Posted by: nestaquin | October 21, 2008

Border Gavaskar Trophy Second Test Day Four Stumps

Without intending to devalue the wonderful achievements of MS Dhoni’s Indian team, and disregarding the fine partnership between New South Wales duo Michael Clarke and Brad Haddin, the Australian performance on Day Four at Mohali was the most insipid, most impotent, most uneducated exhibition of cricket in the BaggyGreen in living memory.

From the first ball of the day through to India’s declaration one over after drinks in the second session, the Australian bowling failed to rise to the challenge.

With India attacking like they were playing a limited overs fixture, swinging the bat at almost every ball, less than half a dozen balls beat the bat, yorkers were as rare as Orange Bellied Parrots and there was not a hint of swing, seam or imagination from any of the frontline quicks.

In fact, so complete was the surrender that they even stopped polishing the ball and despite Siddle, Lee and Johnson trying hard, they bowled without sense just flinging the ball down as fast as they could like a trio of aggrieved schoolchildren in the playground.

Ponting didn’t help their motivation by placing five and six men on the boundary making it extremely difficult to gain a wicket for their efforts. For reasons best explained by the Australian captain, although from my seat it appeared personal, Brett Lee was refused an opportunity to bowl and he and Ponting had a heated exchange after drinks in the first session.

With his next touch of the ball, Lee, like a sulking toddler, recklessly tried to throw the stumps down when there was no chance of a run out and the overthrow was enough for Ponting to allot the blonde fast bowler the usual punishment for insolence, patrolling the fine leg boundary from both ends until lunch.

As the team skulked off for a sandwich, Michael Clarke appeared to be relaying messages between Lee and his captain and the entire scene was ridiculous, moronic and jejune.  Obviously, the diplomatic Clarke had arranged some sort of peace settlement for Lee bowled uninterrupted after the break but I think Ponting relented more out of spite than goodwill.

As horrendous and disjointed as the Australian effort in the field was, it pales into insignificance when compared to the demented way the top order went about saving the match.

Hayden came to the crease thinking that he could score 516 by himself before stumps. He slogged from the outset, charging Ishant and Zaheer and while the tactic did cause Dhoni to alter his fields, it also altered Katich’s safety first approach and consequently gave MS Dhoni reason to introduce the combative Harbhajan Singh as early as the eighth over.

Harbhajan took only two balls to remove Hayden who idiotically and arrogantly attempted a preposterous full-blooded sweep to a ball that would have hit middle.

Katich followed four balls later on the last delivery before tea, also playing a foolhardy attacking shot to a ball that landed in the footmarks wide of off stump. It could have so easily been left but all Katich could manage was an ugly swipe that resulted in a looping catch to a diving Tendulkar at backward point.

The esteemed David Barry, a man who can see patterns where the rest of us mere mortals see only static, suggests that Australia’s bizarre attacking beginning was part of a megalomaniacal plan hatched in the bowels of the dressing room and I wouldn’t have believed it until I witnessed Michael Hussey play the most inappropriate, outrageously hubristic shot of his entire Test career.

In the second over after tea, facing only his fourth ball, the usually dependable West Australian attempted a full blooded pull shot from a good length Harbhajan delivery and was unsurprising and deservedly dismissed leg before wicket. It left Australia at 52/3 and the look Ponting directed towards Hussey as he departed would have frozen fire.

Ponting and Watson soon joined Hussey in the dressing room but neither of them could be blamed for their dismissals. Both men were beaten by super deliveries from perhaps the most potent strike bowler in world cricket, Ishant Sharma.

The ball that clean bowled Ponting was as fine a seaming delivery on a grassless pitch as you would ever likely see and Ponting was astonished to hear the timber broken when playing what appeared to be a flawless textbook forward defensive shot.

I’ve watched the replay several times and it is still difficult to ascertain how the ball found a gap between Ponting’s bat and front pad.

Watson fell LBW playing back to a similar ball and those cleverly earned wickets were the icing on the cake after Hayden, Katich and Hussey threw their wickets away to almost assure India of a series leading victory.

India for the fourth day in succession played sensible positive cricket and they deserve to be in an impregnable winning position. It would be a pity if they cannot close out the match tomorrow but if they play as they have throughout this Test they should pick up the five wickets required easily enough.

Tomorrow: Analysis of the best and worst performers from the Second Border Gavaskar Test.

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Responses

  1. Damning stuff, but it seems well deserved.

    The first day of the next Test is going to be critical for the series and perhaps the hierarchy of world cricket. (Not that I think Aus are toppled and Ind the new Number ones, but that a setback like this, is likely to need a quick response).

  2. If Stuart Clark returns there will be a different attitude and renewed confidence without doubt.

    If South Africa beat Australia at home this summer then we can safely say an era is broken.

    It needs to be remembered that Australia have only won one series in India in 40 years. Something everyone seems to have forgotten.

    It is worrying that Nielsen in his post-match interview defended the top order for their hubris and amnesia of their limitations. Makes me think that it was his stupid idea to try and chase 516.

    If it was, he needs to go and probably will if South Africa can do what they never have; beat Aus at home.

  3. Poor stroke selection is bad enough, but a fall-out between the senior bowler and captain is a sign of a team in decline.

  4. Nesta – I agree that a bandwagon might start rolling without anything like the evidence to back it up.

    But I have a feeling that this side doesn’t look like the Australia we have come to respect and fear, especially in the bowling. It’s that more than anything, and that will remain even if Haddin and Clarke bat out the day tomorrow.

  5. Ishant Sharma’s delivery to Ponting took me back to Mcgrath’s peach to Lara in 99 world cup. A good stride forward, bat close to the pad
    – Ponting couldn’t have possibly done anything better.

    However, I will not read too much into this debacle as a portent for future series against South Africa and England. Both in 1998 and 2001, the Aussies suffered here but came back with vengeance against the Poms. A fully fit Lee, Clarke and Johnson with Siddle, Bollinger and Tait can trouble most batting line-ups on friendlier wickets. And their batting has crumbled against a high quality bowling attack – Ishant, a much improved Zaheer, Harbhajan and now Amit Mishra – have asked them difficult questions. Sri Lanka (Malinga, Murali and Mendis) and South Africa (Steyn, Morkel and Ntini) are possibly the only teams that can match its quality.

    What will however be critical is the self-belief of the Aussies. They have been uncharacteristically defensive in this series. And on the other hand, their opponents will have their tails up with a new found belief after years of torment at hands of Mcgrath, Warne, Gillespie, Gilchrist and Co.

    Therefore, Haddin and Clarke’s partnership is going to be critical. A long partnership will be critical not only for this series but for the confidence of this young team for the entire season.

  6. Until reading this report, I thought that the comments I had heard during the day about the Australian performance were biased and borne of anti-Aus feeling. It seems I lept to a hurried conclusion, as from what I read here, it really was quite a luridly unpleasant day for Punter and his team, who don’t seem quite as much of a team as we are used to experiencing.

    Thank you Nesta for a gloves off honest report. And one that made me feel I was there as I read it.

  7. I missed all of the intra-team fireworks. Very strange stuff.

  8. *cough* you misspelt my name. (Though not as badly as this Indian optometrist once. I spelt my name for him, and he wrote Tivod Pirry.)

    But otherwise a good summary.

  9. It wasn’t misspelt, David but an after midnight mispronunciation. Sorry mate, I guess I get forgiven for spelling esteemed correctly!

  10. I think Sri Lanka rather than India are more deserving at this point of the number one mantle – and ONLY IF the oz disintegration continues this series.
    True, India seems to have solved her opening conundrums – both batting and bowling – finally; but we have seen many a false dawn with India before. So the jury is still out. Besides, the great middle order purge/transition needs to be completed shortly.


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