Archive for the ‘India in Australia’ category

Day two

December 27, 2011

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.



Day One at the MCG…

December 26, 2011

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.

Boxing Day Eve

December 25, 2011

The elevens are fixed. People have called Australia troubled and unsettled, but they’ve named their eleven a day earlier than they’d normally do. India have made it quite clear that Zaheer, Ishant and Umesh will start. Given there are four left handers in Australia’s top six, it’s a no brainer between Ashwin and Ojha. Add to that, a century in the last test he played. The only spot I still have a little doubt on is the No.6 for India. Kohli has done well with a century in the three day game but Rohit has been scoring too, quite heavily since his return from injury. Pattinson and Hilfenhaus generally aren’t bounce-you-out bowlers and Siddle is the one who is most likely to resort to more of short stuff. Considering that, Virat may be given a go. But clearly, when playing bounce becomes a bigger criteria, something that will happen in Perth, Rohit has to edge out Kohli. Personally though, I’ll have Rohit Sharma at No. 6, given his recent weight of performances, the confidence that has come along and his grit of late.

Well, this is the third test of the Aussie summer. I have one observation, which makes me feel there is a huge element of fortune involved. On a week where thunderstorms are predicted, the Sun plays hide and seek, at least on three days. In the Brisbane test in the first week of this month, Australia had all the good fortune. The Sun stayed behind the clouds when Pattinson and Siddle were running in, and just when the Kiwis folded up, the Sun came out. Generally, post lunch sessions were bright periods but you never know, post tea sessions could be mixed bags. Morning sessions were always favouring bowlers and both teams should strictly make it a point to see off the first sessions. Only Sehwag and Warner are entitled runs in the morning.

Australia have made fine selections. Cowan was the only opener with tons of recent first class runs and thankfully, Phil Hughes has been replaced. Watson is still injured and that could be a blessing for Australia. He hasn’t played too much cricket recently and Warner is very high on confidence. His body language in the Big Bash league showed he’s in prime cricketing form. Marsh is too good to be out of this team. Ponting has been given a long, long rope, considering his ‘presence in the team’. This is clearly his last chance. I’d pick Ashwin to trouble Ponting the most, given his susceptibility to off spin.

Hussey is simply being tagged along with Ponting for no valid reason. Yes, he’s not made big runs recently but he is not making technical blunders that Ponting continues to make. My top two Aussie batsmen to watch out for in this series would be Hussey and Marsh.

 Hilfenhaus is a class act. His captain in Tasmania has assured that he’s using the crease better. Even in case, the ball doesn’t swing much, he has an excellent short ball to trouble the Indians. I remember he was the only threat when Australia played tests in Mohali and Bangalore, in their latest visit to India.

On current form alone, Pattinson is the biggest threat. I would call this a relentless bowling attack, very close in quality to Anderson, Broad, Bresnan and Tremlett. India will need much more sunshine than what they got in England. Although Nathan Lyon should offer some respite, I’ll look forward to Gambhir vs Lyon. That should be a classic.

Coming to India, Gambhir and Dravid have to bat out all the gloomy periods. I’d imagine Gambhir is highly susceptible to this particular attack. All of Hilfenhaus, Siddle and Pattinson bring the ball towards Gambhir’s pads and he’s a huge candidate for bowled and LBW. He should be very cautious about his drive towards mid wicket.  Dhoni has very candidly admitted he’s not too strong technically. He’s due for some serious contribution in test matches, as both batsman and captain. I’ll pray there is no repeat of his moves in England this year. Because having your bowlers fit is just a pre-requisite. It serves no cause if there are going to be poor fields and horrendous bowling changes. Zaheer has let India down on quite a few occasions now. Personally, I still think he’s overrated. This is another chance for him to make a lasting name, but I believe Ishant and Umesh will pose more problems to Australia.

Another key in this series will be finishing off a tail quickly. Siddle and Pattinson are handy tail enders. Haddin is a crazy test batsman and will keep giving chances. It will be heart breaking if there is a repeat of Trent Bridge, ’11. Pacers should continue to bowl full and bowl normal to the tail enders. Ashwin should be on from one end, as he is most likely to get them, and keep them tight.

Here’s hoping the thunderstorms stay away.

Time to welcome back WILLIAM MORRIS BILL LAWRY!!!