Before we get a chance to settle, Dravid has departed. It seems that the construction workers were late in setting up the wall this morning. It’s an enormous wicket in the context of this game, when Tendulkar and Dravid were in full swing yesterday it seemed as though nothing could stop them, but Australia, even in this new era, always do have an ability to make things happen.
Looking at VVS Laxman as he strides to the crease it strikes me as odd that his numbers aren’t better than they are. A colleague in the box rightly points out that he bats at number five, but still the fact that he averages under 50 and that he has only made 17 centuries is surprising. He reminds me a little of Mark Waugh actually. Like Laxman, Waugh could make batting look so easy, but at times looked like he wasn’t interested in proceedings. Laxman can look imperious at times, but this morning he looks incredibly rusty and like he wishes he was still enjoying a buffet breakfast at his hotel.
There is a general sense of confusion in the box this morning as India’s batsmen get themselves out at regular intervals. The overall feeling is that whilst the bowling was solid it was probably down to some lazy footwork, particularly on the part of Laxman.
As Dhoni strides confidently to the middle, Dave Siddall raises the question of who the best wicket-keeper in test cricket is today. The general consensus seems to be Matt Prior from England, though for old times sake I throw up Mark Boucher. Discussion then turns to Kamran Akmal and one of the gents alerts us to an extraordinary video showing Akmal’s propensity for bending the rules. I think also of Zulqarnain Haider whose story was so sad. A player who had the confidence to speak up about the problems in Pakistani cricket, Haider’s family had to flee his home country and Haider was penalised for leaving an active series in the UAE to protect them. Much of course has been written about the overall problems of Pakistani cricket, but it is these personal stories that really hit home.
It’s hard to believe that a team that worked so hard to build itself up to the number one test team in the world would crumble so pathetically. A lot of the time this kind of looseness is attributed to players being too used to limited overs cricket, but that can’t be said of Dravid, Laxman, Tendulkar or even Zaheer Khan, whose dismissal was nothing short of a disgrace. As he cleared the front foot whilst trying to hit the ball to the next suburb, he had his stumps smashed and walked off as if someone had done him a disservice. What makes his shot even worse is the fact that Ashwin can do more than just hold a bat.
Australia’s approach after lunch is interesting because it has seemed that no one is ever really ‘in’ on this pitch. That said, India’s approach is important too, and it is more than perplexing that in Zaheer Khan’s first over Dhoni has only two slips in place. It’s a strange thing about Dhoni that someone who seems so flashy in life and particularly with his batting can be so defensive in his field placements. On a recent One Hand One Bounce cricket podcast, Michael Wagener from www.cricket.geek.nz noted that Ross Taylor, whilst being a slashing batsman, was in fact quite conservative himself. Even if that is the case, I can’t believe he would come out in such an important part of the game and be so negative in his approach as Dhoni was after lunch here.
On what is quite a benign pitch these teams have somehow managed to lose wickets galore and in the media box we struggle to make sense of what is happening. Perennial foot-in-mouth-er Tony Greig tweets that there is grass on the pitch and that India are ‘flat track bullies’. Tony must’ve been asleep under his big hat when Tendulkar and Dravid made batting look like the easiest thing in the world.
I took a walk around the ground late in the second session as the two old stalwarts, Ponting and Hussey, attempted to wrest back control of the match. The crowd’s reaction was very positive, more so even than the reaction to the current Australian captain. Despite the media rhetoric, the public do still seem to support Ponting and I’m sure that must keep him hungry to succeed. Test cricket has an extraordinary way of throwing up the unexpected and nothing was more out of the blue than the effervescent partnership between Hussey and Ponting. Suddenly, the demons in the pitch were gone and the Indian bowling attack looked more like the toothless crew that many were expecting. Hussey has an amazing energy to his play and we enjoy his innings as much as the adoring crowd.
Geoff Lawson rightly described Haddin as playing ‘dumb cricket’. It makes you wonder whether Haddin either:
- has a never-ending licence to bat exactly how he sees fit, or
- completely disregards his teammates and coaches plea’s to bat responsibly.
Either way, he is a curiously stupid cricketer who seems really to bat for himself without regard for the position of his team.
I love the late period of the middle days in test matches. There is, after a day such as today, a real satisfaction with the show that has been put on, but there is also a sense of anticipation. Probably only golf can compete in this sense, but even then there is not really the same sense of continuity as everyone simply starts again. On the other hand, test cricket might suggest that the status quo will continue, but we all know that is far from the truth. Either way, this match is deliciously poised and I look forward to providing you with another view from the box tomorrow when this match will likely come to a close.
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