A change in scenery didn’t bring about any change in fortunes for India’s batsman who continued from where they left at Melbourne and capitulated for 191 on the opening day of the second Test at the SCG.
India failed to cross 300 in a completed Test innings abroad for the 11th time in a row. And the manner in which the batsmen surrendered against the sustained aggression of pacers will cause worry beyond the Test.
Zaheer Khan’s inspired three-wicket burst looked to have pulled India back into the contest before an unbeaten 79-run partnership between Ricky Ponting and skipper Michael Clarke guided the hosts to 116/3 at stumps.
MS Dhoni elected to bat on a pitch that had a tinge of green and offered bowlers just enough assistance to make life difficult for batsmen. The Aussie pacers were amazingly consistent, and the trio of James Pattinson, Ben Hilfenhaus and Peter Siddle shared all 10 wickets.
It took just three balls for Pattinson to push India on the backfoot. Gautam Gambhir’s woeful form has underlined the opening woes and he was squared up by one that pitched on middle and shaped away, edging to Clarke at first slip. Virender Sehwag greeted Siddle with fours off his first two balls. However, Siddle showed his wares in his second over, forcing Rahul Dravid to inside edge on to his pads and loop a simple catch to short leg.
Coming in to a rousing ovation, Sachin Tendulkar made a fluent start, stroking three fours off the first 11 deliveries he faced. He was the only one among India’s specialist batsmen who looked assured and positive.
At the other end, Sehwag nicked, but a rare drop by Ricky Ponting denied Hilfenhaus an early wicket. But Pattinson drew him forward with one that came off good length and swung ever so slightly, inducing a tame edge behind the stumps.
VVS, Virat struggle
VVS Laxman fared no better than he had in Melbourne, edging Pattinson to Shaun Marsh at third slip. Virat Kohli briefly supported Tendulkar before Siddle got him. After two straight bouncers, he bowled one further up and drew Kohli forward, and the resultant edge was taken by Haddin.
Sachin, who had been slowed down a bit as wickets fell at the other end, eventually tried to drive a wide, fuller Pattinson delivery but only succeeded in dragging it onto the stumps, giving the Victorian his fourth wicket. MS Dhoni and R Ashwin steadied the ship with a 54-run stand before Hilfenhaus got rid of Ashwin and Zaheer off successive deliveries.
Zaheer knocked over the top three batsmen, all left-handers, in quick succession and was on a hat-trick as well but Ishant and Umesh bowled too many loose deliveries.