Monday, December 26, 2011

26th Dec'11 : Day -1, Melbourne

Battle lines drawn, as India take on Australia at MCG, Melbourne on the Boxing Day. The playing XI for India - Sehwag, Gambhir, Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman, Kohli, Dhoni, Ashwin, Zaheer, Ishant & Yadav, while for Australia - Warner, Cowan, Marsh, Ponting, Clarke, Hussey, Haddin, Siddle, Pattinson, Lyon & Hilfenhaus.

Toss won by Clarke & he chose to bat on a green wicket. The overcast conditions did promise bounce & seam, as Zaheer took over the red cherry to start the proceedings. Debudante Cowen  took stance as the crowd roared, with Warner at the other end. Zaheer, sporting a new hairstyle, looked a little rusty in his opening spell, though Yadav from the other end generated healthy pace. The openers started quite well, with Cowen holding one end & Warner scoring from the other. Warner was just about cutting loose with a six off Yadav, when rains brought the first of the interruptions. Warner, probably in a hurry to score, erred in concentration & immediately on resumption of play, lost his wicket to Yadav, caught behind in the 14th over of the match...a wicket maiden. He was looking menacing in his 37 off 49 deliveries. Next man in Shaun Marsh did not last long, snicking outside the offstump to Yadav, to be caught by Kohli in the gully for a blob. In a spate of two overs, from 46 for no loss, the Aussies were reduced to 46 for 2, as in strode Ricky Ponting, to a buzzing stand. Yadav, buoyed by two quick wickets, was spitting fire & immediately stuck Ponting on the helmet with a rising bouncer, followed by another one....the crowd roared at the prospect of an interesting contest.
Ponting, veteran of many battles, dug in bravely & started to get his timing & strokes, as runs trickled in. Rain interruptions did not waver his concentration & Cowen at the other end held firm. 100 runs for the innings came in the 29th over, as Dhoni kept shuffling his bowlers in short bursts, including Ashwin. 50 for Ponting came in the 38th over, as the crowd rose in approval...the run rate, a healthy 3.62 per over. Cowen got to his 50 in the 43rd over, a brilliant & patient 50 on debut, as the pair had put on 100 invaluable runs.....a little later the team total had crossed 150 runs. Just as it seemed, the resilient Aussies had tamed the Indian attack, Yadav came back with another snorter, rearing up enough to catch the high end of Ponting's bat & an easy edge to Laxman in the slips.....3 down for 159. Ponting gone for a well grafted 62.....surely he would be screaming at himself to let go of making it a big hundred. ......a huge wicket for India, as Yadav's figures read an impressive 11-2-61-3. In walked skipper Michael Clarke, looking resolute. 200 runs on board by 61st over as Cowen & Clarke started to settle down. However, Zaks had other ideas, as he produced a stunner of an over in the 65th. First he got Clarke to edge onto stumps & then immediately in the next delivery had Hussey edge to Dhoni behind.....two very important wickets in the middle to rock Australia back to 206 for 5. Hussey was probably unfortunate, as the ball brushed his sleeves on way to Dhoni, as the Indians appealed successfully....no UDRS for the series meant, umpire's decision stayed......Hussey walked back screaming livid.....just what happens when you are out of form. Two overs later, Cowen's wonderful debut vigil at the center came to an end, edging to Ashwin to Dhoni behind.....a superb 68 runs to start his test career. Looks a good batting prospect for the Aussies ahead....a la Justin Langer mould. Once again, the hotspot did not show any edge, & umpire's decision upheld....
With Siddle & Haddin at the crease, it looked like the Indians would be able to wipe away the tail.....the new ball in the 80th over however did not do any more trick as the Aussies ended the day at 277 for 6, with Haddin at 21 & Siddle at 34, having already added 63 runs to stabilize the innings.....both capable to wielding the willow tomorrow for some useful & crucial runs.
I felt, Dhoni did not or could not close the lid by going all out with his attack at crucial stages. Umesh Yadav bowled with spark & got dividends with 3 wickets, though he was expensive, while Zaheer bowled craftily & got 2 very important wickets to peg the Australian innings back. Ishant was good & bad in spells & Ashwin probably tried too many tricks together. For the opening day, Australia were at the receiving end of the umpiring errors, in absence of UDRS as Hussey & Cowen had to walk back in agony, while Indians celebrated. Ponting was edgy & elegant, but had grafted a solid half century......he would rue missing out on a big innings that could have helped his sagging career as well as his country's cause.
It will be interesting to see how far the Australian tail wags,......anything above 350 would make the match fascinating, as Indians would then be up against some genuine pace bowling & a roaring crowd.


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