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Sunday, March 24, 2013

Australia lose as ray of sunshine turns to dark cloud: T4D3

India 272 & 4/158 (31.2 ov, Pujara 82*) def Australia 262 & 164 by 6 wkts: T4/4 D3/5 at Delhi. India win series 4-0 and regains Border-Gavaskar Trophy.

Well done India!

Cheteshwar Pujara's 82*/92b saw India home after their bowlers had bowled the visitors .out for a feeble second innings 164.

Enough for now. More later.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

India take narrow lead in teeth of Australian fight back: T4D2

India 8/266 (66.1 ov, Vijay 57, Pujara 52, Jadeja 43, Lyon 5/94) lead Australia 262 (112.1 ov, Siddle 51, Smith 46, Hughes 45, Ashwin 5/57) by 4 runs with 2 1st inns wkts in hand: T4/4 D2/5 at Delhi.

A tightly contested day's Test cricket on a wearing pitch.

Murali Vijay 57/123b (8x4) and Cheteshwar Pujara 52/76b (5x4) kickstarted India's reply to Australia's Peter Siddle 51/136b (4x4) boosted 262 with a 108 run opening partnership in 25.1 overs.

Once Nathan Lyon was introduced, a tad belatedly, into the attack his improved accuracy coupled with the assistance he derived from the pitch put the brakes on India. Sachin Tendulkar benefited from an umpire's lbw howler to make 32/53b while Ravi Jadeja hit out for 43/49b to take India close to a first innings lead, which they duly achieved, leaving the Test up for grabs.

The result will depend on how the respective attacks perform from here. Nathan Lyon's 22.1-3-94-5 showed that he's learned from the onslaughts on him earlier in the series, though Ravi Ashwin ( 34-18-57-5 in Australia's innings) and his colleagues will deploy their considerable talents to contest Australia's hopes of salvaging a win from this Border- Gavaskar trophy losing series.

Revamped Australia's frailties exposed once more by India's attack: T4D1

Australia 8/231 (98 ov, Siddle 47*, Smith 46, Hughes 45, Cowan 38, Ashwin 4/40, Jadeja 2/34, Sharma 2/35) v India: T4 D1 at Delhi.

The more things change ...Australia made five changes, bringing back three of the four miscreants suspended from selection (though not substitute duties) for T3, and appointing one of them, Shane Watson, captain in lieu of the injured Michael Clarke. (IMO the best replacement would have been Brad Haddin, though I can see when he wasn't chosen).

Australia recovered well from the early loss of David Warner to be 2/94 at lunch, but then the now customary middle order collapse set in as the Indian bowlers - Ravi Ashwin 30-17-40-4 outstanding - worked through the innings until some late resistance from Steve Smith 46/145 b (2x6, 3x4), Peter Siddle 47*/125b( 4x4) and James Pattinson took the team from the precipice of disaster (and embarrassment) at 7/136 to a better, if by no means dominant 8/231 at stumps on a day in which 98 overs were delivered.

The pitch has played a few (but not many) tricks, which has perplexed the commentators, some of whom feel that 280 or so may be a competitive total (or maybe they're just trying to make what seems to me to be a one sided game look less so).

Disclosure: I began to lose faith in Australia when at 115 prodigal son Watson played a prodigal stroke and was stumped for 17 running down the wicket to Ravi Jadeja. After Glenn Maxwell's T20 hoick I gave up and switched the TV off.

Monday, March 18, 2013

India win Test & series comfortably despite periods of Australian fightback: T3 D5

India 499 & 4/136 (33.3 ov, Kohli 34) def Australia 408 & 223 (89.2 ov, Hughes 69, Starc 35, Haddin 30, Kumar 3/31, Jadeja 3/35) by 6 wkts: T3/4 D5/5 at Mohali. India lead series 3-0 and thereby regain Border- Gavaskar trophy.

The Test kept me alert until the end, not because Australia ever looked like winning but because their collective resistance kept the possibility of a draw alive for so long. Not that this would have done anything for the series but there were a few positives to emerge from the wreckage, eg (in no partcular order) Mitchell Starc's allround accomplishments; the batting of Ed Cowan,Steve Smith and, at last,Phillip Hughes; and Peter Siddle's wholehearted bowling.

Enough for now. Congratulations to India, and some gratuitous advice for Australia: regroup and build on the strengths which emerged or reemerged during this match. This may make for some interesting discussion at the selection table (or form filling). My 5 cents' worth: is there a place in the T5 ueleven for Shane Watson?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Australia bowlers save face & turn rout into fighting retreat: T3D4

Australia 408 & 2/75 (25ov, Hughes 53*, Kumar 53*) trail India 499 (132.1 ov, Dhawan 187, Vijay 153,Kohli 67*, Tendulkar 37, Siddle 5/71) by 16 runs with 7 2nd inns wkts in hand: T3D4 at Mohali.

India are still well placed to win the Test but Australia have,contrary to my (and many more experienced commentators eg Ravi Shastri's) expectations come back to a likely much narrower margin of defeat or perhaps even a draw. A win, however, looks out of the question after Bhuvneshwar Kumar, the wayward man of the first innings,redeemed himself and his team's fortunes by cutting. through the Australian top order with 8-1-25-3. Phil Hughes 53*/68b (1x6, 9x4) - on his own one minute to midnight path to redemption -
and Michael Clarke, yet to bat but
possibly laid low with injury, are the main hopes if Australia is to bat India out of the Test or, just perhaps,set them a total which might cause them difficulty if they opt for the chase instead if safety.

Today Peter Siddle lifted his game a notch or three, moving from yesterday's honest trundler to today's sharp line and length bowler.After Nathan Lyon removed Shikar Dharwan for a masterly 187/174b (2x6, 33x4) Siddle, supported by tighter if not absolutely tight bowling from his colleagues, chipped away to the tune of 29.1-9-71-5 to leave India 499, a lead of 81. A day ago, at 0/283, a lead 5 times or more that didn't look too fanciful. Only Murali Vijay, who batted on to 153/317b (3x6, 19x4), Virat Kohli 67*/129b (1x6,7x4) and Sachin 37/81b (5x4) stayed long enough to secure even that lead.

Australia's position is still,like Hughes's batting, brittle. But to give Hughes credit he's chanced his arm, mostly against the quick bowlers, and kept the spinners at bay - not always assuredly but in his own way effectively.

Another long day (100 overs) tomorrow: a big ask for Australia to bat out at least say 75 or 80 of them.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Dharwan's 185* on debut propels India towards a dig lead on Australia's respectable looking 408: T3 D3

India 0/283 (58ov, Dhawan 185*, Vijay 83*) trail Australia 408 (141.5 ov, Starc 99, Smith 92, Cowan 86, Warner 71, Sharma 3/72, Jadeja 3/77) by 125 runs with 10 1st inns wkts in hand: T3 D3 at Mohali.

I'd barely heard of Shikar Dhawan before today, now, after his incredibly quickfire 185*/ 168b ( 2x6, 33x4) I'll never forget him.

He has made a respectable looking Australian total look puny. Today's contributions by Mitchell Starc 99/144b (14x4) and Steve Smith 92/185b (1x6,10x4) put Australia into what looked at the time, just before lunch,to be a solid if not match winning position.

But that didn't happen as Dharwan and and Murali Vijay 83*/181b (2x6, 10x4) exposed the weakness of the Australian attack in a manner which no other team,let alone pair, has probably ever done before.

A day lost to rain was made up today with an extra half hour and 418 runs and put a dispirited Australia in peril.

It's hard to imagine that tomorrow can be any worse for the bowlers....I hope it isn't.

Australia blow it after good start:

Australia 7/273 (104 ov, Cowan 86, Warner 71, Smith 58*, Jadeja 3/56) v India T3/4 D2/5 at Mohali.

After a troubled week and the loss off a day to rain Australia took advantage of first use of the wicket and some good weather only to yield to India's tight bowling and end an extended first day in a poor position.

David Warner & Ed Cowan batted to lunch and beyond, Warner solid but occasionally cutting loose, Cowan toughing it out in survival mode. Well as the Indians, especially Ravi Ashwin, bowled they couldn't break through until at 139 Ravindra Jadeja, the third (or bots and pieces) spinner combined with MS Dhoni to dismiss David Warner caught for 71/147b (9x4) and, next ball,Michael Clarke - self promoted to no3 - stumped advancing down the wicket.

Thereafter things went India's way as the bowlers took advantage of the turn and bounce (or lack thereof) offered by the pitch. Of Phil Hughes's 2/31b no more need be said (though no doubt his many critics will).

Cowan seemed to retreat into his shell at a time when a few more strokes might have taken some of the pressure off the other batsmen. His labours of concentration and stroke play fatigued him and at 198 he fell toAshwin for 86/238b (8x6). No doubt his (also many) critics will berate him for failing to score a double (or triple) century.

Australia has Steven Smith 58*/137b(1x6, 7x4) to thank for a modest recovery to 7/273. But this, or even a few more, runs is hardly likely to be able to slow, led alone step, India's march to a series triumph.32

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Wellness, illness, madness?

In a few hours the third India v Australia Test will begin in Mohali. Everyone will be wondering whether (and their supporters hoping that) Australia will be able to rise above the extraordinary turmoil of the last few days and make a game of it.

I've just been watching the first session of NZv England T2. In the commentary box Mike Atherton, clearly relishing the opportunity to make fun of the situation, asked Simon Doull if he'd filled in his wellness report yet.

I don't know the full story but I was shocked that four players,only two of whom played in the T2 loss, were stood down for not providing homework-style feedback about how their team might improve and, bizarrely, failure to complete daily "wellness" reports.

This looks like a triumph of form over substance. No doubt there are reasons (if not immediately obvious good ones) for such harsh measures, but the effect of the decision is to hand India an enormous advantage. Did no one in authority consider the old fashioned response of fining the miscreants?

James Pattinson's absence will probably hit hardest, but with a pool of only 12 or 13 (depending on Matthew Wade's fitness) players to choose from it'll be difficult to field an eleven which is a good fit for the reportedly more pace bowler friendly conditions.

I'll be watching the Test unfold, and hoping that it doesn't unravel. Michael Clarke's batting should reduce the risk of this happening, but it goes without saying that the other 10, especially those who've been given a fresh opportunity by the suspensions, need to provide more support.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Australia go gently into the darkness of defeat (and probable series loss): T2D4

India 503 def Australia 9/237d & 131    (67 ov, Ashwin 5/63, Jadeja 3/33) by an innings & 131 runs: T2/4 D4/5 at Hyderabad. India lead series  2-0.

Yes, it was a fourth day Hyderabad wicket prepared to India's orders and their bowlers were able to take advantage of the assistance it offered, but it was a feeble effort with the bat by Australia, almost an unconditional surrender when a stouter resistance might have secured better terms, if not for this match then for the series, a series which Australia now cannot win and cannot, on any rational assessment of its form so far, expect even to draw.

Disappointing but not really unexpected. Ravichandran Ashwin who, just over a year ago in Australia, looked an ordinary trundler has bounced back to put the wood on the Australian batters, many of whom lack the rudimentary skills and mental strength- bat patiently for at least a session - to counter the home team's advantages. Not that the bowlers have much to crow about, too.

Congratulations, India. I hope you meet stronger opposition in the next two Tests.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Better day for Australia though India still dominant: T2D3

Australia 9/237d & 2/74 (32 ov) trail India 503 (154.1 ov, Pujara 204,Vijay 167, Dhoni 44, Maxwell 4/127, Doherty 3/131) by 192 runs with 8 second inns wkts in hand: T2/4 D3/5 at Hyderabad.

One statistic which surprised me was that almost 20,000 spectators (after c 30,000 the day before) turned up to a large and inadequately shaded (why do so many Indians eschew head covering?) stadium on a hot Hyderabad day.

I'd been led to believe that Test cricket in India was down the gurgler. On the evidence of this match so far, and making allowance for India's palpable superiority, there's life on the old format yet. Whether a succession of Australian defeats (and player rotations) will sustain levels of support here sufficient to, for example, come close to filling the expensively upgraded Adelaide Oval (from c35k to c50k capacity) remains to be seen.

Now to the match. In the first session Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara continued to accumulate runs against an attack which varied in quality from the steady to the ridiculous. I'd almost given up hope when, as lunch approached and a 400 2nd wicket partnership loomed, Vijay fell to a Glenn Maxwell ball which turned, bounced and caught the edge of his bat. 2/387, Vijay 167/361b (2x6, 23x2).

Pujara soon after reached his double century and departed for 204/341b (1x6, 30x4).

There was no Indian declaration, though the middle and lower order batted in a prodigal manner reflecting the team's lead. Wickets fell to Maxwell and the hitherto luckless ( and moderately deserving ) Xavier Doherty and the innings came to a close at 503: a huge 256 lead.

Australia's second innings began promisingly, but Ravi Ashwin, opening the bowling, regrouped after some initial rough treatment and bowled both David Warner and an ill at ease Phillip Hughes around their legs.

At 2/74,still 192 in arrears, the wicket taking spin and a brittle batting lineup (Michael Clarke excepted) it's hard to see Australia taking the fight to India for long enough to prevent a second successive loss.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

India's new generation shows Australia how to bat in subcontinent: T2D2

India 1/311 (93ov, Pujara 162*, Vijay 129*)  lead Australia 9/237d by 74 runs on 1st inns: T2/4 D2/5 at Hyderabad.

Today was another series, and probably generational, watershed. After Virender Sehwag fell cheaply Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara batted through D2, at first cautiously then, as the Australian bowlers tired under the Hyderabad sun, more freely, adding 294 and putting the Test beyond Australia's reach. 

Vijay was the more circumspect, relatively speaking, of the pair, his 129*/288b (2x6, 17x4)  Pujara's 162*/251b (1x6, 25x4).  The Australian bowlers constrained them in the first session: at lunch 30 overs (27 today) had conceded 1/54 .

 The afternoon session saw 106 added from 33 overs: briskish but hardly tearaway stuff even if the lack of wickets (even a wicket) didn't portend well for Australia. When Vijay and Pujara cut loose after tea Australia came close to wilting. A chance or two (half chances according to a tactful- or poorsighted TV commentator) were missed but the two young batters were still there at stumps, their team 1/311, and they having added 151 from 30 overs in the final session.

And Sachin has yet to bat...and Michael Clarke to bowl (not that he 's likely to run through India, but    surely worth, physical condition permitting, a few overs?) 

A second bleak day on the trot for Australia. 

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Australian batting buckles under pressure from Indian attack : T2D1

India 0/5 (3ov) trail Australia 9/237 dec (Clarke 91,Wade 62, Jadeja 3/33, Kumar 3/53): T2 D1 at Hyderabad.

Take away the 145 which Michael Clarke 91/186b (1x6, 9x4) and Matthew Wade 62/144b (8x4) added for the 5th wicket after Clarke has won the toss and chosen to bat on what the commentators said was a good batting wicket for at least the first two days and you get an idea of how feebly the the Australians batted. And how consequently the Test, and quite likely the series, is India's for the taking.

The unchanged Indian attack bowled well, with the pace bowlers given a good run with the new ball. Young Bhuvneshwar Kumar isn't all that quick, nor does he move the ball much, but he did enough to take the first three wickets, before the spinners took over.

Clarke was, as so often nowadays, a cut above the rest of his teammates (Wade a partial exception). Even so he was not at his best and was fortunate to survive a couple of chances.

His declaration was both an admission of India's superiority and an indication that Australia will go down with all guns blazing. Unfortunately neither James Pattinson (whose first ball was a wide reminiscent of Steve Harmison's first delivery of the 2006-07 Ashes series) nor Peter Siddle could break through,which leaves them and the inexperienced spin attack of Xavier Doherty (selected instead of Nathan Lyon) and Glenn Maxwell (ditto Mitchell Starc) to do what they can to stem what looks likely to be an Indian surge tomorrow.