Day One at the MCG…
I said Marsh and Hussey are the most likely to score runs in this series and both have started with ducks! Marsh with a loose shot and Hussey to an excellent ball which actually didn’t get his edge. I am glad I got a couple of other predictions spot on; the poor bowling to the tail and the pathetic fields set by the Indian captain.
India found a lot of good fortune today. Zaheer was nearly impotent with the new ball. Ishant didn’t find his rhythm early on and Umesh Yadav took some time to settle down. A bowling unit cannot afford too much time to get on the money, against Australia and especially in Melbourne on Boxing day. Better batsmen would have have played chanceless knocks and the bowling team would have soon been hurt psychologically.
Warner’s dismissal down the leg side was a Christmas present. And so was the loose shot from Shaun Marsh. A player of his caliber should have capitalized on such a fine batting pitch. Umesh did find some rhythm after lunch and that’s when he started hitting better lengths. Ponting started poorly. His body language is far from great. The only thing holding him is the grit. Ian Chappell pointed out that he has to be prepared to play a lower game (uglier game) and credit to Ponting he’s ready to do that. It’s come to a stage where it’s become a serious mental thing for Ponting, coupled with his errors in balance. His 62 was mainly because of some poor bowling and he’s still in a deep hole. The ball that got him though, was a ripper.
Ishant bowled an excellent spell after lunch and was more consistent in his line and length than Umesh. I’ve heard Ed Cowan say Ishant was the pick of the bowlers today and I won’t disagree, in spite of all the wickets Yadav has taken. His last spell to Haddin and Siddle was the least threatening, consisting of balls wide outside off stump. But none of the other bowlers could do well to the tail. If there are two things I could tell Fletcher today, they would be bowling strategies to the tail, and field settings. Field settings by MS Dhoni in Sachin Tendulkar’s 184th game, Dravid’s 160th and Laxman’s 131st. Have to feel for these men, when free runs are given away to Peter Siddle, leave alone top order batsmen. And for new batsmen at the crease? MS Dhoni is such a mice man he’ll allow you as many singles as you want. I thought the number of singles that were given away today was ridiculous.
Micheal Clarke’s was another lucky break for the Indians. Zaheer was running in well, for that spell alone but it was never a wicket taking ball. He did trouble the batsmen with movement with the old ball but Zaheer is overrated because he simply does not have the pace, nor the consistency with the new ball that will fetch him wickets. But for the one good spell with the old ball, he was just any other ordinary bowler. People like Andrew Flintoff and Micheal Vaughan still rate Zaheer high and reckon he’s the one who’ll make the difference for India. Zaheer himself will know what his current capabilities are. He might pick three or four wickets, again with the old ball in Sydney and Adelaide, but he’s perhaps the only one in this eleven to be playing more on reputation than ability.
On Ashwin, I sense he was nervous today. That was the reason for his mixed bag. His length wasn’t consistent and he himself was visibly disappointed. Over time, he did become much more secure with his length but he should fight more for better attacking fields. He is concerned about the men around the bat, but what about long on and long off? The nervousness was the reason, I believe , for the excessive variations he used today. Far too many balls were rushed in, landed short and were easy pickings for the batsmen. A few wickets, a couple of assuring spells, and he’ll be landing his stock off spinner more regularly again.
Almost forgot to mention Ed Cowan… He’s more like the opener Australia are in need of. A bit in the Katich mould. He left the balls that deserved to be left, and did the opener’s job exactly how it needs to be done. Hopefully, he shuts the door on Hughes. (I wouldn’t mind Katich coming back at all)
The partnership between Haddin and Siddle isn’t hurting India yet, as three wickets fell for nearly nothing. But it will turn heartbreaking for if Australia can make anything more than 320 tomorrow. Again, a bit of Trent Bridge, as I suspected last evening!
I’d say advantage India, because if getting a team out for around 300 is not good enough, it is the batsmen who will be the major culprits. This track is excellent for batting. And it isn’t swinging as much as it did in Brisbane and Hobart. Of course, no excuses for letting Haddin and Siddle get a 60 odd partnership today.
There were 89 overs bowled in the day, in spite of the long interruption due to rain. Not one came from Kohli, Sehwag or Tendulkar. That’s impressive.