Whenever there is talk of Test cricket dying, India and Australia must face each other in a Test series. And be rest assured that at least for the duration when the two teams are battling it out, all such chatter will be put to rest. Keeping apart the 2008 series played in India, all the other contests between the two nations, starting with the epic of 2001, have been exhilarating. A number of memorable performances have been delivered by players from both sides over the last decade, be it VVS Laxman oft-mentioned 281 or Harbhajan Singh’s hat-trick at Kolkata, Steve Waugh’s match-saving final Test knock or Michael Clarke’s sensational century on debut, each holds a special place in Test cricket. And so, not surprisingly, the latest encounter between the two sides also kicked off on a nail-biting note.
There were plenty of unforgettable memories from Mohali, none better than that man VVS Laxman guiding India home yet again with an injured back. But then, whilst Laxman achieved what seemed immortal for the others, it has something he has done in the past as well. And so, no one was surprised that he came up with the goods again. However, it was extremely heartening to see the way Ishant Sharma came back after taking a battering in the first innings. Bowling no balls at will and having to leave the field owing to an injury gave one the impression that he was in for another torrid time. However, he turned things around, and how.
The lanky fast bowler needed a little bit of luck, and that came when the in-form Shane Watson dragged one from Ishant onto his stumps. From thereon, Ishant was a changed bowler. Finding his rhythm of old, at least for that innings, he claimed two more quick to get India back into the game. Surprisingly, and yet deservedly, it will be his dogged effort with the bat that would be talked about when discussions over this Test come about in the future. When he went into bat, all seemed lost for India, and one got the feeling that Laxman would be left stranded at one end. However, wasn’t ready to give up so easily.
Despite having lost skipper Dhoni and Harbhajan Singh in quick succession, Ishant was prepared to slug it out and give Laxman, the other injured warrior in the team, some much-needed company. It wasn’t out there with the pressure building each minute. But Ishant responded superbly and in a highly responsible manner, so much so that he Laxman was prepared to give him more of the strike. The straight bat defence worked well against both the pacers and spinners. Further, the fact that he was leaving deliveries outside off demonstrated the confidence he possessed. On a couple of occasions when he had a waft at away going deliveries, he reprimanded himself like a genuine batsman would do. He may have been unfortunate not be there when the winning runs were registered, but he would be all the more happier that his efforts did not end up getting vanished in a losing cause.
While Ishant’s determination was among the high points of the Test , there were a number of other noteworthy performances from both sides, which contributed toward making this Test remarkable. For India, Zaheer Khan celebrated his return to the team with a five-wicket haul as well as the man of the match award. At the beginning of the game, there were question marks pertaining to his fitness. Khan answered all the doubters in the best way possible. As expected of him, he took wickets at the top and came back to break crucial partnerships, ensuring India stayed in the game even though it appeared that the Aussies had charged ahead at times. Harbhajan Singh wasn’t threatening, but did well enough to pick up a few important wickets and assist Zaheer. On the batting front, it was a mixed bag for India. Many got starts and reasonable scores, but none could convert it into a big knock, allowing Australia to snatch the vital first innings lead. It very nearly made the difference in the end.
While Australia would be disappointed, they have done enough to be proud of themselves. Shane Watson was instrumental in setting up a good first innings total for his side even as Ricky Ponting and even Tim Paine chipped in. Also, at different points in the game, Mitchell Johnson, Ben Hilfenhaus and Doug Bollinger put their hands up to get Australia back in the reckoning after they had fallen back. Overall, they were very good, but India just had that someone special, Australia’s grand old nemesis, to see them through. And while we eagerly wait for the next Test at Bangalore, many of us will be mourning the fact that it would signal the end of the series. What a tragedy.
No comments yet.