Day Three, Melbourne: Fast Bowlers’ Day Out

Posted: December 28, 2011 by The CouchExpert in Cricket, India in Australia 2011-12
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Goutham Chakravarthi

The rain had stopped and the MCG bathed in sunshine. There was no trace of moisture in the wicket, nor dramatic movement in the air or off the deck. And a champion batsman had managed to survive a hostile spell of quick bowling by a wholehearted local with grit and luck the previous evening. And a magician who once made an Australian Prime Minister jog from his home to the SCG to see him bat waited in the dressing room. All signs pointed to a day of hard toil for the home quicks. But, then, cricket writes it own script. And then, a swinger who was resigned to thinking that his playing days were over produced a swinger’s version of a perfect ten to send back a champion batsman.

It was a fine day for cricket. It has been a dramatic Test already. Fortunes have oscillated more than in a Federer-Nadal classic, and the less-than-perfect performance by both teams, both batsmen and bowlers, has meant that the result of the Test is still as hazy as future of world economy.

On a day dominated by fast bowlers, Umesh Yadav picked four wickets for India. ©Getty

The first session saw Australian quicks bowl much better than they did for most part yesterday. The consistency in their lengths and their discipline in line meant the pressure was constant on the batsmen. Like the heart of a good story lies in its plot, the wicket played its part in a remarkable day of bat versus ball. With tall and quick bowlers able to generate steep bounce off a good length, it kept them interested. Inevitably, Laxman perished after being kept scoreless for what seemed an eternity. Only the introduction of Lyon seemed to release some sort of pressure, but the quicks kept it tight and soon Kohli and Dhoni were out in familiar fashion. And soon the rest of the batsmen too. The heart and the effort shown by the young Australian quicks augurs well for the home side for the rest of the summer. However, their consistency will be a factor. India’s second innings holds answer to that.

It was always going to boil down to India’s (in)ability to take 20 wickets that was going to determine its fate in the series. That Australia has a dodgy batting record and prone to collapse would have raised optimism. And you needn’t be a cricketing sage to have figured out how crucial Zaheer Khan is to this attack. His mastery over his art is mesmerizing, but his presence at mid-on talking to Ishant and Umesh seems as important.

Zaheer’s opening spell had the inexperienced Australian top-order in check and Umesh Yadav reaped the benefits of Zaheer’s tight bowling at the other end. And Ishant produced a quick spell with pace and bounce that on another day would have tagged him a cluster of wickets. His 149.9 kmph off-cutter to knock over Clarke in a spell where he constantly was around and over the 150 kmph mark augurs well for India given the scare of his ankle injury coming into this Test. Zaheer came back to trigger another collapse to leave the Test wide open.

Two champions of the game, ironically both on the selectors’ radar for the chop, stepped up to the challenge and constructed an important partnership in the context of the game. The impressive Indian bowling unit went past the bat on numerous occasions, but the champions held strong, attacking at every opportunity. That none of their younger teammates crossed double digits makes the partnership that much more valuable. Should Australia go on to win this Test, this partnership would have played a pivotal part. And perhaps the dropped catch by Dravid late in the day. His catching in the slips to spinners has been abysmal this year.

May be the bowlers will hold the ace on day four as well. May be, we are in for another Australia-India classic. Laxman might be itching to put his stamp on another famous chase. Perhaps a Tendulkar masterpiece to on another Test involving Australia. Or may be, the two locals, Siddle and Pattinson will have the last laugh. Or, may be something else. In any case, it promises to be worth it to wake up at 5 am IST to catch the action.

  1. As I mentioned yesterday, Australians bowled in the right areas and bundled out India. Though there are many wh believe that Marsh and Warner destroyed themselves, it was the extra pace of Umesh that created their dismissal. It was a delight to see Cowan being given out lbw for deliberate padding. Ponting and Hussey took the match away from Indians and it will need a miracle to avoid the inevitable for India tomorrow. I foresee an Indian defeat before tea tomorrow.

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