Another disaster as Indian batting self-destructs

Rampant Warner leads Aussie reply

There is something indescribably charming about this set of Australian pace bowlers. The pre-match war cries and doomsday predictions of the earlier generation have been replaced by studied silence and perseverance.

But only their attitude and approach have changed. They have sustained the effectiveness of the previous generation, exemplified by their large-hearted effort to bowl out India for 161 on day one of the third Test here. In reply, Australia rushed to 149 without loss, courtesy a marauding unbeaten hundred by David Warner and a relatively sedate 40 by Ed Cowan.

Among the Australian pace quartet of Peter Siddle, Ben Hilfenhaus, Mitch Starc and Ryan Harris, impressive all of them were on a blazing Friday, the first two names stood out for persistence and the ability to fetch breakthroughs at the correct time.
Hilfenhaus started the horror on Friday the 13th for India, dismissing Virender Sehwag with a gem of a delivery. Pitched on middle and off, the red cherry swung just enough to take the edge of Sehwag’s bat that put Ricky Ponting in business in the slips.

Siddle pitched one full on the leg stump and Rahul Dravid played all over it to get castled. Before lunch, they prised out Gautam Gambhir and Sachin Tendulkar to reduce India to 73 for four. The pre-lunch collapse wasn’t a result of menacing fast bowling or vagaries of the pitch that was expected to offer plenty of bounce for the pacers.

There indeed was bounce, but nothing non-negotiable. The Australian pacers judged the nature of the pitch to perfection, and never got carried away by the reputation of the WACA pitch. Instead, they relied on swing and an assiduous line outside the off-stump to sow the seeds of doubts in Indians’ minds.

The post-lunch session offered a brilliant example of Australian strategy. VVS Laxman and Virat Kohli, who finally seemed to understand the nuances of Test cricket, put together a 68-run partnership for the fifth wicket that stemmed the top-order collapse for a while, and India were on the verge of winning the second session of the day. Just a few minutes before tea, Michael Clarke brought Siddle back into the attack, and the Victorian pacer immediately repaid his skipper’s faith.

Kohli had essayed a couple of delightful flicks off his pads, revealing his class and growing comfort in the longer format. Siddle kept on bowling on the off-stump, and finally the Delhiite succumbed to the temptation as a loose drive ended in the hands of Warner at gully.

Siddle adopted a similar method against Laxman, and the Hyderabadi too soon edged him to Clarke at first slip. Those two wickets gave Australia the upperhand in what could have been an Indian session. Unlike their Indian counterparts, the Australians never let the intensity down after successive strikes.

The home side bowlers came for the final session of the day with more intention and fire after those double strikes, and never allowed the late-order batsmen to wag and take India to a more respectable total. Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, on whom India placed hopes to take them past the 200-mark, perished to a tame prod off Hilfenhaus that ended in the hands of Ponting at third slip. From that point, the Australian bowlers brought the curtains down on the Indian innings very quickly.

The only chance India had to make a comeback was to take a few early Australian wickets, and that wasn’t precisely a wrong thought considering the ordinary form of the hosts’ top three – Cowan, Warner and Shaun Marsh – coming into this match.

But the Indian bowlers were as listless as their batsmen, dishing out a well below par, intention-less effort, and Warner cashed in to register a magnificent hundred to help his team take complete command. But the real heroes of the day were the Australian pace bowlers.

 

INDIA (I Innings):
Gambhir c Harris b Hilfenhaus    31 (111m, 82b, 3x4)
Sehwag c Ponting b Hilfenhaus    0 (15m, 4b)
Dravid b Siddle    9 (41m, 35b, 1x4)
Tendulkar lbw Harris    15 (47m, 25b, 3x4)
Laxman c Clarke b Siddle    31 (124m, 86b, 5x4)
Kohli c Warner b Siddle    44 (108m, 81b, 6x4)
Dhoni c Ponting b Hilfenhaus1    2(30m, 22b, 2x4)
Vinay lbw Starc    5 (14m, 4b, 1x4)
Zaheer c Clarke b Hilfenhaus    2 (15m, 11b)
Ishant c Haddin b Starc    3 (13m, 8b)
Yadav (not out)    4 (3m, 4b, 1x4)

Extras (B-2, LB-2, W-1)    5

Total (all out, 60.2 overs)    161

Fall of wickets: 1-4 (Sehwag), 2-32 (Dravid), 3-59 (Tendulkar), 4-63 (Gambhir), 5-131 (Kohli), 6-138 (Laxman), 7-152 (Vinay), 8-152 (Dhoni), 9-157 (Zaheer). 

Bowling: Ryan Harris 18-6-33-1, Ben Hilfenhaus 18-5-43-4, Mitchell Starc 12.2-3-39-2 (w-1),
Peter Siddle 12-3-42-3.

AUSTRALIA (I Innings):

Cowan (batting)    40
(85m, 58b, 6x4)
Warner (batting)    104
(85m, 80b, 13x4, 3x6)
Extras (LB-3, W-2)    5
Total (for no loss, 23 overs)    149
Bowling: Zaheer Khan 7-1-44-0 (w-1), Umesh Yadav 6-1-42-0 (w-1), Vinay Kumar 4-0-31-0, Ishant Sharma 5-0-28-0, V Sehwag 1-0-1-0.

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