After playing adventurous and bravado-laden, aggressive cricket on day-1 and day-2, India had choked Australia almost out of the game on day-3 of this intriguing Test match. In a strange manner, India played the “new age cricket” that Australia was threatening to play all along in this series. Up until day-3 Australia had failed to execute that brand of cricket. And on day-3 when they were faced with an opposition that played new age cricket, they had no answers!
India had a hand on the Border-Gavaskar Trophy and needed a few sessions more of good cricket to get both hands on it!
The 1st Session went to plan for India. Virender Sehwag and debutant M. Vijay played sensibly and countered everything that Ricky Ponting threw at them. Ponting was caught between two lands. He could not afford to over-attack. He could not afford to defend either. It is not often that Australia finds itself in this position. And today, I am not sure they got their tactics right. Jason Krejza was bowling impressively. But the Indian openers had no fears. They played him and Brett Lee, Mitchell Johnson and Shane Watson with much ease. I am not sure why we didn’t see Simon Katich!
The over rate wasn’t great either.
India went into lunch on 98-0 off 27 overs. Only 26 overs had been bowled in the mornings’ session. Was Australia the team that was supposed to be “making the running” in this match? I wasn’t sure. The run rate was hovering around 3.6 rpo. Virender Sehwag had reached his half century and Vijay was playing with much composure and tightness.
An early thought: Why not include Vijay and Gambhir as openers against England and allow Sehwag to drop in at #3 as Ganguly’s replacement?
The SBS Score reads: India-5.5, Australia-4.5;
The second session of the days’ play was a disaster for India. Of course, the Australians bowled exceedingly well and to tight lines. However, what really happened was a mindset issue.
India started after lunch in brilliant manner. Virender Sehwag was batting positively and treated Jason Krejza with disdain.
But then Shane Watson was getting some reverse swing and got M. Vijay LBW of a ball that dipped in. And this set the trend for the rest of the afternoon. At this stage, India was completely on top.
Immediately after this, Dhoni made his first major error. He sent in Dravid ahead of Laxman.
Laxman was the in-form batsman and he should have gone out to bat. Instead, we had Dravid and frankly, he made the bowlers look better than they actually were. Dravid is tentative and unsure. He needs time off in the Ranji Trophy to get his game fixed. But here, he ought to have batted at #5 or #6. India needed to carry the momentum. Instead, Dravid played right into Australia’s hands. Of course, he got out for not much.
Immediately after that Sehwag was out caught down the legside for the second time in the series. And this set the rot.
Tendulkar and Laxman batted as if they were rabbits caught in the headlights. Instead of keeping the scoreboard ticking, they slipped into a defensive mindset. The momentum had shifted.
Laxman got out to a beauty from Jason Krejza that bounced, turned and crashed into his leg stump. A brilliant ball by an enterprising bowler. Australia had a hero.
He became a bigger hero when he got Ganguly caught and bowled for a first ball duck! On his last appearance for India, Ganguly, who had received an ovation from each and every Australian cricketer on the field, was out for a first ball duck!
The man who had drama follow him all his life, had created his own drama to join the ranks of Don Bradman, who also got a duck off his last Test innings!
The last nail in the coffin was hammered by a freakish run out of Tendulkar off the last ball before Tea.
This was a nightmare session for India and, from an unenviable winning position, India was just 252 runs ahead. India had made 68 runs in the session and lost 6 wickets! I am convinced that this was triggered as much by good bowling as it was by the Dhoni decision to send Dravid in at #3.
The problem that was commenced by the decision to send Dravid in at #3 was compounded by the fact that Laxman and Tendulkar were caught in an intensely negative mindset. The just didn’t take the singles and just didn’t keep the scoreboard moving.
The SBS Score reads: India-5.5, Australia-5.5;
Indeed, at this stage, Australia looks odds-on favourite to win the match!
Was the good work over the entire series by the Indians being undone by one terrible session here at Nagpur? Was the somewhat lacklustre showing by the Indians in this last session the lifeline that this champion team from Australia looking for? Will the Australians grab it and run all over the Indians?
Time will tell. An important 3rd Session was coming up for both teams.
As much as the Indians had played badly, it is true that Jason Krejza bowled excellently well. Here was a star that was born for Australia. It is a huge call to make, but I am reasonably that, along with Ajantha Mendis, we had seen the birth of another spinning star in world cricket.
In the lunch-tea session, there was a ball tampering incident that may get the match referee, Chris Broad quite interested. Cameron White was shown plucking leather off the scuffed up side of the ball. This was just before the ball started reverse-swinging. Although Cameron White wasn’t picking at the seam, he certainly did pick at the leather. It is fair to say that he did alter the condition of the ball.
Will Chris Broad have the guts to ping an Australian though?
At Tea, just 50 overs had been bowled in the day and there was nary a breath from Mark Waugh and Nick McCrdle on this issue! Australia was 10 overs short at this stage and let’s remember that Australia was the team that had to force the pace in this match?
Is this the second issue for the Chris Brad to contend with in the days’ play?
Will Chris Broad have the guts to ping the Australian captain though?
Australia started off the post-Tea session with Jason Krejza at one end and with Cameron White and then Michael Hussey! Clearly, Australia wanted to get a move on on the over-rate! Perhaps Chris Broad had warned these Saintly Australians that he may have no choice but to suspend the Australian captain for a Test match for their over-rate recalcitrance!
With Cameron White and Michael Hussey bowling, the foot had been lifted off the pedal, it seemed. Both White and Hussey had allowed the two Indian batsmen to settle in! Gone was the reverse swing! Gone was the pressure at the other end!
But given the Australian bowling over-rate recalcitrance right through this series, was winning this Test match and retaining the Border-Gavaskar Trophy more important than saving the captain from a suspension?
Australia had clearly lost the plot after Tea! Australia had been sloppy in the first two sessions of the day (as they have been for well over a year now)! How they could be sloppy when they were supposed to be making the running in the game, only Ricky Ponting and the Australia Team will know. However, to compound one unprofessional mistake with the bowling of White (first) and then Hussey was just sheer unprofessional cricket from these Australians.
Someone needs to stick a Diwali firecracker up their collective backsides!
Instead of going for the jugular, they let the pressure off the Indians. About 52 minutes after Tea, India was nearly 300 runs ahead (298 to be precise). At this stage, Australia had 27 overs left to be bowled in the day, with just 70 minutes left in the days’ play. The partnership between Dhoni and Harbhajan Singh was already worth 50 runs.
This was sloppy, unprofessional cricket that was totally unbecoming of a champion side.
India consolidated its position slowly and steadily. Thanks to some poor over rates and poor bowling pair in operation as a result of this, with 40 minutes to go in the days’ play, 19 overs were left in the days’ play and the partnership was already worth 82 off 128 balls!
Once again, when it mattered most, Australia had not been able to step up to the plate in this series!
With an hour to go to the extended days’ play, Australia needed to bowl 17 overs in the day. The partnership was worth 101 between Harbhajan Singh and Dhoni. The wheels had come off the Australians carriage. Partly through their own unprofessionalism. But partly through some courageous and positive-mindset batting from Dhoni and Harbhajan Singh. The 100 partnership came off just 150 balls.
It was unfortunate for Jason Krejza really. He was bowling splendidly. But, instead of pressure at the other end, after Tea, he had Cameron White, Michael Hussey and Michael Clarke as his bowling partners! This just wasn’t good enough from the Australians. They had completely lost the plot. From a match-saving mode, India was now in target-setting mode! And it all happened in one hour of extremely sloppy play from Australia.
I think Australia lost the series in that one hour of terrible cricket post-Tea.
Finally, Shane Watson was back in the attack with 45 minutes to go to the extended days’ play and with 15 overs still left in the days’ play!
So what did the hand-off-the-jugular achieve from Australia? I just don’t know.
Against the run of play, suddenly Dhoni was out for 55 off 81 balls. He tried to sweep a Jason Krejza ball from off to leg as he had been doing all innings. The ball seemed to bounce off his boot to be cleanly and wonderfully caught by Michael Hussey. The score was 274-7. The partnership was worth 108 runs from 27.2 overs at a rate of 3.95 rpo. Krejza had his 3rd wicket for the innings. The Indian lead was worth 360 runs now.
Perhaps this match was beyond Australia’s reach now? It would need a Herculean effort from Ausralia to make it from this position. Another way to look at it would be that IF Australia make a victory from this position, they absolutely deserve to win and to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
At this stage, Krejza had conceded 354 runs for 11 wickets in the game! Only the West Indian Scott had conceded more runs in a Test with 374 runs for 9 wickets.
Soon, Harbhajan Singh had scored his half century. Once again, he was a thorn in the Australian Team’s side.
On a day when both Andrew Symonds and Ricky Ponting had their well-timed pre-Christmas book releases that touched on the “Monkeygate” episode, Harbhajan Singh had responded with the bat rather than the pen.
And what matters most is responses with ball and bat.
India’s 8th wicket was down to a freakish caught behind by Haddin off Krejza, who now had his 4th wicket for the Innings. Zaheer Khan had to go after an attempted sweep caught his glove. The resulting lob was pouched on the 3rd attempt by Haddin. The score was 286 for 8 and the lead was 372.
Immediately afterwards, Harbhajan Singh was bowled for 52 off 94 balls by Shane Watson. It was the end of a superb hand from this feisty Sikh who has taken an immense liking for the Australians of late!
This wicket begged the question: Why could Shane Watson have not continued bowling after Tea? What’s the worst that could have happened? A Ricky Ponting suspension? Was Ponting’s suspension worth more than the teams’ chances in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy?
These are questions that just have to be asked.
With half an hour left in the days’ play, Australia still had 12 overs to bowl! The White-Hussey-Clarke experiment had pulled things back a bit for Australia — but not much! Still the team was in the dog house. No two ways about it!
I’d really like to know what the Match Referee does with Cameron White (ball tampering) and Ricky Ponting (bowling over-rate sloppiness).
My sense is that Chris Broad will let both of these offenders off.
India was all out for 295 with Shane Watson getting the last wicket to fall. Watson had got 4 wickets.
Australia needed 382 for a win and 13 of these were wiped off in the very first over from Zaheer Khan! I do think that the plan for India would be to keep it tight at one end and attack from the other end.
With 4 balls left in the days’ play, light was offered to Australia and Hayden accepted the light!
When India sent in a night watchman in Delhi, Mark Waugh, Malcolm Conn and Chloe Saltau went into paroxysms, describing it as a ‘negative’ move. It will be interesting to see what their reaction is to this offering from Australia!
But more than anything else, I will be interested in seeing what the Match Referee does today.
India had a wonderful last session of play. This was more due to Ricky Ponting’s strange and bizarre tactics. Of course, Dhoni and Harbhajan Singh played sensationally well. But Ponting’s tactics contributed immensely to the free spirit with which they played.
That last session belonged to India. The SBS Score reads: India-6.5, Australia-5.5;