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Tuesday, December 11, 2018

India wins at Adelaide ~ goes 1 up


India’s story was, to borrow a phrase, about whether they could cross the line. Theirs was the only really important line, which was to win a Test match in Australia, something Indian teams have only achieved five times in 71 years, and not at all in the past decade.  The short scorecard reads : India 250 (Pujara 123) and 307 (Pujara 71, Rahane 70, Lyon6-122) beat Australia 235 (Head 72) and 291 (S Marsh 60) by 31 runs  ~ there was much drama and happiness behind that !

With this it is 6 - Tests won by India in Australia. This win is only their third in the country in the last 35 years. Their previous two came in Perth (January 2008) and Adelaide (December 2003). The first three wins had come on successive tours of 1977-78 (two) and 1980-81. India are the only team win in Adelaide twice since 2000.   They say ‘catches win matches’ – there were so many 35 of them  in this Test, a world record. It bettered the the 34 set in Cape Town earlier this year between Australia and South Africa. All 20 wickets in the second innings of both sides were caught.

The chatterer young Rishab Pant had a World record 11 catches equalling Jack Russel against South Africa in Nov 1995 & AB de Villiers against Pak in Feb 2013.  For long it was Bob Taylor’s 10 in that Golden jubilee test (remember he was recalled by Gundappa Viswanath in that test in Feb 1980 at Bombay) .. .. and what is mostly forgotten is Wriddhiman Saha took 10 at Capetown in Jan 2018 – but now is nowhere in the frame after an injury .. that is fate !  ~ Pant may rue that drop of Lyon which would have place him higher ~ but all that happens ..

When the last catch was held, Indian captain Virat Kohli whirled like a dervish for a moment, then went immediately to the disconsolate Josh Hazlewood, to the umpires and to Nathan Lyon as he rose from his haunches at the other end. Hugs and handshakes followed all 'round. The first four days had passed without incident or incendiaries. The last day might have been a trial of the sangfroid of both teams, as well as their detente. It consisted of two long and teasing sessions, in which victory appeared to dance away from India without ever quite coming within Australia's reach. Wickets fell only at long intervals, but runs were at a premium, too, which left plenty of time for dwelling, and for giving offence and taking it.

Tension and apprehension were palpable, but still little niceties were observed. When a Jasprit Bumrah bouncer cannoned off Mitch Starc's helmet, bowler and batsman made reciprocal gestures of understanding, as tennis players do. When a Mohammed Shami lifter crashed into Nathan Lyon's shoulder first ball at the crease, Shami asked if he was OK and Lyon replied with a thumbs up. These might seem small matters, but at other times and places they were not even this seemly.

India led from pillar to post, but somehow, this became a narrow thrashing, yet die-hard were fans were slowly getting concerned. With Aussie needing 64 at the fall of the ninth wicket, it should have been easy -    Lyon and Hazlewood cemented themselves in, the score kept mounting and the crowd and the nation were drawn in to another Adelaide cliffhanger. Dots were clapped individually, singles hailed like Caesar, boundaries rejoiced in as if they were national holidays, but between times silence reigned. The voluble Pant lost his voice for the first time in five days, and even the press box fell as quiet as if stewards were holding up placards from the golf. Suddenly, every run had the weight of two, every near-miss a nick out of hearts on both sides.

An Ishant no-ball was a twisting of the knife to India, Hazlewood's deliberate tip over slips another, yet still they bit their tongue while Australia swallowed its stomach.  Five highly-strung days came to a final release with Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon, Australia’s best, down on their haunches feeling more responsible for their failure to win as their success in getting their team within 32 runs. They failed at nothing.

At the end, Australian captain Tim Paine  questioned the accuracy of the decision review system after a series of contentious calls in Adelaide. Umpire Nigel Llong was at the centre of several questionable calls. He gave Ajinkya Rahane out caught at bat-pad for 17 early on Sunday but the decision was overturned on review. Replays indicated the ball had hit Rahane's front pad outside the line of off stump and missed his bat and gloves. First-innings century maker Cheteshwar Pujara was adjudged out on eight and 17 to Lyon on Saturday but the dismissals were overturned. Paine was not keen to elaborate on his displeasure about the DRS but his frustration was clear.  But clearly one man would be too happy - Aaron Finch has been encouraged to use the DRS should he again have doubts about his dismissal. The opening batsman opted not to call for a replay after he was caught in close off spinner Ravi Ashwin on the final ball before tea on Sunday in Australia's second innings. Finch consulted partner Marcus Harris before opting to walk. Replays suggested the ball had not flicked the gloves although third umpire Chris Gaffaney had later told Lyon there was inconclusive evidence to overturn the decision, meaning Finch would still have been out had he asked for a replay.  .. .. but when he was given out LBW to a massive incutter of Ishant, he went for DRS, - even before ball-tracking was to come, it was observed that Ishant had overstepped .. a no-ball that Dharmasena failed to spot !!

During the 76th over of Australia's 323-run chase, Rishabh Pant took over the commentary for an entire over during Day 5 of a thrilling Test between India and Australia and cricket fans have mixed reactions about his performance. Come on Pat, you're not putting the bad ball away!" Pant quipped during Ashwin's over. "Tough to play here," he added in an attempt to unnerve the batsman. Gavaskar insisted that it's okay for wicketkeepers to talk to their bowlers and egg them on but he pointed out the risk of sledging an opposition player, especially a fast bowler. As Cummins tried to block everything that came his way, Pant chirped: "Let's see some sixes, come on Patty", "Not going for the shots Patty ? .. .. but perhaps it was a friendly banter to his IPL teammate !!

An Indian win, perhaps Pujara made all the difference and rightly the man of the match  ~ but I would ever relish that famous win at Melbourne 1981 fashioned by Kapil Dev.

Regards – S. Sampathkumar
11th Dec 2018


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