Posted by: nestaquin | October 12, 2008

Border Gavaskar Trophy: First Test Day Three Stumps

Australia’s first session may have been outstanding but the final session was equally outlandish as Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan illustrated to their team-mates how to bat on the unpredictable Bangalore surface.

When their partnership began India were 198 runs in arrears with only the bowlers remaining and the match looked safely in Australia’s keeping after Ganguly’s departure. However, somebody forgot to tell Harbhajan and Zaheer, probably the two most combative players in the team, and they composed themselves and set about dismantling Australia’s bowling and advantage a ball at a time.

It was tense, poetic, comical and thrilling to watch and the top seven Indian batsman, Ganguly and Dravid excepted, should be humbled by their bowler’s batting exploits after most of them played without the required application earlier in proceedings.

Harbhajan’s half-century, his third in consecutive first innings against Australia, was a mixture of resolute defence and hard hitting and while Ponting and his team may have plans for dismissing the Indian recognised batsmen, no such strategy appears to exist for the controversial Punjabi Sikh.

Zaheer played his role very well too, and was not out at the close on 35. He supported Harbhajan with great maturity, continually congratulating him on his boundaries and calming him when he became excited. He deserves a rare half century to go with his five first innings wickets, however, I feel the batting will be much tougher in the morning.

It is interesting to contrast the Harbhajan/Zaheer partnership with the Ganguly/Dhoni fiasco. While the bowlers supported each other, shouting encouragement down the pitch, sharing a giggle and a slap on the back between overs and congratulating each other for every run hit, the opposite was the case between the former captain and the wicketkeeper.

Hardly a word was spoken between the pair and Dhoni showed little respect for the effort that Sourav had expended, continually calling for dangerous singles which on almost every occasion were declined by a breathless and increasingly frustrated Ganguly.

Ponting’s tactics to Ganguly was to bowl outside the off stump with a packed offside field including a third man and a sweeper on the cover fence. This made Ganguly travel 22 yards for each run and by the time Dhoni arrived, he was exhausted and bruised after being hit in the grill by a vicious Watson bouncer and winded in an accidental collision with Cameron White.

Dhoni should have had a greater understanding of his senior partner’s condition and importance to the cause but seemed oblivious to it. To top off a very ordinary day at the crease for MS Dhoni, his dismissal by Michael Clarke was embarrassing in the extreme, especially when you consider his reputation, ability and the perilous situation that India were in at the time.

Dravid and Ganguly batted with characteristic determination and both were somewhat unfortunate to lose their wickets to tight but correct LBW decisions. On another day, those decisions may have generated the benefit of doubt but the umpires were in rare form and I cannot remember a blunder throughout the whole three sessions.

After Ganguly’s wicket fell just after tea, Australia relaxed and lost focus thinking that their work was done for the day. The short rain delay eight overs later only exacerbated this delusion. On the resumption there were ten overs left with the old ball and Ponting arrogantly took his foot off the Indian throat deciding to allow Cameron White several more overs to adjust to Test match bowling.

It was a calculated risk and although White bowled reasonably, improving with each over, the ball was swinging and the tail was exposed and Australia lulled into a sense of power, lost the opportunity to close out the innings.

It was obviously unexpected but while White practised his top-spinners and occasional googly, playing Harbhajan and Zaheer in, it was unnoticed that the pitch had become docile and flat under the covers and by the time Ponting attacked it was too late, the momentum had shifted in India’s favour.

Confused by his tactical error and then seduced by the reverse swing of Johnson, Ponting delayed the new ball by six overs and with the extra pace and bounce on what was now a mostly true track, the unlikely Indian heroes confidently made hay until Watson luckily had Harbhajan caught behind just before bad light halted play.

Hindsight is always wise and Australia’s decision in the last session to rest their best bowlers and rest on their laurels may come back to haunt them by the end of this Test, maybe as late as the Fourth Test and perhaps even as early as tomorrow lunchtime.

If Ponting and the Australian team can learn only one lesson from today’s play it must be that opportunities rarely knock twice. It’s a lesson they’ve learned before and it is almost unforgiveable to forget it after such a sterling effort just hours before.

Even with the late afternoon tactical blundering, Australia still have a handsome lead in excess of 100 and with batting presumed to be difficult on the final day, a result in their favour is far more likely than the reverse.

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Responses

  1. A very fair appraisal Nesta. I did find Punter’s management of his bowling resources perplexing, unless Clark is crocked and Lee has a touch of Delhi Belly. If either of those two can’t play a full role in all four Tests, the Aus bowling looks as thin as I can recall it.

    Best Odds in England Draw 4/6, Aus 2/1 and India 10/1. Aus look value there, although I might be inclined to bet against the draw.

  2. The Australian team will be disappointed in how they finished and they’ll know what went wrong and how to fix it.

    They’ll regroup and fire up for tomorrow and attempt to set India an unreachable target by the last session.

    India scored about 250 today so a lead around 300 should prove difficult in the last innings.

    However, India are good enough to bat a day and a bit so Australia will need to play well.

    Know nothing about injuries. From what I saw Clark and Lee bowled poorly in the last session and Ponting was rotating his bowlers trying to break the 8th wicket partnership.

    I did see Clark underarming in from the boundary but never under any pressure. Perhaps he has a niggle but he is such a relaxed calculating character he may have been just conserving every kilojoule for his next spell.

    Time will tell and tomorrow will no doubt be another absorbing day and I expect that Australia will be under pressure at some stage just like India will be for all of the final day.

    Those odds are interesting when compared to this morning’s tote. The bookies seem convinced that Australia won the day handsomely. Which, I suppose, they did.

  3. White and M Clarke were bowled in the second session because of the absolutely pathetic over rate, which was 11.4 an hour instead of 15, for which the captain can be suspended. [This also happened in Perth 08]. S Clark looked pretty crooked and was only bowling at 125 at the end of the day.

  4. You are right, Dravid, and it was remiss of me not to mention the over rate in the article above. However, it was discussed after lunch in the comments of the article that precedes this one. Well spotted and I hope Big Stu recovers and hits form soon.


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