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Saturday, February 23, 2013

Cricket India Vs Australia: Chennai Test Could Go Either Way!



The focus had been on off-spinner Harbhajan Singh staging one more comeback in his 100th Test, and the place for local boy Ravichandran Ashwin, another offie, did not look guaranteed. But as it happened on the first day of the Chennai Test between India and Australia for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy Ashwin captured the very first five Australian wickets to fall and reduced Australia to a precarious 153 for 5. Indian skipper MS Dhoni’s ‘first day turners’ did seem to help his spinners after all, though the man of the moment Harbhajan went wicket less on the first day and all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja chipping in with just one. 

That India could not capitalize on Australia’s capitulation had been the usual story for quite some time now, first day turner or not. The Indian camp tended to put the blame on a glaring umpiring decision when Aussie captain Michael Clarke while on 39 was not given out caught and the replays later confirmed the nick. But nowadays such decisions have been a part of the game and therefore these could not be put as excuses to justify a traditional Indian failure. Clarke on the other hand did capitalize on this ‘life’ and raced on to score a brilliant century (103 not out overnight) and thus taking Australia out of the woods. He kept at his job on the second day today too and made 130 before falling to Jadeja. The Australian tail wagged on to the visible discomfiture of the Indian bowlers and the final first innings total of 380 looked very respectable.   

Ashwin achieved a new high of his career with the final tally of 7 wickets for 103 runs. Jadeja finally got two and Harbhajan just the one in the form of tailender Siddle.

The Indian opening woes continued as new recruit Murali Vijay (10) was beaten by sheer pace and was comprehensively bowled by an ominous looking James Pattinson who reached the bowling speed of 150 km per hour. He also removed a lackluster Virender Sehwag for 2 making the hosts totter at 12 for 2. And then walked in Sachin Tendulkar, the prime concern for Australia as expressed recently by Clarke, and changed the game for India. He looked positive from the very first ball and balanced aggression with caution very well. Like in Clarke’s case Tendulkar too escaped a near certain decision for leg before as the umpire remained unmoved. For just the second time in 14 outings Tendulkar achieved a half century and remained not out on 71 at stumps on the second day.

Termed the new ‘wall’ for India Cheteshwar Pujara built up a partnership with Tendulkar playing some delightful and aggressive shots, but succumbed to the Pattinson pattern for 44 giving Pattinson all the three wickets to fall today. As a big relief Virat Kohli started the Australia Series with a patient half century and most importantly remained not out. At 182/3 in reply to 380 the Chennai Test could go either way with a lot depending on Tendulkar and Kohli and later on Dhoni and Jadeja. Both team have maintained a very healthy scoring rate that augurs well for Test Cricket. The Scorecard:

Dhoni’s ‘first day turners’ still remains an issue. While such pitches hardly helped the Indian spinners till date the England spinners excelled as we had seen recently. And while the Indian pace bowlers have been reduced to nonentities by this policy the opponent pace bowlers have always found reverse swing as well as low bounce. Pattinson today was deadly with reverse swing and the ball keeping low on occasions like getting through Pujara’s defense. It was good for India that Pattinson was sparingly used due to his side strain that kept him out of action since November last. Anyway, we look ahead for another absorbing Test between two very competent rivals.
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