Thursday, December 29, 2011

29th Dec'2011 : Day 4 Melbourne

I had said in my parting comment yesterday that chasing anything around 300 runs in this wicket for the final innings would be difficult even for this extremely strong & experienced Indian batting line up.......& it seems, all the experts in the commentary box, the likes of Saurav Ganguly, Wasim Akram, Ian Chappel, Ravi Shastri et all echoed similar sentiments, infact most of them pegged the score around 250.
And as the day unfolded, the Aussie tail wagged & later in the day, the Indian batting collapsed once again, giving Australians the vital 1-0 lead in the series.

Pattinson, coming in at No 10, to join Hussey, showed that he was no bunny with the bat. The 3rd ball of the 2nd over of the day from Yadav was smacked to the boundary through extra cover, signalling his intent & capability very very clearly. At the other end, Hussey too kept the score board ticking, blazing a couple of sweetly timed boundaries off Zaheer to take the lead closer to the 250 mark. But Zaks came back immediately with a splendid delivery to remove the dangerous Hussey, caught behind,...the score reading 197 for 9, & India needing just one more wicket to get started with the chase....the match evenly poised.
But the last pair of Pattinson & Hilfenhaus frustrated the Indian attack & Dhoni looked quite out of ideas, with surprisingly defensive field placing, as vital runs kept adding to the total. It was finally Ishant Sharma in the 77th over, who got Hilfenhaus to edge to Laxman in the slips, as the Aussie innings finally came to an end for 240 many as 61 runs added since resuming play today, of which 43 came for the last wicket.....Pattinson remaining unbeaten for a splendid 37. Interestingly, even in the 1st innings, he was unbeaten for 18 runs!!! No wonder, he has 1st class century to his credit in the Australian domestic cricket.....he certainly can bat. For the Indians, Yadav had taken 4 wickets, Zaks 3, Ishant 2 & Ashwin 1. The bowling had been quite disciplined & fierce by the pacers.

India needed to chase 292 runs for a victory, & given the way the pitch had behaved till now, & the current Indian batting form, the prospect looked looked rather steep & tough. It needed a strong opening partnership to lay the foundation, & both Sehwag and Gambhir had their task cut out. However, in just the 6th over of the innings, Hilfenhaus got Sehwag to hit straight to Hussey at gully for a mere 7 runs, & scorecard showed 17 for 1.......big big wicket for Australia just before lunch.
After lunch, Siddle claimed Gambhir with a ripping delivery, edging the top end of the bat to slips, & then, a little later Pattinson clean bowled Dravid.......the innings was just 19 overs old & the top three wickets gone, as India tottered to 58 for 3. Tendulkar batted as he did in the 1st innings, confident & aggressive, & needed support at the other end. However, 2nd innings specialist Laxman disappointed, flicking a Pattinson delivery to be caught at short square leg & Virat Kohli getting plumb LBW to Hilfenhaus......India 69 for 5......defeat a certainty. Tendulkar too did not last much longer, driving Siddle uppishly to Hussey at gully for a resolute but inconsequential 32 runs.
Dhoni & Ashwin delayed the inevitable with some belligerent hitting, as India went to tea with score at 117 for 6. After tea, Ashwin top edged Siddle for a simple catch, scoring an enterprising 30, while Zaheer hit a four & six before edging Pattinson to short leg, & Captain Dhoni getting an inside edge from Pattinson to his stumps. The last pair of Ishant Sharma & Umesh Yadav added another 27 runs, before Yadav holed out in the deep. The Indian innings had folded tamely for 169 runs in 48 overs, handing over a 122 runs victory to Australia.

This was India's fifth consecutive defeat in test matches overseas(losing 4-0 to England during summer) as the year comes to an end, certainly a worry for Indian think tank. They need to regroup quickly before the next test begins at Sydney on 3rd Jan'12. The inexperienced & injury prone bowling was rather commendable, with Yadav bowling his heart out & Zaheer along with Ishant supporting well, without any niggle alarms. Ashwin tried too many variations thereby losing on consistency, but he is a class bowler in the making. Fielding was patchy, with catches dropped at crucial stages of the game, but the biggest disappointment was the collective failure of the much vaunted batting line up. Barring Tendulkar & Ashwin in both innings & Dravid & Sehwag in the 1st innings, the rest caved in rather timidly. Dravid got bowled out three times (once to a no ball), which is rare & Gambhir is struggling with his feet movement, while Laxman surprisingly failed to get going against his favourite opponents. Kohli & Dhoni looked all at sea against genuine movement off the seam. The spectre of Sachin getting his 100th century still seems to overburden the focus of the batting nucleus, & this needs to be addressed immediately.
Indians are normally sluggish at the start of any overseas tour, & that builds too much of pressure on the team, thereafter, but this team has a wonderful blend of youth & experience & we all would expect them to bounce back rather strongly. Dhoni needs to show more spunk & enterprise, especially in polishing off the opponents tail.....he seems to be giving away from position of strength too often of late !!!!
For the Australians, return of form at the opportune time for old war horses Ponting & Hussey, would be a welcome sign. Cowan got an interesting & patient fifty on debut & has the makings to take on the vacant opening spot left by Justin Langer, while Warner, a brilliant prospect, needs to curb a bit of his carefree hitting to succeed in this longer version of the game. The faith reposed on Hilfenhaus by bringing him back to the test side proved a brilliant move as he bowled with purpose & pace, brilliantly supported by Pattinson & Siddle.
The team is young & in the process of building for the future & seems to be well disciplined, with loads of talent to fall back on.

The Man of the Match was James Pattinson, the 21 year old good looking hunk from Victoria & deservingly so. As a front line bowler he had match figures of 6 wickets for 108 runs & with the bat scored crucial & unbeaten 55 runs.....certainly a wonderful prospect for Australia ahead. Earlier in the year, he had taken 5 for 27 against the Kiwis on debut & has gone from strength to strength since then. He is strongly built, displays intent & intelligence on the field & can truly become a match winning bowler who can also bat.

See you all at Sydney on 3rd Jan next year & hoping India regroups positively for a fighting series.