Test Cricket was at its dullest at the spectacular VCA Stadium in Jamtha, Nagpur with just the 166 runs scored in an entire day’s play! The runs were scored at a snail-paced rate of 1.90 rpo from none other than the Aussies who have been proud of maintaining run rates of over 4.00 in Test Cricket since many years. Mahendra Singh Dhoni tactically killed the game in the first two sessions with preplanned lines of attack from bowlers backed by his field settings; it was not so bad a move as there was hardly any crowd in the stadium to boo his team for all the negativity. The end result at stumps on Day three was that India have regained the initiative in the match by grabbing a crucial first innings lead of 86. The Aussies, who had the golden opportunity of coming back strongly in the game dug a hole for themselves and now are in a vulnerable position.
Morning Session: Indians strangulate the Oz batsmen as the match comes to a big halt
When the Katich-Hussey partnership started yesterday, there was a phase when they were plenty of singles taken at will by the two industrious batsmen, Katich was in particular getting runs in a hurry with his flicks. After yesterday’s play, the Indian team management seems to have sat down and come up with a plan of strangulate the two left handers in the morning session and see how they would react. Katich, who started the day’s play in the 90s was a nervous man as he played well away from his body off Ishant Sharma to give a healthy edge to first slip which was put down by the reliable Rahul Dravid. Simon Katich did get his century soon but all he and Hussey could do was nothing in countering the tight bowling from the Indians and by lunch, the match hardly moved forward with the visitors adding only 42 runs in 24 overs. Katich added just 10 runs all morning facing as many as 69 deliveries! It was a struggle to get the runs through the strong off side field that was packed with 8 fielders! Most of the work in the morning session was done by the combo of Zaheer and Ishant bowled in tandem for an hour and a half. Zaheer bowled almost right through the session while Harbhajan came into the bowl in the 30 minutes of that session. India was just happy to sit back and watch as they were the team with a 1-0 lead and could afford a draw to win the series. The Aussies had to do all the catching up to square the series with a win.
Afternoon Session: Dhoni’s team gets rewarded for the hard work
Patience paid off for India in the afternoon session as three big wickets fell in quick succession and the Aussies lost the grip of the match completely. Zaheer, who had enough energy to continue bowling at the start of this session found some luck when his 137 kmph inswinging yorker smacked the toe of Katich to end a long 3rd wicket stand. Katich ended with 102 from 189 balls with 3 fours, an innings that had two parts – one of a fluent one and the other being a total waste of time. Katich’s partnership with Hussey was 155. Michael Clarke’s entry didn’t push the scoring rate as he along with Hussey was kept under a check at both the ends. In the 85th over, Ishant Sharma produced a gem of an away going delivery that forced him to nick behind to make it 255 for 4 with Clarke making a struggling 8 runs from 44 balls. Five overs later, came the sensational run out of Michael Hussey to make the score 265 for 5!
Michael Hussey had thought that he had got his backfoot shot off Harbhajan past the silly point and set off for a run. But the fielder position there didn’t take any evasive action to that shot but instead stretched his right hand to stop the ball and hurl it back to Dhoni on the bounce. Dhoni smartly seized the opportunity by deflecting back on the stumps to run out Mike Hussey. The silly point fielder was none other than the young debutant Murali Vijay, who made his second telling contribution in the field. Yesterday Murali Vijay had got Matt Hayden run out through a brilliant pick up and throw. Hussey missed out on his century, ending up with 90 which had come in 229 balls with 8 fours. India finished with one more wicket before Tea with Shane Watson’s forward defensive shot rolling back onto his stumps to an over spin delivery from Harbhajan. Infact, Harbhajan was going through a very good spell during that period as he kept on pitching the ball full in the footmarks outside the off stump of the right handers. Watson had a stay of just 22 balls and Australia at Tea were out of the match at 280 for 6, still 161 runs away from touching India’s total!
Final Session: Clean up job takes a long time for India
The Indian bowling took a long time to take the remaining four wickets as the team persisted with a grandma age ball, more than a hundred overs old and was very soft with the seam giving up. There was a replacement old ball at the start of the session which couldn’t provide any bite. Dhoni strangely stuck with the combination of Amit Mishra and Virender Sehwag, infact the former was introduced only 15 minutes prior to the tea break. Haddin and White, the two Aussie all rounders helped their team get some valuable runs to reduce the deficit. At the same time there were some really good leg breaks from Amit Mishra, who improved remarkably from the flat stuff that he was throwing up yesterday. India were very reluctant to take the second new ball and the two spinners – Mishra and Sehwag persisted with the round the stumps angle. Mishra was eventually rewarded for bowling in the rough outside the legstump in the 116th over when Brad Haddin tried to pad up to a leg break which gripped enough to hit the back of the bat and land safely into Dravid’s hands at slip. Haddin contributed 28 from 80 balls in a partnership of 52 with Cameron White that lasted over 20 overs.
Dhoni finally took the second new ball in the 125th over as White and new man Jason Krejza looked comfortable against the spinners. It was a special new ball that moved around off the seam which was never seen in this test series. Ishant Sharma produced a big indipper that rapped up Krejza plumb infront and there were enough signs to suggest that Ishant will run through the lower order. Mitchell Johnson, who is very capable with the bat got a barrage of unplayable deliveries from Ishant but was lucky that a straightforward edge from his was dropped by Laxman at second slip. Dhoni turned back to his spinners – Harbhajan and Mishra who took the wickets of White and Johnson respectively to bring a close to the Australian innings. Brett Lee came in at no.11 for the first time in his career as he was suffering from dehydration. First to go was White when he failed to clear long on with the ground having huge boundaries. White played very well for his 46 facing 133 balls and striking 4 boundaries. Johnson, the last man out miscued his big shot off a googly from Mishra. Australia were bowled out in 134.4 overs for 355 which gave a crucial lead of 86. It was a real team effort from India, none of the bowlers were outstanding and the wickets were shared including Murali Vijay, who did considerable damage through his two run outs.
Virender Sehwag negotiated the one over before stumps comfortably with debutant Murali Vijay at the other end. It will be a crucial morning session for India tomorrow as they would look to safeguard against any batting collapse and put up a huge second innings lead.