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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.

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