India begin uphill journey

India begin uphill journey

The sight of Michael Clarke calling Brad Haddin and Ryan Harris back to the pavilion might have given a lot of relief to the Indians. But they didn’t have the desired respite even after that.

Chasing Australia’s mammoth 604 for seven declared, India were 61 for two at the end of the second day of the fourth Test, still 543 runs in arrears. Before Australia evicted Virender Sehwag and Rahul Dravid, the overriding theme of the day was the dominance of Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke, just like it was on day one.

Clarke gave an early indication of the struggle that awaited India, sending Ishant Sharma to the ropes in the second over the day, and it got only worse for India. The Indian bowlers didn’t have the nous or discipline to contain the two well-set Australian batsmen on a flat track.

Resuming at 137 and 140 respectively, Ponting and Clarke went about their job clinically, and the listlessness of Indian bowlers only made their task that much easier. Even Ishant Sharma, India’s best bowler on day one, slipped into the inconsistent mode, offering plenty of width for batsmen to score at will.

On a shirtfront like the Adelaide Oval pitch, bowlers were required to have the craft to keep the batsmen silent for a long period of time, adopting a tight line and length. But the Indians didn’t have the necessary patience to keep both the ends tight, often following up a good delivery with looseners to ease the pressure on the Australians.

It wasn’t that the Indians never got a chance to grab a wicket. In fact, they created a couple of them, but they weren’t in an alert state of mind to exploit them and both the time Ponting was the beneficiary. Ishant missed a return catch chance when Ponting was on 186, and VVS Laxman missed a rather routine chance at mid-wicket off R Ashwin when the former Australian skipper was on 215.

But those slight blemishes apart, both Ponting and Clarke were in complete control of the proceedings while building a monstrous 386-run alliance for the fourth-wicket. It’s quite natural to see a few records stumbling during the course of such big stands, and en route to his double hundred Clarke became the third batsman to score a triple hundred and double hundred in the same series after Don Bradman and Wally Hammond. Clarke had earlier made an unbeaten 329 in Sydney.

They also recorded the highest partnership for any wicket made at the Adelaide Oval, surpassing the 341 scored by South Africa’s Graeme Pollock and Eddie Barlow. All this happened much before the time for lunch, and Clarke brought up his double hundred with jab to mid-wicket off Ashwin that fetched him two runs.

However, Clarke didn’t add any run in the post-lunch session, getting his timbers rearranged by Umesh Yadav, who had pinged on his helmet in the morning session. Ponting soon reached the sixth double hundred of his career with a trademark pull off Yadav. The dismissal of Clarke seemed to lift the Indians from the depths of despair a bit, and soon they managed to dislodge Ponting as well.

A pull off Zaheer Khan ended in the hands of Sachin Tendulkar in the deep, while Haddin and Harris ensured that Australia go past the 600-run mark with an entertaining 71-run stand for the eighth wicket.

The Indians began the reply in a cavalier fashion, and Gautam Gambhir stroked the first ball, a juicy full toss outside the off-stump by Harris, to the ropes, and Sehwag too looked in firm touch. So far the rub of green hasn’t gone in India’s favour, and the luck, finally, appeared to come their way when Ed Cowan grassed Sehwag off Ben Hilfenhaus at mid-wicket.

However, the Delhi Dasher couldn’t exploit the let off, perishing when Peter Siddle held on to a catch off his own bowling. Dravid was clean bowled for the sixth time in this series – albeit in a tad unfortunate manner – when Hilfenhaus’ delivery ricocheted off his elbow on to the stumps. Gambhir and Tendulkar saw off the day without further damage, and the Indian batsmen have a demanding task on the morrow.

Score Board

Australia (I Innings, O/n: 335/3):
Cowan c Laxman b Ashwin    30
(110m, 63b, 3x4)
Warner lbw Zaheer    8
(28m, 23b)
Marsh b Ashwin    3
(11m, 12b)
Ponting c Tendulkar b Zaheer    221
(516m, 404b, 21x4)
Clarke b Yadav    210
(370m, 275b, 26x4, 1x6)
Hussey (run out)    25
(50m, 33b, 3x4)
Haddin (not out)    42
(88m, 66b, 1x4, 2x6)
Siddle c Saha b Ashwin    2
(14m, 15b)
Harris (not out)    35
(75m, 51b, 2x4, 1x6)
Extras (B-3, LB-17, W-8)    28
Total (7 wkts, 157 overs, decl)    604
Fall of wickets: 1-26 (Warner), 2-31 (Marsh), 3-84 (Cowan), 4-470 (Clarke), 5-520 (Hussey), 6-530 (Ponting), 7-533 (Siddle).
Bowling: Zaheer 31-4-96-2 (w-2), Umesh 26-1-136-1 (w-6), Ashwin 53-6-194-3, Ishant 30-6-100-0, Sehwag 16-0-55-0, Kohli 1-0-3-0.
India (I Innings):
Gambhir (batting)    30
(86m, 56b, 4x4)
Sehwag c&b Siddle    18
(22m, 18b, 3x4)
Dravid b Hilfenhaus    1
(9m, 7b)
Tendulkar (batting)    12
(54m, 43b, 1x4)
Total (for 2 wkts, 21 overs)    61
Fall of wickets: 1-26 (Sehwag), 2-31 (Dravid). Bowling: Harris: 6-2-18-0, Hilfenhaus 6-1-21-1, Siddle 3-0-13-1, Lyon 5-2-9-0, Clarke 1-1-0-0. 

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