Australian captain Ricky Ponting would be delighted with a score of that magnitude after winning the toss and if it wasn’t for a destructive and skillful spell of reverse swing by Zaheer Khan immediately after the tea break perhaps the visitors could have posted an even larger total.
Hussey’s concentration, cool demeanour and tidy technique enabled him to add an even hundred to his overnight score before being last out finding the inside edge onto his middle stump while playing an expansive drive in an effort to score quickly with Stu Clark at the other end.
It was a fine innings, perhaps the best in his short Test career, and one that Australia badly needed after the fall of Michael Clarke on the last ball of the previous evening.
While every other Australian batsman struggled, in varying degrees, with the slow nature of the pitch on the second day, the West Australian seemed to have all the time in the world to place his shots to perfection. While he did score circumspectly, facing 276 deliveries, his judgement of a run and swiftness between the wickets meant that no Indian bowler could tie him down for any length of time.
Without Hussey’s contribution Australia would be struggling in this Test but instead find themselves in a position that will be difficult to lose from even though the Indian openers ended the day in fine fettle.
Remarkably, for all the talk about the dangers of spin before the Test it was India’s pace pairing of Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma who took nine of the ten wickets to fall in the Australian innings. Zaheer got the milestone five-for yet Ishant was the more difficult to face.
The young stringbean toiled manfully for his team, country and captain, and the wickets he picked up with cunning and guile beyond his years halted the Australian momentum after lunch. The breakthroughs from cleverly disguised slower deliveries gave India some hope and energy in a situation that was quickly getting beyond them.
There is a lot to like about Sharma and you can only hope that Indian cricket recognize that he is an embryonic all-time great and that they don’t overplay him before his body fully develops. Fast bowling is hard graft especially on barren sub-continental pitches and unless some management plan is enacted to protect him I fear for his longevity.
In contrast to Australia’s patient, pedestrian approach the Indian openers began their innings in swashbuckling style and after five overs they were close to scoring at a run a ball. Eventually, the Australian bowlers tightened their line and with a more defensive approach they were able to restrict the Delhi pair of Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir before rain intervened with India starting solidly in their chase at no wicket down for 68.
Sehwag played beautifully, creaming balls through the covers, middling anything on his pads and caressing deliveries behind point. It was a pleasure to watch, however, Mitchell Johnson was beginning to bother him with some late inswing just as the covers were called.
Gambhir was a perfect foil for Sehwag urging the single when Virender’s concentration waned and giving him the strike when he was at his most fluent. Considering this was their fifth 50 partnership or more in succession perhaps India have finally found a top-order pairing that can prosper for the years ahead. Hopefully for India’s cause the selectors have taken note.
A matching and consistent opening pair is a prerequisite for a champion team as Greenidge and Haynes, and Hayden and Langer proved time and time again.
Overall, day two was a fantastic three sessions of cricket. Australia achieved what they sought, India’s quicks made them fight hard for it and the openers for the home team whet the palette for an entertaining and crucial third day’s play.
At this stage, without a miracle, India will be hard pressed to win but if Sehwag explodes and his team-mates follow then they may be able to score quickly enough to put themselves back in a position of parity.
Unfortunately, and it is a pity, few in the team have Virender’s reckless natural ability, some are keener on their career stats and the captain has been playing for a draw since just after lunch on day one.
Saying that, one can only conclude that at this point of the match only Australia can win but as we all know, cricket is one hell of an unpredictable game!
[Image courtesy of Getty]