Thursday, 26 January 2012

Australia Still Dominating India

The second day of the Adelaide Test was another dominating display from Australia.

Clarke and Ponting added 386
Starting the morning with Michael Clarke and Ricky Ponting already on centuries and the wicket flat, India offered little in the way of resistance in the first session, seemingly content to set straight fields and hope their bowlers might restrict the damage and both batsmen sacrifice their wickets in frustration. Unfortunately, the bowling wasn't up to the task and the Australia took a full and heavy toll. There were drive, cuts, pulls ... a full repertoire unleashed like a couple of senior boys batting against the year sevens at lunch time. The Indians weren't up to it but that shouldn't detract from just how good the batting was. India created their only chance as the courageous Ishant Sharma was roaring in during the third quarter of the session, bowled a good length ball angled at leg stump and caused Ponting to return the ball at him in the air. It was sharpish chance for fast bowler in his follow through but he blew it.

There's an Australian saying which covers Sharma's summer ... don't by a lottery ticket.

By lunch, 134 more had been added, Clarke only just shading Ponting in the session. The pace of Clarke's innings was outstanding. Ponting's double century - raised after lunch - took 357 balls. Clarke's - raised before - was a hundred balls less.

Virender Sehwag had nothing left to offer as captain and by the time lunch arrived, India were vigorously waving the white flag. Again with the wrong attack - as in Perth - and with the same tactics which seemed to lack both effective plans and the consistency from the bowlers to carry them out, they continued to take a hiding.

The second session was marginally India's, taking four wickets despite Australia adding another 100. Clarke left three balls after the break, still burping up his lunch and missing a straight ball from Yadav intended for his leg stump and having his pads brush it back onto those sticks behind him. The partnership of 386 was just two short of the all time Australia record for the fourth wicket set by Bill Ponsford and Don Bradman at Headingly in 1934 and was not only the highest 4th wicket partnership of all time at the Adelaide Oval but the best of any pairing for any wicket there in the 70 Test, 117 year history of the place. Heady stuff.

Ponting and Michael Hussey added  50 in thirteen overs before a freakish piece of fielding from Gautum Gambhir at silly point started a clatter of wickets. Hussey pushed to cover, Gambhir stuck out a hand, grabbed it and threw down the batsman's wickets with Hussey already moving forward with the stroke. For once something went India's way. Within six overs, Ponting was out pulling Zaheer Khan to deep midwicket where Sachin Tendulkar held a good catch and Peter Siddle pushed forward at Ravi Ashwin and gave Saha his first keeper's catch in Tests. Ponting's dismissal was adjoined with another thunderous standing ovation, led conspicuously by the Australian captain in the open player's viewing area.

That's where it ended for India as Brad Haddin and Ryan Harris lashed out on either side of tea for cheap runs until a declaration after 600 was reached.

On a placid wicket, baked stale under two days of Adelaide sun and against wayward Australian bowling, the task should have been so much easier for India than at any of the three previous venues.

It wasn't.

Siddle removes Sehwag
Gambhir's improving form, saw him take full toll of loose and badly directed opening overs from both Ryan Harris and Ben Hilfenhaus. Clarke, never a man to wait when things aren't working, had Hilfenhaus off after two poor overs and turned to his go-to man, Siddle. It only took one delivery - a rank full toss somewhere between shin and knee height on leg stump - for Siddle to send Sehwag back to the dressing room. Shewag should have put it out of the ground or at least peppered the members, instead, so confused with bat in hand this summer that he no longer knows who he is, he sent it back to Siddle, high and to his right. With better fortunes than Sharma, Siddle "stuck out a mit" and caught it.

Hilfenhaus came back immediately to bowl at Rahul Dravid and a good length ball which would have passed over the stumps, passed Dravid bat handle, where his low held hands had sent the blade in search of the ball. Clearing everything wood, it brushed his right elbow instead and went down onto the wickets. On a dead easy track, such strokes of fortunes always seem to follow winners.

Dravid bowled 6 out of 7 innings
Tendulkar and Gambhir batted until stumps and should resume tomorrow with a mind to enjoy the conditions and the track. Most batsman expect practice wickets to be this good and when they are, net bowlers expect to be jogging back up the oval to fetch their balls back. India need to bat with the conviction of the champions they are or will become. In reality, Tendulkar will score that hundred, Gambhir has now adjusted to the bounce of Australian wickets, Virat Kohli will lift again and keeper Saha is a fine young batsman. Only Laxman, down in confidence after dropping another two catches and knowing the end is close looks vulnerable. There were signs that all was not right with Harris at the end, pulling up abruptly in is follow through.

All that said, India may well confirm Paterson's sentiments in his famous Australian poem. This time, instead of a stripling on a Timor pony, it may have been The Man With Snowy Haircut and Ricky of the Overflow who have combined to "halt them, cowered and beaten and turn their heads for home." India have had enough and even though a hostile reception waits for them, home is where they want to be.

As if we haven't had enough, today could again be Australia's Day.