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Australia staring at a historic loss

cricket Updated: Oct 21, 2008 10:11 IST
Atreyo Mukhopadhyay
Atreyo Mukhopadhyay
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

The second Test between India and Australia has produced scenes that would delight those envious of the seemingly unending domination of the world champions.

India are in sight of a famous victory as Harbhajan Singh and Ishant Sharma reduced Australia to 141 for five at the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium on Monday. On the edge of history

Australia’s batting caved in on a surface where the Indians scored big at a good pace. The bowlers failed to capture or contain, there were frequent overthrows, the captain lost the plot and the team conceded the psychological game – even in defeat Australia have never looked so disjointed.

Matthew Hayden’s wild batting in the second innings reflected the mental state of a team that had lost focus.

For everyone else losing is part of the game, but for Australia it’s next to impossible. That’s why they have won with amazing success in the last many years, when the stakes were high and even when the matches were inconsequential — showing no dearth of ruthlessness.

It doesn’t need rocket science to understand that this team is not equipped on many fronts to make a mark in Indian conditions. The most obvious is spin bowling. You can’t have a Shane Warne forever, but you must have someone who can at least do a tight job. The ones Australia have can’t even be used to rest speedsters.

They have too many batsmen who are technically inept to handle crafty and imaginative spin bowling from both ends. Players like Shane Watson, Brad Haddin and Cameron White are gritty customers, but they don’t have the technical know-how to decode the secrets Indian spinners possess. See graph.

That’s why they have looked unsure with their feet movement. Probably because of the success they have had using their preferred plans, Australia have looked vulnerable when things haven’t gone their way. For instance, in the first innings here, they got night watchman Ishant Sharma with a short-pitched ball. For nearly an hour after that they persisted with that ploy against Sourav Ganguly and M.S. Dhoni, ignoring that these two are more capable batsmen than the fast bowler and that the slowness of the pitch helped them go untroubled.

When the Indian openers were scoring at will in the second innings, all that Ricky Ponting tried was to keep men on the fence and prevent boundaries. The chance to steal singles and twos didn’t go unnoticed and just 90 of India’s 314 came in boundaries. The bowlers did finally concentrate on bowling wide of the stumps, but India’s lead had been stretched by then. Overall, plan B either came late or didn’t come at all.

They simply couldn’t regroup, as Australian teams are known to, after being outplayed for most of the first three days. Dhoni indicated this to them silently and surely, when on the second morning he took a Brett Lee bouncer on his shoulder and showed no signs of flinching. The abandon with which the openers scored, the way Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar repaired the innings on the first day and the intelligent aggression of the bowlers, the Australians learnt the hard way over the days that they were facing a lot that believes it can win.