The day began with India making 4 changes, only one of which was
expected -- Agarkar in for Pathan. Ganguly was unfit and so Tendulkar
in for him. Poor Yuvraj who had "volunteered" to open was hard
done by as he was dropped for Chopra, in place of Kaif who had a
terrific 50 under trying circumstances in Chennai -- but it was really
rough on him. And the real bombshell was Bhajji out due to fever,
and Murali Kartik replacing him.
Both Kartik and Chopra will be desparately keen to re-establish themselves
given their very lucky opportunities to return into the team.
Agarkar and Zaheer both bowled quite well. Zaheer in particular was
making the ball zip off the pitch -- charging in to bowl like the days of
old. Both bowlers got the batsmen to play shots in the air that either
fell short or went into the gaps, and had decent shouts for lbw, but
nothing that appeared clearly out -- an Agarkar shout against Langer
being the closest call to a ball that likely have just clipped the top of
the bails. Just before drinks, Hayden played the shot of the morning,
a majestic off drive of AA. Before that, Langer had smashed
Agarkar for 4 through cover, which had resulted in Agarkar making a
somewhat petulant display at his captain and the short fielder for
not making the catch / being in the right position.
That epitomized the morning for India -- some fine bowling, but at
60-0 Australia seemed to have weathered the storm. But the period
right after drinks was the best period for India.
After the break Kumble bowled his second over. His first over had
been spot on with one stray ball going for 4 lb. In his second, he
should have Langer lbw -- the ball seemed to be smashing into middle
stump, but Aleem Dar didn't think so. Then Zaheer replaced Agarkar
and bowled an amazing spell, ably backed up by Kumble.
In Zaheer's first over, he beat Langer's edge, got him to edge one just
short of Dravid (no the slips were not too far back), had a decent shout
for lbw, and then should have got Langer lbw to ball that hit Langer on
the crease on middle and seemed to be taking leg. In his second over,
his first ball cut Hayden in half as it darted in, and the 3rd cut away, and
all Hayden could do was edge it to Patel who pouched it smartly! One
down. Katich -- who appeared to want to play across the line to every
ball -- inner edged one and Langer barely kept one out.
Kumble continued his probing line having Katich in all sorts of trouble
as he tried to play of his back foot. Next over Zaheer beat Langer yet
again and then Katich edged one -- this one falling well short of Laxman.
Kumble then had Langer edge one for 4 that went between Dravid and
Patel -- it would have been a fabulous catch had Dravid taken it. And
then a single to leg to retain strike...
Cricket is surely a strange game. Zaheer had produced a number of fine
deliveries that failed to take a wicket. He now bowled a rank half volley
outside offstump. The pressure of the very tight bowling on both ends
was telling on Langer, as he went after it trying to hit it to Timbuktu in
what can be best described as Sehwag-style -- no foot movement at all --
but alas he wasn't Sehwag, and didn't middle it, and Dravid latched onto
a edge that would have drilled into his midriff.
Zaheer then bowled some not so great stuff to Martyn -- he seemed to be
tiring, and despite the wicket, he should probably have gone off. This was
his 9th over (with just a 2 over break), but Dravid gave him 2 more, the
last of which was certainly a mistake, as Lehmann and Martyn helped
themselves to some easy runs.
Meanwhile Kumble got his just reward for some penetrative bowling.
Katich having realized that playing on the back foot when Kumble
was getting bounce was too dangerous came forward, but played
across as usual and only succeeded in popping one to Chopra at FSL.
One more Kumble over was handled with some circumspection but
this pair is key. Martyn is looking very composed indeed. And Lehmann
despite the terrific pressure on him is playing a very attacking innings.
All 3 bowlers bowled very well, with Zaheer Khan's second spell being
the best I've seen him bowl since -- well ever. Kumble is being very
demanding on this pitch, and Agarkar too bowled well. He did, I think,
allow too many balls to pass outside off without requiring a stroke,
but any runs he went for (other than his last over) were pretty much
streaky shots to point/third man -- the same for Zaheer.
Dravid's field placings were excellent. His bowling changes seemed
fine, except for possibly giving Zaheer an over too many. It would
have been nice for Kartik to have a bowl before lunch.
The match is evenly poised. With 4 top-order batsmen -- particularly
the devastating Gilchrist -- yet to come, Australia can easily take the
game away from India, just the way they did in the final session of
D1 in Bangalore. The key is to get all 4 of them out -- or at least 3
of them out -- in the next session, else we will go for a lot of runs
post-tea. Kartik's bowling will be crucial (unless Kumble does a
Chennai) to make sure the other 3 are not over-bowled, and SRT
should get 4-6 overs as well!
Back to the tv now...
"He's baaaaaaack. All's well with the world."
(Bill the Cat, thats who)
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