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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. 

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