Tag Archives: Hussey

India Vs Australia :: Test 4 :: Nagpur :: Day-3

The first session of the days’ play turned out to be attritional cricket at its very best. It was like two heavy weights sizing each other up before delivering a punch. Neither team wanted to land a blow and expose themselves to an upper cut or a hook. This is how the morning was played out.

India bowled Ishant Sharma and Zaheer Khan for much of the session. And almost all of what they bowled was at least a foot outside the off stump of the two left-handers: Mike Hussey and Simon Katich! For almost the entire morning, they bowled to an 8-1 off-side field!

India had decided that the runs had leaked the previous day and wanted Australia to make the running in this innings from here on in.

This was a test to see whether Australia could indeed make the running. We saw Australia adopt such — outside off-stump — tactics for much of this series when behind the eight-ball. Now it was the turn of Australia to make the running.

This tactic required a shedding of the ego. Dhoni was basically admitting that his strike bowler, Harbhajan Singh, was not capable of getting the sharp turn that Jason Krejza got. This took a lot of courage. It could also bomb badly in Dhoni’s face, but it was certainly a different tactic.

Australia did not take the bait and played safe cricket instead. The two left handers left most of the balls alone. Some of the balls closer to the stump were played straight to a fielder.

For the whole of the morning, just 24 overs had been bowled! This was really a bad over rate. Interestingly, it was the first time in the series we saw Mark Waugh frothing at the mouth about over-rates! It was also the first time that India had really offended on this count. The over-rate was really terrible and several times one wondered what the conversations were that several Indian players were having!

But India wanted to slow the game right down. And it did. Just 42 runs were scored by Australia in the 24 overs! Harbhajan Singh bowled just a few overs before lunch. Australia’s Innings scoring rate had dropped to 3.5 rpo.

One could assume that India had given up on the game — when we hadn’t yet reached the half-way stage of the game! However, another way to interpret it would be that India, with a 1-0 series lead, was asking Australia to make the running if it dared and if it wanted to! It was akin to a soccer team playing defensive, protecting a 1-0 lead. This wasn’t a strategy that one could scoff at. It was a valid one. However, for Dhoni’s sake, I do hope it does not bomb on him.

Simon Katich was dropped by Rahul Dravid in the slips off the second over of the morning off the bowling of Ishant Sharma.

Just before lunch, Zaheer Khan was getting some reverse swing and it was through that that he trapped Simon Katich LBW for a well made 102 off 189 balls. Remembering that he had made his 100 off 139 balls, his last 2 runs had taken a painful 50 balls!

But I do think that the dropped catch of Katich actually worked in India’s favour! Remember that Katich was on 92 off 120 balls at the end of the 2nd days’ play! He was dropped after facing only 5 balls today. Off the dropped catch he took a single to move to 95 off 126 balls. In other words, Katich scored just 7 runs more after the dropped catch, but ate up 63 balls for it!

It was hard to understand Australia’s tactics! Yes, they could not afford to take risks and thrash the ball around, but for a well-set batsman to take 63 balls to make 8 runs was a bit hard to understand even though the Indian bowlers were bowling an off-side line to an 8-1 field.

Australia went to lunch at 231-3 in 73.0 overs. Although Australia had only made 42 runs and lost a wicket, I give this as an even session. The SBS Score reads India-2.5, Australia-4.5;

After lunch, India continued with Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan. They were bowling to a left-right combination. This would make India’s defensive tactics that much harder.

A half hour after lunch, we hadn’t seen Amit Mishra or Virender Sehwag have a bowl in the day!

Harbhajan Singh was bowling flat and fast. There wasn’t a doosra in sight and unlike Jason Krejza, he was bowling far too straight for any grip off the foot marks.

When the 80th over was being bowled, Ishant Sharma was in the middle of a spell. Clearly the nw ball wasn’t going to be taken. At the other end, Harbhajan Singh continued to bowl. And there was still no sign of Amit Mishra, Virender Sehwag or the new ball!

Just before the post-lunch drinks’ break, Ishant Sharma bowled a truly wonderful delivery to square Michael Hussey up. The resulting edge was pouched by Dhoni and the score was 255-4. Clarke was gone for a painful 8 off 43 balls. Hussey was still there on 81 from 210 balls!

This got Shane Watson to the crease. It would be interesting to see his approach to the game. There was an opportunity for him to play the style of attacking play that he can and does play regularly.

At the post-lunch drinks break, Australia was 259-4 off 87 overs at a rate of 2.97 rpo. In that session, 14 overs had been bowled for 28 runs with the loss of 1 terrific wicket.

At the half-way stage in the Test match, Australia was 182 runs behind.

There was still a long way to go for Australia in this game. If Australia wanted to win this game, they had to play more brave cricket. This wasn’t, in my view, a win approach. Australia have to try and bat only once in this match. The match was delicately balanced.

This was gripping Test match cricket being played here. The sparring continued between these two proud competitors.

Karma struck again just after the drinks’ break! And the man that Karma struck down was Michael Hussey, the first Australian to admit that the Australians would be happy to see Gautam Gambhir rubbed out of this game!

Hussey tapped a ball from Harbhajan Singh to forward short leg and set off for a run. M. Vijay leapt to his right, grabbed the ball and threw it to Dhoni off balance. Dhoni gathered the ball and broke the stumps. Hussey was gone, run out, for 84 off 216 balls with 8 4s. Australia was 265-5 off 90 overs, still 176 runs behind.

Whatever happens from here, this was already India’s session. It was just top cricket from the Indians. After choking the Australians in the 1st Session, India was right back in the game. Ironically, it was through pace bowling and ground fielding! Who would have thought, especially after Jason Krejza’s 8-fer in India’s 1st Innings!

Immediately after, Shane Watson played on to an over-spun ball that bounced from Harbhajan Singh and it was 265-6! Watson was gone for 2 off 22 balls! Australia had lost 3 wickets for 11 runs in 6 overs!

The ball was 93 overs old and although Virender Sehwag had bowled 1 over up until then on day-3, there was no sign of Amit Mishra! The commentators were ruing Dhoni’s defensive strategy in the mornings’ play. The results were starting to make the commentators look a bit sheepish!

As I’d written in the morning itself, these were brave tactics from India. Now, if they would only tighten up the over rate!

After 47 overs had been bowled in the day, Amit Mishra came in for a bowl.

Brad Haddin was off the mark of the 25th delivery he faced. At the other end, White was on 4 off 20 balls!

In the last session, White and Haddin continued to bat well to frustrate the Indians. Haddin put on 50 runs with White before he was caught freakishly at slips by Dravid off Mishra. The remaining tail-enders put on a few more runs before Australia was wrapped up for 355. White batted well for his 46.

But truth be told. This was an amazing performance by India. It was ugly cricket all right. But in this heavy weight boxing bout, Australia had lost its way. India made sure that it shadow boxed and shadow boxed till it was given an opportunity by an opponent that had seemingly lost the ability to punch. When that opportunity was presented, India slowly but surely crept up on the champion side to come away with an 86 run lead. In the context of this game, this could be plenty.

Australia had scored just 166 runs in the day, from 86 overs, scoring at 1.93 rpo. The innings run rate was just 2.62 rpo. Australia had played into India’s hands today. Jason Krejza’s brilliant debut performance was wiped away by strange tactics from Australia’s batsmen.

This The last session belonged to India too. The SBS Score reads India-4.5, Australia-4.5;

My SBS Score reveals that the match is evenly poised. But of course, it does not take into account the future scenario that Australia will have to bat last on this pitch. Nor does it take into account the fact that Australia has to win this match, while India does not have to!

India will look to play steady and minimal-histrionics cricket for the first two sessions on day-4. Australia has its work cut out. Australia will need an exceptional 1st Session of play to claw its way back into the game. It is possible. You can never write off this Australian side although, on today’s evidence, I am not convinced that this Australian side really wants to win this match!

An exciting day’s cricket awaits us tomorrow.

— Mohan

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

As is normal in India-Australia games these days, most commentators and writers concluded their overnight reports with the following statement, “The first hour and the first session in tomorrow’s game will be crucial to the fortunes of both teams.” More than being just an oft-repeated cliche, which it is, this statement goes to the heart of why India-Australia series are such gripping contests lately. If, for all five days of a Test match “the first hour is crucial”, clearly there is some good cricket being played; clearly both teams are playing fighting cricket; clearly, both teams are in it to get something out of it right until the last day!

Session-1:

India started the day at 311-5, perhaps slightly ahead of the Australians. India needed the night-watchman, Ishant Sharma to stay and make things difficult for the Australians. The long-haired lad, playfully referred to as, “Instant Karma” by my friends’ son, did just that! He didn’t score particularly quickly. Indeed, he didn’t score much at all. But he presented a straight bat and hung around while his partner, Sourav Ganguly, settled in for the long haul. When he got out much of the morning juice was gone from the wicket too. It brought in a fresh, eager and combative M. S. Dhoni to the crease.

Dhoni commenced his scoring with a hooked 4 and a breathtaking hooked 6! He didn’t look back from there. He mixed caution and aggression and, at times, bravado, to keep the scoreboard ticking. Ishant Sharma had been thought out of the crease by a Peter Siddle bouncer. And Dhoni had hooked his first two run-scoring balls. These two may have prompted the Australians to go down the dig-the-ball-in route. It was a strange route to take on what was a placid pitch. It also played right into Dhoni’s hands. He met the bumper-challenge head-on. He trusted the bounce on the pitch and either came forward or rocked back with time and panache. He looked supremely confident and followed up his confidence with bold strokes.

Dhoni’s aggressive strategy could have back-fired. But Dhoni is not the kind of guy that takes a backward step. Self-doubts do not enter his mind at the time of execution. He bases his moves on his self-belief and once he makes a decision, he does not back down from it. This reflected in his batting too. It was free-flowing and attractive. Captaincy did not seem to burden him. Indeed, as I wrote in my Day-1 review, captaincy seems to lift his game. He digs deeper and then, seems to express himself more freely.

Soon, the bowl-it-short strategy was discarded by the Australians.

Sourav Ganguly, at the other end, collected his runs in singles. He knew that his partner was batting really well, and aggressively. So, like the previous evening, when the run-scoring pressure was off his own shoulders, the old pro just rotated the strike.

At lunch, India was 401/6 in 111.0, with Ganguly on 91 and M. S. Dhoni on 45. There was no doubt that this was India’s session and the SBS score reads [India 2.75, Australia 1.25].

Session-2:

The way Ganguly and Dhoni were batting, it looked as if a score of 500 was quite easily possible. Indeed, that may have been the target that the Indians were aiming for during the lunch break.

Soon after lunch, Ganguly got his century. It was a well-deserved, gritty century by the old-fox. The Australians call him a “serial offender”. Well, unfortunately for them, he had “offended” again. The Australians would have liked him to cower down and disappear quietly from the scene! But Ganguly had other plans! He always has other plans, when it comes to the Australians! They bring out the fighter in him! Australian media often say: “he has had this habit, right through his career, to get under the skins of the Australians.” Why? Because he scores runs? Because he was better at “mental disintegration” than Steve Waugh was? I can never quite understand it. But here he was again. Making a century on his farewell tour against his favourite opponent — something that Steve Waugh couldn’t script!

Ganguly made his century off 219 balls with just 8 4s. Quite unusual for a Ganguly century becuase of the low percentage of boundary shots. He had run the singles hard and fought his way to this century. It may not have been the most attractive of his 16 tons. But it was useful and it showed that the old pony still had a few tricks left in him. As Will Swanton says in The Age, “His biggest accomplishment has been getting up the noses of a team which succeeded in getting up the noses of everyone else — Australia.”

The romantics in the press gallery may have wanted Ganguly to take back his retirement decision. However, after the game, he made it clear that there was no way he would turn back the clock! He indicated that he is committed to his pre-series retirement announcement.

In a bid to up the scoring rate, just after reaching his century, Ganguly gave it all away — as he so often does — and swatted a Cameron White ball down Brett Lee’s throat at long on. He departed for a well-made 102. If he had hung around for longer, an India score of around 500 may have been possible. Although Dhoni found a higher gear to improve the scoring rate, Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan were unable to hang around and be a menace, as they had, in Bengaluru! Dhoni started taking the aerial route in a spread-out defensive field. And it was working. He had moved to 92 and was looking good for a well-compiled century.

But Dhoni’s plans were cut adrift by a wayward umpire. Rudi Koertzen, who did not refer a close Ganguly stumping call ‘upstairs’ on day-1, decided that it was time to bring the Indian innings to a close. With Dhoni just 8 short of what would have been a fighting hundred, Rudi Koertzen declared that Dhoni was out LBW. Even if one ignored the inside-edge, the ball was sliding down the leg-side!

India had closed their innings at 469 off 129 overs at 3.64 runs per over — and in 594 mins at an over-rate of 13.03 overs per hour! This is really a terrible over-rate and I am truly surprised that the Match Referee has done nothing about it this far in the match.

Australia needed a strong start. But that was not to be! Once again, Zaheer Khan breached Matthew Hayden’s defence in the first over itself! Make that Zaheer-3, Hayden-0! Zaheer Khan had backed up his pre-match talk with on-field excellence. Matthew Hayden is an important cog in this Australian wheel. A free-scoring Hayden rubs off on the Australian team. A Hayden in self-doubt (Ashes 2005, for example) passes it on these doubts the rest of the team! On this tour, Hayden has made scores of 0, 13 and 0! It may not be time to press the panic button yet, but with Hayden’s early departure here at Mohali, Australia was in trouble and it showed in the scoring rate. That initial loss pushed them into a defensive mindset. And the moment that happens, the opposition is already on top. Australia went to Tea at 13-1 in 6 overs.

Had Australia not lost a wicket, I’d have been tempted to call that an Australia session. But with the loss of Hayden’s wicket, I called this an even session. The SBS score reads [India 3.25, Australia 1.75].

Last Session:

If there was some doubt in awarding the 2nd session of the day to either team, there was no doubt in this 3rd session. This was India’s session all the way. Once again, given Australia’s terrible over-rate earlier in the day, play had had to be extended beyond the normal curtains-down-time for the day.

First to go was Ricky Ponting. He was out LBW to his emerging nemesis, Ishant Sharma for 5 off 23 balls. Simon Katich was next to go, bowled by the leg-spinning debutant, Amit Mishra. Mishra got the ball to hit the edge of the pad, bounce off Katich’s body and clang into the stumps. There was a fair amount of rip in that delivery to cause the damage.

Things may have been worse for Australia had Dhoni latched on to a difficult catch off the edge of Michael Hussey’s bat off Harbhajan Singh’s bowling. But that wasn’t to be. Harbhajan Singh was getting some turn although he tended to look for bounce more than turn, in my view. Amit Mishra was bowling well too.

But what was most surprising was the amount of reverse swing Zaheer Khan was getting. The only thing that the Australian bowlers had swung in India’s first innings was their hips! But here, Zaheer Khan was getting a fair amount of swing.

It is Australia’s mindset that was most un-Australian. As I have said on a few occasions in the past, once Australia loses that dominance-mindset, much more than just runs are lost. Other teams can sense an opportunity and start moving in; closing the gap. With Haddin, White and Watson to follow, Australian teams of the past will not have allowed the field to gradually move further and further in to take control of the game. This Australian team seems intent on “new age cricket” and what they got again was to put themselves into “defensive mindset”!

Australia had made 102-3 off 40.4 overs (at 2.49 rpo) when Michael Clarke was LBW off the last ball of the day. Amit Mishra went around the stumps and got a ball to just straighten a bit. As he had in Bangalore, when he fell off the last ball of the day, Clarke went again in Mohali. At 102-4 Australia are not totally out of it, but they are in trouble.

At the end of the day, the SBS Score reads [India 4.25, Australia 1.75].

End points:

If India can grab a few quick wickets on day-3, much of the debate will turn to whether or not India can/will enforce the follow-on! But Australia are not out of it yet. Australia bats deep and will be looking first at Brad Haddin, Shane Watson and Cameron White to make some big scores. Haddin is a good player of spin and played well in Bengaluru. Australia will also look to the lower order to contribute strongly as India’s lower-order had, in Bengaluru. And Michael Hussey is… Michael Hussey!

Clearly, the first session of the day is going to be crucial for both teams!!

— Mohan

India Vs Australia :: 1st Test :: Bangalore :: Day-4

India started the day at 313 for 8, still well behind the Aussie total of 430. The Aussies still had upper hand in the game, but the situation could have been a lot worse if it hadn’t been for the efforts of the Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan on day 3. India’s game plan would have been to occupy as much time at the crease as possible, add another 30-40 runs, and get Australia out for under 200 runs to have any remote chance of winning the game. Even if everything fell into place, it would be a tall order for a 5th day pitch.

Pre-lunch session

The first part of India’s plan went according to plan. They occupied the crease for another 18 overs and added a further 47 runs bringing the lead down to just 70 runs. Considering the fact that when Ganguly – the last recognized batsman, was out when the score was 232, it was great rear guard fight back. But for the last 3 wickets adding 128 runs, India would have been a lot worse. Zaheer Khan was  not out on 57, making him the highest scorer in the Indian camp to nicely go with his five wicket haul in the Australian first innings.

The Aussies were left with 6 overs to negotiate before the lunch break and there were a few nervous moments for the Aussies including a first over LBW shout of the bowling of Zaheer Khan. The Aussies went in with their score on 9 for no loss.

Post-lunch session

The Indian skipper didn’t take the field before the lunch session and he was again a notable absentee on the field. Dhoni was captaining the team and he started the session with Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh. My initial thoughts were that he should have started the session again with Zaheer and Ishant, but in Harbhajan’s defense, he did bowl a lot better than he did in the first innings.

The over cautious, slow Aussie approach before the lunch break was understandable, but they continued in the same vein after lunch. The scoring rate by Australian standards was appalling. May be it had something to do with their “New Age Cricket” approach. Or may be it was the pitch. Or may be it was the Indian bowling. Or may be, it was a combination of all three as the scoring rate dipped to around 1.96 in the 26th over (51 runs).

But by that time, India had already scalped the two vital wickets of Hayden and Ponting. Zaheer had Hayden dismissed LBW for 13, while Ishant Sharma had Ponting caught at mid wicket for 17. Ponting’s dismissal was a beauty as he was outfoxed by a slower delivery from Ishant and ended up offering a low catch to Laxman.

At Tea, the Aussies were 74/2 in the 33 overs they had faced and the session clearly belonged to India.

Post-tea session

Earlier, in the post lunch session, Gambhir had dropped Katich of the bowling of Harbhajan Singh. After Tea, Harbhajan eventually got his man when Katich just prodded at a a flighted delivery that bounced a bit and lobbed a simple catch to silly point. He had occupied the crease a fair bit (140 balls), but had only scored 34 runs. His dismissal brought in Clarke who hit the very first ball for a boundary. I was starting to think that maybe having Katich at the crease was probably a good thing 🙂

But Ishant Sharma again bowled a slower delivery to Clarke and suckered him into driving straight into the hands of Sehwag. Australia at that stage were 115/4.

A few overs later, it was the turn of Hussey to go as he shoulderd arms to a ball pitched outside his off stump, only to see it turn in to hit his stump. It hit a crack on the way and turned like a Warnie leg break to have the Aussies reeling at 128/5 in the 51st over.

With the over all lead at just under 200 and the top order back in the pavilion, the Indians were seeing a glimmer of hope. But the pair of Haddin and Watson had other plans. There were quite a few dropped chances and streaky shots, but they managed to score runs and do it fast. At the end of the day, they had stretched the lead to 263.

Ponting must be hoping to score some quick runs in the first hour or so of play tomorrow before he declares leaving the Indians a score of around 330.

72 overs were enough for Ponting to claim the 10 Indian wickets for victory on the final day at Sydney last summer, but he was also criticized for being too cautious and delaying his declaration. He will have that on his mind before he does his declaration tomorrow, but then the Bangalore wicket is quite different to the Sydney one and the cracks in the pitch are also widening up. And just as India was a bowler short for most of the day (Kumble was off the field for a major portion of the day and is bowling with an injury), the Aussies may be short of a full strength bowling attack as Stuart Clark is apparently carrying an injury too.

At this stage though, only 2 results seem likely – either an Australian victory or a draw. Unless the Indians pull a rabbit out of the hat…

-Mahesh-

India Vs Australia :: 1st Test :: Bangalore :: Day-2

At the end of day 1, the SBS score card read 2-1, mainly because of the wicket that fell in the last over of the day. From the Australian point of view they still had 6 wickets in hand and they had already scored 254 runs. Plus, Mr. Cricket was still at the crease.

From India’s point of view, a couple of early wickets in the morning could put them in front. Watson, Haddin and White – the next three batsmen had good first class batting averages, but were untested at this level. The first session was going to be crucial for both teams.

Pre-lunch session:

Shane Watson started the day positively with a single of the very first ball. Here is an all rounder who just hasn’t lived up to his potential and this was his big chance to prove that he belonged at the highest level. Sadly he lasted just 14 balls. He survived a close LBW call of the first ball of Ishant’s second over and was bowled out a couple of balls later. Australia had just added another 5 runs to their over night total and India appeared to be very much in the game.

This brought Haddin in to the crease. He started out tentatively and Ishant seemed to trouble him a bit, but he hung in there and by lunch time stitched up a fine 74 run partnership with Hussey. They went in with the score on 333/5. In spite of the early set back, the session belonged to Austalia, and the SBS score card at that stage was 3-1 in favour of Australia.

Post-lunch session:

Hussey was not out on 92 when play stopped for lunch. The spinners were not that effective -  Harbhajan didn’t trouble the batsmen a great deal and Kumble had already conceded 100 runs without taking a wicket. Ishant Sharma opened the bowling right after lunch and had an impact straight away. He almost had Hussey as a thick inside edge missed the stumps and went to the boundary to give Hussey his hundred.

Ishant’s spell was  outstanding. In his 2nd oveBut more r  after lunch, he gave India the break through they were looking for – he had Haddin caught at short cover of a slower ball and 2 overs later, White followed suit in a similar fashion. All three wickets in the day at that stage had fallen to Ishant Sharma who should be complimented for getting something out of a otherwise flat wicket that offered no assistance to the bowlers.

The partnership between Hussey and Haddin yielded 91 runs and the score at the fall of Haddin’s wicket was a round 350 runs. When White was out, the score was 362 for 7.  India was hoping to quickly wrap up the tail and should consider itself unlucky that Lee wasn’t given out LBW to the second ball he faced off Harbhajan Singh. (The BDS should read 6-2 in favour of Australia at this stage). At Tea, Australia had moved to 416 – they had added 83 runs in that session losing 2 wickets, and the SBS scorecard was still in favour of the Aussies at 3.5 to 1.5.  But more importantly, Australia were looking at a 450+ score at that stage

Post-tea session:

I am not sure what Zaheer had during the Tea break, but whatever it was did the trick for India. In the two overs he bowled after Tea, he had Lee, Johnson and Hussey all clean bowled. The Aussies finished up with a score of 430. 9 of the 10 wickets had been taken by the fast bowlers and only one went to the spinners (and even that was a debatable decision). Kumble went wicketless even after conceding over a hundred runs and Harbhajan was just ordinary. The fielding was also very ordinary through out the day and  the Indian fans were really hoping for a good batting performance from the Indians.

Sehwag and Gambhir did not disappoint – they were aggressive and yet careful (except for the running between the wickets – which seemed very risky on a couple of occasions). In the 18 overs they played before rain interrupted the game, India had reached 68 without losing any wickets – which was pretty good going. Sehwag finished the day on 43 and Gambhir is on 20.

Sehwag in particular looked very confident and he may well hold the key to how well India respond to the Australian total tomorrow. The post-tea session belonged to India and the SBS score card should read 3.5-2.5 still in favour of Australia. There was one close shout for LBW, which hawkeye seemed to indicate would have clipped leg stump – Most umpires in the world wouldn’t have given that out, but let us modify the BDS scorecard as Australia 6 – India 3.

Notable mentions:

  • Hussey’s innings was just sensational. Without Hussey holding the middle order and the tail together, the Aussies would have been all out for a far lesser score. He is not known as Mr. Cricket for nothing..
  • Zaheer took a five-for, something that doesn’t happen often enough on Indian grounds. So, well done, Zaheer.

The first session is going to be very crucial for India. They may be 68 for no loss, but they are still well short of the Australian total. All we need is another big hundred from Sehwag tomorrow…and some good support from the other batsmen 🙂

India Vs Australia :: 1st Test :: Bangalore :: Day-1

After Ricky Ponting had claimed overnight that he was insulted by Virender Sehwag’s comments about the captain’s pact and the Sydney Test, Ponting won the toss and elected to bat. If there was drama off the pitch overnight, there was drama on the pitch in the first over itself.

Ponting said overnight, “That’s fairly insulting. In the first innings [at the SCG] I didn’t claim a catch because I wasn’t 100% sure. It’s amazing how they’ve picked out a lot of negatives from that game and don’t seem to be speaking about the Perth Test [the third match of that series, which Australia lost], where we probably had the same things happen to us. Not one member of the Australian team has spoken about it. We go about our cricket in different ways.”

A few things to seek clarifications on: Firstly, the issue I always have with Australian cricket is about how they play when the chips are down and they have their backs to the wall. So, Ponting’s 1st innings call-back in Sydney just doesn’t rate, in my view. Secondly, what happened at the Perth Test where Ponting had the “same things happen to” Australia? Is he dreaming up stuff? Or was there a Test match in Perth that I missed? And thirdly, what is it about Australian cricket that gets Ponting to say “We go about our cricket in different ways.” Is he referring to that piece of paper called the spirit of cricket (or some such nonsense) that Australian cricketers signed up and seem to tear up the moment they cross the white line?

The last time Australia toured India, the series started with a loud shout for LBW. There was little doubt in the minds of the TV commentators at that time that Justin Langer was out LBW off Irfan Pathan’s first ball of the series. Who knows what would have happened to the series had that decision gone India’s way!

Pre-Lunch Session:

So, there was drama on the field in the very first over and then again in the 9th over. Off the very 3rd ball of the innings, Matthew Hayden jabbed at a ball from Zaheer Khan that moved away a fraction. As he jabbed at the ball, his bat clipped his pad. The ball slipped past very close to bat and umpire Asad Rauf gave him out. Snickometer suggested that if we had had a referral system in play for this Test match, Hayden would have been given not out.

Ishant Sharma continued his duel with Ricky Ponting. He bowled splendidly really. Off the 1st ball of the 9th over, Ricky Ponting did not offer a stroke to a beauty that came in sharply from outside off stump. It looked very very close and indeed, Hawk Eye showed that umpire Rudi Koertzen would have been over-ruled if we had had a referral system in place. So make the Bad Decision Score (BDS) 1-1 in the bad decision stakes!

Harbhajan Singh was introduced in the 13th over, just before the drinks break. After spearing in his first ball at 96.3kmph, he bowled a beauty to Simon Katich that was almost a bat-pad catch at forward short leg! At the drinks break, Katich and Ponting had pulled Australia to 34-1 off 13 overs.

But there weren’t really any gremlins in the pitch. It seemed to me to be a flat track. So as long as the Australians settled down into a nice rhythm, one could see several of them make big scores here. The best bet for Australia would be to make a huge 1st innings total.

Off the second ball of the 21st over, Simon Katich came charging down the wicket and padded up to a faster one from Kumble. Now, I am not sure why Rudi Koertzen is reluctant to give padded-up deliveries out. Although Katich was well advanced down the pitch, that ball was going to be intercepted by the middle stump and nothing else! The BDS reads 2-1 in favour of Australia.

Despite losing that early wicket, Australia played with intent and desperation to finish strongly. At lunch, Australia were 75-1 off 27 overs with Ponting on 41 and Katich on 28. Ponting was playing really well and was looking set for a big score here. I’d give the Session-by-Session Score (SBS Score) to Australia. With Cameron White batting at #8 and with the pitch being a flat and stone cold wicket, I’d put Australia in the drivers’ seat!

Which brings me to an important question: Given that many Indian curators are easily able to produce a flat, dead wicket, do we need a Kiwi in Bangalore to do the same? What’s the point? Will someone tell me please? We have seen many pitches like this in India in the past. Why get a Kiwi in as curator to produce exactly that kind of pitch again?

There were some ominous signs. The last time Australia played in India in 2004, the tour commenced at Bangalore. Australia was 70-1 off 26 overs at lunch on day-1 with Hayden out and with Langer 27* and Katich 9*! The parallels here are eerily similar!

Post-Lunch Session:

Ponting and Katich commenced from where they left off and batted confidently. Ponting got his half century — a carefully and very well compiled 50 it was too.

At 94-1, Katich survived a huge LBW shout off Anil Kumble. Umpire Asad Rauf gave him not out and under a referral system, he would have had to walk. This then makes the BDS score 3-1 in Australia’s favour! Clearly a referral system would change the dynamic of any match and I can’t wait for it to be introduced in all Test matches.

Australia, meanwhile moved on steadily to 99-1. There was nothing flashy about the Australian approach. The usual flamboyance was eschewed and, in its place, was a staid and solid approach on a flat and mostly dead pitch. It didn’t help that both Kumble and Harbhajan Singh were bowling a bit flat. They were both firing and spearing it in.

A sign of Ricky Ponting’s growing assurance and confidence was a hoik over cow-corner for a huge six that he played against Harbhajan Singh, the moment Singh came around the wicket to bowl to him. This six helped take Australia to a score of 104-1 and also took Ponting to a score of 60, equalling his best ever effort in India — made in 1998 in Kolkata.

Australia kept going from strength to strength and moved to 166-1. Katich was playing some glorious off drives and Ponting was looking quite assured in his batting. Suddenly Ishant Sharma bowled a beauty to get Katich caught behind. The ball moved just slightly off the pitch and Katich played an aggressive off-drive to be caught behind quite well. Australia was 166-2 with Ponting on a superbly compiled 94. This bought Michael Hussey to the crease.

What was surprising to me was the under-utilisation of Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly in the bowling. At Tea, all the bowling (57 overs) had been shared by Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble. It seemed to me that Kumble should have used at least Sehwag. His variety of off-spin may have found some spin on this somewhat dead track.

At tea, Australia was 166-2. I give this session to Australia too, thereby making the SBS Score 2-0 in Australia’s favour with Ricky Ponting leading the way.

Ponting was playing really brilliantly. He batted with soft-hands, few loose shots and waited for the ball, rather than lunge for it as he has in the past. As he said before the tour, India was one place where his CV had a rather desolate look to it. This innings was an attempt to redress that imbalance. He was taking this game slowly away from India and had Simon Katich for company.

Post-Tea Session:

The final session went the same way as Session-2. Anil Kumble did not pose any threats. Australia marched steadily and slowly. There were no heroics and no fears either. The run-rate hovered around the 3rpo mark which wasn’t great. The Australians continually rotated the strike and didn’t allow the Indian bowlers to get on top. About an hour into the final session, there still was no sign of Sehwag or Tendulkar. This first day pitch wasn’t doing anything at all for the regular bowlers and it may just have been a good idea to break up the monotony. Zaheer Khan and Kumble bowled the occasional good ball but there were no gremlins at all. Ponting had moved sedately to 110 off 214 balls and Hussey had, without any dramas, moved to 18 off 43 balls.

Suddenly, at 201-2, Anil Kumble shouted for a huge caught-and-bowled off Ricky Ponting. Amazingly, Rudi Koertzen said not out! To the naked eye, watching it on TV, one could not understand why Rudi Koertzen, who was having quite a nightmare day thus far, did not ‘go upstairs’! That was out and Boycott’s dead great grand mother would have called it from her grave! The commentary team indicated that Koertzen did not give him out because Kumble was the only one that appealed! Surely, that can’t be right! If that is the case, we may as well have people jump up and down like school kids all the time!

The BDS now read 4-1 in Australia’s favour! Once again, I ask why the ICC did not have a referral system in place for this series?

At drinks, Australia was 211-2 off 71 overs!

Kumble was having a particularly unlucky day. Apart from the bizarre caught-and-bowled decision that was not given, earlier in the post-tea session, Dhoni had dropped a tough catch off a faint edge. The bowler to suffer there was Kumble. Just after the drinks break, an outside edge off the bat of Hussey went screaming past a diving forward short leg. Things were just not happening for the Indians and a few heads were starting to droop.

At the other end, Harbhajan Singh was continuing to have an ordinary day at the office. He continued to toil manfully though. It was a tough pitch to bowl on and the Australians were playing with tight defence.

At 215-2 Kumble was to suffer again at the hands of his nemesis, Rudi Koertzen. A huge shout for LBW was once again turned down! Hawk Eye showed that the ball was hit in line and that it would have hit off stump. A frustrated Kumble appealed for what appeared for a second longer to which Umpire Koertzen pursed his lips and shook his head sternly like a firm school master! Well, this umpires’ nightmare day at the office was continuing. Of extreme worry for the Indians was that the Bad Decision Score (BDS) had mounted to 5-1 in Australia’s favour.

Ironically, it was a really doubtful decision that got Ricky Ponting out! It all started with Virender Sehwag coming into the bowling attack. This change was long overdue. Suddenly, Sehwag was finding more grip and purchase from the track. He put a seed of doubt in the mind of the batsmen. Hussey wasn’t playing particularly confidently.

At the other end, Harbhajan Singh pushed a fuller ball into Ponting, who tried to sweep it. Hawk Eye suggested that it may have hit Ricky Ponting slightly outside the line of the off stump! Moreover, the ball turned so much that it may have missed leg stump! Umpire Asad Rauf gave Ponting out when he should have been ruled in! The men in white continued their horror run and the BDS read 5-2 in Australia’s favour. Another marquee series was being ruined by officiating incompetence. Australia, wh weren’t really scoring with freedom and abandon was 226-3 off 79 overs. A team that regularly travels at 4 runs per over (or more) was suddenly travelling at about 2.85rpo. This was a gritty, stoic and very un-Australian like performance. Ricky Ponting had departed for a really well made 123 off 243 balls before getting out to Harbhajan Singh for the 9th time in Test matches!

Anil Kumble came on for just one over — in which he conceded 13 runs, the most expensive over of the innings — before continuing with Sehwag.

This was turning out to be a strange session. Australia hadn’t really pulled away with any authority. But for that one bad over from Kumble, they hadn’t really tried to dominate or dictate terms. So, in some sense, due to the slow, low score, Australia left India hovering in the game. One or two quick wickets would set the cat amongst the pigeons. So this was a somewhat strangely careful game that Australia was playing.

Suddenly, Harbhajan Singh was bowling better. He had slowed his delivery pace and was also tossing the occasional ball up in the air. He was prepared to come around the wickets to the left-handed Hussey, who had quietly moved to 40 runs off 107.

India took the new ball with three overs left in the days’ play. A few quick runs resulted and Australia moved to 254-3 off 89 overs.

Off the penultimate over, Michael Clarke took a quick single off the last ball of the over. Off the very second ball of the last over, Clarke was out LBW to a low shooter off Zaheer Khan. Clarke was out LBW for 11.

I was tempted to give that last session to Australia. However, because the Aussies did not press on and move on, and because of the last ball wicket of Michael Clarke, I call this an India session. The SBS score reads 2-1 in Australia’s favour.

It was a dull but eventful days’ cricket: Eventful because of the men-in-white. Dull, because of Australia’s over-cautious approach; dull because of the nonsense of a pitch that the Kiwi curator had prepared for the Bangalore public. If I were KSCA, the state association that owns the Bangalore ground, I’d be looking at the Kiwi curators’ employment contract!

— Mohan

Super Kings super

Kings vs Super Kings

The first game of the night saw two teams with similar sounding names compete – The Chennai “Super Kings” took on the “Kings” XI Punjab. One was lead by the captain of the World cup winning T20 team, and the other was lead by the vice-captain. After the inaugural game between Bangalore and Kolkata, it seemed 222 in twenty overs was going to be hard to beat, and yet Chennai managed to score 240 without breaking a sweat. Punjab stayed in the game a lot longer than the what the final score shows – ending up with a score of 207.

Daredevils vs Royals

Finally a low scoring game. But it was only because Jaipur failed with the bat. The Jaipur Royals look like one of the weakest teams in the tournament at the moment.  The match saw the return of Shane Warne and Glen McGrath – one of the deadliest bowling combinations in the world. But this time, they bowled for opposing teams.

The game ended up being one sided with Delhi easily overhauling the score with about 5 overs to spare.

The Aussies

There were 9 Aussies playing last night and some of their performances stood out – Hussey was brilliant and McGrath looked as if he never stopped playing. Hopes was outstanding with the bat, but took a stick while bowling. Some of the others weren’t bad either – Hayden chipped in with a quick fire 25 and Shane Watson scored 21 before he was run out.

Hussey outdoes McCullum

McCullum’s innings in the first match was a one-off innings. A hundred in 53 balls would be hard to beat. Or so we thought. Hussey outdid that with a hundred of just 50 balls! And if he had come in to bat any earlier, he would have even beaten McCullum’s score. The main difference between Kolkatta’s innings and Chennai’s innings was that, the partnerships weren’t one sided. Raina and Badrinath in particular looked impressive with scores of 32 and 31* scoring a tad faster than Hussey.

-Mahesh-

Will IPL bidding drama cause team friction?

Andrew Symonds is set to make more money than Ricky Ponting (USD 400,oo), Matty Hayden ($375,000) and Mike Hussey ($350,000) combined! Surely, Symonds is not worth more than the three combined or four times what Hussey is worth. Ponting may not be in blazing form this year – he averages 10.66 in the CB series, but Symonds hasn’t fared any better – he averages just 8.40. Compare this to Mr. Cricket, Mike Hussey, who averages 56.33 in the series, and you start wondering what the logic is behind the parity in the $$$ amounts.

Even if you leave current form out, none of the other factors I could think of (availability, marketability, and just ability) seem to justify the parity in the bids. I do however wonder, if any of this will cause any tensions in the dressing room. Surely, you can’t blame Ponting for being miffed at his IPL worth, particularly compared to Symonds’!

In other sports, when a player gets snapped up for more money by another team, he leaves all his original team mates behind to move to other team. In IPL though, after the tournament is finished, the players go back to their respective countries and share the dressing room with the same old players. There will be some initial teasing, but I wonder if it may end up becoming jealousy and lead to friction within the team.

I am probably not alone in thinking that some of the players’ allegiance will also come under scrutiny when their performance for their country slips, while their IPL form is strong.

Only time will tell….

-Mahesh-

What a win!!!

Nobody gave the Indians any chance of beating the Aussies at Perth. After the loss at Sydney, people were even asking if India were capable of beating them just about anywhere! But the Perth test ended in a dream result for India with India wrapping the game up in just 4 days!

Start of the day

At the beginning of the day, Australia needed around 350 to win, but had both Ponting and Hussey at the crease. Both were capable of a big score and a long presence at the crease and it was important that India got their wicket early to get ahead in the match. I found it rather surprising that Kumble started the proceedings – I thought the quicks should have been operating on both ends at the beginning of the day. Thankfully, he quickly rectified that and brought on Ishant Sharma for himself. Sharma’s bowling figures of 1 for 63 in 17 overs does not do any justice to the way he bowled this morning. Ponting, arguably the best batsmen in the World today was all at sea against him and had a few close calls, before he edged one to Dravid at first slip. If he continues to bowl this way, he has a great future ahead of him.

Australia went to lunch at 143 for 3. Although they had lost the wicket of Ponting, they had added 77 runs in 25 overs and had successfully negotiated the most important period of the game when the ball was still new and swinging. I am not sure how Mohan would have rated this session in his SBS scorecard, but I would have given .5 to both sides.

Post lunch session

The fourth over after lunch saw RP Singh get the all important wicket of Hussey. Hawk-eye showed the ball go over the stumps and Hussey can consider himself a tad unlucky – but similar decisions were also dished out to Tendulkar and Dhoni in the game. At least the umpires were being consistent.

The next wicket to go was Symonds, whose luck with umpiring decisions in the series finally ran out. After Symonds hit him for a six, Kumble bowled a flat and fast one to trap Symonds plumb before the wicket and Billy Bowden raised his crooked finger – the only problem was that replays showed an inside edge.

With Australia on 177/5 at that stage, India must have sensed a whiff of victory. But Gilchrist and Clarke weren’t done yet. They started putting on a partnership and were threatening to take the game away from India. Kumble then threw the ball to Sehwag and in his very first ball  to Gilchrist, bowled him around the legs – a wicket even Harbhajan Singh would have been proud of. What a huge wicket that was? And in the very next over, he had Brett Lee caught at silly point and Australia were reeling at 7/229. At Tea, Australia were 243/7 and the session clearly belonged to India. The SBS scorecard would have read Australia 4::India 7, but at this stage it didn’t matter who was winning the sessions – the post tea session would pretty much decide who won the game.

Post Tea session

India needed the wicket of Michael Clarke badly and that is what they got. In Kumble’s third over after Tea, he flighted one up to Clarke who came dancing down the pitch. He was beaten by turn and bounce and was smartly stumped by Dhoni. Australia were now 253/8 and needed another 160 runs to win, while all India had to do was take 2 wickets.

With nothing to lose, Johnson and Clarke started hitting out. The hits and mis-hits kept eluding the fielders and what looked like an annoying partnership suddenly grew into a nervous one for the Indians. The bowlers didn’t bowl well during this period either and there was one dropped catch and one “clean bowled” of a no ball. The new ball was soon taken, but the partnership had raced to 73 runs under 13 overs. Pathan eventually got the break through when he dismissed Clark for 32. Dravid then dropped a regulation catch at slip to prolong the match for a few more overs. RP Singh finally got the wicket of Tait to secure a 72 run victory. It also brings to end the 16 match winning streak of the Australians.

It is interesting to note that Australia hadn’t lost at Perth since the West Indian fast bowling attack beat them in the eighties and they haven’t been beaten in Australia since 2003 (when India beat them at Adelaide).

Australia now lead the series 2-1 and have already retained the Border-Gavaskar trophy, but the Indians would be playing to tie the series at Adelaide. It has been a great summer of cricket so far (in spite of the happenings in Sydney) and I really look forward to the Adelaide game.

-Mahesh-

Australia v India :: Test 2 :: Day 4

Day-4 of this Test match started with much anticipation and drama.

‘Anticipation’ because we had the prospect of a terrific days’ play ahead for both teams. Either team could get ahead on this day.

‘Drama’ because of the racism-charges levelled against Harbhajan Singh overnight.

The pre-match talk and commentary, unfortunately, focussed on the racism-drama rather than the brilliant cricket on day-3 or the prospect of an exciting day-4.

Both teams needed to start well and the first hour was going to be crucial.

Strangely, though, after three days of 29,000+ crowds, the 4th days’ play saw a thin crowd in attendance at the start of proceedings. Perhaps the threat of rain had kept the crowds at home?

Posting at 11.30, AEST

At the start of the days’ play, 5 overs had been bowled. At the end of 8 overs in the innings, Australia was 22-0. The Aussies had started steadily.

Ishant Sharma was bowling into the wind and angling it wide of the left handers’ off stump. Meanwhile, R. P. Singh was bowling with the wind, but it wasn’t aiding him take the ball away! So, perhaps these two bowlers had started from the wrong ends!

The opening bowlers’, though, maintained the pressure on the Australian openers. The score read 30-0 off 12 overs at the end of the first half hour; a half hour in which 7 overs had been bowled. This was a much more respectable over rate than the sluggishness we saw on display yesterday!

Australia was still 39 runs behind. This was unusual for Australia; something that the team wasn’t perhaps used to.

Despite the attacking field, runs were hard to come by. India was employing a field with 4 slips, a gully, point and short cover! This was attacking cricket from Anil Kumble, supported by good bowling from the bowlers. Perhaps the Australian batsmen weren’t being asked to play at much, but they were being kept quiet despite the attacking fields.

R. P. Singh was bowling to an incredible 8-1 offside field! The legside fielder was at straight mid on! This was making Hayden walk across to the offside to push the ball to the legside. He even tried a lap-sweep shot once off R. P. Singh! There were some close plays and misses, as a result! This was amazing, gripping Test match cricket. Who would break first in this cat-and-mouse show?

Unfortunately, at this point (11.15, AEST), rain won the battle. Australia was still 30-0 and were 39 runs behind. Despite the wind that was around, that could blow the rain away, this rain looked bad for cricket!

Posting at 12.30, AEST– Lunch Time

About 18 minutes was lost to rain. Play resumed at 11.33 AEST. Ishant Sharma commenced proceedings after the rain break. The bowling continued to be tight. But more to the point, the sun was out!

Jaques and Hayden were starting to bat a bit more freely as the score approached the 1st innings deficit.

The batsmen were batting with more freedom and the bowling was looking a bit more ragged. Anil Kumble replaced Ishant Sharma. It won’t be long, one thought, before we had a double spin attack. Sourav Ganguly was another option too. But all morning, one felt that the two pacemen bowled from the wrong ends. This was a trick missed by the Indian captain.

Soon, Australia erased the 1st innings deficit. There was the start of a minor momentum shift here. Australia had reached the 1st innings deficit without losing a wicket and had taken the early honours! The openers started cautiously and then started to accelerate a bit. This was good cricket.

Harbhajan Singh came on to bowl, as expected. We had a double spin attack. He started off by tossing it well and at about 82kmph to Phil Jaques, from over the wicket. The breeze was behind him and that might assist the Turbanator with any drift that he might secure. To Hayden, however, Harbhajan Singh bowled a bit faster through the air and from around the wicket.

With the score on 85, just when things were going well for the Aistralians, Phil Jaques top edged a sweep off Anil Kumble to Yuvraj Singh at deep midwicket after making 42 runs. Australia was, in effect, 16-1. Anil Kumble had also picked up his 100th wicket against Australia.

Ricky Ponting came out with a bit to prove. He had “dobbed in” Harbhajan Singh the evening before. Harbhajan Singh also had got the Australian captain on 7 occasions in the past. So there was a lot riding on this Ponting innings!

Off the first ball that Harbhajan Singh bowled to Ricky Ponting, Ponting spooned a catch to silly point. The Australian captain was gone, caught Laxman bowled his tormentor for just 1 run!

Harbhajan Singh proceeded to run all around the park and completed his run at point, with his whole team runnning behind him! He ended his celebration run with an ugly sommersault! No doubt, this run and celebration will be ridiculed and derided by Peter Lalor and Malcolm Conn and thatwonderful editorial team at The Australian!

But why not celebrate? The man had been pilloried in the press overnight. Judgement had already been passed by several in the Australian press! He had been “dobbed in” by the Australian captain at the end of days’ play yesterday. He had an introduction with the Match Referee coming up at the end of days’ play (now shifted to the end of the match, at the Indian teams’ request). Yet, he had the Australian captain out 5 times off the very first ball he had faced from the Turbunator! Yes, that is correct! The wily Indian offie had got the Australian captain out five times off the very first ball that he had bowled to him. This was now way past bunny territory! In my view, it was also way past embarasing territory!

Australia went to lunch, 90-2 off 28 overs (effectively at lunch, Australia were 2 for 21)! Hayden was batting quite well on 39 off 85 balls.

I give this session to India for the 2 wickets that India took and for the fact that Australia was, effectively, 21 for 2! The SBS score, at this stage, reads India, 6.0 :: Australia, 4.0.

Posting at 14.40, AEST — Tea time

Terming Ricky Ponting as Harbhajan Singh’s “bunny” may well become a slur against rabbits out there!

Or, perhaps we can now, instead of saying “He was like a rabbit caught in the headlights”, merely say, “He was Pontinged”!

Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble commenced proceedings, as expected, after lunch. They started with attacking fields. There was a long mountain to climb. The Australian team had a terrific group of batsmen after Hayden and Hussey.

Harbhajan Singh was bowling brilliantly. He mixed his pace as well as his flight and was extracting spin and causing some problems. If Hayden continued to attack Harbhajan Singh, this could become an interesting tussle. What was heartening to see was that Harbhajan Singh wasn’t bowling like a bowler under the Match Referee’s scanner! He was bowling without the buden of a post-match-hearing on him.

Australia soon reached 100-2 and led by 31.

In my view, about 6 overs after lunch, Anil Kumble wasn’t bowling that well. It was perhaps a good time to throw the ball to Sachin Tendulkar. At the other end, although Harbhajan Singh was bowling from over the wicket to the left handers. Hayden continued to throw in a few reverse-sweeps too. A few overs of around the wicket from him may not be a bad idea, on thought. Afer 37 overs, Australia moved too 122-2 and led by 53. Hayden was on 55 and Hussey was on 13. This was good batting by the Aussies. The partnership was already worth 39 off 12 overs at a run rate of 3.3!

With the score on 133-2, Hussey survived a huge shout for LBW. Hussey was well back and was struck low on his pads. That ball would have hit the middle of leg stump! The Australians had yet another reprieve in this match from umpire Benson! In the same over, even Matthew Hayden had a huge LBW appeal turnd down. The Indian team, after playing some really attractive cricket in this game, needed some help from the umpires. But the incompetence of the white coats continued!

The partneship between Hussey and Hayden soon reached 50! Finally, Harbhajan SIngh changed to bowling around the wicket to Hussey. The LBW was in play now — that is of course, if the white coats come to the party!

At the drinks’ break, India had bowled 17 overs in that hour. THIS was professional cricket. Not the trash that was thrown up by the Australians in this series so far, in terms of over rates!

Australia had reached 151-2 (a lead of 82-2) off 45 overs. India had already bowled 40 overs in the day and were only 5 overs behind the rate, even though nearly 20 minutes were lost to rain!

Hayden was batting majestically on 66 off 123 balls and Hussey was on 29 off 67 balls.

Finally, after drinks, Sachin Tendulkar came on to bowl. He had replaced Kumble. He bowled a mixture of off-spin and leg-spin. Although he didn’t appear too threatening, he asked a few questions every now and again!

Matthew Hayden, who pulled up short when going for a sharp single earlier on, finally gave in and got Ricky Ponting in as his ‘runner’. It appeared, from the way Hayden pulled up there, that Hayden may have pulled/torn his hamstring.

Harbhajan Singh, after starting off at a ball-pace of about 82kmph was suddenly bowling at 89kmph. He wasn’t allowing the ball to loop and grip the surface as much as was, initially. Soon, Australia stretched its lead to to 100. The score was 169-2 and R. P. Singh replaced Sachin Tendulkar.

This was not a bad move because there was a bit of cloud cover about and we had just seen a bit of drizzle about. Moreover, the ball may have just started to reverse swing just a bit. R. P. Singh was now also bowling at the right end — the end from which he got his 1st innings wickets. He was bowling from the end he got all of his 4 first innings wickets. He was bowling into the wind which would assist his out-swing.

Anil Kumble replaced Harbhajan Singh at the opposite end and was now bowling with the breeze blowing across his right shoulder. Rain was always threatening to spoil the party. Just before the umpires and players disappeared off the ground, Yuvraj Singh dropped a very hard chance to his left. He jumped up to catch the ball, but could not get the ball to stick. It was a dropped chance!

Australia went to the rain-break (tea taken early) on 177-2 off 50.2 overs. The scoring rate, at 3.51 runs per over, wasn’t as high as one would expect — at least, not high enough for Australia to press for a declaration on day-4 itself! Hayden was on 77 off 141 and Hussey was on 43 off 81.

I give this abridged session to Australia because they did not lose a wicket and had oved to being 108 runs ahead. My SBS score reads India, 6.0 :: Australia, 5.0.

Amazingly, even now, all three results were possible!

Posting at 18.25 AEST– End of days’ play

After the extended tea-break, Australia started positively once again. R. P. Singh and Anil Kumble started proceedings.

On 188-2, India suffered yet again at the hands of the umpires. Once again, there was a healthy legside snick and Hussey was caught behind. The confident appeal from the Indians was turned down by Mark Benson, who chose it fit to deliver Mike Hussey his 3rd innings in the same dig!

The partnership was worth 101 soon enough with Hayden batting on his second dig and Hussey on his 3rd dig! The lead was 122. The Indians were right to feel robbed their dues. Steve Waugh implored the Indians to not concentrate too much on umpiring blunders, but with constant reminders like these it was hard for the Indians to forget the tremendous effect the whitecoats were having on their bid to defeat the Australians.

Australia moved to 201-2 off 56 overs, with the lead stretching to 132. Soon Mike Hussey reached his 50.

Harbhajan Singh replaced R. P. Singh and was now bowling into the wind.

Off the next over Matthew Hayden reached his second century of the series. The two batsmen had batted well together and staged a purposeful batting recovery and Australia had reached a lead of 141 after being 69 runs in deficit. Hayden had closed off 2007 with a century and had, now, started 2008 with a century. Despite a hamstring strain, Hayden continued to play the sweep shots and continued to play spin well. This was a top effort under pressure.

In the very next over, a steady drizzle meant that play was called off again. Once again, there was an interruption to the days’ proceedings. At this stage, a draw seemed to be a favourite, unless one the teams had a brain explosion and do an England-in-Adelaide!

It seemed like the Australians were trying to get a move on with a view to increasing the scoring rate. There was a much greater urgency to their batting after the rain delay. Perhaps a declaration was on the cards after all! Anil Kumble, meanwhile, was appearing altogether angry and “uptight”, to use a turn of phrase that he used against his batsmen after the MCG Test! He wasn’t releasing the ball all that well. Perhaps he was trying just a bit too hard? An over or two of Yuvraj Singh’s left-armers may not be a bad thing, one felt.

Australia led by 167 runs with an hour and a half left in todays’ game! Australia was moving into the drivers’ seat. India, meanwhile, had gone on the defensive. Gone were the clutch of close-in fielders. Kumble seemed to want the Australians to make a mistake!

At 17.30, AEST, the scheduled close of play, Australia was on 247 for 3 off 70 overs. Hayden was out for 121 off 147, gone to a reverse sweep off Kumble! Hussey was on 69 off 148 balls. Hayden was clearly wanting to get a move-on. Kumble’s tactics of choking the run flow may have worked here. Was there yet another twist in this game?

Given that 92 minutes were lost in the days’ play, this meant that India was 25 overs short of their days’ quota of overs. A quota that India would have quite easily completed! This brings into greater focus the slow over rate of Australia on day-3.

Michael Clarke was out first ball, caught extremely smartly in the slips by Dravid off Kumble, who was on a hattrick! Clarke moved back and tried to cut a googly that grew big on him. He edged to the slips and Dravid completed a very smart catch. Clarke had made his first duck (a 1st ball duck, at that) in his 30-Test career!

Symonds walked out to face the hattrick ball.

The hattrick ball was a big shout for LBW that was turned down by Bucknor. Symonds had taken a big stride forward and that perhaps saved the day for the Australian and denied Kumble his hattrick. The ball was stright enough. Perhaps the height saved Symonds in the end! There was a bit of a carry-on out there thoughn between Kumble and Bucknor at the end of that over.

The Indians who have been on the receiving end of a truckload of wrong/bad decisions in this match would perhaps have gladly traded the option of a whinge on all of them if Bucknor had given that LBW appeal. Alas! That was not to be!

There was no sign that the Indians would bowl anyone other than the two spinners. Of the 74 overs, Harbhajan Singh had bowled 24 and Kumble had bowled 26! And these guys would need to bowl much more before the day ended, one felt. The new ball would soon be due. There was perhaps little chance that it would be taken immediately.

The spinners were bowling well. Their tails were up and there was a lot of chat going on. Symonds had already gone on for 16 balls without opening his account!

Australia reached 261 for 4 and led by 192. There were still 10 overs left in the days’ play.

Hussey was playing extremely well on 80 (off 170 balls), which is his Test batting average — a phenomenal average for someone who has scored over 2000 runs in Tests! He worked hard agsinst some quality spin bowling and built his innings brick by brick. It was, like Hayden’s innings before his, a workmanlike innings.

Yuvraj Singh came in to bowl the 80th over and the lead stretched to over 200. Yuvraj Singh was hit for a few and wasn’t able to get any purchase from the pitch. The idea was, perhaps, to switch ends for the main spinners. While Harbhajan Singh was switched, Yuvraj Singh continued to bowl the following over.

In the 83rd over, Kumble got Ishant Sharma to bowl. The umpires offered the light to the batsmen who took it! This was quite pathetic from the Australians!

I make that an even session, given that India took those two wickets and given that Australia walked away with some 4 overs to go, when offered a bad-light stoppage! Perhaps Australia did not want to win that hard! The SBS score reads India, 6.5 :: Australia, 5.5!

–Mohan

Australia v India :: Test 2 :: Day 1

Australia-1, India-1, Umpires-1

Posting at 11.00am, AEST

India started the day badly on four counts: (a) They lost Zaheer Khan to an injury, (b) India selected Ishant Sharma for Zaheer Khan, (c) Anil Kumble lost the toss and Ricky Ponting chose to bat, thereby having last use of a pitch that would take spin, (d) India went in with an unchanged side (but for a change forced by injury).

There was no need to plunge into a full-scale panic after the thrashing that India received in the 1st Test against Australia at the MCG. However, I felt that there was a change or two that may have been needed. As it happened, the only change was a forced one! It was nice to hear Anil Kumble deflect the pressure off Rahul Dravid saying “He is too good a player to be worried by a poor performance in the 1st Test“, and stuff like that. However, I’d have thought that there were a few questions that needed to be asked of the batsmen; if nothing, the batting order. However, the only change that India made was a forced one! It was a blow to India that Zaheer Khan was ruled out, after a fitness test, with about 30 minutes to go to the start of play! In his absence, the right thing to do may have been to bolster the bowling (and obliquely, the batting) with both Irfan Pathan and Ishant Sharma. Ishant Sharma for Zaheer Khan was not a like-for-like replacement in my books, especially given the indifferent bowling form of R. P. Singh. An already weak bowling group suddenly looked even weaker. Having said that, I have no problem with the choice of Ishant Sharma — as I said in my 1st days’ report in the Boxing Day Test match, Ishant Sharma should have been part of the make up for the 1st Test itself!

It was nice to see Anil Kumble support his batting group. He seemed to say to the batsmen, “Same batsmen. Same batting order. Different batting“.

India started well in the bowling department. Both R. P. Singh and Ishant Sharma started with maiden overs. The order of play was somewhat similar to proceedings at the MCG where the Australians batted cautiously and where the Indian bowlers beat the bat often.

Unlike the MCG though where the Australian opening batsmen played and missed for much of the first 45 minutes, local boy, Phil Jaques top-edged one from R. P. Singh to M. S. Dhoni in the 3rd over and Australia were 0 for 1 wicket. R. P. Singh and Ishant Sharma had begun proceedings well. They were making the Australians play. Not much was left alone and there weren’t too many balls on the pads. There weren’t too many gimme balls either. This was good bowling by the Indians early on.

This bought Ricky Ponting to the crease. With all the pre-match talk from Harbhajan Singh and Ricky Ponting, one almost expected Harbhajan Singh to bowl the 4th over of the match!

Harbhajan had joked at the MCG that he hadn’t seen enough of Ricky Ponting to have a plan for the Australian batsmen on this tour! Not many of the Australians liked this statement! They seemed to think that Harbhajan Singh gets constantly under the skin of the Aussies! To Ricky Pontings’ credit, he acknowledged that there was a serious problem. He said, “He’s got a great record in Tests against me. It was lean last week, I had almost as many catches as runs. But I had a good net, I’m coming off a couple of hundreds in the ODIs [against New Zealand] and I’m feeling good to go.

Ricky Ponting started positively though! He wasn’t ‘falling over’ as he tends to do early on in his innings. This was a good sign for Australia and not a good sign for India. Rickey Ponting, who has 5 hundreds in 12 Tests (1226 runs at an average of 81.73, with a highest score of 207), looked set for many more runs here!

At the time of posting, after 6 overs, Australia was 16/1.

Posting at 12.00, AEST

Things were going swimmingly for Australia despite the loss of Jaques. Australia were scoring somewhat freely and easily. They were taking the singles and the occassional boundary. Yuvraj Singh seemed to carry his ordinary fielding form from the MCG to the SCG.

Then, against the run of play, R. P. Singh brought one in to Matthew Hayden who proceeded to edge the ball to the slips cordon! This was a most unusual dismissal. One would have thought that a top-class batsman would not outside-edge a ball that was coming in to him! But that was exactly what happened. The catch travelled between M. S. Dhoni, the wicket-keeper, and Sachin Tendulkar, the 1st slip fielder. In normal circumstances, M. S. Dhoni would have caught it. However, given that the ball was dipping in to Matthew Hayden, Dhoni’s balance was towards his right. Sachin Tendulkar proceeded to take a smart catch to get Hayden out. Australia were 27 for 2 and Hayden was out for 13!

With Michael Hussey and Ricky Ponting at the crease, scoring suddenly seemed to accelerate. Hussey seemed to be a man in a hurry! At the end of the 11th over, Australia were 42 for 2! Despite the loss of 2 wickets, Australia were still scoring at about 4 an over!

The 12th over saw Sourav Ganguly come on to bowl. Ganguly had bowled well against Pakistan in India and, with Zaheer Khan injured, he needed to bowl well.

In the 14th over of the match, all the Indians went up in a huge appeal off Ricky Ponting, who tickled a ball floating down the legside to the hands of M. S. Dhoni. The Indians were already celebrating before they noticed that the umpire had turned down the appeal.

TV replays showed that Ponting was indeed quite lucky to still be there. India could feel hard-done by. Australia would have been 45 for 3 if the decision had gone India’s way!

Ishant Sharma came back for a second spell. The long-haired Ishant Sharma — perhaps India’s answer to Jason Dizzy Gillespie — seemed to be growing in strength and was bowling a good line and length. However, the Australians kept the scoreboard busy and got to 59 for 2 off 18 overs.

Lunch: Posting at 12.30, AEST

The not-out decision against Ricky Ponting could cost India a lot in this game. Was the match result going to hinge on this one bad decision by umpire Mark Benson? I would be willing to bet that Benson would have given an Indian out. Not because he is biased, but most umpires tend to get swayed by the vociferousness of appeals by Australian teams. Ricky Ponting was on 17 at that time, and he was already making that reprieve count.

Signs from India were that the team was looking down after not getting that appeal in their favour. Ishant Sharma got taken to the cleaners in one over by Ricky Ponting and Ganguly looked ineffective after that over.

There was much excitement in the air when Harbhajan Singh came on to bowl the 20th over of the match. He did not get to bowl to Ricky Ponting in that over, but with all the pre-match talk, one couldn’t wait to see these two have a go at each other! In his second over, Harbhajan Singh did induce a false stroke from Ponting. The wily Indian offie bowled a flighted delivery down legside. Ponting missed it. The resulting stumping chance was not completed by M. S. Dhoni. And so, Ricky Ponting commenced his 3rd (virtual) innings in the same dig! This could be a very costly miss for India, who continued to look flat in the field after being turned down by the umpire.

It was upto the captain to pull things together for his team. Anil Kumble came on to bowl the last two overs prior to lunch. Not much happened and so, Australia went to lunch on 2 for 95 off 25 overs. If India had got that 3rd wicket I may have given that session to India. But given the rate at which the Australians scored, it should be scored as an even session.

India looked more alive on the field. Both the pacemen looked good and solid. It was nice to see R. P. Singh bowl with much more purpose and zeal. The Indian in-fielding looked good, if not sharp. Harbhajan Singh bowled more slowly and did give the ball more flight than he normally does. But the Australians batted with purpose and did not let the situation bog them down. All in all, this was an interesting session of Test match cricket.

Posting at 13:37, AEST

Proceedings after the lunch break commenced with R. P. Singh and Harbhajan Singh. They were bowling to a Micheal Hussey and Ricky Ponting who seemed intent on stealing every single possible. This was positive-intent batting at its best. The batsmen created pressure on the fielders with Dinesh Karthik (fielding substitute) and Yuvraj Singh — the two best fielders in the Indian lineup — respectively, over running the ball and approaching the ball lethargically. The odd ball was smashed for a boundary too.

The SCG outfield was much better for Test match cricket than the MCG outfield. The batsmen got maximum value for their power shots. This is how a Test match outfield should behave. The MCG outfield was, in my view, way below standard for Test match cricket.

Ponting raced to 50 off 66 balls; this was starting to get dangerous for India. The fielding was starting to look ragged at this stage. This was epitomised by a skied ball from Ricky Ponting to deep square-leg. This would have been a catch to a Dinesh Karthik or a Yuvraj Singh. Rahul Dravid was slow to get to it, missed the catch opportunity and the ball spun past him to the boundary for four! In that over, R. P. Singh bowled short and wide and non-sense. A few questions need to be asked. Why was R. P. Singh bowling short and wide to a set and positive batsman? Why was Rahul Dravid fielding at dee square leg?

Immediately after that, Harbhajan Singh got his man again! Ponting was out LBW to Harbhajan Singh for 55! Justice seemed to be served because Ricky Ponting had got an inside edge to that ball! He had been given out — when he was not out — 38 runs after he was out (but given not out, when he was on 17)! Harbhajan Singh bowled the doosra and got the Australian captain out — again! Australia was 119 for 3! Harbhajan Singh had backed up his pre-match smart-talk with some good work on the field. He had his ‘bunny’ again!

However, this certainly was an inside edge by Ricky Ponting who stood and glared at the umpire, Mark Benson on being declared out! I would be totally disappointed if umpire Mike Proctor does not pull the Australian captain for showing dissent/disbelief! Like Yuvraj Singh had done in Melbourne, I did not quite see Ponting glare at the umpire in a hostile manner when he was given not out on 17 when he had edged one to the ‘keeper! So, I did not see the reason for him to glare (and even say a few words) after he had made 38 bonus runs! As I said, it would certainly be interesting to see what Mike Proctor does at the end of the days’ play.

Suddenly 119 for 3 became 119 for 4 after Mike Hussey edged to Sachin Tendulkar in the slips cordon! Hussey played a one-day shot to that ball. He opened his bat-face to a ball that was marginally outside off stump to guide it to Sachin Tendulkar. At this stage, R. P. Singh was bowling defensively to a 7-2 off-side field!

After an ordinary post-lunch start, India had bounced back into the game by removing two well-set batsmen.

Posting at 13:45, AEST

119-4 became 121-5 when Micheal Clarke did not play a shot at an off beak from Harbhajan Singh. The Australians had the wobbles suddenly and the pressure was starting to tell. Michael Clarke too glared at umpire Mark Benson! Will he too need to introduce himself to Mike Proctor at the end of days’ play?

Either way, this was an extraordinarily bad shot from Michael Clarke, a batsman who had made a smart fifty in the previous innings! Harbhajan Singh is a bowler who normally takes a clutch of wickets when he takes one! He was bowling really well at this stage.

Posting at 13:56, AEST

R. P. Singh took his 4th wicket and Sachin Tendulkar took his 3rd catch of the innings when Adam Gilchrist edged to the slips cordon! I just couldn’t believe what was happening here. Australia seemed to be blowing its advantage here. They had won the toss and were not making it count. Australia were on the mat at 134 for 6. Australia had lost 4 wickets in 15 runs after lunch and the wobble was starting to look like a fall. Time would tell if this would become a free-fall.

The two Singhs — Harbhajan and R. P. — had got India back into the match in a huge manner.

Harbhajan Singh was bowling brilliantly. Harbhajan Singh was bowling as well as I have seen him bowl. There was guile in his bowling. He had loop, bounce and spin and was extracting whatever juice there was in the 1st day pitch.

R. P. Singh was bowling with maturity and temparament that defied his age. He had gone for a few, but he kept coming back — thanks also to some lose and listless batting from the Australians! R. P. Singh, as leader of the pace bowlers group, had put his hand up and was stepping up to the plate. His bowling figures at this stage read 12-2-50-4. Suddenly the Australians looked tentative. Where they may have taken two runs, they only took a single. There was cautious play with a lot more intent on innings-rebuilding.

What was heartening for India was that the best two bowlers in the 1st Test (Anil Kumble and Zaheer Khan) had hardly had a bowl in this innings and Australia were already 6 wickets down with not much on the board!

Posting at 15:10, AEST –Tea Time

In the 47th over of the match, I saw what was the worst ever decision on a cricket pitch by an umpire. Andrew Symonds got a healthy edge after hanging his bat out to a ball from Ishant Sharma. The resulting healthy edge was taken by M. S. Dhoni. The Indian fielders converged after what was a regulation, lip-service appeal. Symonds immediately looked back at the wicket keeper to see if it was caught. He even took a half step forward to mark his walk to the pavillion! All ducks were pointing to a raised finger to uphold the appeal. Unfortunately, umpire Steve Bucknor did not lift his finger. I am not sure what he thought the ball hit? The ball was away from the forearm or shirt sleeve! The edge was healthy and the sound was obvious for everyone to hear! Bucknor was asleep on the job! For the second time in the day, the Indians were done in by the umpires!

This is where I feel that the “appeals process” must come into play. With umpires as incompetent as this, I am sure we will soon see technology take the place of umpires.

With some attractive and positive batting and with some help from the umpires, Australia had moved to 204 for 6 off 49 overs! Brad Hogg and Andrew Symonds had put on 69 runs off 14.0 overs and were starting the rebuilding process with positive batting. In the previous passage of play, Ishant Sharma dropped a skied catch off Brad Hogg. Had that catch been taken and had the umpire been competent, India would have been well and truly on top here! But as it turned out, the game was running a bit away from India.

To make matters worse, Ishant Sharma disappeared into the pavillion. It seemed like he had injured his ankle, coming in to bowl to Andrew Symonds in anger after the caught behind appeal had been turned down! Youthful zest and immaturity perhaps from a 19-year-old!

But the proceedings were certainly wierd and that too for a team that had lost 6 wickets. Australia had made 213 for 6 off 52 overs at a run rate of 4.11! Australia had scored 119 runs in the session — a session in which they had lost 4 wickets! Hogg and Symonds had scored 80 runs in 17 overs at a run rate of 4.66 runs an over! Hogg was batting on an aggressive 48 off 56 balls and Symonds was on 39 off 64 (at a strike rate of 60.93)! In a strange twist, Hogg was the aggressor and Symonds provided the support role!

So, despite the loss of wickets, Australia was still batting in a positive and aggressive manner.

Despite the recovery, I give the Lunch-Tea session to India. India had taken four very important wickets — Ponting, Hussey, Clarke and Gilchrist. Any team that takes those four wickets in one session deserves the session regardles of how many runs are scored! The Session By Session (SBS) score, in my view, was 1.5 to India and 0.5 to Australia.

Posting at 16:00, AEST –Tea Time

R. P. Singh and Anil Kumble commenced proceedings after Tea. Brad Hogg continued his positive batting with two fours off the first two balls after Tea! Hogg and Symonds were batting attacking and positive cricket. But there was good news for the Indian batsmen too. Clearly the pitch was easing and batsmen could get value for their shots. Hogg hit some across the line and some on the up too. So, the Indian batsmen could play well too.

Hogg and Symonds recorded a 100 partnership off just 19.0 overs at a run rate of 5.26. Brad Hogg had made 58 runs and Symonds made 42!This was top batting from the Australians.

At 238 for 6, Kumble bowled a slow flighted delivery to Andrew Symonds. Symonds stretched forward, reached for the ball and Dhoni whipped the bails. The resulting appeal went to the 3rd umpire. The Channel-9 commentary team ruled Symonds out! There was daylight — albeit, a very thin ray of light — between his raised foot and the crease when the bails were whipped off. Dhoni had committed a smart stumping to have his man, one thought, although I will be the first to admit that there was some doubt. Perhaps this was a line-ball decision, but it looked totally out to me! Symonds was ruled not-out by the 3rd umpire! Like Ricky Ponting earlier on in the day, Andrew Symonds was on his third innings in the same dig!

Posting at 16:45, AEST

Australia had moved to an imposing (and seemingly improbable) 294 for 6! This was thanks to some inspired batting, some really, really poor umpiring, some somewhat ordinary bowling and a pitch that was easing. The last factor is, to me, the most telling. The second is infuriating.

The Indian batsmen will take heart from the fact that the pitch was easing. However, what was most infuriating for me was the terrible quality of the umpiring. I would most certainly like to see an appeals process in play in Test cricket to nullify such incompetence. The most galling of these was the caught behind that Bucknor slept through!

Australia, thanks to a splendid batting effort were starting to look healthy at this stage! The partnership recorded 160 runs off 33.3 overs at an improbable run rate of 4.77 with Hogg on 77 and Symonds on 83. Just before the drinks break, Symonds hit a ball that seemed to bounce just before it hit the top of the boundary rope! This was ruled as a six! Now, if a batsman can get the benefit of doubt in lineball calls, I wonder why bowlers can’t get a benefit of doubt on line ball six and boundary calls when the third umpire gets called in? The two extra runs may not count in the end analysis. However, the imbalance struck me as odd!

Soon afterwards, Andrew Symonds notched up his century. He made 100 off 128 deliveries with 11 4s and 2 6s at a tremendous strike rate of 78.12. The two Australian allrounders were pulling things back for their country. Australia reached 307 for 6! Indian shoulders were drooping.

Posting at 17:00, AEST

Soon after I posted by last update, after having made 79 in a partnership worth 173 runs, Brad Hogg jabbed one from Anil Kumble to Rahul Dravid at slip. The specialist slipper caught it sharply. The ball spun, bit and bounced and Hogg just poked at it. Hogg had batted sensibly, with energy and with purpose. He always looked in control and what’s more, he looked to be enjoying himself thoroughly! From a terrible position of 134 for 6, these two warriors — well one (Western) Warrior and one (Queensland) Bull — got Australia to 307 for 7, a position of near strength!

Brett Lee was out first ball, in my view. He stretched forward fully and was wrapped on his legs, adjacent to the stumps! Why the umpire did not give it out, I would not know. This was yet another bad call from the umpires who were having a horror day! My only hope is that the umpires continue to wake up on the wrong side of their hotel beds on the remaining days of this match!

Sachin Tendulkar, who had caught 3 smart catches in the slips, was now bowling at the other end. Harbhajan Singh who started the day so brilliantly, had started to spear them in, thanks to the fact the Symonds and Hogg never really let him settle down! This had been a display of very aggressive batting from these two Australian allrounders.

In the very next over, Andrew Symonds started his 4th innings of the matrch — in my view! He stretched forward to a fastish Anil Kumble ball and was wrapped on the pads. If that ball wasn’t going to hit the stumps, I just don’t know what it would have hit! However, umpire Benson must have seen something that everyone else could not see!

Posting at 17:15, AEST

The Indian bowling rate was terribly slow, but improving. The first session saw 25 overs bowled. The second session saw 27 overs bowled. And, with 15 minutes to go, India had already bowled 27 overs in the final session. The Channel-9 commentry team was getting stuck into the slow Indian bowling rate. And yes, it was slow! I would have taken the Channel-9 commentary team seriously if they got similarly stuck in to Australian team on day-2 of the MCG Test. At 5.30pm, the scheduled close time, the Australians were a good 8 overs behind the bowling rate on the second day of the 1st Test match. It is this one-eyed behaviour from the Channel-9 commentary team that makes me want to switch off.

The Indian team was starting to flag in the field and they needed something inspirational — a good fielding effort or a good catch. Sachin Tendulkar was bowling well and so was Anil Kumble. They just had to remove the remaining batsmen with not much more damage. The tactic seemed to be to give Symonds the easy single and then to attack Brett Lee. I am never a fan of this strategy at the best of times. On an easing pitch –like this one at the SCG — this strategy may come to haunt the Indian team!

At 17:15, India still had 10 overs to bowl in 15 minutes of play! They weren’t going to get there before the end of the days’ play, but they sure as hell bowled as fast (in terms of over rates), if not faster than the Australians did at the MCG!

Brett Lee was starting to settle in as well. And there were danger signs for India here! He was playing well and hitting the odd 4 too. He had moved on to 9 runs!Andrew Symonds, at the other end, was on 116 off 154 balls! The score was 7 for 337.

The run rate was a mind-boggling and situation-defying 4.2 runs per over!

The second new ball was now due!

Posting at 18:02, AEST — Close of days’ Play

R. P. Singh came on to bowl the 81st over of the day. Every indication was that Anil Kumble would take the new ball. But the batting indication was that they would go after the bowling. The first ball was cracked for a 4 through the covers and the new ball was taken immediately!

The first over with the new ball went for 3 fours — well, 2 fours with the new ball and 1 with the old ball. This wasn’t the kind of start India needed. But then, R. P. Singh was bowling to a well-set and positive batsman who was on his 4th innings!

Brett Lee smashed the 1st ball that he faced from Ishant Sharma for a 4 through point, indicating the dangers that lay ahead! A quick 50 runs off the remaining 10 overs could well demoralise the Indians. The partnership was already worth 47 runs off 62 balls with Lee making 18 off 34 balls! The run rate for the day was already 4.33! It seemed likely , at this stage, that Australia might make 400 in the days’ play!

There were 4s raining everywhere with some due to good batting and some due to poor fielding. Yuvraj Singh, on the mid wicket boundary, converted an easy single to a four as he let one through his legs.

It was unbelievable that, after being on the mat at 135-6, Australia would end the day on almost 400, scoring at a rate of nearly 4.5 runs an over! This was phenomenal cricket from this champion team.

R. P. Singh was bowling from around the wicket to Brett Lee. Only he will know why! He was bowling at Lee’s pads and all the bowler had to do was tuck it away. It would make sense if R. P. Singh took the ball away or got it to straighten. None of that was happening either!

Yuvraj Singh, meanwhile, was having a tough time in the outfield. He looked ragged and haggard. His dives were not going anywhere and he let a couple go through his legs!

Ishant Sharma was also having terrible problems with his run up. He was bowling into the end from which the wind was blowing in. He had 4 attempts to bowl the 4th ball of that over. The cause was probably the tunnel-effect that was as a result of the Doug Walters stand reconstruction. The redevelopment was causing a gusty wind to bowl through the park and straight in the path of the young Ishant Sharma. The unruly and jingoistic Sydney crowd gave Ishant Sharma the slow clap and the howl but the young lad somehow completed his over!

Sourav Ganguly came on for the next over and bowled a steady over. Harbhajan Singh bowled the 89th over of the match and was able to get good drift when he tossed it up. The Doug Waters stand reconstruction was certainly causing some problems for the bowlers as well as the batsmen! Sourav Ganguly finished off proceedings for the day with a steady over that went for not much!

The match finished at 18.02, 32 minutes past the scheduled close time! It will be interesting to see the Australian bowling rates as this match progresses.

I’d score the last session to Australia, thereby giving a SBS score of 1.5 to India and 1.5 to Australia. This is perhaps not a true reflection and if I were to look at the day as a whole, I’d probably give it to Australia for the amazing recovery that they made from being on the mat! But given that I was scoring the sessions as the game progressed, I will stick with calling it an even day!

India could look at an easing pitch. Traditionally, day-2 is the easiest for batting at the SCG. If they can get the remaining three Australian batsmen for not much, they can look to bat long and put on a decent score here.

Australia ended the day at a strong 376 for 7 at a scoring rate of 4.22 per over! Phenomenal, considering where they were at one stage. The Indians finished the day looking ragged and out of sorts. But they can take heart from the fact that they had the champion team on the mat. They cantake heart from the knoweledge that the pitch will ease. They have to pray that the umpires contine to remain as incompetent as they were today!

Ultimately for me though, this day was marked by terrific batting from Symonds and Hogg but it was thorughly ruined by the utter incompetence of the umpires. The last thing that a team needs when facing up to a champion team is to be up against the umpires too. But unfortunately, that is exactly what happened and the result was that an excellent day was turned into an ordinary day for the Indians. I can’t wait for the day when the ICC will implement an appeals process whereby captains can appeal two decisions per session in much the same way as tennis players can appeal two rulings per set. Bring it on, I say, to keep incompetence at bay!

— Mohan