Adelaide Test, Australia v India – Day Four: The Beauty of Day Four

The sanctity of the fifth day of a cricket test exists because of the beauty of Day Four.

When following a tennis tournament like Wimbledon or the Australian Open it’s so often commented upon that the best matches to watch are the penultimate rounds – the semi-finals. As is also the case with the AFL; it is often the preliminary final that is the cracker while the Grand Final plays out to rather an anticlimactic end when all is said and done.

And so it is with cricket. That is to say with the most strategic and intriguing form of the sport – Test cricket.

Days one and two set the tempo of the battle, while Day three is usually where tactics and consolidation of position are played out, leading to Day four – setting the stage for the final charge to the end and the possibility of a result on Day Five; not unlike coming into the straight at a race track having positioned the horse to its best advantage to make that final run.

For Australia and India, Day Four was played out as a battle between two rivals slowly shedding the shackles of an earlier unspoken, gentlemen’s agreement for polite behaviour that was so restrictive it could not be sustained. Ultimately, two combatants emerged from the fog and while still respectful as the game’s history and tradition dictates, the instinctive and competitive nature of the contest returned, bubbling to the surface as the day progressed and the business of winning became a tangible reality.

The Indians began the day five wickets down for the respectable total of 369 and it was looking like the wicket may be just as fruitful for them as it had been for the Australians. But they underestimated Nathan Lyon, as many have done before them.

Over the first forty-five minutes of the day’s play the visitors lost their remaining five wickets for just 75 runs. Lyon took the bowlers’ always prized haul of five wickets.

Presenting the home team with a first innings total of 444 meant the Australians re-entered the batting contest with a small but comfortable lead of 73 runs.

Now, while I’m no expert, from many years of observation I’ve always understood spin bowling to be more of an art form than an immediate and threatening weapon of destruction – more sleuth than slaughter! So I’m always amazed and a little bewildered when the lack of immediate results from a Nathan Lyon spell is lambasted as a waste of time and effort by many of the pundits. The purpose of spin bowling, to my mind, has always been like a slow form of interrogation – whittle away the opponents defences slowly but surely until they crack. Lyon did this well on Day Four.

With final figures of 5/123 off 36 overs, Nathan Lyon was doing all that was being asked of him.

So, first session on the fourth day barely halfway through and the second innings was underway. Can a result be manufactured or were we just in for displays of willow waving as large scores had seemed the flavour of the first three days?

The expectation was that Warner and Rogers would come to the crease with Warner being in much the same mindset as he was on Day One, and let’s be frank, that he displays in most of his batting tenures.

However, this was not to be the case, some variation from the Indians saw Ishant Sharma join his teammate Shami in the opening assault and moreover, take the path to the pitch around the wicket.

The Aussies it seemed, now had to be a little measured in their approach and with Karn Sharma, the Indian spinner, coming on in just the sixth over, the battle had begun.

Rogers OUT, caught at midwicket, for 21 playing an uncharacteristic rash shot looking to hit over that fielder – didn’t work! My thoughts in watching Chris Rogers stroll off the field was farewell ‘young’ man, because I’d be very surprised if he makes another return journey in the baggy green.

David Warner, having been joined by Watson showed signs of wanting to let loose and play his natural game but it came in waves rather than in torrents.

When he reached 44, the scoreboard highlighted a fascinating but perhaps not surprising statistic that this was Warner’s 1000th run for this calendar year!

Watson shared the load and when Warner reached his inevitable half century with Australia 1/93 just an hour after lunch, he looked to the heavens with yet another acknowledgement and looking more relaxed and comfortable with the progress of matters than he had on Day One.

Well, one could be forgiven for thinking his ‘little mate’ was watching over him because to everyone’s surprise Varun Aaron slipped one through Warner’s defenses and had him clean bowled on 66. And as the dejected opener started to leave the field, with a fond farewell from the bowler, the umpire declared a NO BALL! As Warner returned to the crease he made sure to let the bowler know he hadn’t finished.

And so it began.

The gloves were off and the niceties which had been closely and emphatically observed for three days seemed to have been discarded – to a small degree at least.

Not that dialogue or actions became nasty or acrimonious, but frustrations had certainly boiled to the surface and with words exchanged between fielders, batsmen and then umpires, play took a few overs to settle down and return to the contest of just bat and ball.

The 100 partnership came up at 1/138 and the tea break rolled around. What would the thinking of the Australian camp be at this stage of the second last day?

In the over after tea, Watson was bowled by Sharmi for 33 and the score moved to 2/140. As Michael Clarke ran onto the ground Warner was on 70 and the possibilities were looking good.

But the beauty of cricket is its unpredictability and to have seen Clarke’s dogged determination of the first innings one could not have imagined that he would be moved on like any mortal with a score of just seven as he was: caught behind trying for a cut shot.

The lead now 242, Steve Smith joined Warner and again the sense was that with these two combining in the centre, all was right with the world. And it was, for a while. Warner brought up another century, his sixth from his last eleven innings – outstanding effort.

With a big hug from Smith and another thanks to Phil, there is no doubt this Test will be etched in his own personal best list let alone that of the history books.

As had been the case earlier the pace of the game varied and as it seemed to meander through the slow overs, frustration again played a part and Warner, attempting a sweep, was bowled around his legs for 102 (off 164 balls).

Mitch Marsh joined Smith and again the possibility of the unknown was in the air.

Having been just one wicket down at the tea break but four at the drinks break, a very definite message was given to these two at the crease and what that message had been became immediately apparent.

Mitch Marsh proceeded to attack the following overs with a flourish. For a brief period of time it rained fours and sixes. In one over off Karn Sharma, Marsh hit 24 runs and reached 40 off just 25 balls and the 50 partnership came up in the blink of an eye.

The party was not to last as Marsh tried one bash too many and was caught at long-on. What a cameo! This effort had again changed the pace and complexion of the game and the crowd were beginning to see the possibilities of what this fourth day’s play was enabling the fifth day to bring.

Rounding out the day’s play, Smith reached his perhaps undervalued 50 off 59 balls. He and Haddin left the ground on 52 and 14 respectively and Australia on 5/290 with a very healthy, some say insurmountable lead of 363.

On the expectation most have that Michael Clarke will declare at the start of play, Day Five presents the equation we all like to see in this contest of both body and mind that is Test cricket – can Australia take all ten Indian wickets in the three sessions or will India defy the five-day old wicket and what is certain to be a spin based attack, and hold on for a draw?

Thank you Day Four for giving us Day Five!

About Jill Scanlon

Blues fan and sports lover. Development through sports advocate; producer, journalist and news follower. Insanely have returned to p/t study - a Masters of International & Community Development. Formerly with ABC International / Radio Australia in Melbourne.

Comments

  1. Malcolm Ashwood says:

    Thanks Jill excellent summation of the lot of the spin bowler , Nathan’s lacking of bowling us to victory on the last day hopefully today he doesn’t try too hard and bowls with the loop he has done so in the 1st dig . Combative cricket returned , which
    Phil would be happy about and. Warner has legitimate claims to be the best test batsman in the game at present , really enjoying. your articles thanks , Jill

  2. Lovely piece Jill. I have only seen or heard snatches of this test match, but as you say the field is bunched coming to the turn and we crane to see who will burst from the pack. The demands of the NAGA Over-50’s golf tour will prevent me seeing much today, but I will give the smartphone a click on every third or fourth tee to check the unfolding storm.

  3. Keiran Croker says:

    I think they will persevere with Rogers as I can’t see anyone ready to take his place, unless you go back to Cowan or Watson opening. Of course Phil would have been waiting and ready. We will never know what he might have delivered.

  4. Yvette Wroby says:

    Great summary Jill and I will forever treasure fourth days of tests. It has everything and then some . Beautifully written, you hit a six.

    Yvette

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