Debutant off spinner Jason Krejza captured 8 wickets to help his side restrict India to 441 and opening batsman Simon Katich scored a rock solid 92* which helped the visitors to stay alive in the Nagpur Test. Aussies lost Matty Hayden and Ricky Ponting but could end the second day’s play with full of hope at 189 for 2 in just 49 overs. While Krejza got the ball to turn and bounce, his counterparts – Harbhajan, Mishra and Sehwag hardly posed a threat to the batsmen and didn’t get the same kind of purchase! Here is a breakdown of the day’s play at the new VCA Stadium:
Morning Session: Gangz, MS bat Aussies out of the match and the series!
The crucial morning session saw India cruise through comfortably through the pair of Sourav Ganguly and the attacking MS Dhoni. The first hour gave nothing to the likes of Lee and Johnson. Introduction of Jason Krejza early on could only help in accelerating the score further. At drinks, India had collected 56 runs in just 12 overs! It was damage control for Ricky Ponting in the remaining part of the session with Krejza bowling a restrictive line around the leg stump of Ganguly and Watson keeping it out of reach of Dhoni by bowling it outside the off stump. But still the two batsmen could keep up the tempo and by lunch took India to a formidable 404 for 5 with Ganguly entertaining the thoughts of scoring a century in his last test. MS Dhoni not only hit the smacking shots but also kept on pushing Ganguly for the quick singles, twos and threes! Dhoni moved onto 43 in a very cool manner.
Afternoon Session: Krejza spins out India in a hurry; Haydos departs early!
The afternoon session saw the much needed breakthrough come for the visitors when MS Dhoni missed to connect a paddle sweep while exposing his leg stump. Krejza hit the leg stump with just a bit of turn to get his man and that too a ball after he had embarrassingly conceded a double century! Dhoni had scored 56 from 97 balls with 4 fours in a partnership of 119 with Ganguly, who was Krejza’s next victim. The left hander’s chances of getting a hundred were defeated by some sharp turn and bounce which forced him to nick to the slip. Michael Clarke took a brilliant low catch to help Krejza get a five-wicket haul on debut! Ganguly had to disappointingly end with a score of 85 (from 153 balls with 8 fours and a towering six over long on).
Having got all the big scalps, Krejza found it too easy to dislodge the Indian tail while Harbhajan Singh looked helpless at the non-striker’s end with an unbeaten strokeful 18 (from 24 balls) with 4 fours. First it was Zaheer Khan dragging a cover drive back onto the stumps and the next ball Amit Mishra got his off stump cleaned up by a straighter one to put Krejza on a hat-trick! Ishant Sharma, the last man denied the hat-trick but didn’t last too long as his push got brilliantly caught at short leg by Katich. India lost five wickets in the space of 49 balls and with the addition of just 19 runs. Jason Krejza finished with a total mixed bag, he would jump up and down having taken 8 wickets but the Indians had smashed him around for as many as 215 runs in 43 overs!
It was a boon in disguise for the hosts for getting bowled out quickly as it would only give their bowlers more time to bowl out the opposition twice. There was just under an hour left in the session for the Aussies to bat. Dhoni cleverly opened the bowling with Harbhajan Singh but the off spinner didn’t show any threat with the brand new cherry. Matty Hayden and Simon Katich looked comfortable in the middle but a moment of madness spoilt the show in the 7th over. It was when Hayden had wristily to mid on and took off for a single which was never there but was fine as the Indians hardly get the direct throws correctly! But for a change, a direct throw indeed hit the bull’s eye and Hayden was well short at the non-striker’s end and the man who picked the ball and threw it in a flash brilliantly was debutant Murali Vijay! It was a waste of a wicket for the Aussies as said by many people when Matthew Hayden walked back making just the 16 (from 26 balls with 3 fours). Australia went to Tea at 43 for 1 in 11 overs with Ricky Ponting looking in good touch and Katich working the ball across all the time.
Final Session: Bhajji takes 300 but Katich, Hussey go onto irk India
The last session provided a major relief for Harbhajan Singh when he got his bunny Ricky Ponting to grab his 300th Test wicket! For the record, Harbhajan became the third Indian to achieve this feat after Kapil Dev and Anil Kumble. It was the first ball of the 18th over when a confident Ricky Ponting rocked back to play a cut but only to be defeated by the fuller length of an off break that hit the exposed stumps. Ponting till then was striking the ball sweetly in his 41-ball stay which produced 24 runs with 3 fours. After that big break, India couldn’t get any magic at all from the Turbanator and the other two spinners – Mishra and Sehwag weren’t able to sustain any pressure on the pair of Katich and Hussey.
Simon Katich kept on shuffling across and working the ball at will whether it was a quick bowler or a spinner and Hussey would just drop the ball with soft hands in the infield. Both left handers stole a number of singles to maintain a very healthy run rate and to put the pressure back on Dhoni. Both the left handers stayed the distance till the end of the session to take Australia 252 runs short of the Indian total. They have also given plenty of hope for the dressing room through their unbroken partnership of 115. Katich worked his way to 92 from 120 balls with 8 fours and Hussey got 45 with 4 fours from 108 balls. India would need its spinners to copy the flight and the speeds employed by Krejza if they have to find any success in the next three days. Having said that, India is in a safe position with a lead of 1-0 and would hardly be disappointed if the match heads in a draw!