A ghost from India’s past came back to haunt them on a hot, frustrating day at the Sydney Cricket Ground here on Wednesday.
The day began in celebration of the New Year. RP Singh, taking on the responsibility of strike bowler in Zaheer’s absence, cut a swathe through the cream of Australia’s batting to have them on the mat at 134-6.
But it ended in heartbreak, especially for his partner, 19-year-old Ishant Sharma. The picture of the young Ishant, thrice running in and pulling up short in the last over he bowled for the day, done in by stress, unhappiness and the intense, baking heat, was perhaps the most poignant memory of this day.
Shortly after that, Ishant bent over, seemingly almost in tears; heaving, almost retching, still standing through the final overs but repeatedly clutching his stomach and his heart.
There was not one person here who did not feel for the Delhi paceman. Ishant should have had star billing on this day, with the prized wicket of Andrew Symonds to his credit.
Symonds was on 30, leading an Aussie fightback with the unlikeliest of partners in Brad Hogg, when he nicked one behind. The only one who did not see the thickest of edges was Steve Bucknor. Disbelief was writ large all around as Symonds stood his ground and an impassive Bucknor kept his finger down.
By stumps, an undoubtedly impressive Symonds, making the most of his good fortune, was on 137 not out and the Aussies were placed at 376-7. It was a decision that has probably changed the complexion of this game.
Unfortunately, it was not the only one. This was a day of horrific umpiring blunders — four in fact in all, with three going against India.
First, Ricky Ponting was not given out by umpire Mark Benson after he nicked one going down leg off Sourav Ganguly. Ponting was on 17 then. It was little consolation for India that he was given lbw off Harbhajan later, by Benson again, off a ball that he clearly played onto his pads. He had put on 38 more runs by then.
Finally, there was a decision from which Symonds benefited again, this time when on 48. Dhoni managed a quite brilliant stumping off Kumble and the matter was referred to the third umpire. It was a close one, but some equally brilliant camerawork clearly showed that the bails were off when Symonds’ foot was still in the air. Well, Aussie umpire Bruce Oxenford decided he wanted to watch Symonds play.
Ian Chappell dubbed the umpiring gaffes “shocking”. “I’d be okay with things if there was justice for all,” he said, referring to the Ponting decision. “But that will not happen. And what will you tell Ishant Sharma, a kid who should have had that wicket of Symonds to his name?”