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!