It’s going almost as per script for India. Again, Hilfenhaus and Pattinson formed a handy partnership and Dhoni was so dumb he brought Ashwin into the attack at least five overs too late. After what I‘d written yesterday, I feel I jinxed Zaheer’s success with the new ball. It was an excellent spell. What it consisted was a cleverly mixed bag of insingers and outswingers. If he can do this so confidently to Haddin and Siddle, there is nothing much he needs to change to the top order batsmen. Somehow, a couple of bad balls and he starts bowling wide outside the wicket to the specialist batsmen. Almost everything was on the money today, and yet, Australia managed 56 runs this morning.
Siddle and Pattinson have faced 99 and 54 balls respectively. I’ll have a close eye on the number of balls Dhoni faces. In Melbourne and Sydney put together.
When Hilfenhaus came in, it was quite clear he was going to play the big shots. Any decent cricket captain would have brought Ashwin immediately into the attack. And when he was finally given the ball, he did the job quickly. He tossed the ball wide outside off stump to Hilfenhaus, with protection at long on and deep mid wicket. To Lyon, he did something Harbhajan certainly wouldn’t have done. As far as I remember, Harbhajan was only looking for LBWs with the tail, of his quick sliders. After having been swept, Ashwin tossed up a carom ball on a full length, inducing the sweep again but beating Lyon around his pads. That was fine thinking.
Gambhir, understandably, was cautious with the inswingers. He perished to a ball that went away after pitching, and he was found playing away from his body. Hilfenhaus bowled well all through the day. He got great shape with the new ball. To those who think he was one dimensional again, I don’t think there is any better fast bowler apart from Ryan Harris who could have been more successful in Hilfy’s spot. He was regularly beating the bat. Only Tendulkar had the measure of him. Watching a classic outswing bowler with a strong action being outclassed by Tendulkar is one of the best sights you get to see in the game.
More good fortune came India’s way today as Sehwag survived one chance and certainly two half chances. Dravid is still batting because he was castled off a no ball from Siddle. Tendulkar had one loose upper cut and an outside edge go through a perfectly catchable height in the vacant areas of the cordon. But if you’ve decided to bat with such positive intent (and rightly so), it is very difficult to score 70 odd runs with just two such chances to the opposition. That’s how good a batsman Tendulkar still is. He scored at a run a ball almost throughout his knock and one should note the class between Sehwag and Tendulkar, against this attack on a Melbourne pitch which did offer movement after pitching. Dravid started well but he was glued to his crease almost all innings. He’ll be a key tomorrow but he’s highly susceptible to these Siddle and Pattinson in cutters if he’s going to be glued to the crease and offer space between bat and pad.
I cannot think of any other bowler in the world, apart from Steyn, who will steam in and deliver balls on the perfect length and cause trouble to Dravid and Tendulkar after they’ve posted 100 runs together. Incredible stuff from Siddle and Pattinson towards close of play.
Lyon is a quality spinner but unfortunately, at this moment in his career, he has four tests lined up against India! As usual, he did bowl well but Sehwag, Dravid and Tendulkar were too good for him.
Tendulkar’s innings was breathtaking.
The bowling and half of the batting unit have clicked in the first innings of the first test touring Australia. Over to Dravid and Laxman.
From an Aussie perspective, it will be disappointing if India score anything above 400 from here.