Sunday, 3 March 2013

Australians Taken To The Slaughter House

Chet Pujara 162 not out
Australia tried awfully hard on the second day in Hyderabad but were mercilessly treated anyway. Only those who read the trash media or glance at the scores will condemn them.

On the one hand, India lost only one wicket - and that in the first five overs - and piled on 306 runs but for at least half the day, Michael Clarke's men remained competitive and even during the fifth hour when Chet Pujara and Murali Vijay turned  Ranjiv Ghandi Stadium into a charnel-house as they slaughtered the Australians, their were things to be admired.

The reality is, with a lead of 74 and both batsmen set after dominant hundreds, the knowledge that Tendulkar and Kohli are yet to come is enough for even the most errant forecaster to predict Australia suffering heavy weather come day four. I didn't mention Dhoni because I couldn't be that cruel. This Test and with it, this series, is gone. Not even Lazarus would hold hope from here and he had powerful friends.

Murali Vijay 129 not out
Pujara and Vijay were superb. When challenged in the first session by James Pattinson, Peter Siddle and a surprisingly good Moises Henriques, they offered respectful replies. There was no rash desire to attack the Australians, they instead held off the good balls and waited. They knew that as they day wore on, these three couldn't bowl all day. Henriques bowled an exemplary line and length all day, even in that hour which became slaughterhouse five. Using reverse swing, some cut off the deck and well disguised slower balls, he was the most economical and every run he conceded hurt like hell.

In that tight first session, only 49 were scored in 27 overs and for once Australia was in the game. It was the last time it was so.

Following lunch, the batsmen picked up the pace and now fifty runs were being scored an hour until tea. Both went for Dilma and dry biscuits with 73 beside their name. Doherty bowled sixteen overs before tea which were encouraging, despite Vijay launching a big six from his second over, deep into the crowd at long off. He fought back well, beating the same batsman outside the off stump before the break. Henriques bowled another tight spell to keep Doherty company.

Then the dreaded fifth hour. With Clarke mindful of keeping Pattinson and Siddle fresh for a new ball that was seventeen overs away and without the luxury of a few overs from either himself or Watson, it was Glenn Maxwell who unpopped the cork and let the Indian batting genie from its bottle. Maxwell had nothing to offer and was mauled for ten overs before and after tea but it was the impetus that Pujara gained that turned the day away from Australia.

Doherty 26-7-85-0, good figures
in the context of the mauling
Batting on one leg, he launched a withering attack on all of the bowlers but Maxwell and Doherty suffered it worst. That Doherty's figures deteriorated during an hour when 94 was taken from the Australians in just 16 overs and both batsmen raced to the hundred, was a trifle unfair, as Clarke had missed Vijay at slip just before tea. It was the openers only error of the day.

Even Warner had a bowl, being thumped to the boundary three times by Pujara in his only over and lucky to be so lightly treated.

The new ball had a certain sedative effect ... for a few overs at least, but the second wicket pair soon resumed their more relaxed rhythm and 57 came off the 14 overs of the last hour. Doherty was again unlucky, this time in the penultimate over of the day, when Pujara snicked a perfectly bowled orthodox leg break onto Wade's knee and the rebound went the opposite way from the direction Clarke moved and the ball flew harmlessly over his head.

The Australians fielded well to back up the bowlers but in truth, the quick men strayed onto leg stump too often with the second new ball, as though needing to feed a starving refugee. Pujara ate his fill.

Pujara played the perfect innings for a man whose every venture from one end to the other was painful. Limited in running by a damaged knee, a fact which appeared to frustrate his batting partner at times, he opted for the easier option of smashing boundaries taken with ease from his pads, driving with elegance through cover, cutting square and dabbing back cuts and even sent a hook shot into the crowd at fine leg to raise his 150. There weren't many pages in the batting textbook he didn't dog-ear at some point during the day.

For India, the best part is that Pujara and Vijay are two of the youngsters their media have been calling on for inclusion. Pujara was Rahul Dravid's replacement when the wall came down and Vijay, with a previous hundred also against Australia, has replaced Gautum Gambhir permanently, just this series.

The bowlers at least tried to improve their game from the Chennai but few attacks in the world would have been good enough today.

Its a pity the same can't be said about the Australian top four.