DateLine: 3rd January 2012
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While it's pleasing for Australia to see how well their young pace bowlers are developing and performing with consistency, India will be getting increasingly concerned about the form and failure of their batsmen. With the exception of MS Dhoni who hit an unbeaten half century and Sachin Tendulkar who looked as solid as ever in scoring 41, none of the others in what is regarded as a most formidable batting line-up had an answer to Austarlia’s fast bowlers after deciding to make first use of a green-top pitch.
In their reply to India's first innings of 191 all out twenty minutes after tea on the first day in this second Test, Australia's innings got off to as shaky a start just as India's earlier. David Warner struck a four and then an all-run four took him to eight before Zaheer Khan dismissed him with a catch by Sachin Tendulkar after VVS Laxman at first slip had juggled and parried the ball to second slip.
Without an addition to the total, Zaheer, in his next over, had Shaun Marsh edge to first slip, this time Laxman made no mistake. There was very little ball movement but Marsh failed to get behind the line of it. Having been dismissed twice in this series without scoring and managing just three in the second innings in the first Test I Melbourne, it will be interesting to see if he is retained for the next Test on his home ground in Perth next week.
With Ed Cowan missing a straight ball which he tried to play to leg and being trapped leg before wicket for 16, Zaheer had three for 22 in 4.5 overs. Thereafter it was left to Australia’s most experienced batsmen Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke to battle it out for a recovery. With 60 and 62 in Melbourne, Ponting again showed fine form. His pull, from outside off stump, off Umesh Yadav, which took him to 24, showed the confidence with which he batted. Clarke, too, played attractive shots and in one over from Umesh Yadav he struck three consecutive fours the last of which, a lovely drive to wide mid-on took him to 37. By stumps, Ponting and Clarke unbeaten on 44 and 47, respectively, saw their side to 116 for three and trailing by 75.
India coach, Duncan Fletcher said: "I just think Australian bowlers should be given some credit, they bowled some really good line and length and put our batters under pressure. We were (also) able to do that first up but Ponting and Clarke batted well in the end and I think it's crucial that tomorrow we give to both those lines and lengths that we have spoken before and put Australian batsmen under the same pressure."
He added: "From tomorrow if we can get through and may be get them for round about the same score, that is not out of the question, I think we can put Australia under a bit of pressure if we bat well in the second innings."
India's fall of wickets began as early as the first over with James Pattinson, who played such a major role in Australia's first Test victory both with the ball and bat to get the man of the match award, claiming Gautam Gambhir's wicket. His third ball, of a perfect length, moved away late to take the outside edge. With 3 and 13 in Melbourne and no score this time, the left hander is struggling for form and so are several of his team-mates. India's next wicket went on 30 when Rahul Dravid edged Peter Siddle’s in-swinger on to his pad for short leg to snap up a catch.
Pattinson returned for a second spell to have Virender Sehwag held behind and four runs later Laxman edged a drive to third slip off Pattinson. Laxman's two runs followed his three in the two innings in the first Test and India were down to 59 for four, progressing to 72 without further loss at lunch as Tendulkar and Virat Kohli attempted to hold the innings together.
Within half an hour after the break, India, four short of a hundred, had lost half their side as Siddle had Kohli held behind the stumps. The ball was short of a length and the batsman went forward to drive misjudging the bounce. But the biggest blow was struck by Pattinson, claiming his fourth victim for just 38 when Tendulkar, having batted for two and a quarter hour for 41 from 89 balls and seeing wickets falling rapidly, attempted a cover drive at a ball outside off stump and played-on.
A stand of 54 for the seventh wicket between Dhoni and Ravichandaran Ashwin brought partial recovery until Ben Hilfenhaus broke through and claimed the next three wickets. On 178 he had Ashwin, on 20, caught at first slip from an edge to a ball that moved away late and on the same total Zaheer gloved a catch to short leg as he attempted to evade a rising ball. Hilfenhaus completed his haul of three to reduce the tourists to nine for 186 when his bouncer to Ishant Sharma went off the gloves to short leg. Siddle too finished with three wickets the last of which ended India's innings taking him to the milestone of 100 Test wickets in his 29th Test.
(Article: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author only.
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