Waca, day two

It’s only been two days, yet the match is almost over. Ironically India are facing a seven session defeat due to their own bowling fightback. Australia’s first wicket fell on 214 when Cowan was bowled and their last fell on 369. It was very much the sort of collapse that we are used to seeing from them recently, except this time they had a platform of over 200 runs and had already taken the game away. India bowled very well though; for the first time in this series they managed to put on a long period of sustained pressure. They bowled with good, tight lines and exploited the favourable conditions for bowling. After Australia’s openers were both gone their next highest individual total was Peter Siddle’s 30, and no one else passed 20. If India had bowled as well yesterday as they did today there would probably be a game on, but unfortunately for them all of their efforts were too late.

A large part of that was down to Warner. His batting was brilliant and was a great example of how to be attacking without chasing every ball. He did finally hole out for 180, but he survived the entire morning session in tough conditions whilst losing three partners at the other end. Unlike Sehwag he did not just root his feet to the crease and slash at everything with his arms, but actually made an effort to get to the ball before playing his shots and still left and defended when necessary. That said, the commentary about him was nauseating. He got out cheaply in his previous two innings playing the same way and he still scored 114 runs fewer than Alastair Cook did at Edgbaston. Despite what Ravi Shastri may say, there is not a new way to bat in Test matches.

After conceding a first innings lead of 208, India had to bat sensibly in tricky conditions. Instead they sent Sehwag to the crease. To be fair, he outlasted his opening partner and when he got out it was to a good delivery rather than a dreadful shot. He even made a half-hearted attempt to rein in his batting, though he still threw the bat at balls outside the off stump a few times. India slipped to 51-4 as all of the hard work their bowlers had done was thrown away. Gambhir and Sehwag both got very good deliveries, though both could have played them better. The real worry for India will be Tendulkar and Laxman though. Tendulkar did his very best Ponting impression at the crease, falling across the stumps and being trapped LBW before taking a bit to walk off and shaking his head as he did so. It was that last bit that really irritated me. (I enjoyed the first bit, since I knew I wouldn’t have to hear any talk of his next hundred.) It wasn’t a big thing and I don’t think anyone made anything of it, but especially from a batsman of his stature it is bad form. His board, some of his teammates and I think he himself have spoken up against the DRS which is fair enough, but it means that they must accept the umpire’s decision with good grace. They asked for the umpire’s decision to be final, it’s too late now to be whingeing about not getting a decision. In any case the decision to give Tendulkar out was a good one, he was struck dead in front and the ball was going on to hit leg stump.

Immediately after that Laxman stuck his bat at an outswinger from Hilfenhaus and was caught at slip. It was a decent delivery, but Laxman utterly failed to move his feet and played a Sehwag-esque poke. It’s a continuation of an absolutely dreadful run of form; in fourteen innings against England and Australia Laxman now averages 20.28 with a high score of 66. Those stats are only slightly better than those of Paul Collingwood before he retired, and Collingwood was at least playing in a side that could carry him. Laxman isn’t. In the same time as he has averaged 20, the Indian top seven have only averaged 28. He might regain his form, although he’s getting old, but India don’t have the batting around him to carry him until he does. With the Adelaide Test certain to be a dead rubber, India will not have a better opportunity to replace him with a younger batsman. If they are serious about improving as a Test side, Laxman has to have played his last match.

Australia will probably be happy with how the day went, although they lost two of three sessions. They are in a position where they will have a very good chance to win the match before lunch tomorrow and will have two days off and a 3-0 lead. India fought well; the bowlers avoided embarrassment and Dravid and Kohli put on enough of a partnership to avoid losing inside two days, but they were so poor on the first day and in the first two Tests that it is far too late to help them. We saw it in the England series too, when they finally remembered how to bat only after being asked to follow-on at the Oval. One can’t win a four Test series by only playing well in two sessions and until they learn to show up when it matters they will continue to be humiliated.

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