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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. 

Scorecard http://www.espncricinfo.com/australia-v-india-2014-15/engine/match/754739.html

Happy Christmas to all!
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