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Friday, January 1, 2021

Basking in glory .. Indian win at Melbourne ..

What a day for Indian Cricket fans .. .. only recently they were distraught – bowled out for a paltry 36 .. .. and today they have bounced back.

India first played at Melbourne way back in Jan 1948 – it was a ‘8balls per over’ Six day Test which Australia won by a huge margin of 233 runs.  Donald Bradman scored a century (132) in the first innings as Australia was all out for 394.  Dattu Phadkar had the honour of claiming Bradman, while Lala Amarnath and Vinoo Mankad took 4 apiece.   Lala Amarnath captained the side.  Indians made 291 with NH Mankad making a century (116), Phadkar remained unbeaten on 55. In the second Aussies declared at 255/4 wth AR Morris and Donald Bradman making unbeaten centuries and sharing an unbroken  partnership of 223 [Aussies were 32/4 at one stage].  Chasing a target of 359 Indians buckled and were shot out for 125.  Now comes the news that the Third Test will be at Sydney only !   

The threat of a COVID-19 outbreak in Greater Sydney will consume health authorities in the coming days, as the number of mystery cases outside the northern beaches multiplies and testing rates nosedive.  Three new unlinked cases have been detected in Greater Sydney: one in the inner west, one in northern Sydney and another in a Wollongong resident who had visited the Sydney CBD. The new infections bring the number of mystery cases outside the  northern beaches to seven, flaming fears that the virus could again be spreading by stealth in pockets of the city.  NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said there "will be relief" for people in the lower northern beaches on January 3, foreshadowing an announcement on January 2.

Back to the Cricket arena at Melbourne – ‘defeat is the strongest motivator’ !, while victory takes off that finest edge that divides the teams. The sting of loss hones the concentration like nothing else. Complacency has no cure, and no matter what they say, to have dismissed an opponent for 36 runs engenders whatever tiny percentage of complacency it is that makes the difference.

This morning, India pulled off one of their greatest Test wins, chasing down Australia’s fourth-innings target of 70 to secure victory by eight wickets at the MCG.  After being skittled for a record-low of 36 in Adelaide 10 days ago, without star captain Virat Kohli,  and injuries to key bowlers, India levelled the series at one-all to become the first touring side to win consecutive Boxing Day Tests in Melbourne since England in 1982 and 1986.

This morning, stayed away from social media apprehending too many memes of comparisons back to that ‘36’ as India suffered some anxious moments in the tiny chase, falling to 19-2, but debutant opener Shubman Gill (35 not out) and stand-in skipper Ajinkya Rahane (27 not out) guided them home in the 16th over.   A few authentic boundaries by Shubman Gill, and solid performance by Rahane, took them home comfortably. Led superbly by Rahane, who made a courageous 112 in the first innings, India controlled the contest from day one when they rolled Australia for 195. While Rahane’s 12th Test century – which Indian legend Sunil Gavaskar hailed as one of the most important innings in the country’s history – was vital, it was the bowlers who set the game up.  India could have slumped when veteran quick Umesh Yadav hobbled off with a lower-leg injury, shortly after dismissing out-of-form opener Joe Burns for four to follow the Australian’s first-innings duck.  But Jasprit Bumrah and pace debutant Mohammed Siraj stepped up with spinners Ravi Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja to never relent against the brittle Australian top-order. The load was shared between the front-line attack in both innings, with Bumrah (six wickets), Ashwin (five) and Siraj (five) dominating.

The scorecard reflects the grand performance :  India 326 (Rahane 112, Jadeja 57, Lyon 3-72, Starc 3-78) and 70 for 2 beat Australia 195 (Bumrah 4-56) and 200 (Green 45, Siraj 3-37) by eight wickets

Australia have been fined 40% of their match fee and docked four World Test Championship points for maintaining a slow over-rate against India in the Boxing Day Test at MCG. David Boon, the match referee, imposed the sanction after Australia were ruled to be two overs short of the target after time allowances were taken into consideration.  Ajinkya Rahane, Jasprit Bumrah and Ravi Ashwin, are world class in any conditions, and debutant Mohammed Siraj was able to cover not only for the absent Mohammed Shami but, in Australia’s second innings, also for the injured Umesh Yadav. India needed only three bowlers to dismiss Australia for 200 on a good pitch; the thrashing in Melbourne was even more comprehensive than it looked- and another debutant played some delicious shots.

                   Captain Tim Paine pleaded guilty to a charge that the Australians were two overs behind the rate once allowances had been taken into account. Australian players have been fined 40 per cent of their respective match fees and the Aussies have been docked four points in the World Test Championship.  Teams are penalised 20 per cent of their match fee and two WTC points for every over they are deemed to be short.  The four-point deduction is unlikely to have a huge impact on Australia's hopes of making the WTC final given they and India are well ahead in the standings.  The ICC said that on-field umpires Bruce Oxenford and Paul Reiffel, third umpire Paul Wilson and fourth umpire Gerard Abood, levelled the charge, with match referee David Boon imposing the sanction on his 60th birthday.

Australia's sports media has reacted coldly to its cricket side's second consecutive Boxing Day Test loss to India.  Cricket legend Shane Warne has outlined two major changes for the third Test of the Border-Gavaskar series after Australia was defeated by India in the Boxing Day clash. Joe Burns’ spot in the Australian side is under severe pressure after his early exit on day three, while Shane Warne believes there should also be change in the middle order.  

Of our two wins at Melbourne, the latest one came in Feb 1981 – a Test which was almost sparred by ‘smoke was coming out of my ears and I heard nothing’ comment of Sunil Gavaskar.   In Test No. 895, Indians led by Gavaskar, made 237 with a brilliant 114 by Gundappa Vishwanath.  Dennis  Lillee scalped 4,  Len Pascoe took 3.  Aussies made a massive 416.  India had the best opening partnership of 165 when Gavaskar was adjudged LBW to Lillee when he had nicked it on to his pads.  Chauhan went on to make 85 and Indians made 324 – a target of 143 looked simple and Kapil was not fit to bowl with a strained thigh muscle

But in the dramatic last session Aussie lost 3 wickets for 24.  Ghavri removed Jack Dyson; Wood was out to Doshi and Greg Chappen was out bowled by Ghavri for a first ball duck.   The next morning Kapil dev fired them out with figures of 5 for 28 bundling them out for 83 – one of the great movements in Indian Cricket. The first win in Dec 1977/ Jan 1978 was different.  It was a great series in which all the 5 matches produced results.  Indians were led by Bishan Singh Bedi; Australians brought back Bobby Simpson as some key players had joined Kerry Packer and were unavailable for National side.  Aussies secured an early 2-0 lead and the 3rd Test (Test No. 812) was at Melbourne.  Jeff Thomson was at his furious best and Indians straightaway were off to the worst imaginable start losing both the openers without a single run on board.    Mohinder, Vishwanath, Vengsarkar and Ashok Mankad took the score to 256.  Craig Serjeant made 85, while rest Dyson, Coiser, Ogilvie, Simson, Toohey, Rixon went out cheaply and were bowled out for 213.  Chandrasekhar took 6 for 52.      In the second India made an imposing 343 with Gavaskar making 118.  Set an improbable 387, Aussies mustered only 164 giving Indians their first win – a big one at that.  Chandra was the hero with another identical 6 for 52.   The accomplishment of the first win in 12 tests in Australian soil was outrightly due to Chandra’s magical figures of 12 for 104 in the match.

Those days, an half hour capsule called ‘highlights’ would be telecast few days after the match in the night time and we clamoured seeing the Indians performance on TV – when ‘the slow-motion’ of the action – delivery, catch, run out etc., caught the attention of everybody and were the  most talked about events.  Only few households had TV sets and people would crowd in those houses to watch those half an hour capsules………

Some strange statistics - 1887 - was when a visiting team's spinners last averaged better in Australia. India's spinners figures for this series so far read 13 wickets at an average of 16.92…. and Ravichandran Ashwin stands tall

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

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