Indians win the opening test of this test series against Aus. It is much to the relief of many fans, may be some of the players and good wishers of Indian cricket. Indians seem to have most check boxes ticked (almost?). There are always some check boxes which seem not so important, another blog for these kinda check boxes on some other day. Hint Opening batting, opening bowling. However, Ashwin 12 for in the match Dhoni's brilliant 224, Virat 106, he should have not spoil it by throwing it away. Tendulkar was sure and confident of his foot work. I am wondering what Murali Vijay and Ishant Sharma may be feeling, they hardly contributed towards anything. Ishant bowled couple of spells in the match, Vijay came out to bat couple of times. Sehwag form a major worry for now. India won.
Good toss to lose?
Wonder if Dhoni was lucky in many to have lost the toss? Bat first is the theme for most visiting teams, cause no one wants to chase on a crumbling pitch with the spinner making the ball turn and shoot, and spit venom like cobra, or the pitch bursting and exploding without a caution. Dhoni got lucky perhaps? What it doesn't do is to lend credit to theory but it does give lot of clues. Clarke perhaps came with a mindset not wanting to bat last on a raging turner (if at all), but it's in hindsight you always find more possibilities.
Aussies started well while batting first with Warner and Cowan laying a good foundation. A group of wickets and Phil hughes and openers fell in quick succession. Not sure is Phil Hughes will get more games. Watson started purposefully but than trapped leg before by Ashwin's faster delivery. Warner's wicket pushed Aus deeper into misery but than man if for the Aus captain guided the Aus team to a very good total. Moises Henriques batted well and game a good company, singles and boundaries started to come b more easily. Bhajji at least offered one delivery shot and wide or wayward delivery in each of his generous overs. Aus tailed wagged and the lower half contributed 230 runs for the last five wickets, most contributions from Clarke himself. Indian spinners took all the ten Aussie wickets.
Clarke is one batsman apart from Amla who could readily sleep walk on to the pitch and get a century if not more without breaking sweat. Clarke a man in prime form, posses daft touches and quick feet to alter the length of the bowler and play horizontal shots either side of the wicket or race down the wicket and hit the spinner in the air and over the top. A very formidable batsman in the prevailing conditions even against the Indian spinners. There is more expected out of Warner and Watson, simply because they are more accustomed to Indian conditions (IPL!). We are assured though in the next match a better prepared and better prepared Aus team will be seen competing. Dhoni's climb just got steeper.
India assured is reply.
12 for 2 and this innings had all the ingredients to see another of those famous collapse like the one in the previous series against England. Sehwag forms so poor that he is finding new ways of getting out. Murali Vijay didn't have much to sing and dance about, cleaned up by Pattinson before he could get into position. Sehwag tried to survive but his misery didn't last long, got out in a weird and funny manner, the ball lobbed back to hit the bail. Tendulkar's first stroke was that of assurance which all of India sought for better part of last season, a pitch up delivery timed to perfection and the ball went screeching towards the boundary, two more boundaries in next three deliveries and Tendulkar was back. Pujara and Sachin steadied the ship and chartered the course towards this chase. Pujara who seem to have good temperament and technique for test matches should look to build on a rare slip of concentration from him and he missed an incoming delivery. Pattinson was a raging bull. Virat Kohli, who seemed quiet for most of the English series also build up on the platform provided by Pujara-Tendulkar partnership, further flayed the Aussie attack and India saw end of second day with just 3 wickets down. Tendulkar and Kohli looking good on the crease both making fifties. In the backdrop of previous series a follow-on avoided seemed quiet an achievement.
Calm and the storm.
A nervy and intriguing first session on the third day. Lyon broke through Tendulkar, who was incited into a full ball spinning off break. A classic off spinners dismissal. Tendulkar beaten by spin and dip of the delivery. The calm went and the storm stepped in . Its not often that an Indian batsmen gets an applause that matches Tendulkar's reception but the Indian captain is in that league. Indian captain looked resolved and up for the challenge. Dhoni straightway started counter attacking. Aus bowlers bemused and besmirched but not up to the challenge, Kohli and Dhoni got a partnership going and Aus seem to loosing the grip on the match. A fifty run partnership in ten following overs. They got a solid partnership that got the score closer to Aus first innings. India felt out of the jail. Kohli got a very good century.
Kohli got out to weird kind a shot, it wasn't required as well. Dhoni has better capabilities to flay the ball and counter attack. Kohli hit an "over smart" stroke and holed out to mid on, Lyon again inciting an unwarranted stroke. This shot cost him a big chunky hundred, may be a double century for the taking. Kohli should have tried that stroke after crossing a score of two hundred. It would have been more productive. Kohli needs to score big chunky hundreds when he gets opportunity. Test match hundreds and victories are hard work and rare, why leave it away to someone else when the game is in balance?
Talking of balance, Dhoni has the swagger and the will. He may not be the most pleasing, perfect batsman to watch, but thats not the story. I really don't know how many people have hit a double century in two and half session with in a day. Dhoni has. He went on from strength to strength the longer he stayed at the crease the harder he hit them over the boundary, the harder it was for the bowlers to get him. He kept smashing them all afternoon. The bowlers were just smashed out of the attack, more than one bowler was taken out of the attack more than once, Henriques, Lyon, Starc. He should obviously bat at number six. Dhoni's method to his madness lies in his resolve , purpose and guts. It was a a huge turn around.
I think I can dare say that Dhoni's innings was right up their with Laxman-Dravid partnership on the fourth day of THAT Eden Gardens test. He batted well with Kohli ad then did well to shepherded the tail, Ashwin and Bhajji should have done more, along with Kohli off course. Bhuvnesh on debut was his best partner. Bhuvnesh's task was simple, get on the strike for fourth and fifth ball and defend. If he was in strike than may be hold the fort or get a single. He did well. Bhuvnesh scored 21 runs in partnership with of 140 with Dhoni, as the lead swelled at nearly 5 an over. Well done Bhuvnesh.
Aus fight it to out the end.
Aussies had read the script. It was spin all the way. Batsman came and went and batsman were bluffed with the pitch and guile of the spin. Indian spinners claimed two wickets in the match. The one with most test wickets claimed just three in the entire test match though he supported Ashwin, well. Bhajji should read what Rahul Dravid has written for him on Cricinfo for him to find his mojo, right now its lost somewhere. The guile, the intrigue, the bite of the wicket, the hunger all seem missing from Bhajji's bowling. Ashwin came back from an indifferent English series. But stands right next to Dhoni with his 12 wickets in the match. Jadeja provided the break through when required. It was up to Henriques to put on some fight. He deserves a promotion as the best Aus batsman prepared to grind it out on a powdery pitch to lead the fight.
India had 50 runs to chase, Murali Vijay tonked a six, got out, Sehwag got out prodding, another new way of dismissal for him. The best part of the second innings was Tendulkar smashing two sixes of the first two balls he faced, Pujara completed the formality of claiming the winning run courtesy a bye and India completed a test victory much to relief for us Indian cricket fans.
The following part is the preview of the series post I couldnt post on time. :(
Like for like; this Aus vs India series makes an intriguing contest. It may not be the strongest Aus team to India, but then its not been the strongest India team to host Aus at home either. Indians in the previous series just imploded against England, after winning the first test. We prevailed against NZ and West Indies in previous season simply because we were playing at home and factors were in our favour. England just clobbered us. Aussies would want to do the same. Can Aussies attack and will Indians provided a challenge are some of the questions to be answered as both teams are in Transition and would look to build up from this series?
Aussies and their challenges.
Hussey more than Ponting would be missed very dearly. Both gentlemen have retired now. The batting onus is on cruise-to-double-century-in-a-day the inform Aussie captain Michael Clarke, Watson, Warner. Warner is a refined Sehwag for better or for worst. Watson, remains the key. Watson, Warner, if fit and Clarke should occupy first three of the four slots, but Aussie batting lean on Indian pitches... Aus new/old ball bowlers are a key. An indifferent bounce and reverse sewing is the name of the bowling aspect in the sub continent. Aussies do have their pace battery in place, Siddle, Starc, Pattinson, Johnson and other, it will be interesting which and how many spinners will be playing in the Aussie XI. Aussies looked more settled in the bowling department, this is not to suggest they are lean on batting. Aussies are much in flux and yet to form a team, though the core is in place. As we know by now opening the batting is no big deal in India, I am curious to know how many Aussies batsmen are queuing up to bat in India. Indian bowlers are pretty ordinary on current form and fitness. I think the focus should be on the bowlers, how there perform in tis series. Indian batsman have different challenges though.
Indian resistance and defense.
A good set of bowlers will win you more matches. If you look at the teams of the recent pasts you will see that great teams had some terrific bowlers, West Indies, Aussies for better part of last three decades. Safs seem to have bowlers bowling in terrific combination. One of the reason why Pak is formidable in conditions is the bowlers that they have. In India its different. The bowlers in India are hard to find and harder to remembers From out of no where the bowlers look pedestrian and out of nowhere they pick couple of wickets but they get back to being pedestrian too soon. India has produce some stellar batsmen, who have scored heavily at home and also delivered in alien conditions in last decade and a half. Indian bowling struggles at home and away. Often what goes under the radar, is bowlers performance when touring abroad and results are unfavourable. I am not sure if its to do with the lack of fitness or lack of ability of some other issue with our bowlers. India has won matches abroad when bowlers have contributed if not bettered the performances by out batsman. India needs bowlers, able to get back us in the game when all looks lost. For know Solomons Keys need to be searched to find four good seamer and three good spinners, who induce a mistakes and claim wickets and at times bowl a hostile spell and claim victories. It is a far fetched team considering there are more bowlers on recuperating rooster than the playing one.
I am not sure if its Tendulkar's last season/series. He has done everything a batsman could do. He carried the dreams of an entire generation. He should consider retiring at the end of the series not before flaying Aussies like he has done when they have toured earlier. Pujara looks good for now. Kohli seems just off the boil, Raina and Yuvraj unsure. I was surprise to know Zak wasn't playing, injury of a break, I don't know. I hoped he would play a big series He has couple of left handers, whom Zaks loves to bowl.
If the present Australian team is the weakest to tour India, then present Indian team is the weakest to host Australia. There are too many check boxes to fill, Dhoni's captaincy and batting prowess, Sehwag form, Tendulkar's career, middle order partnership of Pujara-Kohli-He-whoever other.
Although thin on experience, this Aus-India series will be interesting to see specially if India wins. :P