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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

India complete 8wkt victory over Australia: T1 D5

India 572 & 2/50 (11.3 ov) def Australia 380 & 241(93 ov, Henriques 81*, Ashwin 5/95): T1D5 at Chennai. India lead series 1-0 with 3 Tests to play.
Man of the Match: MS Dhoni.

There were no real surprises today as India completed a convincing 8 wicket win. Nathan Lyon didn't last long , but he and, especially, Moises Henriques showed their team mates what grit and determination might achieve by adding a (sort of) facesaving 66 for the last wicket, taking the Test into the last day and making India bat again, albeit to chase only 50. Henriques was left not 81/148b (2x6, 6x4): surely he won't bat as low as no7 again.

The three Indian slow bowlers combined well, delivering 90 of the innings's 93 overs (a record?). Once again Ravi Ashwin led the way with 32-6-95-5, making 12/198 for the match.

Batting again, the Indian openers looked to keep out James Pattinson and see off Lyon, an understandable (for various reasons) if somewhat surprising choice to share the new ball.
Each of them took a wicket - Lyon was unlucky not to get two as wicketkeeper Matthew Wade missed what looked a fairly straightforward catch- but the deserved victory came soon enough.

MS Dhoni and Ashwin were the key, though not the only, factors in India's win. I'd previously written them down as respectively a short form specialist batter and a stock bowler lacking penetration, but they've proved me wrong in spades here.

At the post match ceremony Michael Clarke gave them their due while foreshadowing a tighter contest in T2, which begins in Hyderabad on Saturday. Whether this happens will depend to a large extent on the team's resilience and on the composition of the eleven. (You may read this as code for "heads must roll") Despite Jackson Bird's return home for treatment there are other bowlers available: it's unfortunate that there's no backup wicketkeeper. Wade is therefore Hobson's choice but he surely won't bat at no 6.

India have victory in reach as Australia folds in second innings: T1D4

Australia 380 & 9/232 (84 ov, Henriques 75*, Ashwin 5/90) lead India 572 (Dhoni 224, Kohli 107, Tendulkar 81, Pattinson 5/96, Lyon 3/215) by 40 runs with one 2nd inns wicket in hand: T1/4 D4/5 at Chennai.

MS Dhoni didn't add many to his overnight score before he was caught behind off James Pattinson for 224/265b (6x6, 24x4), a superb and sustained display of breathtaking audacity underpinned by technical skill on a wicket taking spin.

Australia, 192 behind after Dhoni's match changing innings, needed to produce their own Dhoni (or two) to make a good fist of a reply. But a fourth day pitch more akin to a sixth or seventh day one at home (which only underscores Dhoni's class in mastering its demons) was always going to be difficult to post even a fair to middling total on.

And so it proved. There were a couple of low key vignettes from the Australian top order, but against the Indian spinners ( who opened the bowling and have delivered 81 of the 84 overs to date) on an increasingly venomous pitch only no7 Moises Henriques 75*/ 124b (2x6, 6x4) enhanced his reputation.

Henriques and Nathan Lyon have so far put on 57 for the last wicket, the largest partnership of the innings and the one which has made India have to bat again and the match to go into the fifth day. But it will not stop an Indian victory, nor should it stop Australian soul searching.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Dhoni knocks wind out of Australia's sails: T1 D3

India 8/515 (141 ov, Dhoni 206*, Kohli 107, Tendulkar 81, Pattinson 4/89) lead Australia 380 by 135 runs with 2 1st inns wkts in hand: T1/4 D3/5 at Chennai.

Had it followed India ( the nation as the team and the BCCI)'s preferred script/ wish list today would have been Sachin Tendulkar's. Yet when the little master edged a sharply turning Nathan Lyon off break onto his leg stump for an elegantly circumspect 81/159b (7x4) India were 4/196 and left with a mountain (rather than a hill) to climb to overtake Australia's 380.

But that scenario hasn't played out. Virat Kohli continued to play solidly and when he fell at 324 for 107/206b (1x6, 15x4) India were competitive.

But MS Dhoni, playing the innings of his life, 206*/243b (5x6, 22x4) has given India a 135 run lead which, given that the pitch is turning, if their spinners bowl even half decently when Australia bat again, should be enough to set up a win.

I'd thought that Dhoni was a good short form cricketer but a lightweight Test one. Today he's proved me wrong so I swallow my words and thoughts and say well done MS!

As for Australia, it was a feeble performance with the ball and in the field. After Nathan Lyon bowled Tendulkar with a full length,well flighted off break he wilted too often under Dhoni's calculated risky and sweep/ pull rich onslaught, opting for quicker (and shorter) balls aka darts. He should have done better than 40-1-182-3.

A black day for Australia, but well played Dhoni( and Kohli, Tendulkar and the tailenders who supported him) The match could end tomorrow, or linger into D5. Either way India should win.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Better day for India as Tendulkar shines: T1D2

India 3/182 (52ov, Tendulkar 71*, Kohli 50*, Pujara 44, Pattinson 3/25) trail Australia 380 (133ov, Clarke 130, Henriques 68, Warner 59, Ashwin 7/103) by 198 runs with 7 1st inns wickets in hand: T1/4 D2/5 at Chennai.

A good fight back by Sachin Tendulkar 71/128b (6x4) and Virat Kohli 50*/ 84b (7x4) kept India in the match after Australia had moved slowly from 7/316 to 380 all out. Michael Clarke's 130/246 b(1x6, 12x4) determinedly underpinned what looked to be a good score.

It looked even better when James Pattinson removed the India's openers, including a newly bespectacled Virender Sehwag, with only 12 on the board. Enter Tendulkar, who looked in prime form from the outset, and didn't in my opinion play a false stroke (though the umpire thought otherwise when he appeared not to play any stroke to Nathan Lyon and was deemed not lbw).

Apart from that Sachin led the chase in measured partnerships with Cheteshwar Pujara and Kohli . They made the bowling, Pattinson excepted, look just steady even though the pitch tended to keep low and, when the ball was delivered on a good length, took spin.

Tendulkar looks in ominously good form. I know he's done so on several occasions in the last couple of years yet hasn't gone on to post a really big score. India still have a long way to go but a first innings lead doesn't look beyond them, especially as the Australian attack has performed in the lower half of my expectations (and hopes).

But this is still shaping as a good Test, so I'll be glued to the couch again tomorrow.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Australia have better of first day's play: T1D1

Australia 7/316 (95ov , Clarke 103* , Henriques 68, Warner 59, Ashwin 6/88) v India: T1/4 D1/5 at Chennai.

A fascinating day's play in which Australia - the underdogs - started reasonably well, then faltered after lunch before Michael Clarke 103*/169b (1x6,11x4)  pulled things around with debutant (and last man chosen) Moises Henriques 68/132b (5x4) in a partnership.

The pitch was tailor made for theIndian spinners but only Ravi Ashwin's combination of bounce and spin (an eye opener to those who recalled his toils in Australia last year) looked consistently threatening and yielded 30-5-88-6. He was off the field with an injury during much of the Clarke-Henriques partnership.

Several wise heads including Shane Warne in the commentary box couldn't understand why Pragyan Ojha was omitted: a line up with two off spinners and only a second string slow left armer looked not quite the best choice for the circumstances. But, had Harbhajan Singh (perhaps a sentimental choice for his hundredth Test) been preferred to Ashwin,on today's form Australia would have had a much easier run.

Clarke was lucky to be given not out to a bat pad catch when he was well set. Unfortunate, but umpiring errors happen and (to rub it in) had India agreed to the use of the DRS the decision would have been overturned, with obvious (and major) adverse consequences for

Given the look of the pitch 316 (from a pleasing 95 overs) looks a good score though the outfield is quick, Chennai as ever hot and humid, and the Australian attack yet to tested.
A good day.   Hope for more to come.


Catching up

There's been a lot of cricket to watch lately, most of it on TV including

Aus v SL Tests & ODIs
SAf v NZ & Pak ditto
Aus v WI ODIs
NZ v Eng ODIs (Tests to come)
Women's World Cup
Sheffield Shield (an under strength SA today beat an also under strength NSW outright)
Ryobi ODD comp (SA faded)
BBL T20 (SA ditto).

Australia's fortunes have risen a little since its failure to take the Test series v South Africa, though Sri Lanka ruffled its feathers in the ODIs.

Tomorrow the Test series v India begins in Chennai. I'm not by any means optimistic about our chances, not least because of the unsettled nature of the side , particularly the quick bowlers, and the inexperience both in India and in general.

I will naturally be watching the match closely and hope to post a few thoughts here and not only, as has been my custom for the last couple of months, in the confined spaces of Facebook and Twitter.