India's tour of Australia: How new crop of Indian players overcame Gabba challenge
On two days of fluctuating fortunes, a new crop of Indians put to rest the Gabba snigger the visitors have been forced to associate with the fast and bouncy pitches Down Under.
Historical fallacies were consigned to, for a prospective future once the Indian team finished Day 1 of the second Test at 311 for four wickets in Brisbane. Before the start of the match, it was everybody's assumption that the Indians will struggle to survive, let alone post a respectable score.
After a seemingly turbulent first period of play, Indians dominated the Aussie bowlers. The fact that the visitors finished the opening day as winners was furthered glorified by a stupendous century from their opener Murali Vijay, who missed a well-deserved ton in the first Test at Adelaide.
But the day's glorification would have not been completed had Indians failed to apply themselves to the demands of the challenge at hand. Despite carrying such a notorious moniker as one of the fastest pitches in the world, Gabba's top failed to provide that much-needed assistance to the fast bowlers – Mitchell Johnson, et all. Or it seemed for those 83 overs of play.
Coupled with the new-found image of fearless fighters, as evident in the manner how they had fought for a win at Adelaide Oval, Indians made further inroads into a seemingly disturbed Australian psyche with consistent stroke-making from both ends, by Vijay and Ajinkya Rahane. Making things even more pitiable for the home side were the injury scars for their pace bowlers.
It's worth noting here that these bowlers, under the leadership of Johnson, intimidated England in their last Ashes series to such an extent that a kind of urban legend had borne out of their domination, hailing the notoriety that comes with fast bowling.
And by the start of second day's action, a recuperated Aussie pace attack returned to their usual self. What seemed like a spent force on Day 1, suddenly sprung to life with their debutante Josh Hazlewood leading the attack. The 23-year-old returned with a figure of five for just 68 runs from his spell of 23.2 overs.
Adelaide Test's hero, Nathan Lyon, supported Hazlewood by scalping three wickets, including that of centurion Vijay.
Probably, that's the hallmark of good Test cricket – which is fought in sessions and spells. Had it not been for the Hazlewood anchor, Indians would have run away with the match. That's where the same old narrative returned to haunt the visitors. Failing to learn! Except in the case of Rahane, who was undone by the best delivery of the match so far, if not an unplayable one.
On a true pitch, there ought to be no demons. But Indians resurrected their own demons, playing reckless shots. Rohit Sharma, who was in his elements on Day 1, threw his wicket with yet another loose stroke. He could add only four runs to his overnight score of 26.
The half-century stand for the seventh wicket between skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Ravichandran Ashwin somehow provided the score some respectability. That's all for the Indian batsmen. Satisfied. After all, it's Gabba.
Going back to Gabba's crumbling reputation, it's revealed that in the past decade, the average fall of wickets on day one is five. In that aspect, Indians did well, losing only four wickets, if all this count matters. Other important aspect is that, Gabba top has become spinner friendly of late, sort of?
Aussie legend, Shane Warne was the most successful bowler at Gabba, with 68 wickets in all. It goes without saying that he would have returned with enough wickets on any surface. But, his becoming a leading wicket-taker at a presumably pace-friendly Gabba wicket, should not discount how the legend of Gabba was created.
And the records show that it's still one of the most spin-unfriendly pitches in Australia. Out of the top 20 Australian wicket-takers here, 18 are pace bowlers and likewise, seamers from across the world have received substantial purchase from the wicket. But strangely, Australia's Adelaide hero Nathan Lyon somehow enjoys bowling here. He has taken 15 wickets in three Tests so far.
Irrespective of the pitch's behaviour, India's domination on Day 1 was more to do with that fearless approach from this new crop of players. After losing three wickets for , Indian innings could have folded in no time.
Then, India did just enough to share the honours on Day 2, thanks to an inspired Umesh Yadav spell. The 27-year-old rocked the Aussie top-order giving India an outside chance to force a result in this historically unfavourable ground, and level the series 1-1. At stumps, Australia were 221 for four wickets.
One simple fact could sum up India's chances at the Gabba. Here, India have never won a Test and Australia have not lost in more than 25 years. However, the result so far has been satisfactory for Indians. With only two days play completed, it rather sounds presumptuous to provide such a verdict.
But in the backdrop of historical burden, it can certainly be said that this new crop of Indians have consigned the Gabba snigger. Yes, winning or losing is altogether a different thing than the pride and joy of being competitive.
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