By Denzil Fernandes
Daijiworld Media Network
Dec 29: The Boxing Day Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground went Australia’s way inside four days with an emphatic win for the hosts who outplayed India and beat them convincingly by 122 runs. In what promised to be a tough fought battle especially after the first two days, turned out to be a flop show due to the poor batting display of the Indians.
Day one saw Australia struggling against some fine Indian bowling and by the morning of day two had managed a not so healthy total of only 333 runs all out. Former skipper Ponting posted 62 useful runs while newcomer Ed Cowan impressed as an opener with 68 to his credit. Newcomer Umesh Yadav looked very promising and got wickets (3 wkts for 106 runs) at crucial times. Zaheer took 4 wickets for 77 runs in a rare and impressive bowling performance. India replied with great promise with opener Sehwag (67 runs) firing on all cylinders and once again Sachin Tendulkar missing his century after batting superbly for a well made 73 runs. When play ended on day three India were looking good with the score at 214 runs for the loss of 3 wickets with unbeaten Dravid going strong.
The writing was clear on the wall just as India’s so called ‘wall’ Rahul Dravid fell for the very 2nd ball he received on day 3 of the lst Test when he resumed with his overnight score at 68 not out. What followed was a familiar procession of all remaining Indian batsmen returning back to the pavilion without offering any sort of resistance. From an overnight score of 214 runs for the loss of only 3 wickets at the end of day 2, India were bundled out for 282 runs giving the Aussies a morale boosting lead of 51 runs. While one looked at India’s batting when play ended on day two, there was every reason to believe that the visitors would post a total of at least 350 runs with such a strong batting lineup. No one expected the seasoned Indian batting side to collapse like nine pins. One must give due credit to the kangaroos who bowled with great fire and purpose. For an addition of 68 runs 7 wickets were gone to give the Aussies a huge edge in the match.
With 7 wickets gone on day 3 there was more drama as the Australians too lost wickets in quick intervals as they began their second innings. With an eye on possible victory, the Aussies went for runs and were shocked by some hot stuff from the Indian pacers. Zaheer Khan (3 wkts for 53 runs), Umesh Yadav (4 wkts for 70 runs) and Ishant Sharma (2 wkts for 43 runs) meant that the Australians were all out for 240 runs giving them a lead of 291 runs. Once again Ponting scored with a fluent 60 runs while Hussey stroked 89 useful runs.
Yet again, with such a strong batting line up there was every reason to believe that Dhoni’s boys had one great chance to take the lead in the 4 match test series. One hoped that the Indians would grab the great heaven sent chance to take the lead in the series. But it was not to be. The Indians were skittled out quickly with no resistance from any of the known batsmen. No batsman got past even 32 runs individually and the total of 169 runs told the story in full. Just like in the first innings, the Indians looked ill at ease against a young bowling side led by James Pattinson.
Pattinson had superb match bowling figures of six wickets for 108 runs while scoring a crucial 18 and 37 runs in the two innings and was rightly rewarded with the man-of-the-match award. Interestingly, Pattinson was playing on his home ground and was not even born when Sachin Tendulkar had started playing cricket. He received splendid backing from other bowlers like Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus in helping Australia win.
Against a regrouping Australian team filled with many youngsters, the seasoned Indians cut a sorry figure to say the least. The Melbourne test presented a rare chance for the Indians to take the lead in the series. But with rank bad batting India have given Australia an outstanding lead and confidence to march ahead in the series. Unless the Indians show some drastic change in their batting in the second Test in Sydney, the same script written when they toured England earlier may have to be re written. That the Indians are poor cricket tourists while playing abroad is one sure point which is proved by India’s crushing defeat. Despite sharing the honours on the first two days of the Test the Indians nosedived to an unbelievable defeat.
Our players have to accept the blame that the defeat was due to rank bad batting. While the bowlers did their job, the famous stalwarts failed to deliver. Unless there is a change in the performance, one can be sure of yet another drubbing which will do more harm than good for Indian cricket. They have to take a lesson from the way the young Aussies contributed in their fine performance in the lst Test.
With a mixed year behind them, the Indians have to start the New Year on a victory note if they have to keep the series alive. Another defeat will mean that the Border-Gavaskar trophy will surely not go to India. The Aussies, no doubt will celebrate with their new found winning formula. Unless the visitors change gears and get into winning ways, the hosts will continue with their victory march.