Looking to rebound after their loss to India in the 1st test, Australia has once again been humbled in Hyderabad, going down by and innings and 135 runs, and now trailing 2-0 in the best of 4 series.
With bat and ball, India was composed, patient and aggressive when required, while Australia seemed to be purely guessing well before the 1st ball was bowled. The dropping of front line spinner Nathan Lyon for Xavier Doherty was confusing, but bringing in a part timer tweaker in Glenn Maxwell to round out the bowling attack was downright dumbfounding. Australia’s bowling line-up consisted of James Pattinson and Peter Siddle leading the pace front, both worthy inclusions; Doherty who has taken 2 wickets this 1st class season; and all-rounders Maxwell and Moises Henriques, effectively leaving 3 specialist bowlers to take 20 Indian wickets.
Only skipper Michael Clarke and Henriques had performed with the bat in Chennai, with the remainder all under pressure to secure their positions.
Winning the toss and electing to bat, Australia would have been keen to post a big total, however they were on the back foot from the outset with both David Warner and Ed Cowan dismissed for under 10. Clarke was again Australia’s mainstay, while he received good support from Matthew Wade as they put on a 150 run partnership to raise Aussie hopes. These were quickly dashed with the loss of 5 wickets for 55 runs in the 3rd session of day 1.
Frustration then turned to confusion for Australian fans as Clarke called a declaration with 9 wickets down and only 237 runs on the board, leaving 3 overs to be bowled in the day. An Indian wicket would have been very valuable for the Aussies, but another 20-30 runs and keeping the Indians in the field for an hour on the 2nd morning could have put the game in a different position.
Day 2 was dominated by the Indian batsmen and in particular Murali Vivay and Cheteshwar Pujara, with a partnership of 370 reminiscent of VVS Laxman and Rahul Darvid’s epic stand at Eden Gardens in 2001. Australia’s seamers looked to deploy similar tactics to those used by the successful 2004 Australian attack of McGrath, Gillespie and Kasprowicz in bowling a straight line to the Indian batsmen and having catching men close on the on-side. Both Siddle and Pattinson toiled hard, but were unable to produce wicket taking deliveries while Australia’s spinners were ineffective. Doherty was too straight and flat as most would have expected, while Maxwell consistently bowled a poor delivery every couple of overs, highlighting his status as a part time bowler. The treatment of Nathan Lyon is very similar to that of Nathan Hauritz after the 2010 Indian series, but one must hope this is not the last we have seen of Lyon in the baggy green as he seems to be top of the Australian tweaking tree.
Nothing should be taken away from India’s performance, with intelligent and determined batting from Pujara and Vijay. After taking a careful approach in the 1st session, both batsmen showed controlled aggression against a tiring attack, to take the game out of Australia’s reach. Pujara was the pick posting 207 and his 2nd double century in what has been a memorable start to his test career.
While the likes of Ganguly, Laxman and Dravid have tortured Australia on tours past, they have been replaced by Kohli, Pujara and Vijay, with Sachin Tendulkar still an imposing force.
To Australia’s credit they fought well on day 3 to take the final 5 Indian wickets for 19 runs, with Maxwell taking 4 scalps; however the damage was very much done. The remainder of the test was about survival for the Aussie batsmen, with each offered an opportunity to assert themselves on the series. The task was too great as Australia capitulated to be all out for 131 early on day 4, with Ravi Ashwin again wreaking havoc with 5 wickets.
The series now moves onto Mohali for the 3rd test, with Australia needing to win the next 2 to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. Changes may be required to sure up Australia’s batting, with Cowan, Hughes, Watson and Warner all under pressure to make runs, while much of their preparation will focus on how to combat India’s spinners.
With one eye on back to back Ashes series, Michael Clarke would have been happy to see England bowled out for 167 against New Zealand; however he must work out a way to lift his team if they are to take anything away from the current tour.