ICL: Indian Cricket League

Australia clinch thriller to equal record


Ricky Ponting’s Australia emulated Steve Waugh’s run of 16 consecutive Test wins as they took a 2-0 lead in the series against India in a thriller of a game that went right down to the wire at the SCG. With only six minutes to spare as the shadows lengthened Michael Clarke picked up the last three wickets from only five balls as Australia sneaked home. India will be gutted, not merely because they had resisted stoutly but because once again they were at the receiving end of some umpiring decisions that will be talked about for some time to come.

At the end of a very long day it seemed as though India had hung in there for the draw that left the series open heading into Perth when Clarke was thrown the ball in the 69th over of the day. Anil Kumble, who had resisted admirably, negotiated it with little trouble. But it was the next Clarke over that knocked the last nails into India’s coffin.

Off the first ball, a brute that reared and took the outside edge to be smartly caught by Michael Hussey, Harbhajan Singh was dismissed. RP Singh planted his foot down the pitch to the next one but only interrupted the ball’s onward journey to the stumps and was lbw for a first-ball duck. Ishant Sharma negotiated the hat-trick ball, another straight one, and dabbed the next to the on side but the fifth ball did for him. Tossed up and outside the off, the ball gripped the surface and went via outside edge straight to slip, and Australia had the result they wanted.

The knock of the innings came from Kumble, and you had to feel for him when he was left stranded on 45 off 111 balls as the last wicket fell. Kumble was a picture of concentration and determination, and if there was any anger at the decisions that went against India it was channelled into a batting effort that would have done many top-order batsmen proud. Although more comfortable playing off the back foot Kumble ensured that he came forward to the spinners when he could, taking the lbw out of play as much as possible.

At the end of the day Australia won a dramatic Test but it was not entirely without some help from the umpires. When you pick up a pack of Benson & Hedges you get a statutory warning: “Smoking cigarettes is injurious to health.” From this day on, the firm of Benson & Bucknor may well have to come with some sort of warning. It’s a shame when you have to spend more time talking about the umpiring than the wickets taken or the runs scored, but when the errors umpires make play a big role in deciding the course of a game, there’s little choice.

The first bad decision of the final day went against Rahul Dravid, who was a key component in India’s stonewalling after Australia had set them 333 from a possible 72 overs and shut them out of the game. Dravid’s dour approach at the top of the order has raised a good many eyebrows and elicited ironic jeers and cheers from Australian crowds, but it was just what India needed.

Dravid was positive in his judgment of what to play and what to leave, confident in defence and when the occasion presented itself, willing to drive safely. He had consumed 103 balls for his 38 when he tucked his bat completely behind pad with all the safety of a Swiss banker and padded Andrew Symonds away. Even with no part of blade visible, Steve Bucknor upheld a spirited appeal for the catch behind when the ball had come off the knee roll. Dravid has copped his fair share of debatable decisions as he has tried to bat his way out a lean patch, but this one took the cake, and he shook his head in disbelief all the way back to the dressing room.

When Dravid fell, India were 4 for 115 and precariously poised. Already Wasim Jaffer had gone for a duck, edging Brett Lee to Adam Gilchrist, VVS Laxman had been trapped plumb in front by a clever bit of bowling from Stuart Clark and Sachin Tendulkar had dragged one back onto his stumps.

Sourav Ganguly batted as though he was under no pressure, bringing a refreshing confidence and positive mindset to the middle. Just as Dravid’s defensive approach was best for him, Ganguly had found a way to launch his own resistance and it was certainly more pretty to watch. Planting his foot well down the ground and driving superbly through the off side, Ganguly was scoring at a run-a-ball when none of the Indian batsmen before him had come close to doing so.

Andrew Symonds was the one to suffer the most against Ganguly, being taken for three consecutive boundaries through cover in one over, as well as having him dropped at slip off his bowling. The fast men did not trouble Ganguly much either, that is until the ball that terminated his innings. Having raced to a half-century Ganguly slashed one to Clarke in the slips cordon. Clarke went low to take the catch and it was not clear if he had got his fingers under the ball, but that should have proved to be irrelevant as he subsequently grounded the ball, tumbling to his left in the process of completing the catch. Mark Benson, called upon to rule on this one, chose not to ask his partner at square-leg, or go to the third umpire, and instead was satisfied by a word from Ricky Ponting, also stationed at slip. Only a few minutes before this Ponting had claimed a bat-pad catch after clearly grounding the ball in the process. Why Benson chose to take Ponting’s word for it, after all that had happened, is something only he knows the answer to. Either way it was time for Ganguly to go, on a well-made 51 and India were 6 for 137.

Then a fresh rearguard began, with two new protagonists in Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Kumble. Dhoni has not been a force with the bat in the Tests so far and it was not his brute force but his mental strength that was called upon. Dhoni left his big shots back in the pavilion and defended stoically, albeit in somewhat unorthodox fashion. He was fidgety outside the off stump but ensured he did not nick the ball.

The Dhoni-Kumble stand had pushed on to 48, and more importantly eaten up precious time - 21 overs to be exact - before an error of judgment from Dhoni, when he padded up to an offbreak from Symonds and was plumb in front, separated the two. Then came the Clarke special that sealed the deal. He’d endured a poor match with the bat, picking up more wickets than scoring runs, but playing such a big part in the win, he’ll take it.

And Clarke’s wickets could not have been more timely. When Ponting prolonged the Australian second innings till they reached 401, thanks mainly to an unbeaten 145 from Hussey, there was just the thought that he hadn’t the time to bowl out the Indians. At the end of the day, 72 overs proved to be enough, albeit by the thinnest of slivers.

Source:Cricket News

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This entry was posted on Monday, January 7th, 2008 and is filed under General, Cricket.

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