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    October 09, 2008

    Ponting and Australia play percentage cricket on day one at Bangalore

    As mentioned yesterday, I watched the first day's play from the ground (T-stand, to the left of the press and scorer box). I reached my seat just as Hayden was trudging back, for a duck. Given our past history, was I glad or what?!

    If any of the readers of the blog were there, you should have raised a hand when I displayed a poster I made which repeated a Cricket 24x7 cliche "When you have the Aussies by their b#lls, you don't let go -". Admittedly, I was pushing it by claiming that 0/1 in the 1st over was a case of 'having them by the b#lls'!

    This isn't a report of the proceedings. Read the Cricinfo bulletin if that's what you want.

    For starters, I had a great view of the cricket, sitting a couple of levels above where long-off to the right hander (if the bowler was bowling from the Pavilion end) would have been. The seat was good and there was lunch and tea provided as part of the what I paid (Rs. 1100+) for the ticket. Finding a place to park the bike was a real pain though, since I made two rounds of the stadium before parking in Cubbon Park.

    In my opinion, Hayden's early dismissal resulted in two things. Firstly, Ponting was able to come in and face the seamers, rather than starting against spin. Secondly, Australia ended up playing percentage cricket. There were hardly any risks taken. In fact, there may have just been one sweep until tea. Towards the end, I did see Hussey sweep one while Ponting was out lbw sweeping. The batsmen were very content pushing the ball around in the gaps and picking up a lot of singles and twos. There was also no attempt to go over the infield, or play some rasping cuts.

    Ponting played a very controlled innings. It was as though he was determined to score a century, even if it meant he'd have to forsake his normal style of play. His celebration was fairly exaggerated, but he totally deserved to do so. After all, he's now improved his hopeless batting average against India in India by 60%!

    Katich gave him a lot of good support, including soaking up the pressure from Harbhajan early on. Ponting didn't face a single ball from Harbhajan until the off-spinner had bowled 15 deliveries.

    Hussey got far too many of his runs against the spinners off edges past the slips, a lot of them uncontrolled and not deliberate. He did hit some very nice shots through cover though. Clarke pounced on a couple of bad short balls from Kumble, but did little else.

    India's bowling was largely tidy. It's very rare that a side keeps Australia down to less than 3 an over. I'd say Zaheer and Kumble were the two best bowlers. Kumble, despite not picking up a wicket, was a little shoddy to start off with, but came back in his next few spells. He didn't bowl too many googlies or other variations early on, but started using them later.

    Zaheer was very good almost all day and also experimented with having Dhoni stand up to the stumps to prevent Ponting from lunging forward to cover for the ball's movement. Ishant bowled brilliantly against Ponting but was below average against Katich, bowling far too wide on either side.

    Harbhajan, despite picking up Ponting, had a bad day. There wasn't much turn on offer, so instead of sticking to a off and middle line, he frequently erred in length, giving the batsmen time to pick up the runs on the onside. He also didn't try bowling around the wicket too often to Ponting.

    I was very surprised that Sehwag bowled so late in the day, and only bowled four overs. He's almost always done a decent job with the ball and has a knack of making things happen. Perhaps less surprisingly (given the last thing India would have wanted was for Australia to race away after a slow consolidation), Tendulkar didn't bowl his assortment stuff.

    Overall, India's fielding was very poor. There was one definite dropped chance (Hussey dropped by Dhoni off Kumble when he was on 1) and a couple of half-chances that Gambhir (at short-leg) may have taken on some other day. But the catching wasn't the problem. The batsmen repeatedly stole singles and converted at least half a dozen singles into twos. By my estimate, India conceded around 20 runs through poor fielding, and a further 20 through poor field placements.

    Kumble's field placements were baffling a lot of the time, and downright pathetic a couple of times. Harbhajan's first ball to Ponting was nudged through leg slip for four. It was definitely a poor ball, but not having a leg slip to Ponting was asking for a lot of trouble. It meant that whenever the two spinners erred in line and length, Ponting could get an easy single.

    He also frequently had a fielder at long on to Ponting. Ponting was never even trying to advance down the track. Katich did it a few times. So why Kumble chose to try and prevent a lofted shot is very tough to understand. Maybe his reasoning was that the mid on (typically Sourav Ganguly or Zaheer Khan) was conceding quick singles due to slow reactions anyway, so might as well insure against an attempted sixer!

    Towards the end of the day, when Hussey was cover driving beautifully, he had a deep backward point! When Sehwag (I think) was bowling and Clarke had just come in to bat, there was a deep mid-wicket fielder! In the last over of the day, there was a fielder placed on the point boundary for Clarke!

    As for the controversies, there wasn't too much around today, perhaps largely because of Chris Broad reading out the riot act to both sides. It is interesting though that the ICC did nothing earlier this year when Hayden had a go at Harbhajan and Ishant. Better late than never, I guess!

    There were some close-ish lbw shouts, including one fairly give-able one against Katich off Kumble. But nothing else was really going to cause alarms for the umpires. There was a moment though when the Indian supporters in the stands would have thought 'Aha, payback time for claiming one-bounce catches'!

    Kumble to Ponting, the ball ended up almost as a yorker. Ponting tapped it back to Kumble who caught it and appealed. Koertzen first said no, and then discussed with Rauf, who also felt Ponting had hit it into the ground. TV replays are turned off on the screen at the ground, but after I got home to watch the highlights, it did seem like it was a catch since the ball had come back to Kumble directly off the bat, and not after it had hit the ground. If the umpires had referred to the third umpire, there was a high change Ponting would have been out on 110. Kumble can feel happy about the possibility that Koertzen will do his thing and say 'sorry, mate'.

    A totally unrelated question - Close-in fielders use helmets while standing at short leg or silly point. But when the position isn't used, the helmet is placed behind the keeper. This brings in the probability of the ball hitting the helmet, resulting in a five run penalty. Is there anything that prevents the fielding side from asking the square leg umpire to hold on to the unused helmet(s)? After all, if the umpires can hold on to miscellaneous stuff given by the players (caps, sunglasses, mobile phones!, etc.), why not the helmet?!

    Overall, I'd say Australia are in front, like Stu wrote, but just about. Perhaps by around half the length of Bill Lawry's nose :)
    Bill Lawry

    At tea time, I estimated (and predicted to Ganesh, who is happily holidaying instead of turning up at the ground to watch the game!) that Australia would end at 275/3. This was on the basis of them scoring 75 in the first session and 91 in the second as well as the pitch really not helping any sort of bowling. Hayden's and Katich's dismissals would really have to be attributed to batsman error, Hayden's being umpiring error if you're a one-eyed Aussie :)

    My benchmark was that if Australia lost 5 wickets, it was India's day, regardless of the score made. If Australia had ended up losing 3 wickets, it would have been comprehensively their day. At 4 down, it seems to be a fairly even contest, but Australia still have Watson, Haddin and White to come. They can all bat (and score rapidly), but they've never played test cricket in India. In fact, the three have 6 test matches between them, with Cameron White making his debut.

    So, the game could still turn either way. If Australia make 400, they'll be happy. If India can get Australia for 350, they'll be more than happy.

    From a stat perspective, Ponting's century meant he now had the most centuries by a skipper. At the ground, I wondered if Hayden had the records for most centuries and runs by someone who'd never captained a test. Turns out my guess was right. Kallis could have had the record for most runs, but he skippered in one test!

    The corresponding record holders for one-day internationals are Gibbs (most hundreds), Mark Waugh (most runs). Murali, obviously, holds the bowling records (most wickets and most five-fors) in tests and one-dayers!

    PS: Congrats, Bangladesh, for beating New Zealand in a one-dayer. Now, only England & West Indies remain!

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    Thus spake Jagadish @ 10:14 PM |
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