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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Clean sweep to Australia:T4D5


Australia 7/604 dec & 5/167 dec def India 272 & 201 (69,4 ov, Sehwag 62, Lyon 4/63, Harris 3/41) by 298 runs: T4D5 at Adelaide Oval. Australia, having regained Border-Gavaskar Trophy,  win series 4-0

With the writing plainly on the wall after India's second innings collapse yesterday, it would have surprised few (though a very good crowd  - 10,000+ in my estimation - took advantage of the free admission)  that it only took an hour for Australia to complete a commanding victory and secure a 4-0 clean sweep.

The temperature was, as it had been on the preceding four days, well into the 30s when Nathan Lyon took the last wicket, giving each of the four main bowlers a wicket apiece today, a reflection of their potency as individuals and of their ability to work in concert for the team's good. While Lyon finished with 4/63 and Ryan Harris 3/41 it was Peter Siddle who was made Player of the Match for his first innings 5/49 ahead of the double century makers Michael Clarke, who was named Player of the Series, and Ricky Ponting.

This is a good Australian team, but one which still has some areas of weakness or room for improvement. As for India, I was surprised at how uncompetitive they were. The close contests i was expecting didn't eventuate. India had their moments but they were only moments compared to Australia's long periods of sustained supremacy. I hope that because of this and other recent Test drubbings India doesn't make a strategic withdrawal from Test cricket. More of this later.

As I write  the heavens have opened, as they did after last summer's Ashes Test. I must open the house to try to cool it down and return to the couch to see if England can complete a win over Pakistan in the UAE and level the three Test series.



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Friday, January 27, 2012

India's muddle continues as Australia's victory draws nigh: T4D4


India 272 & 6/166 (56 ov, Sehwag 62, Lyon 3/57) need 344 runs with 4 wickets in hand to beat Australia 7/604 dec & 5/167 dec (46 ov, Ponting 60*): T4D4 at Adelaide Oval.

One moment from today's play encapsulated the gulf between the teams: Virat Kohli attempted a quick single to keep the strike from Ishant Sharma, who'd been sent in as nightwatchman (to protect no 7!), but was caught short of his ground when Ben Hilfenhaus, not everybody's (least of all my) idea of a swiftfooted and sharpthrowing fielder hit the stumps from not too far off square on.

That must have snuffed out any faint hope India might have had of saving the Test: hot day, ungainly looking fielder (though a different kettle of fish as a bowler)  throwing down the stumps from about 25 degrees. Add in Nathan Lyon's three top order wickets - Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman - and it's hard not to have a sense of a revitalised Australian cricket team sounding the death knell for a great Indian batting side.

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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Kohli century and another Australian top order wobble provide crumbs of comfort (but little more) for India T4 D3 for India


Australia 7/604 dec & 3/50 (14 ov)  lead India 272 (95.1 ov,  Kohli 116, Siddle 5/49, Hilfenhaus 3/62) by 382 runs with 7 second innings wickets in hand: T4/4 D3/5 at Adelaide Oval.

Virat Kohli's resolute 116/213b (1x6, 11x4) saved India's face, to a degree anyway, after the big four (or five if you include Gautam Gambhir) failed to stiffen his team's batting backbone.

On another hot day, though at 32 degrees max the heat, unlike on Ds 1&2,  was more baking than grilling, India failed to build on their overnight 2/61 and collapsed to 5/111 before Kohli and Wriddhiman Saha added a partly redemptive yet far from match-saving,  let alone -winning, 114 for the 6th wicket.

Saha had looked good - solid in defence and occasionally (1x6, 1x4 in 35/94b) hitting out - until in the last over before tea he misjudged the line of a Ryan Harris ball which took his off stump. So India couldn't bat through a session without losing a wicket.

The Australian bowlers all, even Harris whose recent figures have understated his effectiveness, bowled tightly though Peter Siddle's 15-2-49-5 was what ripped the heart - read his brilliant reflex c & b of Virender Sehwag yesterday, and his first session today dismissals of a solid looking Gautam Gambhir and a fluent Saching Tendulkar for 34 & 35 respectively - out of India.

It was understandable to some degree that Michael Clarke didn't enforce the follow on when India were all out 272, 334 runs in arrears. Yes, the Australians had bowled 95 overs in the heat, and the weather forecast indicates much of the same for the next few days, but already three wickets - the same three as fell cheaply in the first innings - are down. One of them is Sean Marsh, lbw for a duck in what must surely be his last Test innings. Did it occur to Clarke to drop him, at least on this occasion, down the order to help rebuild his confidence? I'm not say this would have wrought a miracle, but it may have offered him a chance for a face saving, and perhaps team strengthening innings.

As things stand Clarke and Ricky Ponting (whowas deservedly been honoured  in the Australia Day awards are left to build on Australia's lead and eventually set India an even more massive target than the follow on. Even though the wicket, as R Ashwin showed when, opening the bowling in the second innings, he dismissed both openers, is playing less truly, the match now looks certain to go into a fifth day. If  two or three of the Indian top order can emulate Kohli, they may even be able to salvage a draw.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

India lose two wickets chasing huge Australian total underpinned by Ponting & Clarke double centuries: T4D2


India 2/61 (21 ov) trail Australia 7/604 dec (157ov, Ponting 221, Clarke 210, Haddin 42*, Ashwin 3/194) by 543 runs om first innings with 8 wickets in hand: T4/4 D2/5 at Adelaide Oval.

Another hot - almost 36 degree - day in Adelaide saw Michael Clarke and Ricky Ponting continue from where they left off yesterday.  Both posted double centuries and both batted through to lunch, adding 134 from 30 overs. It came as a surprise to those who were back in their seats after lunch (I was but many other spectators weren't) when Clarke was bowled by Umesh Yadav from the first ball he faced after the interval. It was also surprising to see Yadav bowl such a good ball, which moved back sharply to clip off stump. Clarke and Ponting had added 386 for the 4th wicket from 94.4 overs, of which the captain's share was 210/275b (1x6, 26x4). an innings of great fluency and quality strokeplay with only one, very difficult, chance offered late yesterday.

Ponting, as yesterday, was more measured, though by no means stodgy. He  drove well and continued to play that pull shot which defines his style, though a combination of defensive field placings and a slower than usual outfield at the Adelaide Oval (though not as slow as on the first day) meant that he didn't always get full value for his strokes.He was dropped twice, the first time at 186, but batted on adding 50 with a positive  Mike Hussey, who was sharply run out by Gautam Gambhir stepping out of his crease. Then he played a lofted pull off Zaheer Khan and was well caught on the boundary by Sachin Tendulkar for a memorable 221/404b (21x4).

For further evidence of Clarke and Ponting's  class check out their wagon wheels .


Peter Siddle fell cheaply but Brad Haddin 42* and Ryan Harris 35* added  a breezy unbroken 71, taking the score beyonfd 600, at which point Clarke declared.

So far India have batted positively against some variable Australian bowling but have lost two good wickets - Virender Sehwag and Rahul Dravid - cheaply. Tendulkar and Gambhir are still there, but it's a huge ask to expect them and the rest of their team mates to avoid the follow on, let alone approach Australia's first innings total.

The weather is unlikely to save India as more heat is forecast for the coming days. Only a massive batting recovery operation will secure a draw. Only a miracle will secure a win.


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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Ponting & Clarke hammer India after 3 Australian wickets fall cheaply: T4D1


Australia 3/335 (90 ov, Clarke 140*, Ponting 137*) v India: T4/4 D1/5 at Adelaide.

Virender Sehwag, India's standin captain while MS Dhoni serves his one match suspension for his team's slow over rates, for a while made the best of a bad job after losing the toss and having to field, but he lost focus and his team gradually wilted under a 37 degree Adelaide sun and another huge partnership between Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke.

Umesh Yadav began with a wayward over which conceded 12 runs and led to his replacement, not by  Ishant Sharma but by R Ashwin, the offspinner who'd been restored after being omitted in Perth. Ashwin bowled tidily and, after Zaheer Khan had David Warner lbw for 8, bowled Shaun Marsh between bat and pad: an elementary technical deificiency exposed. Ricky Ponting joined Ed Cowan and moved the score along while Cowan played sheet anchor in a 53 run partnership. Just as Cowan looked to be settling in he was well caught by VVS Laxman at short extra cover off Ashwin for a solid, if not place cementing 30.

3/84 became 3/98 at lunch  : still India's session, despite Ponting's assured 43*.

But the rest of the day belonged to Australians. Ponting and Clarke exerted their control and then dominance over the Indian bowlers, fielders and mindset. (The heat may have also had something to do with it: Harsha Bogle on ABC Radio said that 37 degrees in Adelaide seemed much hotter than the more common 37 degrees in India - just where in India he didn't say).

The essentials: Ponting is 137*/254b (13x4), Clarke, who started later, is 140*/188 (1x6, 19 x4). Ponting looked in good nick, playing his signature pull shots and drives with panache, while Clarke was elegantly, and just occasionally riskily, aggressive. Ponting gave no chance, Clarke one which went to hand, a difficult one to Laxman in the slips late in the day. Had Sehwag's fieldplacing been more astute (there was no first slip for much of the day and the boundary was generously patrolled if not always well defended) another chance or two may have been offered.


After lunch the wheels fell off Ashwin, as his good first session 9-3-20-2 turned into 26-4-81-2 at stumps,  and never came back on to Umesh Yadav after his 12 run first over. Zaheer Khan lost zip, Ishant Sharma persevered , while Sehwag bowled some unthreatening overs, including an overlong spell either side of tea.

Australia's day, yes, but the wicket is playing well, so the match isn't over yet. IMO a draw isn't out of the question, but India must regroup mentally if they are not to succumb to the defeatism which  has infected them throughout the series.

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Sunday, January 15, 2012


Australia 369 def India 161 & 171 (63.2 ov, Kohli 75, Dravid 47, Hilfenhaus 4/54, Siddle 3/43)  by an innings & 37 runs: T3/4 D3/5 at WACA, Perth. Australia lead series 3-0 and regain Border-Gavaskar Trophy.

For a while, when Rahul Dravid and Virat Kohli were together, it looked as if the Test might last more than a couple of sessions, but the Australian bowlers chipped away, then swept the tail aside disdainfully immediately after lunch.

Dravid was not at his assured best but he hung on until Ryan Harris bowled him for 47/114b (8x4). From 5/135 the born again quicks Ben Hilfenhaus 4/54 and Petrer Siddle took 3/43 over and made short work of the rest, except for Kohli who was last out for a defiant 75/136b (9x4).

It goes without saying that India, especially several big names, have performed well below par. To make matters worse M S Dhoni  has been banned from the Fourth Test because of his team's slow over rate (which few would have noticed when Australia was piling on the runs and I don't recall seeing the umpires chivvying him about it onfield).

What more is there to say? For someone who'd predicted an Indian series victory, not much.

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Warner bats on but other wickets fall...on both sides: T3D2


India 161 & 4/88 (32ov) trail Australia 369 (76.2 ov, Warner 180, Cowan 74, Yadav 5/93) by 120 runs with 6 second innings wickets in hand  T3/4 D2/5 at WACA, Perth.

A more modest day's play today as India reached for the towel it threw in on D1, bowled Australia out for only 369, then dropped it again as the top batting folded once more to the tenacious home attack.

So much has happened in only two days, though not much of it has benefited India. Only Umesh Yadav's almost run a ball 5/93 and some combative overs from Zaheer Khan which disposed of Australia's middle order cheaply gave India a still far away glimmer of hope. But it was no more than that as the first wicket, Ed Cowan's, fell at 214. His 74/120b (10x4) seemed a side dish to David Warner's masterly 180/159b (5x6, 20x4) yet it turned out to be by far. The second highest score of the innings, well ahead of Peter Siddle's 30, the next best.

Even so, this Test must surely end tomorrow, with Australia 3-0 up and only a dead rubber to play in the oddly scheduled (Tuesday - Saturday) Adelaide fixture.


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Friday, January 13, 2012

Warner's quickfire ton leaves India bleeding runs & bereft: T3D1


Australia 0/149 (23 ov Warner 104*, Cowan 40*) trail India 161 (60.2 ov, Kohli 44, Hilfenhaus 4/43, Siddle 3/42) by 12 runs with all first innings wickets intact. T3/4 D1/5 at WACA, Perth.

This would have to be, given the reputations (and records) of the adversaries, one of the most onesided day's play in Test cricket history. Each team looked at the wicket and opted for an all pace frontline attack. Michael Clarke won the toss and despite the high 30s temperature, asked India to bat.

The Australian quicks, notably Ben Hilfenhaus, who swung the ball in a banana like trajectory, removed Virender Sehwag for a duck, then the other yesterday's  (actually last year's) man Peter Siddle bowled Rahul Dravid for 9. When Ryan Harris, back after injury,  snaffled Sachin Tendulkar lbw for 15 and Hilfenhaus had Gautam Gambhir caught behind for 31, India were in trouble at 4/63. VVS Laxman and Virat Kohli effected a modest revival, but both fell to Siddle just as they looked to be settling in: but 31 and 44 respectively were still below par scores. Once they went...5/131, 6/138 .. the rest followed meekly, or so it seemed, but this underrates the quality of the Australian bowling eg Hilfenhaus 18-5-43-4 and Siddle 12-3-42-3 not to mention Harris's miserly 18-6-33-1.

161 didn't look a good score but if the Indian quicks could strike back early there still seemed half (or a quarter) of a chance that they could bring their team  back into the match.

It didn't happen, though few followers of any persuasion would have, bearing in mind the rickety 3/37 Australia struggled to at Sydney before the Clarke- Ponting- Hussey big guns blazed, expected what followed.

David Warner blazed his way to a rapid 69 ball century - at stumps he was 104*/80b (3x6, 13x4) - exposing the shortcomings of the Indian attack and fielding. It was a T20 innings played in a Test match context: small target, good batting conditions and an attack including one debutant the ineffectual medium fast trundler R Vinay Kumar,  which wilted then melted down in the face of his onslaught. Oh, by the way Warner was well supported by Ed Cowan whose 40*/58b (6x4) would in most other situations have earned more than this footnote.

Great as the Australian performance was the Test has been decided after the first day, which is not as most cricket followers would wish.

India are going from bad to worse: can we expect a reversal? It's surely too much to hope for in this match.


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Friday, January 06, 2012

Indian candle flickers too briefly before Australian bowlers snuff it out to complete innings victory & 2-0 series lead


Australia 4/659 dec def India 191 & 400 (110.5 ov, Gambhir 83, Tendulkar 80, Laxman 66, Ashwin 62, Hilfenhaus 5/106) by an innings & 68 runs: T2/4 D4/5 at the SCG. Australia lead series 2-0.

India made a better fist of batting in their second innings but only when Gautam Gambhir, Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman were at the wicket  did they look like making Australia bat again. At least one, and preferably two of the three should have made a century, but none did. In fact the only centuries registered were by the bowlers Ben Hilfenhaus,  a worthy 5/106, and James Pattinson 1/106.

Gambhir fell at 162 for 83/142b (11x4), then Tendulkar and Laxman added 103 before Michael Clarke sealed (as if there were any doubt anyway) the Man of the Match award by having Sachin caught at slip for a stylish yet in the circumstances (not only of the closeness to 100 centuries) 80/141b (9x4). Laxman left three runs later bowled by Hilfenhaus for 66/119b (7x4), after which R Ashwin 62/76b (1x6, 9x4)  and Zaheer Khan 35/ 26 b (1x6, 5x4) hit out in a forlorn quest for victory.

So Australia can't lose the series. Can India regroup enough to win one match let alone level the series? They should be able to claw back one Test if they perform anywhere near  their collective and individual reputations (and Australia eases off a bit). But level the series? Doubtful.






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Thursday, January 05, 2012

Clarke's triple century + Hussey's 150* dominate India T2D3


India 191& 2/114 (41ov) trail Australia 4/659 dec (163ov, Clarke 329*, Hussey 150*, Ponting 134, Zaheer Khan 3/122) by 354 runs with 8 second inings wickets in hand: T2/4 D3/5 at the SCG.

Michael Clarke's unbeaten 329/468b (1x6, 39x4) quite rightly defined the today's play. It was the highest individual score made by an Australian in a Test at the SCG and, had he chosen to bat on for a few minutes, Clarke would almost certainly have overtaken the current record highest score ever made by Australians: 334 by Don Bradman and Mark Taylor.

But he didn't, and for what it's worth I think he should have. this was a genuine match situation - remember he came to the wicket at 3/37-  and his innings was played against a good (on paper at least) attack whose deficiencies he today continued to expose. Yes conditions - good weather, good pitch - favoured batting, but the concentration required to maintain focus and to play so many effective strokes all round the wicket (check out his wagon wheel ) made this innings one of the greatest ever played in Test cricket.

Then of course there was Mike Hussey, who with Clarke added 334*  for the fifth wicket, meaning that after the initial wobble Australia added 1/622 (reminiscent of England's 1/517 dec against them at Brisbane  in 2010)
The declaration came when Hussey reached his 150/253b (1x6, 16x4). He looked positive throughout but especially in the latter stages of the partnership played second fiddle to Clarke's brilliance. But it was a quality second fiddle.

And India? Once again the bowling lacked penetration, partly because of its own deficiencies (pace bowlers dropping in pace and not being able to move the ball much, main spinner not as accurate or resourceful as he might have been) and partly because of the brilliance of the Australian batting. The fielding, too, was pretty listless.

So far the Indian batting hasn't fallen apart in its second innings, despite the loss of two of the big four: Virender Sehwag for 4 and, when he seemed to be living up to his "wall" soubriquet, Rahul Dravid for 29/73b (6x4), both Ben Hilfenhaus vicitm.  Gautam Gambhir is holding things together with a sometimes flashy 64*/124b (9x4). He's been dropped once by Brad Haddin off James Pattinson (who needs to moderate his appealing, which often shades into dissent) so will need to ride his luck, as will Sachin Tendulkar who came within a whisker of playing on during his 8*/42b (1x4), if India are to have any hope of making a contest of the Test. It's hard to imagine them doing so.

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Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Ponting & Clarke tear Indian attack to shreds T2D2


Australia 4/482 (116 ov, Clarke 251*, Ponting 134, Hussey 55*, Zaheer Khan 3/106) lead India 191 by 291 runs with 6 first innings wickets in hand: T2/4 D2/5 at SCG.

Test cricket days don't come much more one sided than this one (though South Africa v Sri Lanka T3 D1 overnight at Cape Town isn't far behind) . Australia lost 1/366: the one being Ricky Ponting who moved steadily, apart from an enforced pause on 97 at lunch, to his century and beyond. The bare facts of his innings -134/225b (14x4) - should be enough to silence those who've been calling for his sacking for not registering a ton for two years. The manner in which he made his runs reiterated his class and showed that he still has more to give Australian Test cricket on the playing field.

Yet in the context of the match Michael Clarke's innings was even more significant: 251*/342b (1x6, 31x4) to date. After Ponting was out at 325, caught at point off one of his few false strokes, Clarke kept the pressure on the Indian bowlers, who were unable to keep him and Mike Hussey in check as they motored on, adding 157 so far. Hussey was, as the situation required, brisk from the outset, reaching 55/97b (1x6, 7x4) by stumps.
Clarke's innings was imperious: he was dropped once, well after he'd passed three figures, when Ishant Sharma couldn't hold a hard return catch, but otherwise he played impeccably, stroking the loose and some not so loose balls hard, and all around the ground. Check out his  wagon wheel .

The less said about the Indian bowling the better. Yes, conditions didn't favour (or appear to favour) them as much as they did the Australians on D1, and they generally stuck to their task, but they were collectively and individually unable to trouble the batters more than intermittently, with long intervals in between good, as opposed to steady, balls.

Tomorrow, weather permitting, Australia should  bat India out of the Test.Today the initial focus was on  Ponting, tomorrow it will be on Clarke.

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Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Another bowlers' day as India collapse again T2D1


Australia 3/116 (26 ov, Clarke 47*, Ponting 44*, Zaheer Khan 3/26) trail India 191 (59.3 ov, Dhoni 57*, Tendulkar 41, Pattinson 4/43, Hilfenhaus 3/51, Siddle 3/55) by 75 runs with 7 1st innings wickets in hand: T2/4 D1/5 at SCG. 




After India won the toss and batted, the 100th Test match played at the SCG began with a wicket off the third ball, Gautam Gambhir, caught at slip for a duck off James Pattinson. Things didn't improve much for India from that point as the Australian pace bowlers found the life in the wicket which had been widely predicted, not least by the curator, and exploited it effectively.

 Of India's big four only Sachin Tendulkar really looked like justifying his reputation. From the outset he timed the ball sweetly, and looked a cut (or drive) above his teammates. When Virat Kohli (batting at 6 but definitely not one of the big four) was fifth out at 96, Sachin was 32 and it seemed for a time as if the Australian cricket follower's dream  - the Little Master's much anticipated 100th century and a small Indian total - might come true.

But it , or at least the first part, didn't as Tendulkar unexpectedly and perhaps a tad loosely, edged Pattinson onto his stumps. His 41/89b (8x4) was both the classiest and, because of the anticipation we all shared and the fact that he got a start, the most disappointing innings of the day.

It was left to M S Dhoni and R Ashwin to try to salvage what they could, which turned out to be a 54 run 8th wicket partnership before Ben Hilfenhaus, who until then had bowled menacingly but wicketless, and Peter Siddle swept through the last four leaving Dhoni high and dry 57*/77b (8x4).

Pattinson took 4/43 from 14 overs, Hilfenhaus 3/51 from 22 and Siddle 3/55 from 13.3. They look a very formidable combination at the moment  - the last two a far cry from a year ago.

191 was unlikely to be enough unless India's bowlers emulated Australia's, which they - or to be precise Zaheer Khan 9-2-26-3 to date - briefly did as the home batting once again wobbled in the face of some excellent and intelligent bowling from Zaheer.  Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma had their moments though were unable to dismiss an initially watchful and latterly fluent Ricky Ponting 44*/62b (5x4) and a belligerent from the outset Michael Clarke 47*/59b (7x4).

They day ended with Ashwin and Virender Sehwag bowling to defensive fields which helped Ponting and Clarke to milk a few easy runs. They have added 79 together and have surely put Australia on track to at least a modest first innings lead. 



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A couple of other matters

  • Don Bradman scored his 100th century for an Australian XI against India at the SCG in 1947. Channel 9 showed some old footage (which I've not been able to find on YouTube after a brief search) of the great man actually bringing up that ton - dispatching a slow full toss bowled (I've read elsewhere) by an occasional bowler who didn't even remove his cap. Most interesting.
  • Before play began yet another redevelopment of the SCG was announced. At $185 million it compares favourably with the much larger estimates ($500m+ and still counting) for the Adelaide Oval. The SCG proposal is not for a full redevelopment, but then neither is the Adelaide Oval one. I was interested to hear someone (perhaps Rodney Cavalier  of the SCG Trust?) say on ABC radio Grandstand that the trend in the USA is for smaller capacity (35,000 or so) sports arenas. Adelaide Oval can already (and did in 2010 for the Ashes Test) hold more than that. Will it ever need to hold more than it does now?