Thank you, India.
You have come to Australia with a desire to be competitive; yet, in the thick of things, that has proven to be a bit of a shaky statement.
Australia sealed victory in the second test at Brisbane on Saturday by four wickets, mainly thanks to Chris Rogers (55) in the second innings. It was, however, somewhat overshadowed by the fact the hosts were a fair way behind at the end of day two, which set the match up for a very intense finale.
That went completely by the wayside. One man was perhaps key to igniting the spark that put India in a bit of a rut was Mitchell Johnson. First, he scored 88 in a 148 run partnership with captain Steve Smith – they scored that in just 26 overs.
Then, to add insult to injury, the fiery left-armer took four wickets in the second innings to help restrict India to just 224 in the second innings. A golden opportunity had been put at the tourists feet to take a decent first innings lead of 100 or more. India proceeded to take the foot off the gas and effectively turn the match over to Australia on day three.
Johnson and Smith (133) frustrated India, and then pounced. From 6/247, Australia finished on 505 all out in its first innings- a very, very solid conclusion, after India looked competitive and bowling good lines.
Umesh Yadav, on his return, took five wickets for the match. Ishant Sharma took six. Both, for the most part, looked threatening by finding a line that troubled the Australian batsmen. However, the major difference between Australia’s and India’s bowling came from the no-balls. India had 16 against their scorecard, Sharma bowling 11 of them.
Murali Vijay and Ajinkya Rahane were stellar against an Australian attack that, too many times, looked astray on a Gabba pitch offering speed and movement. There seems to be a mentality among the Australian bowlers that regular short balls equalled some sort of intimidation factor. Vijay seemed to revel in getting balls that were there to be put away.
One moment India looked steady, a far cry from what usually happens overseas. Then it all changed, and Australia grabbed a victory media critics were not predicting. The diabolical collapse from India – losing 5/36 on the morning of day four – showed gaps in improvement that still needed patching up.
Even the cramps that Johnson, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Marsh had to endure on day one did not stop Australia – only delay the inevitable. India’s “shot” on day four, aimed at the supposed inadequacy of the training facilities, did not stand up to the first hurdle.
It also displayed sheer arrogance towards Australia, given the position of the match. With nine wickets in hand, India had one of their greatest chances to snatch a win on foreign soil, and spoilt it by not playing the game of cricket; instead, playing a game that sent them, slowly, down a hole with no rungs to climb up on.
Steven Smith commented on the tactics India used to try and intimidate Johnson, and how the dynamic of the game changed with it.
“It was just outstanding the way he (Johnson) came out and batted in the first innings and took the bowlers on. It got them off their lengths a little bit. It probably helped me up the other end as well … That was a big turning point in the game, to get that partnership there with Mitch.”
Shikhar Dhawan, the man who was struck on the arm in the nets on the morning of day four, ended up scoring a solid 81 coming out to bat when India were six down. Virat Kohli made his way to the wicket in place of Dhawan when play started on Saturday.
Speaking to NDTV, Gavaskar said, “A person who has got a hundred in each innings in the previous Test should have been prepared. Dhawan’s injury in the morning before play started was unfortunate but pain is an individual thing. It is hard for anyone else to say whether Dhawan was uncomfortable enough to bat.”
Gavaskar’s words are an accurate reminder that at any moment, a batsman must be ready to walk to the crease. India lost the test because of an approach which killed an attacking game. Australia saw this and saw the opportunity to pounce.
Never mind who took the captaincy reigns. The hosts were wobbly at the best of times, but were inspired by the likes of their skipper and the bowlers, who found the cracks in India’s armour. On the reverse side of the card, the visitors crumbled after telling themselves things weren’t perfect.
Melbourne is going to be an interesting battle. Two-nil up in the series will have the Australian fans hungry for more, while India need the drawing board, stat.