Warner leads Aussie assault

Warner leads Aussie assault

Opener slams quickfire 101 as hosts reach 348/2 against listless Indian bowling

Warner leads Aussie assault

A lifeless pitch, an impatient captain, sloppy fielding and lack of discipline by pacemen combined to ensure that India endured their longest day on the field yet on this tour.

Opting to bat first on a surface that had little in it in the way of seam, swing or spin, Australia piled on India’s misery, finishing Tuesday’s opening day of the fourth and final Test on a commanding 348 for two here at the Sydney Cricket Ground. The hosts were off to a rollicking start with David Warner (101, 182m, 114b, 16x4) and Chris Rogers (95, 189m, 160b, 13x4) putting on a 200-run partnership for the opening wicket. Steven Smith (82 batting, 134b, 10x4) and Shane Watson (61 batting, 132b, 6x4) then built on that solid platform, adding 144 runs for the unbroken third wicket.   

Apart from the obvious inclusion of Wriddhiman Saha in place of the retired MS Dhoni, India made three more changes to their 11 from the Melbourne Test. Opener Shikhar Dhawan and Cheteshwar Pujara were left out to accommodate Rohit Sharma and Suresh Raina while Ishant Sharma, rested because of pain in the left knee, made way for Bhuvneshwar Kumar.

Barring R Aswhin and in patches Mohammad Shami, the Indian attack looked pedestrian for most part of the day. With the wicket offering little help, there was no substitute for discipline. When the pitch isn’t doing any trick the best way to get wickets is by choking the batsmen for runs, frustrating them and forcing them into mistakes. But as has been feature of this series, every good over was followed by two ordinary overs as the Australian batsmen gathered runs with ease.

Even as Ashwin dried one end up, the likes of Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Umesh Yadav released the pressure by bowling too many boundary balls. Bhuvneshwar, playing his first match of the series, appeared rusty. Opening the attack, he was expected to move the ball but the conditions weren’t conducive for the right-arm paceman. His lack of pace, in the absence of lateral movement, was hardly going to bother the Australian batsmen.

That India dropped two catches didn’t help their cause either on a day when opportunities were hard to come by. KL Rahul grassed a straight forward offer from Rogers in the second slip off Shami when the batsman was on 19 and Australia were on 45/0. The rub of the green went Australia’s way as Warner’s inside edge off Yadav raced past perilously close to leg-stump while his another edge off Ashwin fell short of a fielder at point. India could have finished the day on a somewhat happy note had Ashwin held on to a thick edge from Watson off the second last ball of the day. Yadav was the unlucky bowler this time.  

Not the one to look a gift horse in the mouth, Warner punished the Indian bowlers the way only he does. He was particularly severe against Yadav who at one stage was going more than seven runs an over. He either strayed down the leg or gave too much width for the batsman to chance his arm. The absence of Ishant, who has been India’s best bowler on the tour, was thoroughly felt as India couldn’t slow down things.

While Warner was the enforcer, Rogers was the accumulator. The 37-year-old opener, playing his last home Test, came closest to converting his fifth consecutive fifty into a century but fell short by five runs when he chopped Shami on to his stumps. In the previous over, Ashwin had induced an edge to second slip to get rid of Warner. With two wickets in as many overs, India had found an opening or so they thought!

Things just drifted away with some more poor bowling and some bizarre bowling changes. Right after tea, Ashwin had bowled a maiden and Shami had given away just one run from the other end. But Kohli replaced Shami with Bhuvneshwar who was replaced by Yadav who was replaced by Suresh Raina and each after just one over! Bhuvneshwar gave away seven runs and Yadav conceded nine and the pressure was gone just like that. This was the story of India through the day.