Boxing Day cricket has definitely set the tone of the 2011-12 India’s tour down under to Australia. It had it all!! Sides battling it out session per session, India came out with the upper hand in the first, Ponting-Cowan dominated the afternoon session, while India pegged hosts back in the first hour of the last one only to see the hosts fight back right into it by the end of the day. At the end, both teams must share the honor equally at 6/277. Umesh Yadav was terrific, a bit on the expensive side, but I would be okay with him giving a few runs if he’s going to make someone of Ponting’s caliber jump around the crease. Earlier Cowan and later Siddle fought well for the Aussies. Warner and Ponting got in but couldn’t go on to make a big one. Ishant bowled very well but without any luck and ZAK was back in his stride in the third session with some zesty pace.
It was indeed a brave decision from Clarke to chose to bat a on a green-top under cloudy conditions, especially when the visitors bowling line-up consisted of two bowlers who can swing the ball both ways and one who can hit the deck hard and can swing a bit too. Warner had a breezy start and made a statement with a nice pull shot for six off Yadav but that same shot brought his downfall, when Yadav surprised him a with a short one just after a rain-interruption. Yadav was hitting the right areas, sometimes a bit short, which cost him runs, but he got some to left considerably from the same length and had Ponting in all sorts of trouble before claiming this prize wicket.
Ponting’s unsuccessful run without a ton continued as he, yet again, got off to a decent start but then got out. Even though he scored a half century, he never looked convincing. He was made to jump around awkwardly at least three times (twice by Yadav and once by his nemesis Ishant). One of the Yadav delivery got to his helmet when he least expected it but Punter showed quite a good presence of mind to kick it away from the stumps. ZAK looked like he wanted to ease into the test match and was concentrating more on getting the line-n-length right at the expense of some pace, however the old ZAK was back soon after tea and if India can have this ZAK for the entire tour, Aussies better watch out!!!
Ishant bowled well with-in himself and did two thing right: concentrated on the off stump line and never got into no-ball trouble. His figures were impressive 20-6-40-0 and I am sure he would have loved to have a few in the wicket column, however, Yadav was reaping benefits of Ishant’s tidy line, so overall it all worked in India’s favor Ever since India beat South Africa in the first test of the overseas tour in 2006, after 5 years, this was the “best first day” India has had in an away series. In-fact at 6/214, India threatened to bowl the hosts out before close and it was the gutsy stand between Siddle and Haddin that got the hosts back again in the reckoning.
If India can manage to keep the hosts under 325 and if Viru can start off in a fashion he began on this same ground about eight years back, then the visitors can really think of taking the game away. Day two would be Mission-Critical for team India. Visitors have dominated for the majority of the day one but tomorrow’s play would define team India’s journey in the tour. A victory with sheer dominance in the first test would not only make a statement but also can be a significant morale booster for the visitors and dent the hosts confidence further as they are already into this series after not having won either of the last two home series. If that victory also encompasses the landmark ton-of-tons, then it will be a true crowning glory. The only certainty right now is that we are guaranteed an action packed day 2 at the MCG!!!
-Nikhil Sharad Jadhav