Sydney Test: Pacers put Australia on top
Sydney: Australian pace trio of James Pattinson (4/43), Peter Siddle (3/51) and Ben Hilfenhaus (3/55) came up with a superb exhibition of seam and swing bowling to shoot out India for a paltry 191 in the first innings in just 59.3 overs to put the hosts in commanding position on Day 1 of the second Test at Sydney which is hosting its 100th Test.
In reply, Australia were 116/3 at stumps. Ponting remained unconquered on 44 while Clarke was not out on 47 when stumps were drawn for an eventful day at Sydney where 13 wickets fell, all taken by the faster men.
The 4th wicket partnership between the captain and the former captain made the day for Australia after they were reduced to 37/3 by Zaheer Khan who removed three top order batsmen to create a ruckus at the start in the Australian camp. Their unbeaten 79-run stand for the fourth wicket ensured that India made no comebacks into the match and they remained top at the end of Day 1.
Pattinson, quick and sharp, pounced upon the Indian top order once Indian captain MS Dhoni decided to bat first on a pitch which holds the reputation of getting slow and low as the match progresses. But the Indian batsmen could not justify the decision taken by their captain by succumbing abjectly before a rampant Australian pace attack and continued their poor batting form outside India.
India’s batting woes at foreign lands could be judged by a single stat: It has been the 11th straight failure from the famed batting line-up to post more than 300 in an innings.
Indian batsmen lacked everything to get success on hard tracks. There was no dedication, determination or discipline, the three Ds for success at highest level.
Gambhir looked like a lost man at sea, Sehwag edgy, Laxman aged and Kohli impatient and nervy. The result: India’s much celebrated batting line-up falling like a pack of cards without putting 200 on the board.
If Pattinson was the wrecker-in-chief early on uprooting the top order, Hilfenhaus wrapped up the lower order quickly, picking up two wickets in two balls. Peter Siddle, in between, bowled consistently, getting the prized scalp of Dravid. He also dismissed Kohli with a delivery that would have unsettled even the bests of the game.
India finally reached close to 200 thanks to Dhoni who batted with a lot of guts and grits. He looked determined to hold fort from one end. Dhoni slammed a quickfire fifty under pressure to keep his team’s hopes alive. He remained unbeaten on 57 at the end.
Apart from winning the toss nothing went in favour of India in the morning session. Pattinson took three wickets for 25 runs and his victims were Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag and VVS Laxman. He bowled with a lot of purpose and venom from the word go, claiming Indian opening batsman Gautam Gambhir in the very first over.
The Delhi batsman, who again tried to flirt with the outside the off-stump delivery, was caught by captain Michael Clarke at first slip for naught.
Rahul Dravid also did not last long as he was caught at forward short-leg off paceman Peter Siddle for 5. Dravid tried to flick the ball to the leg side but got an inside edge to the pad which Ed Cowan took it easily.
Like the first Test at MCG, Sehwag looked patchy and edgy during his 51-ball stay at the crease. Though he played some lovely shots he never looked confident. Australian bowlers made his life uncomfortable by targeting his body. He was never allowed to free his arm.
Sehwag, who was even dropped at second slip by Ricky Ponting on 23, nicked a ball from Pattinson just outside the off-stump which wicketkeeper Haddin pouched safely. He made 30.
Pattinson then got the tormentor of the Aussies, VVS Laxman (2) early too. The bowler once again kept it simple and pitched it up. Laxman was drawn forward and induced a thick outside edge which flew to Marsh at third slip. When Laxman departed India were 59/4.
Virat Kohli and Dhoni then tried to rebuild the depleted innings. They put on 37-run stand for the fifth wicket. Kohli was looking like a man with a mission. But he again frittered away the opportunity to play a big innings when he nicked a ball from Peter Siddle to wicketkeeper Brad Haddin for 23.
Kohli, who was on notice to save his place, looked comfortable from the start and was looking all set to prove the critics wrong who questioned his technique to counter the short balls.
Master batsman Sachin Tendulkar, meanwhile, was watching all these from the other end. He stood amidst the ruins. Coming to the crease in the 10th over of the match, Sachin looked positive from the very first ball he faced in the morning. Though he hit three magnificent fours early in his innings, he had to curb his instinct once the wickets began to tumble around him.
Tendulkar was again looking good for his 100th international ton. But Pattinson had another idea. He claimed Sachin Tendulkar for 41 and his fourth wicket of the match. Sachin, who faced 89 balls, hit eight silken fours before dragging one from outside the off-stump to the wickets. When Sachin departed India were looking down the barrel with the score reading 124/5.
Captain MS Dhoni, along with off-spinner R Ashwin, gave the Indian innings a little stability after the fall of Tendulkar’s wicket. They ensured that India did not lose any wicket immediately and put a reasonably good total on a good Sydney track. Dhoni as usual remained positive while Ashwin remained calm and composed.
The 7th wicket partnership of 54 between Dhoni and Ashwin was finally broken when Ashwin edged one from Hilfenhaus to the first slip while trying to flick on the on-side. The Tamil Nadu offie made 20.
Zaheer Khan, then, came to replace Ashwin but he deepened the misery of the Indians by gloving the very next ball from Hilfenhaus to be caught at forward short-leg. His first-ball duck brought the tea. At tea India were tottering at 178/8 with Dhoni remaining unbeaten on 44.
Meanwhile, Ishant Sharma was removed for a duck from the other end by Hilfenhaus who took last three wickets to rattle the Indian lower order.
When Australia came out to bat, they also lost their first wicket in the very first over of their innings. Zaheer Khan dismissed opener David Warner for 8. Warner tried to play the last ball of the Zaheer’s first over through the off-side but got an outside edge to be caught by Sachin at the first slip after it bounced from Laxman’s hands in the second slip.
Zaheer then removed Shaun Marsh by inducing an outside edge for a duck. Laxman this time made no mistake. Both the dismissals looked very similar.
Zaheer Khan struck for the third time when he removed opener Ed Cowan for 16. Cowan, who looked comfortable during his stay, tried to play a straighter one from Zaheer through to the leg side but he was found plumb in front of the wickets.
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt & wk), Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Virat Kohli, Ravichandran Ashwin, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav.
Australia: Michael Clarke (capt), Ed Cowan, David Warner, Shaun Marsh, Ricky Ponting, Michael Hussey, Brad Haddin, James Pattinson, Peter Siddle, Ben Hilfenhaus and Nathan Lyon.
Umpires: Ian Gould (England), Marais Erasmus (South Africa).
Match referee: Ranjan Madugalle (Sri Lanka)