The batting team cruises along nicely and seem to have all the momentum – then one wicket falls, and suddenly every thing changes. It happened on Day 1, when Ponting’s wicket fell and it happened again today when Tendulkar’s wicket fell.
India had just crossed 350 and both Tendulkar and Raina were cruising along nicely. Tendulkar looked set to score his 49th Test hundred, when suddenly against the grain of play, he fell LBW to North. That was the 5th wicket to fall – soon, the other 5 fell for the addition of just 51 runs.
Suddenly, the Aussies regained the advantage they had lost in the first two sessions, when Dravid and Tendulkar and Raina reduced the deficit sufficiently. Johnson took 5 for 64 and his two wickets of two balls (Dhoni and Harbhajan Singh) was partially responsible for speeding up the demise of the Indian innings.
This is going to turn out to be a really good test. If the Aussies, bat all of tomorrow and put up 250 on the board (plus the lead of 23), it will be a tough chase on a final day pitch.
I’d say that at the end of day 3, the Aussies still hold the advantage in this match. Having said that, if the Indians can dismiss the top 3 batsmen in the morning session of play, Aussies will be in a bit of trouble – their middle order is a bit flaky and I don’t expect the tail to pull through another rescue in the same Test. The Indians would be well aware of that – Harbhajan Singh needs to fire for that and let’s hope he does.
I spoke yesterday about how India should be careful not to let the Australian tail wag and that is exactly what they didn’t do. The last 5 wickets added another 206 runs in the end, and Australia had a respectable total of 428, well above the 1st innings average at Mohali, which is in the high 3oos.
Australia just seemed to be content on batting out time late yesterday and even this morning and it seemed like test cricket of old, where you played not to win, but not to lose. The intent to win just didn’t seem to exist. Australia did show some positive intent once Mitchel Johnson came on to bat – this is the way Australia should have batted and put more pressure on the bowling. India also made some tactical errors. Their persistence with the old ball was baffling. Sure, Ishant couldn’t bowl straight away– but Zaheer should have taken the new ball and partnered with Harbhajan Singh. India just didn’t try enough to nip the wickets out – it appeared that their strategy was just to slow down the runs, and the wickets would come automatically.
After Zaheer’s five-for, India came out blazing. It was as if the two countries were batting on two different surfaces. India raced off to 100/1 in the 17th over and the title to the post would have read “Advantage India”, if Sehwag hadn’t lost his wicket in the penultimate over of the day. With 3 more days remaining, there is still a possibility of a result and it could go either way – however the scales have slightly tilted to Australia’s favour – their safety first approach seemed to have worked this time.