Australia 333 all out
As the day starts talk in the press box inevitably turns to the Decision Review System, as it will for the entire day, and probably for the series. Debate rages not only about the merits of the now ‘turned off’ system, but also on whether we should even bother debating it at all. Newspapers are on the desk, there is a stats book being passed around and all the while Umesh Yadav steams in to send down his erratic but dangerous thunderbolts.
A little later, the TV commentators rightly point out that umpires are too scared just to give anyone out now, and as such we endure the absurd situation where the crowd sits around for 5 minutes while they go through the process of verifying Zaheer Kahn’s legal delivery as…a legal delivery! As a result, Brad Haddin is on his way.
Hilfenhaus and Pattinson open their shoulders like all good tail-enders should. Sometimes it seems that it is only tail-enders that can summon up the confidence to really take on the bowling, it’s almost as if the burden of being a ‘batsman’ requires you not to play freely. It’s ridiculous really because all one has to do is look at tape of Viru Sehwag or Adam Gilchrist to know that playing confidently is just fine. That said, it must suit your game, and Ed Cowan showed yesterday that if your game is based on a sound defence, then that is the way you should play. Perhaps Ricky Ponting’s form slump is based on the fact that his talent can no longer match his style of batting. Unfortunately for him it is far too late to adjust.
Late in the Australian innings, while India attempt to take their final wicket, I pick up the newspaper and read a story about Imran Khan attracting over 100,00 to a political rally in Karachi. My colleagues from the sub-continent inform me that Khan is a controversial but popular figure (they always go hand-in-hand don’t they?). It seems Imran has attracted a younger demographic and they see him as the saviour of their poor and corrupted country. Of course, this younger generation have probably been hearing about Kahn as a saviour from their parents. This refers to his extraordinary feats on the cricketing arena, but it will certainly be interesting to see whether he can translate this into politics.
As India wraps up the Australian tail, the excitement grows as we know Sehwag is coming. Talk turns to his electric innings last time out at the MCG, a 195 in just under five hours. First though, Sehwag and Gambhir had to see out two difficult overs before lunch.
Lunch is in the basement of the Southern Stand at the MCG. There is a motley collection of mainly tv production guys. The absolute highlight of the lunch break though is the Channel 9 segway running over the spare helmet and destroying his two-wheel motorbike. Hilarity ensues.
Sehwag is just addictive to watch. His game seems to be without any rhyme or reason, and yet his record speaks to him being a consistent performer. In the middle session, his approach seems to have infected Rahul Dravid, who is rocking back to play through cover point and is playing some lovely drives through wide mid-off. Ian Healy rightly points out that Dravid doesn’t walk down the pitch much to the spinners, but he does use his front stride exceptionally well. He seemed to be going slowly for a while, but once fifty was in his sights he went predictably crazy. A colleague mentions that after two fours in an over against Lyon, Sehwag is lucky to survive a third smash, but that’s just the way he goes.
Nathan Lyon came on to bowl in the fourteenth over. It’s an interesting move so early, but it shows his ability to think outside of the box. In the box we discuss Ricky Ponting’s lack of tactical nous using spinners when he was captain. This was reflected even in the selection of such a strange mix of spinners during the post-Warne era. This probably shows that the selectors didn’t know what kind of spinner Ponting liked, and if his treatment of Bryce McGain against South Africa showed us anything, it was that Ponting was largely uninterested in giving his spinners a sporting chance.
When Sehwag is dismissed it reminds me of a comment by my colleague David Siddall who said that when Gayle was dismissed cheaply in his first BBL game this year, the crowd both applauded but was also disappointed. Well, it’s the same with Sehwag, except that this time the fallen maestro is replaced with the little master.
The box clears as the gathered journos make their way out to join in the rapturous welcome that Tendulkar commands. He takes his usual amount of time to settle, and second ball he French cuts for a single. As he warms up, Tendulkar’s strokeplay becomes just sublime. His drives through cover are a sight to behold and he mixes them up with audacious flicks over the slips. He continues to strike the ball with precision, and he just seems so at ease in partnership with his old mate Dravid. Clarke tries just about everything, including Dave Warner’s leg spin, but nothing much worries these two.
It’s interesting to be at a match where the crowd is in some ways supporting both teams. The crowd is obviously more Australian focused, but there aren’t many in attendance who aren’t excited to see Sehwag smash it and perhaps see history in the making from the little master. Dravid is also well respected in Australia as he is always someone who seems to have personified that Australian cliché of the ‘battler’.
In the last over the crowd, the cricket authorities and the broadcasters all weep as Australia’s wood-chopper Peter Siddle is rewarded for a fantastic spell with the wicket of Tendulkar. It is a sight to see Siddle in full flight and as we sit in our now well worn seats, we watch him pepper Ishant Sharma to no avail.
It has been a fantastic day of play, enjoyed thoroughly by those of us in our slightly airless media box. Check out our Plays of the Day for all the big moments in dot point form and check back tomorrow for more from this tight contest.
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