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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Rain and Australia's batting combine for draw: T3 D5

Australia 530 & 9/318d (98ov, Marsh 99/215b/2x6 11x4, Rogers 69, Warner 40, Harris 21, I Sharma 2/49, Ashwin 2/75,Yadav 2/89, M Shami 2/92) drew with India 465 & 6/174 (66ov, Kohli 54/99b/7x4, Rahane 48/117b/6x4, Dhoni 24*, Pujara 21, Harris 2/30, Johnson 2/38, Watson 2/40); T3/4 D5/5 at MCG. Australia lead series 2-0. Player of the match Ryan Harris.

A draw for not an unfair result for the match, not because it gave Australia the series but because India continued the steady Iimprovement they've shown throughout the series. Without Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane's contributions in each innings they probably would have lost but at least the bowlers improved in Australia's long second innings, which was underpinned by Shaun Marsh until he was run out by - surprise, surprise - Kohli going for his 100th run.

The big news of the day came after play when MS Dhoni announced his retirement drom Test cricket effective immediately. So Kohli will get another chance in the final Test to lead India. This will give some interest to what is now a dead rubber.


Monday, December 29, 2014

India bowling improves, yet not enough to prevent Australia building 326 lead: T3D4.

Australia 530 & 7/261 (75ov, Rogers 69/123b/8x4, S Marsh 62*/131b/1x6 8x4, Warner 40/42b/6x4, I Sharma 2/49, Ashwin 2/56, Yadav 2/73) lead India 465(128.5ov, Kohli 169, Rahane 147, Vijay 68, Harris4/70, Johnson 3/133, Lyon 2/108) by 326 runs with three 2nd inns wkts in hand; T3/4 D4/5 at MCG.

After Mitchell Johnson improved his analysis (from 1/133 to 3/133) by snaffling India's last two wickets, Australia batted circumspectly against an attack which bowled consistently enough to, over a rain affected day, prevent a batting breakout which would have, barring miracles ( eg another Kohli-Rahane style partnership) blocked India's while enhancing Australia's chance of victory.

Chris Rogers secured his place, insofar as it's possible for anyone of his age to do so, with another 50 while Sean Marsh looked more like the century maker we know than the low scorer we have become too familiar with of late. Australia's hopes of quick runs as a prelude to a declaration will rest on him continuing to augment the team total tomorrow.

Tomorrow's play will be extended to compensate for today's rain, so a result other than a draw is not out of the question. Australia have the upper hand and at 2-0 up in the series need not, despite 
their  praiseworthy desire to go all out for victory, set a generous target in the hope that India will, as they did at Adelaide, perish in the chase. Could be an interesting finish.


Sunday, December 28, 2014

Kohli & Rahane bring India back into Test before Australia regroup: T3 D3

India 8/462 (126.2ov, Kohli 169/272b/18x4, Rahane 147/171b/21x4, Vijay 68/135b/7x4, Dhawan 28, Pujara 25, Harris 25-7-69-4, Lyon 2/108) trail Australia 530 by 68 runs with two 1st inns wkts in hand: T3/4 D 3/5 at MCG.

The highlight of the day was, it goes without saying, the Virat Kohli - Ajinkya Rahane 262 4th wicket partnership, which took India to within reach of Australia's considerable total. Then a middle order collapse from batters who played as if their team was already in the lead, allowed Australia to claw back a little and, almost, share the day's honours, but not its abiding memories.

Kohli reaffirmed his class, Rahane stepped up a couple of notches. Neither was overawed by the match situation: 3/147 when they came together. Both rode their luck, but given the quality of their strokeplay, few watchers would have been disappointed...until the pair defanged much of the home attack and a solid first innings lead looked well within the realm of probability rather than a distant and unlikely prospect.

Then Nathan Lyon, who'd bowled steadily without ever looking dangerous, except when he dropped the simplest of return catches, broke through. Ryan Harris, who hadn't hitherto bowled badly, roused his tired body for a final effort, inducing MS Dhoni to edge to the keeper and then, while Australian supporters held their breath, juggled and eventually caught a return catch from Ravi Ashwin. 

Kohli held out until the last over, when he swiped at Mitchell Johnson, giving the chastened (not that it was obvious from his demeanour) paceman his first wicket - for 133. 

After today's quality tomorrow may well be an anticlimax.   The weather forecast isn't promising while Australia, after today's mixed bag of experiences, may be content to play for a draw, and thus series win. The wicket played well today but the local experts expect it to deteriorate from here on. Whether or not that happens, or rain intervenes, will influence tactics for the last two days, but don't expect a quarter generous (as at Adelaide) Declaration by Australia.


Saturday, December 27, 2014

Irrepressible Smith powers Australia to another big score: T3D2

India 1/108 (37ov, Vijay 55*/102b/5x4, Dhawan 28, Pujara 25*) trail Australia 530 (142.3ov, Smith 192/305b/2x6 15x4, Harris 74/88b/1x6 8x4, Rogers 57/126b/5x4, Haddin 55/84b/1x6 7x4, Watson 52/89b/4x4, S Marsh 32, Johnson 28, Mohammed Shami 29-4-138-4, Yadav 3/130, Ashwin 3/134) by 422 with 9 1st inns wkts in hand; T3/4 D2/5 at MCG.

Another masterly innings by Steve Smith has led Australia to a dominant position. While India have so far made a reasonable fist of chasing 530 they need to do a lot more work to save, let alone 
win the Test and therefore keep the series alive.

India lost it in the first session, when their bowlers delivered 25 overs and took 2/140. Smith, who'd moved from 72 to 128, wasn't one of them. So, with the four bowler India attack tiring, not only the captain - as seemed inevitable - but also Ryan Harris, who can be dangerous in a situation like this, were able to accelerate and post a total which while not improbable was at the upper end of the spectrum of expectation.

Smith didn't make a double century, yet did post his highest first class score. He is in such good form at the moment that it wouldn't surprise to see him overtake today's 192 soon. His defence is tighter than it used to be, while he doesn't like to allow bowlers to confine him ( and usually gets his way). A class act.

India don't seem to be able to put together a sustained effort with either bat or ball: one good session seems to be about their limit at present. Their selection of only four frontline bowlers, not all of whom are able to perform consistently at frontline standard, has backfired. Whether their batting can surprise us with consecutive good sessions on D3 is questionable: but if it doesn't the Test looks lost.


Friday, December 26, 2014

Boxing Day: T3 D1

Australia 5/259 (90ov, Smith 72*/158b/1x6 4x4, Rogers 57/126b/5x4, Watson 52/89b/4x4, S Marsh 32, Haddin 23*, Mohammed Shami 2/55, Yadav 2/69) v Australia; T3/4 D1/5 at MCG. Australia won toss and chose to bat.

Boxing Day is usually cricket's big day out. This year, with three Tests being played around the globe and no short form substitutions (even South Africa is hosting a Test instead of a T20, albeit against a weak West Indies ), there is plenty to watch, and some things to reflect upon.

There are also other temptations, such as opportunities to catch up with family and friends and, for those of us in the Antipodes, to follow the play al fresco (on TV/ radio/ both) with a refreshing libation or two at hand. 

While the NZ v Sri Lanka Test at Christchurch has rocketed out of the blocks thanks to Brendan McCullum's 195 (a relative failure after his triple and two double Test centuries previously this year) the proceedings at the MCG, where a tad under 70,000 souls turned up, was more like traditional Test cricket as Australia and India tussled to wrest the initiative from each other ( and India bowled the day's over ration without having recourse to all the extra time available).

On paper the honours look even, but IMO yet another good innings from Steve Smith has given Australia the edge. 

There were some failures, and two pleasing, career extending if not enhancing yet fundamentally disappointing innings from Chris Rogers and Shane Watson, each of whom fell for personal 50s at 115.  

Smith, yet again, despite (or because of) a circumspect start gradually reaffirmed - reminded us of - his authority. Brad Haddin didn't look at ease but eased the pressure on himself and his team with a six off Ravi Ashwin (IMO an overrated bowler yet a handy lower order bat and a safe pair of hands in the field). He was still there at stumps.

The Indian bowlers haven't yet let the game slip out of their reach. But they will need to break the Smith- Haddin partnership early on D2 and work through the lower order to confine Australia to a total   around 400, which on the evidence of the series to date is about what their batting, for all the talented names on the list,  is capable of.


Saturday, December 20, 2014

India batting meltdown opens door for Australia to win: T2 D4

Australia 505 & 6/130 (23.1ov, Rogers 55/57b/10x4, Smith 28, I Sharma 3/38, Yadav 2/48)  beat India 408 & 224 (64.3 ov, Dhawan 81/145b/8x4, Pujara 43/93b/7x4, Yadav 30, Vijay 27, Johnson 17.3-4-61-4, Starc 2/27, Lyon 2/33, Hazlewood 2/74) by 4 wkts; T2/4 D4/5 at Brisbane. Australia lead series 2-0. Player of the match: Steven Smith.

The scorecard suggests a close result. in truth, after India's unexpected batting meltdown from 1/71 to 7/143, followed by a mild recovery which set Australia 128 ( and made a mockery of my prediction of a draw) only a superhuman bowling performance by the visitors could have brought victory. 

Despite Ishant Sharma's two early wickets, which raised memories of previous Australian fourth innings collapses, this didn't happen. Chris Rogers and Steve Smith added 63  for the 3rd wicket as MS Dhoni put all his bowling eggs in the one basket: pace.  3/85 was relative safety. A dropped catch didn't help, but the next three wickets which fell did so too close to the target to make a miracle possible. A few more runs to chase and a closer finish may have been possible

Why did India falter? First, Mitchell Johnson returned to something like his last season's form, firing out 
Virat Kohli (1),  Ajinkya Rahane (10) and Rohit Sharma (0) in short order.  Second, despite fight backs from Shikhar Dhawan, who'd retired hurt after being injured in the nets shortly  before play began [more support for the "beware the injured batter" maxim?] and Cheteshwar Pujara, the other Australia bowlers chipped away and limited India's lead. 

So Australia go 2-0 up in the series, deservedly so, yet they have problems with some of their batting, eg Shane Watson (notwithstanding his handy bowling) and Brad Haddin (ditto his very good keeping). 

India have been competitive for parts of each Test, but their top order batting doesn't have a full hand of in form players, and their pace bowlers have been too inconsistent over the course of a long innings. 
Whether they have a top quality spinner is a moot point: R Ashwin is handy with the bat and a good fielder, but didn't look likely to run through Australia. He is however likely to contribute more across all departments than Karn Sharma.

India will rue their missed opportunities in both Tests, but will be grateful for an extra day's rest before the contest is resumed on Boxing Day. 


Happy Christmas to all!

Smith, Johnson & tail take Australia to unexpected lead as India lose focus: T2D3

India  408 & 1/71 (23ov, Vijay 27, Dhawan 26*) trail Australia 505 (109.4ov, Smith 133/191b/2x6 13x4, Rogers 55, Starc 52/59b/6x4, Hazlewood 32*, S Marsh 32, Warner 29, Watson 25, Lyon 23, Yadav 3/101, I Sharma 3/117)  by 26 runs with 9 2nd inns wkts in hand: T2/4 D3/5 at Brisbane.

At 6/247, after losing two early wickets, Australia were in danger of a substantial first innings deficit. Not surprisingly, given his recent form, Steve Smith continued to rise to the occasion. More surprisingly perhaps Mitchell Johnson took the Indian attack apart in a 148 7th wicket partnership with Smith and brought Australia within comfortable reach of a first innings lead. Smith proceeded positively and methodically to his century (except for a little uncertainty as he neared it) and when he fell his team were only 10 runs shy of India's first innings total.

A first innings lead, any first innings lead, especially one obtained from such an unfavourable position, has a lot of psychological value. When Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon took Australia past 408 some salt was rubbed into India's wounds. Starc passed 50 and the lead extended to 97, with Josh Hazlewood showing that he knew a thing or two about batting. India looked increasingly forlorn.

They eventually took the 9th and 10th wickets and, batting again, made inroads into the deficit while only losing one wicket and regaining some composure.

The commentators who know the Gabba and Brisbane expect the wicket to begin breaking up on D4 and become worse on D5. Whether or not this happens after another unsatisfactorily slow day's play - only 80.4 overs were bowled - there may not be time for either side to force a result. In the absence of an India batting meltdown it is hard to see when, if at all, MS Dhoni might contemplate a declaration. With time slipping by any declaration would most likely have to offer a big carrot to induce Australia, with a new skipper obviously keen to start his tenure with a series victory, to chase a target of any size on a wearing pitch. But I have been wrong before about such matters....


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Australia fight back well with ball, less so with bat:T2D2

Australia 4/221 (52ov, Smith 65*/88b/2x6 6x4, Rogers 55/79b/10x4, S Marsh 32, Warner 29, Watson 25, Yadav 3/48) trail India 408 (109.4 ov, Vijay 144/213b/22x4, Rahane 81/132b/8x4, Ashwin 35, Dhoni 33, R Sharma 32, Hazlewood 23.2-6-68-5, Lyon 3/109) by 187 with 6 1st inns wkts in hand. T2/4 D2/5 at Brisbane.
Australia's attack  regrouped and, led by Josh Hazlewood (who had to regroup less than his bowling teammates), collectively took 6/97 to limit India to a respectable 408. Steve Smith 65* and Chris Rogers 55 took Australia's reply to 4/221 before bad light stopped play. 

Neither team would have been entirely happy with its day's work, but India still have the upper hand. After Rajinkya Rahane added only 6 to his overnight score before snicking Hazlewood to Brad Haddin, the middle order, strengthened by the return of MS Dhoni and selection of Ravi Ashwin, performed serviceably,with them and Rohit Sharma each notching 30s. A 50 or 70 would have been handy, but Australia's bowling and fielding pegged the total to less than the 444 they'd managed a week ago in the First Test.

The top five Australians also got a start. each reaching 20, but only two went beyond  as Umesh Yadav used the overcast conditions well ( and made many wonder why he wasn't selected at Adelaide). Chris Rogers was freer with his strokes than usual, which did something to compensate for David Warner's early departure, albeit without cementing his place for next year's Ashes tour, but it was Steve Smith who has kept Australia in the game.

Smith, who promoted himself to no4, batted with increasing assurance. he was especially severe on Ashwin, who'd dismissed Shane Watson early in his first spell, making him look more part timer than frontliner. If Australia are to remain competitive, which they still are...just, Smith will obviously have to continue to lead. After his 6 catches behind the stumps it would be great to see Haddin rediscover his batting form, with more than a little help from his lower order friends.

Another intriguing day, weather permitting, is in prospect.

<a href="">Scorecard</a>

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Vijay leads India to ascendancy: T2 D1

India 4/311 (83ov, Vijay 144/213b/22x4, Rahane 75*/122b/7x4, Hazlewood 2/44) v Australia: T2/4 D1/5 at Brisbane.

Steve Smith, who I think is the best person to captain Australia in the  current circumstances, didn't have a great first day in charge. He lost the toss and, at different times, several of his bowlers. Mitchell Marsh took his first Test wicket but was sidelined with an apparent hamstring injury. Josh Hazlewood,on debut, took his first and second Test wickets yet both he and Mitchell Starc spent time off the field trying to deal with injuries and the Brisbane heat. 

Australia rested Ryan Harris ("soreness" was the official explanation) and omitted Peter Siddle from the winning T1 team. Siddle ended up spending a lot of time sub fielding for Mitchell Marsh, Hazlewood and Starc, but I doubt whether, even if he was in the eleven,  he would have made much difference on a Gabba wicket which perplexed even Mitchell Johnson and, until late in the day, Nathan Lyon. The heat also took its toll - the Channel 9 cameras captured some great images of sweat pouring out of bowlers running in.

For the first half of the day the match was, allowing for the fluctuation which always follows the fall of a wicket, evenly poised, or maybe slightly in Australia's favour, as India declined to 3/137. The third wicket was that of the star of the Adelaide Test - Virat  Kohli - caught behind from a modest stroke for a modest, but efficiently compiled 19, which may have encouraged the Australians to think that it was downhill all the way from there.

It wasn't, as Murali Vijay showed. He accumulated assiduously until he passed 90 when, casting out the demons of his Adelaide befuddlement which led to his dismissal for 99, he hit out, moving to his century, and beyond, in the twinkling of an eye. 

Ajinkya Rahane supported him well in a fourth wicket partnership of 124, which was broken by the persistent Nathan Lyon who, after going as he'd done at Adelaide for many, induced Vijay to jump wildly down the pitch and be adjudged caught behind (he was also stumped). Then Rahane and Rohit Sharma continued to take advantage of a depleted home attack, Hobson's choice Shane Watson sharing the second new ball when Hazlewood limped off injured. 

Even with the extra half hour - ie six and a half hours play-  Australia could only bowl 83 overs. Injuries and heat notwithstanding this is unacceptable. India took advantage of the longer last session and the Australian injuries to bat themselves into a strong position which, unless wickets fall quickly on D2, become increasingly impregnable.

<a href="">Scorecard</a>

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Lyon bowls Australia to win after Kohli & Vijay threaten to pull off upset: T1D5

Australia 7/517d & 5/290d beat India 444 & 315 (87.1ov, Kohli 141/175b/1x6 16x4, Vijay 99/234b/2x6 10x4, Lyon 34.1- 5-152-7)  by 48 runs: T1/4 D5/5 at Adelaide Oval. Australia lead series 1-0. Player of the Match: Nathan Lyon.

Michael Clarke's overnight declaration seemed to set the scene for either an Australian victory
or a draw. An Indian win seemed unlikely, yet as the day and the pitch wore on it seemed increasingly possible and then, in the final session at 2/242 with overs in hand, probable. Then Nathan Lyon, who'd hitherto bowled steadily albeit  conceding 116 runs for a single wicket, had Murali Vijay lbw for 99. 

From that point Lyon moved to regain the momentum and, after Virat Kohli was well caught in the outfield for his second century of the match, the ascendancy. The tail, from whom I expected more resolution as holding on for a draw was not out of the question, folded as Lyon took his seventh wicket of the innings and twelfth of the match. 

This was a considerable and well merited victory for Australia, who bowled India out twice while only losing 12 wickets themselves. Clarke's declaration provided just enough inducement for India to keep the possibility of victory in their sights and hence to play positively ( though an early shutting up of the shop may have been counterproductive). When Kohli and Vijay were still together at tea many of the 24k+ crowd (most of whom stayed to the end) would have been thinking that Clarke, who had left the field with more hamstring trouble, had been too generous. 

Fortunately the bowlers, deputy captain Brad Haddin and the fielders, kept the pressure on India, who succumbed to it. Wriddhiman Saha for example came in to join Kohli, struck a couple of  well judged blows and defended watchfully before snapping and being bowled swiping at Lyon.

When Kohli was out soon after this he stayed at the wicket, not because he challenged the dismissal (an outfield catch) but because he knew that he was India's last hope of victory. The generosity of the standing ovation he received as he did walk off was part appreciation of his talented innings and part relief that it had ended then. 

I should say something about the umpiring, which was again below par, The obvious way to reduce 
the risk of howlers is to make the DRS mandatory: after this Test is it too much to hope that the BCCI will shift its ground? A less publicised issue is that of umpire fatigue over the course of a five day Test. The temperature reached 35C and the two onfield officials were, not surprisingly given the match situation, subject to a succession of sfrong appeals. Why can't the three officials rotate, with each standing for two sessions a day?

Finally, a word  Michael Clarke. His gutsy first innings ton helped give Australia  the upper hand  and his second inning declaration set up the finish, and the ultimate victory. Earlier this week after retiring hurt  his future looked at least uncertain. Now, after his latest hamstring trouble even he has wondered whether he might ever play cricket again.

I hope this doesn't happen. 

<a href="">Scorecard <a>

Friday, December 12, 2014

Lyon bowls, Warner bats Australia to dominant position v India though umpiring below par: T1D4

Australia 7/517d & 5/290 (69ov, 102/166b/1x6 11x4, Smith 52/64b/5x4) lead India 444 (116.4ov, Kohli 115, Pujara 73, Rahane 62, Vijay 53, R Sharma 43, Lyon 36-4-134-5, Siddle 2/88, Johnson 2/102) by 363 runs with 5 2nd inns wkts in hand: T1/4 D4/5 at Adelaide Oval.

In the extended ( to make up for time lost to rain earlier in the match- the sun shone throughout today's play) Nathan Lyon worked through India's tail, giving Australia a relatively modest first innings lead of 73. The  David Warner led a more modest than in the first iinnings but nevertheless effective charge against a  (for the most part) more disciplined India attack. 

By the end of the day, during the latter part of which a wheel or two had fallen off India's carriage thanks to some late slogging and flabby responses, Australia are well placed to declare overnight and press for victory tomorrow, when 98 overs (not the usual 90) are to be bowled.

Lyon deserved his five wickets. He took some punishment at times but when it really mattered, like yesterday afternoon and early today, bowled an off stump to right handers line which took advantage of the increasing turn and bounce provided by the fourth day drop in pitch (which we'd been promised would happen though I was inclined until today to disbelieve). To left handers he was even better: he befuddled Karn Sharma and softened him up for Peter Siddle, who claimed his wicket.

When Australia batted even Warner was, at least for a time, circumspect in the face of an Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami opening attack. Virat Kohli switched bowlers frequently, leaving Varun Aaron until some of the lesser and slower lights had had a bowl. 

Warner looked assured enough until he reached 66, when Aaron bowled him neck and crop. He was well on the way to the pavilion before the third umpire advised that the delivery was a palpable no-ball. The TV replay which I've subsequently seen not only confirms this but also raises the question why umpire Gould didn't see it in the first place. His failure, and the way it played out on the Oval, with a temporarily crestfallen Warner restored to batting life by technology, sandpapered some of the India team. It 's all very well to tut tut about spirit of the game etc but to me watching it seemed that Gould, and maybe the system which seems designed to support him and other umpires rather than getting to the truth asap, had failed. And failed badly. 

That said, Australia have the upper hand, and therefore a good chance of victory tomorrow. The sun is forecast to shine (est max 34C) , as it did today (32C), so play should proceed without interruption from the elements. Whether it does so without umpire ineptitude interfering remains to be seen.

I'll be going tomorrow to see if Australia can bowl out India, not watch Ian Gould and Marais Erasmus umpire.

<a href="">Scorecard<a/>

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Sun returns to Adelaide as Kohli leads India's reply to Australia's first innings: T1D3

India 5/369 (97 ov, Kohli 115/184b/12x4, Pujara 73/135b/ 9x4, Rahane 62/76b/10x4, Vijay 53/88b/3x4,2x6, Johnson 2/90, Lyon 2/103) trail Australia 7/517d by 148 runs with 5 1st inns wkts in hand: T1/4 D3/4 at Adelaide Oval.

After Michael Clarke declared, as expected,  at Australia's overnight score, India batted throughout the extended - to catch up some of the time lost yesterday - day's play. Unlike Australia, none of the top order batters failed, unless you consider Shikar Dhawan's swashbuckling 25/24b at the start of the innings to be a failure, yet several of them fell when better things seemed to be within their reach.

The best innings was Virat Kohli's. He seemed to show no ill effects from being struck on the helmet by a Mitchell Johnson bouncer before he'd scored, which was a relief to everyone though I thought at the time that the umpires might have asked for an expert opinion before allowing play to continue. In the event it didn't matter, as the stand in skipper stamped his authority on the match with some authoritative strokeplay, taking advantage of poor bowling and sometimes chancing his eye against quite good bowling. He moved easily to his century, then tried to show Johnson once too often who was boss, and was caught (well by a diving Ryan Harris) at deep fine leg hooking a bouncer.

Passing, or even approaching, 517 was going to require at least one big score. Kohli's 115 was, for all its flair, not what I'd call a big score:150-200 was what I had in mind. Yet each specialist batter put runs on the board, contributing to partnerships which made Clarke think hard about how to contain or break them. Even Dhawan's cameo at the start of the innings took the wind out of Johnson's sails for a while by letting him know  that he wasn't going to have the field day he had here against England last year. Cheteshwar Pujara was solid, Ajinka Rahane enterprising and Murali Vijay grew in confidence the longer he stayed.

The Australian bowlers persisted, without always or even often, looking likely to break through. Johnson and Harris may not have been at their best, but they didn't bowl as raggedly as the Indian quicks had often done during Australia's innings. The surprise packet was Nathan Lyon, who was introduced - and punished - early, but later regrouped and bowled tightly, obtaining spin and bounce from the drop in pitch. He nagged away and was justly rewarded with the wickets of  the well set Pujara and Rahane.

Michael Clarke remained on the field for most of the day, changing most of the bowlers frequently while  giving Lyon a long spell which paid dividends. There were several good contests between bat and ball, and at times India looked as if it was going to pass that 517. But Kohli's demise has made that look less likely. Rohit Sharma 33*/60b looks comfortable, but he has only to tail to support him and, as Rahane found out when a ball popped on him, the wicket is playing the occasional trick.

This has been an intriguing Test match so far. Tis a pity about the loss of so much play yesterday as this probably means that the most feasible results are a win to Australia or a draw.

Rain falls in Adelaide, but doesn't disrupt Aussie parade: T 1 D 2

Rains in Adelaide, but not on Australia's parade as Clarke recovers & Smith continues to build big total: T1/4, D2/5 at Acelaide Oval.

Australia 7/517 (120ov, Smith 162*/231b/21x4, Warner 145/163b/19x4, Clarke 128/163b/18x4) v India: T1/4 D2/5 at Adelaide Oval.

This was definitely not a quintessential Adelaide summer's day in weather terms,  but it was a superb day for Australian cricket as Michael Clarke and Steve Smith in between rain interruptions knocked the stuffing out of the Indian bowling and, to a degree, the fielding.

Clarke's appearance on the field after he'd hobbled off on D1 was, to put it mildly, unexpected. As was  the quality of his batting: he made the most of his limitations, treating the Indian bowlers with disdain (as they mostly deserved) and combining with Smith to repair the fissures which the second new ball had opened late on D1.

All this was achieved amid showers, mostly light but sufficient to send the players scurrying off the
Oval (behind the umpires) several times. Not at all Adelaide in December, but batting of the highest order.

<a href="">Scorecard</a>

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Warner powers Australia to good position despite late India fightback: T1D1

Australia 6/354 (89.2 ov, Warner 145/163b/19x4, Smith 72*/130b/9x4, Clarke 72 ret hurt 60*/84b/9x4, Marsh 41) v India T1/4 D1/5 at Adelaide Oval. Australia won toss and chose to bat.

On a quintessential Adelaide summer's day - clear blue sky, temperature in low 30s and a true Adelaide Oval first day wicket - and after a moving pre-match tribute to Philip Hughes David Warner batted magnificently....yet again. 

He attacked from the outset, making the India opening attack look toothless as 40 runs - 35 off his bat - came from the first 4 overs, before Ishant, one of three Sharmas in the Indian team, bowled a maiden to Warner, which slowed his progress temporarily,

Wickets fell and a promising partnership with Michael Clarke was truncated by injury to the skipper, leaving Australia effectively if not strictly accurately (despite what the scoreboard recorded) 3/206.

When Warner was eventually out at 258, Steven Smith and Mitchell Marsh continued to accumulate runs. India made it easier for them by using (over using?) spin in an attempt to improve a very slow over rate, 

This strategy appeared to have failed as the total approached  350, but against the run of play, three late wickets fell to the second new ball, leaving Smith to muster the lower order tomorrow.

With Clarke unlikely to bat, or perhaps even to play any further part in the match, the Test is more evenly poised than the scores might suggest. Well as Mohammed Shami and Varun Aaron bowled at the last half hour, I thought that Ishant Sharma's economy in the first half of the day's play kept India, if not in the game, at least not quite out of it.

<a href="">Scorecard <a/>

Monday, December 08, 2014

Tests resume after itinerary reshuffle

Test cricket resumes tomorrow here at the now completely upgraded Adelaide Oval.

As recent Australia v India contests have been decided - usually emphatically - by the home ground advantage, so on that line of reasoning Australia will start favourites. 

But, setting aside the unknown consequences of Phillip Hughes's death the week before last, Australia's Test record has been uneven. A recent 0-2 drubbing by Pakistan in the UAE after a 2-1 win in South Africa earlier in the year ( and of course last season's trouncing of England here) suggests some wobbles in Australia's performance.

And this is where its weakness may lie: have several of the selected team passed their best, or just temporarily lost form? I'm talking about Peter Siddle and Nathan Lyon, each of whom underperformed in the UAE and South Africa, and thinking about Brad Haddin, whose Ashes batting form deserted him
there. Had there not been a cloud over Michael Clarke's fitness, which has now we are told lifted, and the consequent need to have a safe pair of hands (not Shane Watson) as deputy/ understudy, he might 
Not have been named in the team.

India's main shortcomings are inexperience and their record of poor performance away from home. Three years ago the batting was packed with greats - Tendulkar, Dravid, Laxman and Sehwag - but the team still lost 4-0. Only Virat Kohli, who will lead the team tomorrow in the absence of an injured MS Dhoni, enhanced his reputation then. 

I watched some of the two two day warm up matches played here and didn't learn much. The opposition - scratch teams of fringe first class players and promising juniors - didn't, with a couple of exceptions, extend the Indians much. Tomorrow is forecast to be fine and sunny (max 32C) but there may be rain the day after. India would be happy with a draw, whereas Australia will be going all out for victory.


Phillip Hughes

Somehow my original post about Phillip a few days ago didn't make it to publication (I know not why but I should have checked), 

Here is my backyard tribute to him.