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.
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