The poster has taken the trouble of converting this 6-minute clip to its horizontal mirror image. Interestingly Sourav Ganguly, like Michael Hussey, started life as a right-hander and converted to left-handed batting later on in their development.

Here below is the Foxtel promo for the ongoing India Vs Australia tour, India, 2008. It features Harbhajan Singh!

— Mohan