On the day after Sehwag tonked a double hundred in ODI cricket, 3 years ago, David Warner's boundary laced, emotional 145 set the foundation for what should have been a formidable Australian first innings total - that the day ended up with honors shared has plenty to do with India's bowling. And luck.
Plenty has been written about the bowling lengths - sure they could have been fuller, and straighter, but equally, the rewards might not have materialized. Australia could just as easily have ended the day at 250/2, and if the toss up is between 250/2 and 354/6, I know what I would go with.
Also, cognizance has to be taken of the fact that 3 of the four bowlers India played were playing their first test in Australia, on what is a belter of a wicket. If similar lines and lengths are persisted with on Day 2 of the Third test, then Houston, we have a problem. But on Day 1 of the first test, I would not sweat the short stuff.
And now, luck. Between David Warner's mistimed swipe off Karn Sharma, and Michael Clarke's back giving way, India should have played the lottery, thats how much luck they had.
Both are significant - another session of Warner, in form and riding on his 100, and the game, as a contest, was over, right there and then. And another session of Clarke, continuing on with from his 60, and onto three figures, and the Australian dressing room would have gotten the emotional and adrenaline boost that the past few weeks must have sapped out of them.
And Clarke's injury has a greater bearing on the test, and the series.
For tomorrow, India's best chance would be to take the remaining four wickets quickly, but I dont see how Australia can be restricted to below 400 - Harris, Johnson and Siddle can all bat, and a few aada-patta shots should see them cross 400 easily. What is important from an Indian POV is that number should not grow greater than that.
And while the pitch remains a belter, my Indian game plan would be to play for time, not runs. Here's why -
- None of the Australian bowlers have bowled a ball in anger for over a month now -
- Harris last played in mid November, coming off of his knee surgery
- Johnson hasnt bowlewd since his toe injury
- Siddle is under pressure to justify his spot after the debacle in the desert
- Keep them on the field for sufficiently long periods of time, and fatigue and fitness will become issues. And with back to back to back tests, it becomes critical.
- Prolonged periods on the field will also test Clarke's fitness.. And a team without its captain is more vulnerable.
- Finally, Brad Haddin. He hasnt played since he jarred his shoulder in the desert. Add to that the very real possibility that he will have to perform the dual role of keeper and captain for some portion of this test, and maybe this series. Add also to the mix that his lead bowlers are both coming off long injury layoffs. The longer India bats, the greater the pressure. And with a bum shoulder, on a hot day, a dropped catch by the captain, and who knows ....