Thursday, 26 January 2012

Siddle & Kohli The Stars

Siddle gets Tendulkar again
It was a day when the relentless and unchanging pressure of the Australians only stopped when someone pushed back against them and reminded Australians that they new side is far from invincible, resting as it is on the back of its three senior batsmen and on the quality of its deep pace attack.

India had a dreadful first session, losing Tendulkar and Gambhir to Peter Siddle's energy and accuracy and VVS Laxman to VVS Laxman with a dismissal where credit goes to the batsman rather than the bowler. Laxman just wafted a straight ball into Brad Haddin's gloves. Tendulkar was caught brilliantly by Ricky Ponting at second slip, one of many excellent snares this summer: Siddle claiming him for the third time in the series. Gambhir was out dodging a bouncer and edging in front of Michael Hussey who dived forward in the gully to hold a superb catch.

Kohli made 116
After lunch, Virat Kohli and Wriddhiman Saha continued in a determined stand which lasted almost to tea and added 114. Two young players with no hang ups and careers to play for, they played defensively for a long period of time before opening up on the Australian bowlers. Kohli scored a lot of his runs on the leg side, only three of his eleven 4's being through cover. Drives, flicks and pulls all raced to the leg side boundary. Saha was far more subdued, with a slog sweep of Lyon sent for six being his only successful aggressive shot. He eventually misjudged a ball from Ryan Harris and raised his bat allowing free passage to his off stump in the last over before tea.

After tea, Siddle completed his first five wicket haul for the summer with the quick wickets of Ravi Ashwin and Zaheer Khan. Inshant Sharma hang around for long enough to embroil himself in an upset when his partner was on 99. Almost run out as he pushed for a single and was rightly sent back, Kohli reacted hotly to yet another careless comment from Ben Hilfenhaus. Neither Kohli or Sharma are men to take backward steps in such situations and disenchantment with their summer rose quickly. Resolution came from a hitherto unlikely quarter as Ponting stepped up, took Kohli gently by the arm to lead him away and apply helpful, verbal balm. He counselled Kohli to walk away and be careful what he said for fear he might get in official trouble. It was as big a shock as anything seen on the field this season and one to be applauded. It seems Pups can teach Old Dogs new tricks. A gentler Ponting might just get his wish and go to England next year.

Kohli raised his first Test century soon after - one which had threatened since Sydney - but Hilfenhaus finished it quickly, bowling Sharma and trapping Kohli in front of a spot four or five inches outside leg stump. Replays showed what the naked eye knew ... the ball would have missed leg stump by the width of several cricket balls.

Michael Clarke declined the follow on, in appreciation for the continued heat in Adelaide and Dave Warner and Ed Cowan came out for another go at the Indian bowlers. Khan took the new ball but the off spinner Ashwin got the cherry at the other end and caused some problems. He held one back at Warner and took the return catch, after beating the outside edge several times. Khan removed Shaun Marsh with a ball that the naked eye again got right, hitting outside the line of off stump. Two decisions that were hardly raised in question, despite both being howlers at Test level. Like most things in sport, consistency would be a fine thing.

Peter Siddle - winners are grinners
Ashwin removed Cowan in the next over, absolutely plum despite Cowan searching for replays before finally leaving the ground.

The old firm are together again. Another hundred or so by lunch will do. India won't chase 500 on this wicket.

The post match interviews were informative: Kohli upset and offended by Hilfenhaus; Siddle gently pulling the media's leg about the manner in which they eased Kohli to his century. Both are outstanding competitors. Both are intense. Both expressed reasonable opinions and expressed them with appropriate options. They are separated only by the performance of their respective teams. Winner are always grinners.

What a difference twelve months have made.