Australia v. India, First Test of four, MCG, Day 4 (29 December 2011)

Australia (333 & 240) defeated India (282 and 169) by 122 runs

 

My co-founder of Royal Park Reds CC, Dave Nadel and I took our seats in the MCG stand named for the first of only two Australians to score a double-century in his last Test. (Know the other one?)

 

Assuming that most batsmen, rather than the MCG pitch, had been primarily culpable for their general underachievement to this point, the match was evenly poised after three days: Australia leading by 230 runs, with just two second-innings wickets unclaimed.

 

Two prior incidents, however, had cast a shadow over that semblance of balance. Four minutes from stumps on Day 2, India’s first innings stood at 2/214. On Day 3, they threatened to establish individual cricketing history and a crushing lead in this match. But after Siddle bowled the domineering Sachin, they subsided to a position of scrambling competitiveness only. A bowling comeback tilted the balance of power back to India before Rahul Dravid shelled a chance from Hussey near stumps on Day 3.

 

Not a good move. Even with only one or two wickets in the bank, if one of them is Hussey, Australia has hope. This man has previously made batting heroes of Peter Siddle, Stuart MacGill and even Glenn McGrath – a record of tailend shepherding that only Steve Waugh can challenge. And this fourth morning, Hussey had James Pattinson for company. Already proven as a vastly more significant Test bowler than England’s Pattinson (to wit, his brother Darren), JP promises one day to exceed the bowling record of England’s James; a left-handed batsmen like Anderson, Pattinson Junior has equally sound judgment but more potential driving power – a night-watchman who won’t bog down an innings.

 

As events transpired, there were few heroics from Hussey. In a DRS world, he might have been LB, and he might have been caught behind down the legside. Suck on that, BCCI. No matter for India today, though: Zaheer Khan removed Hussey soon enough to a snick that no-one could quibble over.

 

But there were heroics from Pattinson – and last man Hilfenhaus as well, if less orthodox. Leave, block, drive, push, pull. All there, and 43 priceless extra runs to show for it. The opening bowlers helped Australia’s last two wickets add 74 runs – and across both innings, 116. Compare this last number to the winning margin.

 

India faced a target of 292 and nine overs to get safely to lunch. Given that only England in 1929 and South Africa in 1953 had ever chased down a bigger total to win at the MCG, Sehwag’s prior comment that anything under 300 was gettable for India had seemed complacent. When he slashed a wide one from Hilfy to Hussey ten minutes from the interval, he made a statement: ‘in our great batting line-up, someone will do it for us’. Someone else.

 

Someone else never turned up. No-one ever got serious enough; a potentially great contest evaporated into a series of slogs and surrenders. You shouldn’t have to pay $31-plus to watch park cricket.

 

Gambir looked sane, but couldn’t cope with Siddle’s lift after lunch. Dravid’s 38-year-old reflexes could not match Pattinson’s pace. VVS finalised two disastrously passive appearances with a tame prod to Cowan near the square leg umpire, and Kohli’s pad intercepted his only delivery, unequal to the challenge of Hilfy’s mild off-cut. 5/69 in the 24th over, with only the division of bowling spoils to be resolved.

 

There was entertainment to be had in the sweeping of the stage, if muscular sixes of no tactical relevance and involuntary uppercuts over the keeper’s head count as entertainment. Hell, the Ford Ute on the MCG scoreboard telly drags out the ‘4’ or ‘6’ just the same…

 

In the circumstances, these ‘die laughing’ 20s and 30s seemed about par for the tailenders and the increasingly desperate MSD. But it was sad to see Sachin, shorn of all serious support, lapse into Kim Hughes-ism as well: a very sad comedown from what had loomed 48 hours before as a masterpiece of command and invention. He would have felt hollow at his mandatory ovation…followed swiftly by the mandatory exodus of many Indian fans – or cultists – who might be said to watch the man rather than the ball.

 

And India has dropped that ball very heavily on its instep today. Its four bowlers vastly exceeded expectations and added useful runs at the MCG. Can they rise to this level again after seeing Australia’s three pace bowlers add even more useful runs and clast their own batting icons with almost precisely equal contributions?

 

First among those equals, with six wickets and 55 runs for once out, was Man of the Match for the second time in his three Tests to date. Watch James Pattinson: some prospect… and watch him combine with Patrick Cummins if the teenager is ever allowed to play proper cricket again.

 

 

About Tony Roberts

Favourites list: Food: whatever I cook; Drink: whatever my doctor allows; Music: refer 'Soul Time' (pres. Vince 'The Prince' Peach 3PBS-FM, plus Soul Au Go Go at The Laundry, first Saturday each month); Movie: love that Cinema Nova discount card!; TV show: call me Don Draper, if you like (or David Brent, if not); Footy teams: Melbourne Victory (summer), Coolangatta, AFLQ (hols), Brisbane Lions (forever), Western Bulldogs (for now); Player: refer 2009 Footy Almanac Round 18 (WB V Freo); Pet: Ferdy (JRT - as per previous reference)

Comments

  1. “Edith” Cowan and Hilfenhaus were great inclusions.

    Both more than played their part.

    Why didn’t I think of them about a month ago? Come to think of it I did.

  2. Peter Flynn says:

    Dizzy

  3. Who needs selectors with me and Phantom on the case? For months I have been calling for the dropping of these geriatrics who consistently fail when the pressure comes on.
    Laxman must go.

  4. Tony Roberts says:

    Peter Flynn (comment 2),
    Indeed so. Bill Ponsford 266 at in his last Test at The Oval in 1934; Jason Gillespie 201* at Chittagong 2006.

    From memory, Dizzy also took about 3/11 in Bangladesh’s 2nd innings, but cricketing authoriites wanted no more from him thereafter. Indeed, they actively persecuted him. The involvement of Dizzy and others in the proposed unofficial Indian Cricket League (ICL) led the BCCI to build its IPL Frankenstein monster in 2008 and mete out punishment to rivals. Didn’t our own CA suck up to the BCCI by banning Gillespie from coaching for a year or two?

  5. Tony,

    You are correct. that period was a real blight on the administrators of
    Australian cricket. In hindsight, J Gillespie should have fought them all
    the way to the High Court for restraint of trade. It seemed that Cricket
    Australia had learned nothing from the World Series Cricket revolution.

    But once again, CA were blind to principles of right vs wrong. They
    were only interested in their share of the ICL cash-cow. And they
    ended up treating a fine servant in J Gillespie in a tawdry manner.

  6. Vote 1:

    Panto and Pete B should be installed as selectors immediately!

  7. John Butler says:

    Smokie, careful what you wish for.

    Phantom would likely have Ling and Bartel opening the batting if left unchecked.

    Then again…we’ve done worse.

  8. Dizzy: such a fine cricketer and South Australian that the Crow-eaters have erected a statue to him in the most important place in the ground – on the lawn at the back of the members’ stand. Created a most amusing moment during last year’s Adelaide Test when blokes, returning to the scene of the previous day’s crime on the ,awn, stopped to look at this statue (large) and screwed up their brows with the was-that-here-ysterday look? It had been erected over night. I do like a good statue (haven’t seen Warney te) especially if it’s on a strong stele.

  9. Skip of Skipton says:

    I was the one pushing for the Hilf’s return.

    You could do worse than open with Bartel. He was an Under 17 Victorian rep with the willow. Is there anything he cannot do?

  10. Pamela Sherpa says:

    It will be interesting to see if the bowlers can maintain their form and avoid injury for the rest of the series.

  11. Hilfenhaus is a confidence bowler, it seems to me. He looks to get down on himself when his fine bowling goes unrewarded. When he started his opening spell on the first morning beating Sehwag’s bat with balls which did a fraction too much I felt sorry for him. I thought he was going to take another (slightly) unlucky 2/89. AS it turned out he got the nicks. I have always liked him because he is strong through the crease and has very good stock away swing, and especially becasue he can lay bricks in a straight line. Hard to do when the rest of your life you’re trying to eschew the straight line. I’m not so keen on the front on, slant-in, bowl all day types, unless they are Carl Rackemann who hardly bowled a delivery that didn’t hold it’s own.

  12. JTH,
    Interesting observation re Hilfenhaus. I read an article in the lead-up
    to the test which quoted his Tasmanian bowling coach. Said coach
    was saying that when Hilf returned to Tas after being discarded from
    the national team, he noticed Hilf’s bowling action had changed, to
    the point where he was no longer swinging the ball. Old videos of
    Hilfenhaus’ bowling action were studied, and they were amazed at
    how it had changed over the course of 4-5 seasons.
    Obviously B H has improved his fitness, but what amazed me was
    the implication that no-one amongst the plethora of coaches in the
    national set-up had picked this up.

  13. John Butler says:

    Great point Smoke.

    Says a lot about coaching in the era of Nielsen.

    Have we improved?

  14. JB

    Too early to tell. The person most under pressure would be Justin Langer
    at the moment.

  15. Pamela Sherpa says:

    Smokie, I was interested to read that as well- about Hilfenhaus going back to Tassie and sorting out his action. I had the same thoughts ‘What were the national coaches not seeing and doing?” It’s amazing how often we hear about players in many sports going back to basics isn’t it? Thne you wonder why they stray so far from them in the first place. Gives the analysts something to do I suppose.

  16. The Australian batsmen 1-7 are under pressure at the moment.

  17. Andrew Fithall says:

    Interesting (not all of it) article in the Age by Dean Jones. Talks about his encounter with Langer prior to the game and Langer demanding an apology from Jones for Jones’ derogatory remarks about Langer’s coaching. Best you keep your distance for a little while Smokie.

  18. John

    The old cliche” bowlers win test matches”, & we have’em.

    I asked an Indian blogger on an Arsenal blog if they had anyone under 35 years of age in their team, & his reply was, “GG9 cricketers are like wine”. My reply was that theirs are more like vinegar.

    3 test to go, I hope I’m proven right ;)

  19. bernard whimpress says:

    A superb piece Tony but, as you showed me, an even better (though libellous) version was left in your own cutting room.

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