Friday, January 13, 2012

Perth Day One: After the Cyclone

I must admit I wasn't in the best of moods at the start of the Perth Test, though these matters are as much a matter of Hughesy's personal foibles as anything else. With play scheduled to start at 12:30 local I switched on the TV, noting the presence of MS Dhoni on the screen, so the toss had, presumably, already been made.

The ABC Radio was still on the midday news, so it was a matter of waiting and seeing, wasn't it?

What I really wanted to see was the pitch, of course, and as the midday news turned into The Country Hour, with a passing reference to Clarke winning the toss and sending them in I toyed with the audio options. I was on the verge of turning up the sound on the TV when I noted the presence of AW Greig in the middle, so that was the end of that.

He seems to have gone out of his way over the past thirty years to get up Australian noses and in my case he's succeeded to the point where I've classified him, along with hessian underpants, as impossible to wear.

So I headed to the computer looking for the streaming commentary, and when that option kept running up against the buffers it was a case of back to The Country Hour as I roused up lunch and waited for the radio commentary to come back.

You didn't need commentary while Harris and Hilfenhaus set about working over the Indian top order, and Sehwag caught at second slip was a nice way to start that didn't require jubilant shouts of Got 'im, anyway.

Everyone in the opening session looked tentative, and you could see where Indian commentators like Gavaskar were coming from when they questioned the lack of a two day tour game between Sydney and Perth.

With India 4-73 at lunch you might have thought the bird had flown and the stable door might as well stay open, but Laxman and Kohli were still there at half way drinks (4-99, 42 overs,). It was hardly the most gripping cricket I've ever watched as the bowlers toiled away and the batsmen did likewise.

If 26 in an hour off 14 overs isn't toiling, I'd like to know what is.

But at least it looked like someone was coming to grips with the surface.

Things picked up with 45 in the next hour, but the key element in the whole day was the twin dismissals of Laxman and Kohli just before tea. It took an excellent catch diving forward after Warner had ruled out a fourth run to a shot through the covers to keep Laxman on strike to break the partnership, but from there at 5-131 it was a case of Goodbye wheels….

The most interesting comment through all this came from Terry Alderman who pointed to Laxman's 44 off 81 deliveries and suggested that you're never quite in on this sort of wicket, comments that were mirrored by Warner after the close of play.

To quote the man himself, you just had to treat every ball with some respect and show some intent.

Losing 6-30 definitely suggests a lack of intent, and that's without looking at the actual batting.

But we'll draw a veil over that side of things because it seems the long impending niggle has finally arrived on the field. There has been plenty of it already in the media, both from players (e.g. the interplay between Haddin and Zaheer Khan, though they're hardly the only participants) and media figures (as noted by Harsha Bhogle here) and you might see Warner's comments as part of that off-field sniping.

There were, after all, cries of outrage from the Indian media along the lines of drunken ground staff interfering with the wicket that would presumably have been covered in the half hour before the start of play if I'd had something to listen to. As it was, I had to wait until this morning to find what appears to be a perfectly reasonable explanation of what actually went down out there under cover of darkness.

But going back to those post-match comments from Warner, No one (that's presumably no one on the Indian side, if you believe the Australian side's been quiet you might just be interested in this Harbour Bridge I have for sale) has said anything the two previous games but Ishant Sharma and Kohli were apparently chirping away at mid off and mid on with comments about batting averages and what's going to happen when Cowan and Warner hit Indian conditions.

Warner's alleged observation that his average would probably improve, since the wickets won't be as lively would appear to be close to the perfect squelch. Further details here.

The interesting bit here is the location where this little interchange occurred. There are, presumably, effects microphones in the stumps at both ends, and, presumably, they're turned down and back up again between deliveries and kept down at the bowler's end.

You always tend to associate the chirp with the 'keeper and slips, but this one, I though, was interesting. The Niggle, it would seem, comes from both ends.

Coming from a background where The Sledge, The Niggle and various other forms of verbal sparring are seen as an interesting intellectual exercise, with participants on their toes as they attempt to get a shot in at any available target while maintaining a strong defensive position (Hughesy's novel p. 125) one would suggest India are operating a little out of their depth here, and need to send out an urgent summons to the Turbanator if they want to be competitive in that department.

In any case, it was Warner's innings in the last session that provided the day's real talking point. A score of 101 off 69 balls, fastest by an opening bat and equal fourth fastest ever. Should be enough said, but while the Australian innings started we couldn't see anything because we had to watch the Channel Nine News, didn't we?

Well, we had to watch it in this neck of the woods, anyway, and as I wandered in and out of the office passing the TV screen in there (we'd left the one in the living room off) I got a few reminders of the reasons why Hughesy doesn't bother with commercial TV news.

I should point out here I tend to avoid all news bulletins, but if I have to watch one I'll go to the ABC or SBS for stories that actually matter rather than what appeared to be stories concerning neighbourhood disputes involving dogs and some dude showing off his collection of tatts.

In this case, with a key session underway I would have preferred to be watching the cricket. I was cranky enough about The Country Hour earlier in the day, but at least it goes out at that time five days a week close to fifty-two weeks a year at a time that presumably coincides with the rural worker's lunch break.

Still, when the TV coverage deigned to return to the cricket we got a good hour and a half demolishing what's looking increasingly like a popgun pace attack that doesn't seem to have the pace to exploit the track operating to a slips cordon that's standing a good metre too far back.

Which brings us back to an Australian attack that has consistently been the story of the summer. Into the fifth Test of the summer and they've bowled the opposition out nine times for an average of 225  and three of the four on the paddock yesterday were in the attack plundered by England for an average of 409 per.

Warner's explanation of yesterday's approach and the Indian response makes for interesting reading, as does his explanation of the technical aspects of what he set out to do yesterday. Head still over the line of the ball, eh? Who'd have thunk?

And there's an interesting take on things from young Mr Kohli that makes interesting reading when we're talking about the futures of Messrs Ponting and Hussey. We're just talking a legend of the game and a champion bat. India's got the same problem, but twofold...

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