India vs Australia - 2nd Test, 2nd Day - The Quick Flicks
Day 2 at Hyderabad started off with both the spectators and the experts still munching over a surprise decision from Michael Clarke. A late declaration at the end of Day 1 left few in amazement and the rest in awe of the adventurous Aussie captain. If Day 1 swung from session to session, Day 2 unfolded a battle of attrition, much to the delight of Test cricket fans. If the first session saw both sides square each other out, the second session gave India the momentum to inch forward. The third session, however, put Australia right on the ropes, as Cheteswar Pujara and Murali Vijay brought back memories of Kolkata, 2001. Hundreds, elation, disappointment, agony – Day 2 had it all, but here are a few moments that really stood out:
Getting out of the bus – off and away!
The day began well before the players crossed the ropes. The telecast began with the team buses arriving at the stadium and the Indian team, literally, sprang out of it. Sachin Tendulkar was the first one out, followed by Harbhajan Singh and Cheteshwar Pujara. There was an evident spring in the stride of the players and there was a clear sign of intent in their body language. The Aussie team on the other hand, looked pensive and flat, with most fiddling with their music players as they got down. Talk about setting a tone for the day – the Aussies got it horribly wrong!
Suspicious Sehwag – All is not well!
The suspicion began on Day 1, when Virender Sehwag went out for a few throw downs after the day’s play was over. Not only were the spectators surprised, but it shocked VVS Laxman as well! Day 2 began even more suspiciously. When Sehwag walked out to bat, the customary smile was missing, and so was the swagger. He got off the mark of the very first ball but declared his innings even faster than Michael Clarke! His 19 ball foray at the crease was extremely un-Sehwag-ish – no flashing outside the off stump, playing close to the body, defending with a dead bat. What was even stranger was the way he was dismissed. No, he didn’t play it on this time but nicked it to the keeper. Even though Wade and Clarke went up straight away, Siddle never appealed. When the finger finally went up, Siddle looked surprised while Sehwag walked back with his spectacles-clad grumpy professor avatar. All is not well in Najafgarh – the man with the great hand-eye co-ordination is clearly struggling to grasp the hand-eye-spectacles combo!
First Session – Real Test cricket!
Stretched front foot, head down, dead bat – that’s what the Indian batsmen did for a big part of the first two hours. After a strange Sehwag dismissal, Pujara and Vijay switched on the old school mode of Test cricket. The Aussies fired and the Indians defended. Only 49 runs were scored, and yet it turned out to be “the” session of the day. Vijay did away with his flamboyance while Pujara did what he does best. Siddle, Pattinson, and Henriques threw everything at them but the resolute display from the Indian batsmen deflated the Aussies and paved the platform for the day-long onslaught.
Vi -jay ho!
When the first ball of the day thuds into the block hole at 140km/hr, it’s bound to shake anyone up. And it did! Murali Vijay looked all at sea when James Pattinson tested him with some sizzling pace. The pace and the length of the big Australian caught the Chennai man into a dilemma of “to play or not to play”! A 141 km/hr rising delivery made his discomfort even more evident. Looking to leave it at first, he ended up clumsily upper-cutting it over gully, unintentionally. However, all that changed when Pattinson pitched it up outside the off stump. The tall opener stretched his feet, got in line, unlocked his hands and creamed it through the covers. He held the pose for few seconds, nodded in acknowledgement and then uncorked a sumptuous display of quality batting. Suddenly, the nerves calmed, the defense tightened and a brilliant leave of a vicious Pattinson bouncer signalled that he was in it for the long haul. The second session got him into IPL mode and from there on Vijay made the spectators go “Whistle podu” with his sublime stroke play.
Pujara’s “knee”-d for speed – Run Che Run!
4 hundreds in 8 Tests – the man not only scores, but he scores big! Yet another superb innings from this Indian youngster knocked the stuffing out of the Aussies. He is solid, he can play every shot in the book, has a knack of scoring the big ones, but when it comes to running between the wickets, Cheteswar Pujara looks in troubled waters. Maybe it has to do with the operation in his knee; running between the 22 yards is his biggest drawback. Today, when the boundaries dried up, this weakness of India’s new number 3 tormented him throughout the day. A dive, early in the innings, bruised the knee which in turn curtailed the threes into twos and the twos into singles. Dave Warner, though, had no mercy for him and he made him dive into the crease repeatedly. But the wounded warrior carried on, showed his grit and brought up a magnificent hundred that pleased even the great Kapil Dev. Pujara has the hunger, the talent and the attitude, but to become a complete batsmen – Run Che Run!
Post tea – Gone in 0.42 of a second!
0.42 sec – that’s exactly how much time Clarke got to react to an edge from Vijay at slips off Doherty. He grassed the half-chance and the flood gates opened for the Indian batsmen. After a snail pace first session, the Indian batsmen decided to up the ante. The heat took its toll on the fast men, while Pujara and Vijay turned the heat on the spinners. Though ‘X-man’ Doherty spun a couple past the bat, IPL’s million dollar baby, Maxwell bowled flat and fast to hold up one end. It may work in the IPL, but to tie up players who are bred on rank turners in Test matches, you need something more. Vijay stepped out and launched Doherty into orbit to signal the intentions, while Pujara, struggling with his knees, kept caressing them through the covers!
A deflated Aussie captain – a sight to behold!
4, 4, 0, 4, 1, 1 – Pujara sent Warner straight to the mid-wicket fence. However, it wasn’t the number of runs but the sorry picture of Michael Clarke hanging his head in disappointment at slips that summed up the day for the Aussies. Shaky openers, brittle middle order, spineless spin attack – Michael Clarke, finally, felt the pinch of Test captaincy. Can the Aussies make a comeback? Wrong question – do they have enough ammunition to stage one?
P.S – Gautam turns even more Gambhir!
Somewhere in Assam, in the Vijay Hazare trophy, Unmukt Chand scored a hundred while Gautam Gambhir got out for 5. Well, ’nuff said, I guess!