Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Adelaide: Into Day Three

Despite the extreme bat-friendliness of the Adelaide track this time around there are very sound reasons why we see statistical oddities like the news that Michael Clarke's double century made him the first captain since Don Bradman and Wally Hammond to score a double and triple century in the same series.

As Clarke's dismissal from the first ball he faced after lunch yesterday reminds us, each ball you face with bat in hand could be the last for the innings, and while you might get a second chance here and there, at the top level one mistake can be fatal.

A member of the Bowlers' Union would, at this stage, be talking in terms of eight good balls before the Indian total passes the follow on target, while a batting consultant would be inclined towards eight mistakes or false strokes. Having previously referred to Doug Holloway's batsmen get themselves out I was again reminded that Doug haled from Adelaide and on the basis of Days One and Two the batting error is the most likely source of dismissal.

The morning session yesterday, runs flowing faster than the clock with nary a wicket lost certainly raised the prospect of an interesting poser as far as declarations were concerned. I couldn't help wondering whether Clarke might have been quite as inclined to close on 600 if he'd still been at the crease with Ponting.

By that stage we'd have been around tea time on Day Two, three down, nothing obvious on offer from the track, two bats in the upper reaches of a double century and the temptation to bat on until the pitch at least started to deteriorate could well have been lurking in the back of the mind.

One ball is all it takes, though, and with Clarke back in the sheds straight after lunch, Hussey following soon afterwards off a freak dismissal and Ponting holing out in the deep you could well have been inclined to let things unfold, have been pushing the declaration to one side.

On form Haddin was no good thing, Siddle didn't hang around long but with Harris hitting out the 600 was passed, the declaration made and it was down to two lots of ten good balls or ten batting errors, depending on the observer's bias.

Watching those events unfold in the middle session one got the impression of an Indian side that had regrouped over lunch and found some approaches that seemed to work, though there's no way you can plan for the sort of opportunist flick from Gambhir under the lid at short leg that brought Hussey unstuck.

Under ordinary circumstances, a day and a half into a game played with temperatures in the mid-thirties you wouldn't expect something like that, and one notes Gambhir's continued presence at the crease as an indication that he's got a fair degree of mental toughness.

As, of course, has the dude at the other end. You don't achieve the career milestones Tendulkar has managed to accumulate without it, so you'd want to be looking for something early in the piece on Day Three if you were going to roll them early. Otherwise it could well be a long wait.

Earlier in the day ponting and Clarke had underlined their status as major figures, and here's every possibility that Gambhir's on his way into the stratosphere, though he mightn't quite end up there with Sachin, Sehwag, The Wall and VVS.

And, at the start of the Indian innings it looked like the Australian radar had temporarily gone on the blink, with Harris and Hilfenhaus both wayward and a batting combo that looked likely to take full toll.

Getting Sehwag off Siddle's first delivery helped, of course, and Dravid looks to be a shadow of his former self (which, given the way these things pan out, will probably equate to a second century) but with one of the Big Four there at the moment, another to come, an opener with a point to prove and Kohli looking to cement a place in the long term, twenty overs into the innings on a flat track the omens aren't good for the bowling fraternity.

Some time later today we'll see reverse swing emerge as a possibility, and somewhere along the line variable bounce will start to kick in.

The question is, of course, when?

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