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Monday, February 1, 2021

desperate Aussies ~ cool India - Sydney encounter ends in draw !!

The die was cast !  .. .. most media had created news-stories condemning and deploring India – after it all some pundits had predicted a 0-4 whitewash, especially after that nadir 36 !  Remembered Test no. 995 at Pakistan, when Chetan Sharma made his debut !

Aussies would call it ‘playing hard’ – to them winning is the only thing ! – they would sledge, push, try to unsettle, talk, shout, resort to everything .. and Steve Smith’s act can be termed cheating .. nothing new from a person whose brain fades, resorts to sandpapers and scuffles crease !!  Australians were clearly  getting desperate in their quest for victory in the Sydney Test and the proof of that came in the unsportsmanlike behaviour of former captain Steve Smith and the continued banter of Captain Tim Paine. An incident came to light on Monday when Steve Smith was caught on the stump camera scuffing up the batsman's guard on purpose during the drinks break in the first session. 

On the otherside were the cool and mature Ravichandran Ashwin and Hanuma Vihari talking to themselves in Tamil.  It was not exactly a great sight as they stood upto body blows.  It was a bruised and battered India line-up, that  couldn't run between the wickets for more than a session. They had a player with a fractured thumb waiting to bat next. They were without their original captain and best batsman. They copped one blow after another off short-pitched bowling, against one of the best bowling attacks. And yet, against all odds, India produced one of the most dramatic displays of patient batting and exemplary fighting spirit to pull off a draw that hardly anyone saw coming when the fifth day started.

That gutsy performance ensured that Ajinkya Rahane, remains unbeaten as India's Test captain thanks to the amazing rearguard to bat out 131 overs in the fourth innings of the SCG Test, the draw is as good as a win. India had to fight great odds as they started with an already depleted side but then Ravindra Jadeja, Rishabh Pant, Hanuma Vihari and Ravichandran Ashwin sustained injuries during the Test.

In between, Paine told  Ashwin he can't wait to see him in the fourth Test at the Gabba, which is supposed to be quicker. Ashwin told  him he can't wait to see Paine in India, which might end up being his last series. Can Paine be sure he will even make it to India? ..  Paine retorted, he has more friends in India !! in the end – his performance failed. Tim Paine called his performance behind the stumps on the final day at the SCG as one of his worst with the gloves, as three dropped chances played a significant part in India managing to salvage a draw by losing just three wickets in 97 overs. Paine spilled Rishabh Pant on 3 and 56, both outside edges off Nathan Lyon, and then deep in the final session grassed another chance offered by Hanuma Vihari when he dived across in front of slip. While there were only 8.1 overs left at that point, had the catch been taken it would have given Australia one final chance to target the lower order which would have included an injured Ravindra Jadeja, who looked ready to bat despite a dislocated thumb.

Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Lyon and Mitchell Starc are among  the best attack in the world. They are strong, fit, skilful, accurate and experienced.   The four keep pounding down this pitch tirelessly they best know how to. But they could not dislodge half the side today.

Indian team is a bundle of contradictions.  Cheteswar Pujara is criticized as a strokeless wonder; Rishab Pant a no-brainer as he would throw his wicket at any stage !   Pant is a young punk. Plays his shots. His India batting coach wants him to walk the rope between "carefree" and "careless", suggesting he thinks he can be careless. They all talk about the shots he plays to get out all the time. Wherever he goes. Whichever format he plays. He has been out of the team for the whole year almost. He dropped two catches on day one. Still keeps chirping. Pujara brings up his fifty in 170 balls, four fewer than in the first innings, which was his slowest fifty in Tests. Pant races away from 5 off 34 to 50 off 64. This is how they play. This is how they should play. Their approach will be determined by what they feel is the best for themselves and the team at that time.

Today it was history in Test Cricket – Pujara battled 205 balls; Pant smashed some, missed some, played some in his 118 ball essay, missing his well deserved century.  Hanuma Vihari hobbled 161 balls for his 23* and Ravichandran Ashwin after taking many body blows remained not out at 39 facing 128 balls.   Glorious indeed !

The present team can hold its head high for this draw – it was planned to be different; the bio-bubble and restrictions were putting stricter restrictions.  Virat Kohli just played 1 and returned home on paternity leave.  Team was finding it difficult and was bruised by injuries.  Ishant Sharma (whole series). Mohammed Shami (three Tests);  Umesh Yadav (two Tests);  Ravindra Jadeja (most likely, one-and-a-half Tests); . Hanuma Vihari (most likely, one Test). Rishabh Pant (at least half a Test);  Rohit Sharma (two Tests). KL Rahul (not close to the playing XI but out of the series). R Ashwin has tweaked his back too. Cheteshwar Pujara is playing with a hand injury sustained in the nets. This is the known list of injuries suffered by the Indian team on the tour to Australia.

Statistically, in Oval in 1979 under Srinivasan Venkatraghavan (Gavaskar 221) -  India batted for longer in the fourth innings than the 132 overs they batted in this Test. On that occasion, India batted 150 overs against England at The Oval to save the Test. The Oval and SCG Tests included, India have batted longer than 100 overs in the fourth innings of a Test on only five occasions since 1979. There have been only 3 instances of more balls played for the 6th wickets in the 4th innings than the 256 - balls played by Hanuma Vihari and R Ashwin in their sixth-wicket partnership. The highest is 353, by Adam Gilchrist and Justin Langer against Pakistan in Hobart in 1999.


With Indian batsmen fighting hard to save the third Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) with great grit and determination, a video of Australia's Steve Smith scuffing Rishabh Pant's batting guards during the drinks break in the second session became a huge talking point all over social media, leading to fans questioning his intentions. Pant, who was promoted up the order after India lost skipper Ajinkya Rahane early in the first session, made Australian bowlers toil in the field, with one of the best counter-attacking knocks in recent times. The incident occurred in the middle session when players were having the drinks break. The incident recorded in the stump cam showed Australia's Steve Smith walking up to the batting crease and doing left-handed shadow batting. However, what happened afterwards got many people talking on social media as Smith was apparently seen rubbing his shoes over the batting guards marked by India's wicket-keeper batsman. Shameful and ugly – this man !

In Oct 1984, in that Chetan Sharma debut test marred by rank poor Umpiring – Pakistan winning the toss  compiled a massive 428 for nine declared,  an innings of 168 not out by Zaheer, his twelfth Test century. Against some fine medium-pace bowling by Azeem, India then collapsed to 156 and had to follow on, 272 behind.  On day 4 India ended up at 180/4 with Mohinder Amarnath 28* and Ravi Shastri 6* at the crease.  Those were the days when an edge on to the pads could be given out LBW too.  On the tense final day, India was  saved by a fine century from Amarnath and a patient 71 from Shastri after Gaekwad had established India's second innings with a stay of 207 minutes. Gaekwad's bat and pad decision, given by umpire Shakoor Rana, resulted in an exchange of words between the batsman and the Pakistani players which forced both umpires to intervene. India were 180 for four when the last day's play began, still requiring 92 to wipe off the deficit, but Amarnath and Shastri took the score to 290 before the fifth wicket fell. Kapil Dev joined Amarnath to see India to a draw.

So a draw  . .. … is a moral victory !! 

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

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