Tag Archives: R. P. Singh

Where to from here for India?

So India lost the first Test at the SSC in Colombo. Correction. They did not just lose the 1st Test. They were mauled by what Sri Lankan captain, Mahela Jeyawardane called “the perfect Test“. It was indeed a “perfect” performance by Sri Lanka. Muthiah Muralidharan had a terrific Test match and Ajantha Mendis — I was a fan of his style of bowling from the moment I saw him in the Asia Cup Final — had a perfect debut Test. The Sri Lankan batsmen kept their foot on the pedal when they batted and made the most of shoddy fielding, bad catching and a lacklustre bowling performance by the Indians.

So where does India go from here?

Unfortunately, given the team composition that India has gone with, and given the captain’s proclivity to back his peers, nothing much can really be done!

Dinesh Karthik had an awful match. He made several blunders in his ‘keeping and his batting made Devang Gandhi look like a better alternative! It was that bad! However, I do not believe that the team will dare risk Parthiv Patel as a replacement! So it begs the question: Why did Parthiv Patel go in the first place? Would it not have been better to take a youngster like Srivats Goswami?

In the bowling department, Zaheer Khan bowled like a millionaire and Ishant Sharma was largely ineffective. Having said that, it is not like the team would risk swapping them with R. P. Singh and Munaf Patel? Munaf Patel bowls just a tad faster than Chaminda Vaas’s slower ball these days — which, in turn, is just marginally slower than Anil Kumble’s normal delivery! 🙂

It is likely that R. P. Singh might replace Zaheer Khan and if the team management had courage, this swap may be profitable. It does not mean that R. P. Singh is a better bowler. But given the listless ineffectiveness of Zaheer Khan’s approach in the 1st Test, it may be that a shake-up is needed!

The spin bowling department presents more serious questions. Anil Kumble cannot be dropped. He is the captain. Harbhajan Singh was pedestrian in his approach and quality. It may be a good idea to swap him for Pragyan Ojha? But is this a viable option? It isn’t as if Ojha has a Mendis-like reputation behind him. And having not been in a pressure situation in the past, it is unlikely that India will risk losing pressure-cooker-situation experience for a debutant. For, however ineffective Harbhajan Singh was, he does have pressure-cooker-situation experience on his side. It will take a brave — very brave — captain to swap Harbhajan Singh for Pragyan Ojha for the 2nd Test!

The only way Ojha (or another pace bowler) can slot in is if one of the Fab Four batsmen is dropped (either that or Gautam Gambhir is dropped to allow Dinesh Karthik to open the innings). These are unlikely scnarios.

So, in the bowling and ‘keeping department, apart from a possible swap of R. P. Singh for Zaheer Khan, I do not foresee any change that India can make!

The batting is even more interesting! Given the absence of an all-rounder in the team, India is forced the hand it has been dealt by the selectors! Given the balance of the team and given that the batsmen capitulated so meekly in the 1st Test, nothing dramatic is going to happen with the batting — either the composition or the line-up! So, I predict the same batting line-up that India took to the 1st Innings of the Colombo Test — with Dravid at #3. In my view, there is nothing wrong with Dravid at #3. He is struggling, but I haven’t seen any evidence to indicate that Laxman is in the form of his life either!

It will require some courage for Kumble and the Team management to swap Sourav Ganguly for Rohit Sharma. In my view, this will be a welcome change and the commencement of a gradual phase-out of the Fab Four. However, in my view, it will not happen now. Kumble is perhaps too much of a traditionalist and peer-group-camaraderie-captain to go down that route. These are hard decisions that require a hard, relentless and uncompromising leader. In this regard, Kumble is no Steve Waugh.

So I suspect that the batting order will be the same too!

All an India fan can hope for is a better showing from its ‘stars’.

We live in hope of a bounce-back by India. It is possible. It has been done before. It needs the team to step up to the plate and play with the aggression and intent that it can.

— Mohan

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Team India for Bangladesh Tri-Series and Asia Cup

In a week from now, Team India travels to Bangladesh to take on Pakistan and Bangladesh in a tri-series ahead of the Asia Cup, which will also include Sri Lanka.

We at i3j3Cricket had predicted the team makeup and there were no real surprises when the selectors announced a team that was not too different from the one that had won in Australia in February/March this year. Given Sachin Tendulkar’s withdrawal, R. P. Singh’s return to the fold and Dinesh Karthik’s slide, the team make up was not too surprising. Some IPL performances were rewarded — notably Yusuf Pathan and Pragyan Ojha.

The team that has been selected has a balanced and youthful look to it. I will not be surprised if the team that takes to the park on June 10th (a week from now) against Pakistan is (in batting order):

Gautam Gambhir
Virender Sehwag
Robin Uthappa / Suresh Raina
Yuvraj Singh
Rohit Sharma
Mahendra Singh Dhoni
Yusuf Pathan
Irfan Pathan
Piyush Chawla / Pragyan Ojha
Sreesanth / Praveen Kumar / R. P. Singh
Ishant Sharma

On current form, this is, in my view, a very strong team. The opening combination is a winning combination.

— Mohan

Indian Pace Bowling Academy

The end of a long Australian summer was capped by India’s stirring win against Australia in the CB Series Final. At the end of the series, I reflected on the fact that the win in the last game was achieved without the services of India’s front-line pace-attack: Zaheer Khan, R. P. Singh and Ishant Sharma. All three were nursing injuries in that game. The fact that Ishant Sharma had propelled himself into the front-line was itself testimony to the impact he has had over the Australian summer!

I then realised that, for the Test Series in Australia, we had two additional pacemen in Pankaj Singh and V. R. V. Singh who made up the numbers.

But then, the heroes of the CB series final match were actually Praveen Kumar, Sree Santh and Irfan Pathan! Munaf Patel can be a very good bowler on his day too!

If you then throw into the mix, Pradeep Sangwan, Siddharth Kaul and Ajitesh Argal — pace-bowling architects of India’s U19 triumph, the Indian fan can smile!

The Indian Pace Academy is then: Zaheer Khan, R. P. Singh, Irfan Pathan, Ishant Sharma, Sree Santh, Munaf Patel, Praveen Kumar, V. R. V. Singh, Pankaj Singh, Pradeep Sangwan, Siddharth Kaul, Ajitesh Argal.

Not a bad pace bowling lineup in my view! India’s pace bowling stocks over the next 5 years will come from this lot of 12 bowlers. There will be, no doubt, a few surprise packages here and there along the way. But my feeling is that the above group of 12 will be the ones doing the rounds over the next few years. If all else fails, there is always Ajit Agarkar! It is quite likely that, of these 12 players, 3-4 will be injured. Team India has to learn to shrug and call up the next bowler in the ranks and if they are as good as Praveen Kumar, Sree Santh or Munaf Patel, it can’t really be too bad, can it?

Team India has to nurture these pace bowlers and ensure that they do not fade away from the scene like L. Balaji did. It is time, in my view, to appoint Venkatesh Prasad as India’s long-term pace-bowling coach. He should be entrusted with the task of developing concrete development plans for each bowler and for these to be conditioned and supervised even when the players aren’t playing for Team India.

Unfortunately, Team India is not that flush with options when it comes to spin-stocks. More on that later.

— Mohan

Australia v India :: Test 3, Perth :: India compile despite crash…

India started Day-3 wishing to capitalise on their great overnight position. India had to consolidate and “play time”. When proceedings commenced it did look as though things would be going India’s way! Virender Sehwag and Irfan Pathan started with purpose and determination. Good balls were being left alone. Bad balls were being put away and singles were being taken.

Suddenly, Australia got into the game by claiming four quick wickets! Sehwag, Dravid, Tendulkar and Ganguly left without making too much of a dent on proceedings! This was suddenly starting to look like a nightmare scenario was playing out!

Meanwhile, Irfan Pathan, who had seen 4 of his senior and more illustrious partners depart, was playing a dream innings! India went to lunch on 158-5 off 33.0 overs. Irfan Pathan was on a well made 45 and V. V. S. Laxman was batting on a composed 18! India was, at this stage, just 276 ahead. A few quick wickets could mean curtains for India. Australia had, quite remarkably, clawed itself back into this game! It just goes to show that one can never underestimate this champion team. When the going gets tough, they dig deep.

Sehwag was out to a beautiful ball from Stuart Clark. Rahul Dravid had made a mess of his footwork and poked a fast and furious ball from Brett Lee straight to Adam Gilchsist’s hands. Sachin Tendulkar received a brute of a ball from Brett Lee and was plumb in front — out LBW. And Sourav Ganguly invoked his old bad habits and hung his bat out to dry outside off stump. Things were looking precarious for India.

This session clearly belonged to Australia and the SBS Score reads: Australia, 3.5 :: India, 3.5!

Things were evenly placed at this stage.

Immediately after lunch, Irfan Pathan was out. He had played a brilliant innings and held it all together while his seniors fell around him.

The lunch-to-tea session, however, saw India compile. India compiled slowly and sometimes painfully. However, India did compile and the objective seemed to be to “play time”. V. V. S. Laxman and M. S. Dhoni put away flashy and risky strokes and instead, pushed for singles. There was also the odd boundary. This was good cricket. Ricky Ponting threw down the gauntlet by bowling Michael Clarke and Andrew Symonds, his spinners. Yet, the bait wasn’t taken. This was cat-and-mouse stuff that was surely compelling viewing. Dhoni, in particular, curbed his attacking strokes and played the singles and the gaps instead. Laxman was batting beautifully. This was sublime, minimal-risk second-innings batting from this batting artiste.

At Tea, India was 245 for 8. M. S. Dhoni was out caught (apparently) by Adam Gilchrist off Symonds. The lead was 363. It wasn’t quite enough. India needed about 50 runs more to be safe and perhaps even about 90 runs to completely shut Australia out!

Despite the loss of Dhoni (and Pathan earlier in the session), this was India’s session.

The SBS Score reads: Australia, 3.5 :: India, 4.5!

After Tea, India made 49 more runs. Just prior to Tea, I had said that India needed another 50 runs to be safe in this game! Well, thanks to some good batting from R. P. Singh and Laxman’s continued excellence, India got those 50 runs! These will be valuable runs in the context of the game. Australia was set 413 to win and there was an hour to play in the game in this, the 3rd day of the game.

At one stage, India looked unlikely to get to a score of 200. Thanks to some sensible batting from Sehwag (43), Pathan (46), Laxman (79), Dhoni (38) and R. P. Singh (30), India got to 294.

In response, Australia lost two wickets to Irfan Pathan’s seam bowling. The rest of the bowling was a bit ragged. However, in the last over of the day, Anil Kumble got a few to jump and spit!

Ideally, India would have liked to have taken a 3rd wicket — preferrably that of Ricky Ponting. However, the 2 wickets that they have taken is a good start. The bowlers will need to bowl with purpose, nerve and direction to complete the job.

Let us not forget that this champion Australia team is capable of winning it from here although I’d put the match currently at 65-35 in India’s favour!

It is certainly going to be an interesting 4th day. The match will not, I suspect, go to a 5th day. Australia will either win it or lose it on day-4.

What a wonderful Test match and what a superb series of cricket this has been. Full marks to this India Team for having rebounded from the depths of Sydney.

For setting a target of 413 and for taking those 2 wickets, I give this last session to India. The SBS Score reads Australia, 3.5 :: India, 5.5

— Mohan

Australia v India :: 3rd Test :: Both teams in an unfamiliar position…

At the end of day-2 of this fascinating Test match in this gripping series between Australia and India, both teams find themselves in unfamiliar territory!

It is not often that Australia is so far behind in a Test match with 3 days to go in a Test match. Conversely, it is not often that India is so far ahead in a Test match with 3 days to go!

It is a wonderful platform for India and needs a few people to stand up and be counted. From here on in, it is a question of whether India believes it can win. The moment India show nerves and self-doubt, in my view, this powerful Australian team still has the ability to climb all over it. So it is going to be a test of nerves, self-belief as well as ability from here.

There is little doubt in my mind, however, that India is on top in this game after 2 days have been completed.

Whichever course this match takes though, there is no doubt in my mind that after the sorry mess and the debacle of Sydney, India has re-grouped well and come out the stronger for it. India is playing with purpose, direction and energy. They are pumped up and want to win. A local news channel in India claimed that the Indians had a 45-minute closed-door session with Gary Kirsten after the end of the 1st days’ play. Much of it concentrated on the team playing with fire and with pride. On the other hand, Australia has looked somewhat listless and de-energised right through this game.

On a day when 297 runs fell for 15 wickets, India came out on top.

The day started with Australia cleaning up the India tail. Starting at 297 for 6, India started sensibly with M. S. Dhoni and Irfan Pathan batting sensibly. Then close to the finish of the hour, it ran away from India and they were down in a heap; all out 330.

One thought that that was about 120 runs short! They may have got there had Dravid and V. V. S. Laxman not given it away as they did!

Australia came out with purpose in their batting. They were, after all, batting in their home den! Most of their batsmen were used to the sting and bounce in the wicket. For all them, hitting on the up and through the line in Perth was as easy as spreading Vegemite on their daily toast!

Indian seam bowling stocks

What they did not account for was accurate, relentless and steady top-class seam bowling. One wished one could bottle the caliber of disciplined bowling that was on display by the Indian seam-bowlers! At the end of the days’ play R. P. Singh said that the bowlers had a meeting prior to the game in which each of them was assigned a task. R. P. Singh’s task was to use the bouncer frequently! Each bowler had “areas to bowl to” agreed to. Now, to plan these things is one thing. To actually go out there and execute these plans is quite something else. The Indian bowlers did that and came out the victors today.

Let us not forget also that this is not actually India’s first line pace attack! Zaheer Khan, Sree Santh and Munaf Patel are back in India, nursing injuries! Given the display of the 3 seam bowlers today and with Pankaj Singh, V. R. V. Singh, Ranadeb Bose and Praveen Kumar waiting in the wings, one might say that the pace bowling stocks aren’t exactly looking bad at the moment!

Pathan’s resurgence

One point that was hammered home forcibly today was Irfan Pathan’s resurgence. I’d like to see Pathan as part of the Indian team mix for a long time to come. He bowled brilliantly. Agreed, he bowled better to left-hand bats than he did to right handed bats. However, his pace was consistently in the high 130s and he had his swing going too; and this was late seing, by the way!

His batting abilities at #8 (in this match) means that India can often go with 4 other bowlers in the team; this is always a plus especially in India where 2 spinners have to play!

1st Session

Given that Australia wrapped up India’s innings close with just 33 added to the India overnight score of 297-6, one may have been tempted to call the 1st session as Australia’s. However, with some clever seam bowling, India managed to get two early wickets — admittedly one dodgy LBW decision when the ball appeared to be heading down leg-side — I’d be tempted to call this an even session. The SBS Score read Australia, 2.0 :: India 2.0 at this stage.

2nd Session

The second session belonged to India though. Australia were on the ropes at 61-5. Andrew Symonds and Adam Gilchrist came up with a breathtaking display of counter-attacking batting. This was counter-punching of the highest caliber that produced a run-a-ball century partnership. However, the Indian bowlers stuck to their task, best displayed by R. P. Singh, in a terrific show of level-headedness in the post-tea session. He was spanked for 3 consecutive 4s by Gilchrist. However, he produced a lifter from just short of a good length. It caught Gilchrist unawares and the resulting edge was poached by Dhoni.

Despite the precarious 60-5 situation that Australia found herself in, the Symonds-Gilchrist fireworks show took Australia to a reasonably comfortable position of 148-5 at Tea. These runs had come off just 31 overs! I just couldn’t believe that this team was under the pump! Visions of Mumbai 2001 flashed in front of me where, from a position of 99-5 Gilchrist and Hayden rescued the team with a gritty and purposeful fight-back. In this session, India missed a catch off Symonds — Tendulkar dropped the edge at 1st slip. Had that catch been taken it would have been an even session.

The SBS Score read Australia, 2.5 :: India, 2.5 at this stage.

3rd Session

The 3rd session belonged totally to India. First India got Australia out for 212. In their response, India lost only 1 wicket — that of the hapless Wasim Jaffer who is having a nightmare series from hell!

Along the way, Anil Kumble got his 600th wicket. What an incredible servant of Indian cricket this amazing cricketer has been! He could come into his own in this Perth wicket which, amazingly, is taking some spin too!

Virender Sehwag was, well, Virender Sehwag. He played and missed several times. But still he scored at a rate that only Sehwag can. The Australians are wary of Sehwag. They want to get him out and see the back of him. In that itself India wins part of the battle. He is still there and that will be a big plus for the tourists as they come out to bat tomorrow.

The fact that Irfan Pathan is there at the crease as a night-watchman is also good for India. He can stick around and make life miserable for the Australians who will need to dislodge him in order to have a crack at the Big 4 to follow: Dravid, Tendulkar, Ganguly, Laxman!

The SBS Score reads Australia, 2.5 :: India, 3.5 at this stage. India are ahead. It is an unusual position for this team. But one that India needs to capitalise on.

Strategy from here

Anil Kumble, in a post-match interview, said that the strategy would be one of playing time; the runs will come. I have some sympathy with this strategy. Firstly, we have just finished day-2. There is a lot of time left in this game! India should focus on playing out each session and slowly, batting Australia out of this Test match! India is 170 runs ahead at this stage. At the end of tomorrow, if India bats all three sessions, the team could well be 450 runs ahead! This will require some patience and a lot of determination.

In post-match interviews Adam Gilchrist did admit — as most people will — that India is in the drivers’ seat in this match. However, he did say that the Australian team relished the challenge and that they would dig deep to come after the Indians.

If Australia get India out cheaply, they could win from here too! But it would require a special effort from them and some clumsy batting from the Indians.

A match that is interestingly poised…

— Mohan

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 3

At the outset, I would like to apologise for the number of pytos (typos!), bad formatting and ordinary grammar in my live comments and observations. I type out the notes on my handheld and upload it periodically.

The first session is going to be extremely important for India today. Thanks to a gritty and fighting, albeit ugly, knock from Rahul Dravid and a fluent, breath-taking innings from V. V. S. Laxman, the poet of the SCG, India are in a position from which they can kick on. There is still a long way to go for India in this match. If India lose 2-3 quick wickets, they could well be staring down the barrel! However, if India bat two good sessions, this match could get very very interesting. All told, this was going to be a very challenging and gripping day of Test match cricket.

Although my SBS score reads 3-3, I’d have Australia just slightly ahead at this stage — mainly because Yuvraj Singh and M. S. Dhoni are not in great nick. If Australia manage to get one or two wickets, things could get ugly for the Indians.

We at i3j3Cricket are thankful for the emails and the comments that we have been receiving, including those from cricket writers like Peter Lalor.

We do not claim to get it right. We just write it as we see it. I am sure that writers like Peter Lalor, Malcolm Conn, Robert Craddock, et al will also claim to “write it as they see it”. But then why is it that people, the world over, seem to accept (even hard hitting and critical) articles written by the likes of Peter Roebuck and Harsha Bhogle more readily than those written by Peter Lalor? Food for thought…

Posting at 11.00, AEST

India started the day at 216 for 3 off 62 overs. The first 20 minutes saw some steady bowling and careful batting. There were no alarms for either team. Sachin Tendulkar was quite content playing a waiting-watching game. Sourav Ganguly, on the other hand, seemed to be going for his strokes and managed to get a few balls through the in-field. These were good signs for India. A positive Ganguly and a careful-and-focused Tendulkar was perhaps what the team needed.

I was surprised that Australia started with its two fast bowlers, Brett Lee and Stuart Clark. With 18 overs to go to the new ball and with Brad Hogg bowling somewhat beautifully last night, I’d have thought that the order of the day should have been pace at one end and Brad Hogg at the other end! This was, in my view, yet another missed trick by Ricky Ponting. This was all the more galling because I don’t know if Ganguly was reading Brad Hogg all that well last night (or, for that matter, at the MCG). Moreover, Brad Hogg had got Ganguly out twice at the MCG!

The Australian bowlers started well though. They bowled steadily although there were no gremlins in either the pitch or the batters’ minds!

At 10.55, Brad Hogg came on to bowl after 5 overs had been bowled. This was about 5 overs late in my view, especially since the new ball was due in 13 overs! Brad Hogg’s first over was brilliant, in the sense that Tendulkar seemed intent on going after every ball — perhaps to put the bowler off his game! But Hogg kept coming in and flighting it. Tendulkar hit balls straight to fielders, who fielded well. Good cricket all around.

India had moved to 234 for 3 in the 6 overs that were bowled in the half hour of play! Yes, that is right… just 6 overs in half hour!

Posting at 11.30, AEST

The partnership between Tendulkar and Ganguly was soon worth 50 runs with Ganguly making 35 of those runs and Tendulkar making 13 of these!

It was interesting to note that Ganguly and Tendulkar were not going after Brad Hogg as they did at the MCG. They were playing him with more respect and were more circumspect in their approach to him. They were content on picking up the singles and the twos against the Australian Chinaman bowler.

Conditions were ideal for batting. In a sense, India had the best of the batting conditions. The first morning was difficult for batting and India extracted whatever advantage there was. The wicket then eased out and that allowed the Australian tail to get away with it. The good batting conditions continued to prevail for the Indian batsmen although, up until now, V. V. S. Laxman was perhaps the only Indian batsman to capitalise on it totally.

Already, with rain falling in Sydney overnight, weather was threatening to spoil this match. This was turning out to be too good a match for rain to intervene in proceedings.

One aspect of the Indian batting this morning was that there were plenty of singles. This was due to the fact that the Australian field was a bit more spread out, but also due to the intent of the batsmen. Clearly the Australian team did not want the Indians to get away with it. This was good cat-and-mouse cricket. One team did not want the other to get away. The other was cautiously trying to do just that with some positive hitting every now and then being sandwiched by careful/cautious play. Totally gripping stuff this…

India moved to 265 for 3 when Sourav Ganguly moved to his half-century off just 67 balls. Ganguly’s 50 included just 6 boundary hits. I say just because Ganguly normally scores more boundaries in his scores.

India had just avoided the follow-on — not that that would have mattered anyway! At the end of the 74th over, India had moved to 267 for 3, 196 runs short of the Australian total.

Michael Clarke came in to the attack for the last over before the drinks’ break. This was a smart, surprise, move by Ricky Ponting!

At drinks, India was 272 for 3 off 75 overs. The scoring rate was 3.61 — not entirely bad. India had made 62 runs in the first hour without losing a wicket. Early honours to India, I’d think!

At the end of the 1st hour of play, Australia had bowled just 13 overs! This was pathetic over rate from a top-drawer team! The over-rate was a pathetic 4.61 minutes per over! Of the 13 overs that Australia bowled, five were bowled by spinners! This was more than merely “tardy”. It was almost unprofessional.

Posting at 11.50, AEST

Ponting continued with Brad Hogg and Michael Clarke after the drinks’ break. Perhaps he wanted his pace bowlers with fresh legs when the new ball was due in about five overs! Ganguly played Michael Clarke quite well and even smashed a well-hit 6 in Clarke’s second over (the 77th of the innings).

In the 78th over of the innings, the partnership between Tendulkar and Ganguly reached a 100 runs. The 101 runs came off 23.2 overs (@ a run rate of 4.32). Of these, Tendulkar had made 28 and Ganguly had made 67. This was batting straight from the top drawer by these two Indian batters. The very next ball, Tendulkar clouted Brad Hogg for a 6!

Immediately after that moment, Ganguly hit a lose shot to be caught by Hussey for 67 at mid off. Ganguly was totally annoyed with himself. He had put in the hard yards, played attractive cricket and just when he looked set for a big one and just when the new ball was due, Ganguly danced down the wicket, did not quite reach the pitch of the ball and holed out. This was a key moment in the game and perhaps even the series! Hogg had Ganguly’s wicket for the 3rd time in 3 outings in this series!

This brought the under-pressure Yuvraj Singh to the crease, with the new ball just around the corner! The portents weren’t really that good in my view!

Posting at 12.30, AEST — Lunch Time Day-3

The new ball was due when India reached 297 for 4. India was still 166 runs adrift and had some distance to travel, especially since India had to bat last on this wicket!

Somewhat surprisingly, the new ball wasn’t taken by Ricky Ponting. More surprising was the fact that Michael Clarke continued to bowl — and indeed bowled the 81st over. I am not sure I’d agree that this a good move by Ponting. It is likely that the Australians may feel that Yuvraj Singh has a weakness against Brad Hogg. It is true that he wasn’t able to read Brad Hogg’s flipper in Melbourne. And indeed, Yuvraj Singh did not pick Hogg’s flipper — the last ball of the 82nd over (Hogg’s 19th over). With that in mind, and considering that Brad Hogg had pouched a wicket off the previous over (the 79th over of the innings), it may have made sense for Ponting to persist with the spin option of Brad Hogg — perhaps even spin at both ends! However, Michael Clarke at the other end wasn’t doing much at all. If Ponting did want to go with spin at both ends, Andrew Symonds’ off spin may have been a better option. This was, in my view, confused cricket from the sharpest captain going around these days!

In my view, Brett Lee should have been brought on the moment Yuvraj Singh strode out to bat. In not doing so, Ponting may have missed yet another trick!

Yuvraj Singh wasn’t batting with much conviction, especially against Brad Hogg. This was epitomised, somewhat, when Tendulkar ran a quick single off the last ball of a Michael Clarke over (the 83rd over) so that he could face Brad Hogg in the following over.

Brett Lee came on to bowl the 85th over, replacing Michael Clarke. The 2nd new ball was taken immediately. The score was 309 for 4 with Sachin Tendulkar on 49 and Yuvraj Singh on 3. This was an important 20 minutes coming up before lunch. I felt that if India negotiate these 20 minutes and a further 20 minutes after lunch, this match would be brilliantly set up. So far though, but for the Ganguly dismissal, India would have been pleased.

Tendulkar got his 50th run in the 85th over; he had his 50 off 96 balls with just 3 fours and 1 six! There were plenty of singles and controlled shots in this innings. This innings was different to either of his MCG innings — he was fluid in the 1st innings and reckless in the 2nd innings at the MCG. This was also totally different to his masterly 241 not out in the previous Test match that he played at the SCG in the 2003-04 series, where he was totally self-absorbed and over-cautious. Here at the SCG this time, he was controlled and measured. The score had moved to 315 for 4, with Yuvraj on 7 and Tendulkar on 50.

The Australians bowlers were peppering Yuvraj Singh with bouncers. Yuvraj Singh took a few on his body, shoulder and forearm. A fuller ball from Brett Lee then got to him fast and straight and got him out LBW. The delivery thudded into Yuvraj Singh’s pads and the young Indian was out on 12 off 22 balls with 3 minutes to go for lunch! Once again, the Australians had struck. The India score was 321 for 5! This dismissal brought to sharp focus the tactics of Ricky Ponting in delaying the new ball!

Yuvraj Singh had made 0, 5 and 12 in three innings in this series and his position in the team was looking shaky. Already, the commentators were talking of two changes for the Perth Test; Virender Sehwag for Wasim Jaffer and someone else — anyone else — for Yuvraj Singh!

M. S. Dhoni had a tricky passage of play to negotiate. India went to lunch on 322 for 5. India was 141 runs behind the Australians. India had made 106 runs in the pre-lunch session off 26 overs. The run rate was healthy, if not spectacular. The over rate was, at 4.61 minutes per over, quite pathetic and simply unprofessional. The fact that 11 of these overs were bowled by spinners only made the statistic look worse than it actually was!

Given that Australia had picked up those wickets, I would give this session to Australia, thereby marking the SBS Score at Australia, 4.0 :: India, 3.0.

India played that session well till about 8 overs prior to lunch when those two quick wickets turned a good session into an ordinary one for India.

Post-lunch comment

One aspect of the mornings’ play that missed me — mainly because the ABC Radio comms did not highlight it — was that Sachin Tendulkar had survived a close LBW appeal. I caught up on that at CricInfo! In the opinion of the CricInfo commentary team, Tendulkar was lucky to still be there!

Posting at 15.10, AEST — Tea Time

Immediately after lunch M. S. Dhoni and Anil Kumble went cheaply, both to Brett Lee. Agreed Lee was bowling well, but we were seeing some inept batting from the Indians. India had lost 4 wickets for 52 runs at that stage. India was in danger of folding cheaply and quickly. Sourav Ganguly’s dismissal, just prior to the new ball being taken, was begining to hurt India badly.

Harbhajan Singh came in to play and on a pitch like this, we were probably in for some excitement. In fact, that was what happened. Harbhajan Singh skied a few balls and threatened to land a few of these into someone’s throat! But he kept on with his method (or madness) and soon raced to 20 runs off not much. India moved to 373 for 7, just 90 runs behind!

Tendulkar was also starting to open up his shoulders just a bit! Tendulkar was converging on a century and needed Harbhajan Singh to stay with him — not just for his own century but so that India could move closer to Australia’s 1st innings score.

At drinks, India were 382 for 7, exactly 81 runs adrift of the Australian total. It was still a huge mountain to climb. To put things in perspective, India had to make as much as Tendulkar had already made up until that point! Harbhajan Singh had made 23 runs off 27 balls. Tendulkar was playing like a master while Harbhajan Singh, who was batting a foot outside his crease, was playing reasonably well, despite the occassional heart-in-the-mouth moment for the Indiaj fan!

At 392 for 7, Harbhajan Singh tried to hook a ball from Stuart Clark. The ball hit Harbhajan Singh on the glove and just bobbed uo and over Gilchrist. A more agile Gilchrist would have pouched it. But, today Gilchrist floored it. The score moved to 393-7 and Harbhajan Singh had moved to 30 off 34 balls. India moved to 70 short of the Australia total.

We were seeing Mitchell Johnson and Stuart Clark bowl. Again this was bad captaincy from Ponting. Brad Hogg should have been brought on earlier. I seriously believe that Hogg has been under-bowled and under-utilised by Ponting. Harbhajan Singh would have gone after Hogg and also gives the impression that he doesn’t read Hogg all that well. It was also quite strange that Ponting was willing to give Tendulkar an easy single, to allow Harbhajan Singh to take all the strike. I am not a great fan of this method of captaincy against tail-end batsmen and, once again, this was poor, defensive captaincy from Ponting.

Soon, the partnership was worth 50 off 64 balls and Brad Hogg was brought on to bowl. Ponting, though, was quite happy to give Tendulkar the singles though. Hogg was bowling mesmerisingly to Harbhajan Singh. One wondered what might have been, had he been bowling to a slightly less-than-well-set Harbhajan Singh!

Then Sachin Tendulkar made his 38th century (22 outside India). The whole of the SCG stood up and applauded this brilliant century for over a minute! This was a wonderful recognition and acknowledgement of a champion by a very generous crowd. Tendulkar celebrated by spreading his arms out wide and looked up at the skies; perhaps sharing a brief conversation with his dad, before Harbhajan Singh rushed to hug him.

Harbhajan Singh could also claim credit for this, for he stuck around to enable the champion to get to his century!

India moved to 413 for 7, 50 runs short of the Australian total.

In another surprise move, Ponting brought Michael Clarke on to bowl. Perhaps Ponting wanted to see if the batsmen would go after Clarke! I am not sure why Andrew Symonds’ off spin wasn’t being rated by Ponting. In Clarke’s first over, Tendulkar reached for a wide flighted delivery outside off and over-balanced. Gilchrist did not collect and affect the stumping. If he had, Tendulkar would have been out, as his back foot was in the air! Gilchrist continued his ordinary showing behind the sticks. Two balls later, ordinary fielding in the covers saw Harbhajan Singh convert a certain no-run into two runs! The Australians appeared ordinary in the field. Perhaps Peter Lalor could ring the BPOs around to see if the fielding (particularly the wicket-keeping) could be out-sourced to an Indian call center?

India went to tea on 424-7 off 112 overs.

Australia had bowled 51 overs in the two sesisons so far in the day. This was not merely tardy or pathetic or unprofessional. It was all of the above. But more so, this was below international standards and was a plain ragged display.

I give this session to India even though they lost two wickets. At the end of this, the 8th session of this Test, my SBS score reads 4-4.

Posting at 18:05, AEST — Close of play, day-3

India started after Tea with much positive intent. Although there was a bit of reverse swing the two batsmen were keen to put the ball away. India were inching to within striking distance of Australia’s score.

In the second over after Tea, Harbhajan Singh reached his third Test half century! The partnership was one shy of a 100! In the 3rd over after tea, the 100 partnership was reached. Harbhajan Singh continued to bat with a mixture of orthodox and unorthodox. This was entertaining batting by the Indian sardar. Even lethal Brett Lee yorkers were being kept out like he was a #3 batsman!

In the gap between the 3rd and the 4th over after tea, there was a bit of a side-show involving Andrew Symonds, Matthew Hayden, Ricky Ponting and Harbhajan Singh. At the end of all this, umpire Mark Benson called Harbhajan Singh over and had a stern word with the Indian bowler (err! Batsman). Benson had his hand over his mouth as he talked to Harbhajan Singh and also motioned to Sachin Tendulkar that he wanted to have a one-on-one with Harbhajan. One would have thought that Benson did not cover his mouth because he suffers from bad breath! I suspect he did not want to be either lip-read or picked up by nearby mikes! It was all very interesting. I am sure Peter Lalor will have enough material, through this episode, to get stuck into another Indian player!

In the next over, we saw another lazy overthrow from the ragged Australians. They had started their petulant behavious and the sledges were flying thick and fast. This is exactly what we wanted to see. Australia had gone on the defensive. There was only 1 slip out there and nerves were frayed. Harbhajan Singh, never short of a fight if he sees boxing gloves approach him, was the best man for the job out there. He gets the Australians’ goat at the best of times! And here he was, with India just 6 runs short of the Australian total, staring at Australia in the face!

India had showed pluck, fight and courage to get to this point after having been totally down and out in Melbourne! The partnership was worth 114 with Harbhajan Singh having made 56 of these!

Brad Hogg came on for the 5th over after Tea! The 4 overs post-Tea had taken an improbable 23 minutes! This was a ragged display by the Aussies.

At the end of the Brad Hogg over, India was 465-7 and India led by 2 runs! It seemed so very improbable a few overs after lunch today, but as I had called it yesterday, I was confident that the batsmen would come to the party! They had!

Mitchell Johnson continued to bowl at the other end. I really didn’t know why! He was bowling utter dross from around the wicket. I also don’t know why he had this around-the-wicket strategy either! He wasn’t doing a Zaheer Khan or an R. P. Singh who could get the ball to move away from around the wicket!

The Indian batsmen were laughing their way through their innings and there is nothing more that can get under the skin of the Australians than two batsmen having a lot of fun and laughing off the on-field chat! These Indian players were playing perfect cricket against the Australians. They were now backing themselves and their abilities and weren’t afraid to hit the odd shot in the air. This was top cricket. Tendulkar continued to play a controlled knock.

In the next over, after a 129 run partnership, Harbhajan Singh was out. Mitchell Johnson switched to over the wicket and, off the very first ball, Harbhajan Singh jammed a catch to gully! He had played a terrific hand and his contribution to the partnership was 63 runs and the scoreboard read 474-8.

Harbhajan Singh had made 3 less than his top Test score of 66 against Zimbabwe.

R. P. Singh and Tendulkar moved the score along to 490-8. The fresh Singh at the crease (RP for Harbhajan) was playing with intent and aggression and the Indians continued to play attractive cricket. India soon reached 500-8. The Indians were almost 40 ahead and the partnership was worth almost 26.

Australia snared R. P. Singh soon after, caught behind by Gilchrist for 13 in a partnership of 27. (Tongue-in-cheek) It was quite surprising that Gilchrist managed to hold on to it! Such was the game he was having. Even Stuart Clark let out a sigh of relief. Adam Gilchrist, much like Rahul Dravid the previous day, mock-celebrated on taking the catch! (Tongue-in-cheek off). The score was 501-9.

One would have thought that Tendulkar would look for 2s and 4s with a last ball single. But off Mitchell Johnson’s next over, he took a single off the second ball! This was, in my view, strange batting by the champion Indian bat. In the next over, he took a single off the very first ball! Tendulkar was on 148 and perhaps wanted to maintain his impressive “not out” statistic at the SCG. The Little Master was placing way too much trust in his #10 and #11 bats!

Finally, Mitchell Johnson was off the attack. Notwithstanding the wicket that he took of Harbhajan Singh, I do not believe the left arm paceman had done anything to deserve such a long stint with the ball.

Off Brett Lee’s first ball, Tendulkar took a single to get to his 150! Ishant Sharma banged the next two balls for 4s and the lead was now 51! He played and missed the next ball which was outside off stump. He then played out the next two balls somewhat competently! Perhaps Tendulkar’s faith in his tail-end batsmen wasn’t misplaced after all?

This was a handy lead being built by the Indians.

I know I have been banging on about the over rates. And I dare say I will continue on with my line of comment till I get the Peter Lalors of the world to take notice of the fact that “their team” plays just as ordinarily in the over rate department as anyone else going around. The over rate wasn’t just bad. It wasn’t just unprofessional. It wasn’t just terrible. It was something that was extraordinary. The worst I have seen in international cricket. At 17.15, with 15 overs to go to the official end of days’ play, pAustralia had bowled just 135 overs! In other words, in 345 minutes of play, Australia had bowled a mere 73 overs at an over rate of 4.72 minutes per over! This was a mockery of the rules.

India had, meanwhile, moved to 531-9 with Tendulkar continuing his strange tactics of giving a lot of the strike to his last batsman! Ishant Sharma repaid faith, however, by banging a few 4s. The partnership was already worth 30, and India led by 68! Ishant Sharma kept the 4s and the entertainment going! Off almost every over, Tendulkar would take a single off the first ball! Perhaps Tendulkar wanted Sharma to get out so that India could have a crack at the Aussies in a nasty batting period?

When Brett Lee gives the #11 opposition bat a bit of a spray when the young lad played and missed, you know that the Australians are in trouble! And that’s what Lee did! The Australians were rattled. The time was perhaps right to put the Australians in for a nasty spell of batting?

At the scheduled close of days’ play, the Australians had bowled 76 overs in the day. In other words, they were 14 runs short of their quota. Even if the Australians had an extra hour of added time, they would not have been able to complete their bowling quota. That’s how bad it was. Will the Peter Lalors comment on this?

India was soon out for 532. Brett Lee had his 5 wickets. Ishant Sharma was out for a cracking 23! He wasn’t able to keep a bouncer from Brett Lee down and spponed a return catch to the bowler. Tendulkar was once again not out at the SCG. He remained 154 not out. India had a lead of 69 runs. But for Tendulkar’s strange tactics at the end, India probably would have had a healthier lead.

The Australians had a tricky 10 overs to negotiate, but with the playing rules being what they are (play has to be called off at 6pm so that Channel-9 could cut to its 6pm news!), it left the Australians only 12 or so minutes to negotiate. That meant that the days’ play would probably contain about 6-7 overs less than what it ought to have contained despite a half hour extension from 17.30 to 18.00! That was how terrible the Australian bowling rate was. This was poor cricket and perhaps even poor gamesmanship from the hosts.

I am not sure what Mike Proctor, the match referee, can do to reign in the hosts. He was quick to pull up Yuvraj Singh at the MCG. Here, in Sydney he hasn’t said anything about Pontings’ first innings dissent. Nor has anything been done about the Australian over-rate!

India had played well though. After the incompetence of the umpires floored the team on day-1, they have come back strongly in the game!

The 1st ball of the 2nd innings — bowled by R. P. Singh — was a close LBW shout! But the ball pitched slightly outside off and was also probably slightly high! Bucknor turned the appeal down and rightly so! The Australians were not quite used to batting 60-odd runs behind! This was unusual territory for them; Jaques in particular. It was going to be interesting to see how the Aussies would cope.

Both Ishant Sharma and R. P. Singh started reasonably well. They were generating some pace and bowled a decent line. R. P. Singh, Harbhajan Singh and Ishant Sharma had all made runs. So they should bowl with confidence. One felt, though, that India needed a wicket tonight to keep up the pressure.

India were only able to bowl 5 overs to end the 3rd day which, in my view, was ruined by unprofessional bowling conduct by the Australians. The day ended with about 6 overs lost! This was utterly shoddy.

Harbhajan Singh bowled the 4th over and raced through it to enable Anil Kumble to bowl an over! Indeed, Kumble came on for the last over of the day (the 5th over of the innings).

Australia reached 13-0, still 56 runs behind.

There is still a lot of cricket left in this game, and thanks to some poor batting by Yuvraj Singh and M. S. Dhoni, Australia could still win this game. If Yuvraj Singh and M. S. Dhoni had chipped in, India’s lead could have been more than 69!

I give this last session of days’ play to India too. Although they lost their remaining wickets and got all out, they closed in on the Australian 1st innings score and even took a 69-run 1st innings lead. This despite some questionable tactics from Tendulkar. The tail-enders batted well and should take this confidence into their bowling. So, at the end of the days’ play, after 9 sessions had been completed in this game, my SBS score reads Australia, 4.0 :: India, 5.0

 

 

— Mohan

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