The Bangalore crowd has adopted a strange and unfortunate habit of booing opposition batsmen as they walk out to take guard against the Indians. There seems to be no real malice in this irritating trait, as the M Chinnaswamy Stadium crowd is just as ready to applaud in number when an opposition player scores a hundred. Marcus North received both treatments, as he made his way to a career-best 128, propping Australia up to 478.
But the real measure of the festive Sunday crowd’s voice came to the fore shortly before play ended on the second day, when Sachin Tendulkar, on 27, rocked back to force a boundary through cover-point off Nathan Hauritz.
The giant screen flashed Tendulkar’s arrival at 14,000 Test runs and even Ricky Ponting, second on the list with 12,178 runs, took a minute out of battle mode to applaud Tendulkar.
Given that Tendulkar is already the leader, and there’s little hope of anyone catching him, the milestone was merely a pleasant distraction, on yet another day of absorbing Test cricket. The Australians opened the day on 285 for 5, and with North being the last recognised batsman, Mahendra Singh Dhoni would have been harbouring hopes of getting stuck into the Australian tail early on.
But North, who was fighting not merely to take Australia forward but also for his place in the side, repaid his captain’s faith handsomely. Driving through covers effectively, and cashing on some odd field placements and off-colour bowling to rock back and cut, North put on 149 with Tim Paine (59).
The Australian wicketkeeper had two pieces of luck the first when he was caught off a no-ball and second when Suresh Raina put down a sitter at short cover. North, however, marched on, and when he was finally dismissed, Australia were well on their way.
India’s reply was distinctly nervy, with Virender Sehwag attacking, but not convincingly. Sehwag began with a carefully cut boundary and later employed the upper-cut judiciously, easily clearing the third-man fence.
But when he unfurled the pull shot, not one of his favourites at the best of times, against Ben Hilfenhaus, he asked for trouble. Mitchell Johnson was patrolling the boundary for just such an eventuality and pouched the catch with ease.
Rahul Dravid barely had time to absorb the warm reception his home crowd gave him when he drove loosely at a slanting delivery from Johnson to be caught at third slip. For the third time in the series Dravid had been dismissed by a left-arm seamer, and his poor run in Bangalore, where he averages just 21, continued.
M Vijay, opening in place of the injured Gautam Gambhir, showed once again that he has both the temperament and technique to succeed at this level, moving seamlessly to 42 when bad light brought an end to play 20 minutes later than it did on the opening day.
Tendulkar, on 44, will know that even at 128 for 2, plenty of work remains, with 151 still needed to avoid the follow-on.