Tag Archives: India v Australia

Aussies retain advantage–Day 3 1st Test

The batting team cruises along nicely and seem to have all the momentum – then one wicket falls, and suddenly every thing changes. It happened on Day 1, when Ponting’s wicket fell and it happened again today when Tendulkar’s wicket fell.

India had just crossed 350 and both Tendulkar and Raina were cruising along nicely. Tendulkar looked set to score his 49th Test hundred, when suddenly against the grain of play, he fell LBW to North. That was the 5th wicket to fall – soon, the other 5 fell for the addition of just 51 runs.

Suddenly, the Aussies regained the advantage they had lost in the first two sessions, when Dravid and Tendulkar and Raina reduced the deficit sufficiently. Johnson took 5 for 64 and his two wickets of two balls (Dhoni and Harbhajan Singh) was partially responsible for speeding up the demise of the Indian innings.

This is going to turn out to be a really good test. If the Aussies, bat all of tomorrow and put up 250 on the board (plus the lead of 23), it will be a tough chase on a final day pitch.

I’d say that at the end of day 3, the Aussies still hold the advantage in this match. Having said that, if the Indians can dismiss the top 3 batsmen in the morning session of play, Aussies will be in a bit of trouble – their middle order is a bit flaky and I don’t expect the tail to pull through another rescue in the same Test. The Indians would be well aware of that – Harbhajan Singh needs to fire for that and let’s hope he does.

-Mahesh-

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Advantage Australia– Day 2, 1st Test

I spoke yesterday about how India should be careful not to let the Australian tail wag and that is exactly what they didn’t do. The last 5 wickets added another 206 runs in the end, and Australia had a respectable total of 428, well above the 1st innings average at Mohali, which is in the high 3oos.

Australia just seemed to be content on batting out time late yesterday and even this morning and it seemed like test cricket of old, where you played not to win, but not to lose. The intent to win just didn’t seem to exist. Australia did show some positive intent once Mitchel Johnson came on to bat – this is the way Australia should have batted and put more pressure on the bowling. India also made some tactical errors. Their persistence with the old ball was baffling. Sure, Ishant couldn’t bowl straight away– but Zaheer should have taken the new ball and partnered with Harbhajan Singh. India just didn’t try enough to nip the wickets out – it appeared that their strategy was just to slow down the runs, and the wickets would come automatically.

After Zaheer’s five-for, India came out blazing. It was as if the two countries were batting on two different surfaces. India raced off to 100/1 in the 17th over and the title to the post would have read “Advantage India”, if Sehwag hadn’t lost his wicket in the penultimate over of the day. With 3 more days remaining, there is still a possibility of a result and it could go either way – however the scales have slightly tilted to Australia’s favour – their safety first approach seemed to have worked this time.

-Mahesh-

What’s all the hullabaloo about?

The batsman is out of the crease – the wicket keeper takes off the bails and as he walks back to the pavilion, someone from the opposition says something. The batsman turns around from his walk, points the bat at the player and a heated exchange follows. No, I am not talking about the Ponting run-out incident on the 1st days play at Mohali – I am talking about Harbhajan Singh being stumped of Clarke’s bowling in the 2nd ODI in Cochi the last time Australia were here in India.

Do you see a pattern? Its the same thing being enacted again, only the actors are different this time around. Was Zaheer out of line? Without a doubt. Should Ponting have turned around to exchange words? I don’t think so…

These two teams have a history of having a go at each other – and although I am not a big fan of this, I am not completely surprised by this incident either. But I found it funny that the Herald Sun calls Zaheer a “serial sledger”. What a laugh! The last time the incident happened, Harbhajan was portrayed as the bad guy, as he turned around to point his bat at the opposition after he was given out (the fact that someone said something to trigger that was somehow left out). Harbhajan is no saint, and neither is Zaheer – the point is, the Aussies aren’t either. So, I don’t see what all the fuss is about Smile

Coming back to the actual game, Australia made a mess of a really good position. They were 153 for 1 in the 42nd over, with both Ponting and Watson playing quite well, and then boom – the run out happened. Suddenly, the whole match turned around. The Aussies went into a shell, the runs stopped coming and by the end of the day, they had just added another 70 runs! If that wasn’t bad enough, they also lost another 3 wickets in the process. The Indians would definitely be happy with the opposition’s score of 224/5 at the end of the days play. It is not a bad achievement considering the fact that India were one bowler short (Ishant got injured) and  Harbhajan wasn’t really that threatening with the ball. The Australian tail can wag though, and India should be careful not to let them off the hook – particularly as they will be batting last in this match.

-Mahesh-

Cat and Mouse

It’s been a hell of a week. Since last Sunday, my Facebook wall has been peppered with posts and comments on the Chennai Super Kings’ triumph at the Champions League, A.R. Rahman’s Jai Ho tour of North America, the Commonwealth Games howlers & the feverish excitement of the build-up towards the release of Endhiran! Just in case you put us down to be a group of hedonists, we’ve been quite concerned about the Ayodhya verdict too. Finally, last evening, amongst the babble of “Gummthalakdi gumma vaa”, Kalmadi jokes & Rajni punch dialogues, a friend put up a status that simply said “Ah! Test cricket.”

Is it just me, or did the Aussies slip in unnoticed? Sure, there’s been some chirp. Hauritz threatens to target Sachin & Johnson promises to pepper Sehwag. Ahem guys, you’d do better to ape Pidge on the field! Clarke is wary of Harbhajan. Shouldn’t he be calling him an obnoxious whatsits? Ponting looks to Tendulkar for inspiration. Whatever happened to Gilly’s autobiography? Where’s the rancour fella? We signed on for blood and gore, not a peace summit.

The anticipation amongst fans has been muted too. Anaesthetised by a deluge of India-Sri Lanka cricket? Or disappointed with a 2 match rubber? Harsha Bhogle calls it a quickie. I’d say it’s just a striptease. Millimeter from 3 Idiots might have a more colourful description, though not very parliamentary!

I settled down last night (9.5 hours behind IST), armed with a combination of Cricinfo, Test Match Sofa & live streaming, playing the highlights of Chennai 1998, Eden Gardens 2001, Adelaide 2003 & Perth 2008 in my head. I could not have been more disappointed. Mohali resembled the last day of the Asian Test Championship match at Kolkata, when most of the stadium had to be evacuated. Things got worse with the pitch report, and Ishant’s first delivery, which bounced twice on its way to Dhoni. Creeper for lbw, as the commentator from Test Match Sofa put it! Attrition is not a pleasant word, whether it is in context of the software industry or Test match cricket.

Catches were dropped, Ishant broke down, and the Aussies strung together a stand. Was it getting worse and worse? Not quite! It was a grind alright, but it was also intense Test cricket action. The passion simmered beneath the surface. Not high octane, but definitely not low voltage. The restraint of a Mani Ratnam terror flick, as against the celebration of violence in a Quentin Tarantino offering. Then Ponting got out. A send-off, an exchange of words & frayed tempers.

Clear your diaries people. The Border-Gavaskar is back in town!

(Guest post from TS Kartik)

Australia have themselves to blame

Australia could have well won this game. They didn’t and they only have themselves to blame. They didn’t play the aggressive, positive, fast paced cricket they were used to playing – instead they had a safety first, defensive approach and yet Ponting says

We were the only ones in the game trying to take the game forward. We played aggressive cricket. I am not surprised by the way they played, the Indian team do play a lot of drawn games.

Let me point out a couple of things –

  • In the first innings, Australia scored 430 runs in 150 overs at the run rate of 2.86 and the majority of its runs were scored by the top order of Katich, Ponting and Hussey. Compare that to India where the lower order scored a good percentage of the runs and yet ended up with a run rate of 3.02. Ahem, but could you point out who played more aggressively, please?
  • In the second innings, the Australians wanted to make sure that they were in a position where they couldn’t lose the game and decided to bat out the overs scoring at a run rate of under 2.5 for over 50 overs of the game. Over fifty overs! And very rarely in their innings did the strike rate ever get to 50 or over. 

A safety first approach is fine, but saying that they were the only ones trying to take the game forward is a bit rich. In fact, a safety first approach is exactly what the Indians did too. Without a win in sight and on a fifth day pitch with variable bounce set with an unlikely target of 299 of around 80 overs, they decided to shut shop and play for a draw. And the Australians would have probably done the same too. The Australians never for once in the entire game reached an over all run rate of 3.75 and yet, they think the Indians should have gone for it on a fifth day pitch? Get real.

Ponting’s statement probably is a response to Zaheer Khan’s claims that this was the most defensive he has ever seen the Aussies play. This statement has a bit of truth in it, though. The Australians used to be the trend setters in scoring runs fast and forcing results. Playing slow is what other teams (including India) do. But in this game, they’ve gone back to the slow grinding run accumulation and defensive mode of play that was more reminiscent of the test cricket played by the Aussies before they started to dominate World cricket.

And for the most part on day 4, Australia played as if they didn’t really have a plan on what total to set and when to declare. This allowed India to keep its hopes alive for a draw or even a minor chance of victory. The dominant Aussie teams of the past wouldn’t have done that – it is no accident that the Australian team(s) of the past hold the record for consecutive successive wins.

-Mahesh-

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 🙂