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HindustanTimes Tue,15 Apr 2014
Despite positives, facing pace remains a worry
HT Correspondent , Hindustan Times
Mohali, March 17, 2013
First Published: 23:34 IST(17/3/2013)
Last Updated: 23:55 IST(17/3/2013)

Skipper MS Dhoni's demand for turning tracks backfired against England last year but his continued push for home advantage has paid dividends so far against a struggling Australia.

While the spin department has been led by R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, the batsmen in the team in transition have also stood up to be counted. In the first Test in Chennai, it was Dhoni (224) and Virat Kohli (107) who set it up while Cheteshwar Pujara (204) and Murali Vijay (167) killed the contest with their 370-run partnership.

In Mohali, Vijay (153) again came on top, this time teaming up with debutant Shikhar Dhawan (187) for a record opening partnership of 289, which has again left the Aussies hurting.

But there is still room for a sobering thought. That came soon after lunch on the fourth day of the third Test that has made the difference between India pushing for a certain win with a day to go and the visitors nursing their ambitions.

India's woes in England in 2011 and subsequently in Australia were due to their problems in tackling pace and swing. With Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman announcing their retirements after the second overseas rout, the team needs to find fresh batting resilience.

Despite the opening day getting rained out, there was not much swing on the first two days of play. But Michael Clarke claimed the second new ball soon after lunch and left-arm pacer Mitchell Starc and Peter Siddle got the ball to swing and it was clear the batsmen were at sea.

Murali Vijay, Dhoni, Jadeja and Ashwin all fell in the space of less than six overs. It pointed to the area India need to improve drastically to regain their old resilience on overseas tours.

It is not a weak area for India alone as Bhuvneshwar Kumar's strikes on Sunday showed, but there should be concern as India have been caught out in their last three home series.

Against New Zealand, whom India beat 2-0, Tim Southee grabbed seven wickets in the first innings on a Bangalore pitch which afforded seam movement. James Anderson played a pivotal role in England winning the third Test in Kolkata to eventually clinch the series.

Siddle felt the India batsmen crack when put under pressure but the Aussie pace pack has not been consistent. "We knew we had to build pressure and slow the run-rate down to put a bit of pressure back on India. We had some good (bowling) partnerships throughout the first session which made it hard for India to score. When that happens, we know we can create chances and that's what we did."


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